The snow in Blackcomb's Sapphire Chutes was firm, chalky at best. Across the valley, the mountain we skied cast a dark shadow. The sky was as deep and blue as the sea. At the resting point of the road back to the chairlift, Whiskey Jacks nibbled food out of the hands of young British ski school students. It hardly felt like the deep of winter.
The typical January at Whistler is moody. Storms that start from the coast turn town dark, white, and wet, and send skiers for the trees, where they can see, and ski fast between old, towering, mossy firs. In 2006, Mike Douglas thought the Whistler marketing department should embrace those volatile Pacific Northwest storms that define the area. So he pitched the Deep Winter Photo Challenge. The idea: Six photographers have 72 hours to shoot a three- to five-minute slideshow from within the resort boundary that showcases winter at Whistler.
The show is embraced by the local community—the 1,200 seats at the Fairmont Chateau sell-out quickly—and has become a proving ground for ski and snowboard photographers. Many of the event's past competitors were on hand. At the show on Saturday, a serene Paul Morrison, the original King of the Storms—as winners of the competition are called—the lead judge, and "The father of all photography in this town," as described by emcee Feet Banks, greeted friends with a beer in hand.
Before each slideshow, Banks would introduce the photographer. On stage, Colin Dewatt "Iced" his photographer Erin Hoage—a young, talented snowboard shooter. To perhaps the biggest applause of the night, she pounded it.
After all the slideshows played, during the intermission wherein judges made a decision nobody seemed to envy, Reuben Krabbe, wearing glasses and a thick sweater, critiqued the entries. Krabbe, a POWDER contributing photographer, won Deep Summer in 2012 and was the runner-up of Deep Winter in 2013. Krabbe lamented the spring conditions, and maybe the fact that he should have competed again this year.
To many, Nic Teichrob was the favorite of the 2014 event. He recently won Stand Up Paddle Magazine’s Movie of the Year for his film Stand and was the winner of latest Deep Summer. The bearded, excitable Teichrob was confident about his slideshow, which he called Self, and described as the way Whistler/Blackcomb can help somebody emerge from a time of darkness, and help discover one's identity. He would finish in second—ahead of Jason Hummel, another Powder contributing photographer—which earned Teichrob $2,500. By winning the single best image of Deep Winter, he won another $500.
Teichrob would only be outdone by Revelstoke photographer Zoya Lynch. The pretty 22-year-old used local artists to tell the process of winter. The unique storyline earned her an oversized check to the amount of $5,000.
“My huge victory was back in October when I got invited to compete,” says Lynch. “I couldn’t believe that I was going to get the chance to show my work beside some of the top ski photographers. Deep Winter is the ultimate challenge for any photographer.”