If there’s one thing you should know about the Ski Salt Lake Shootout, it’s that it’s hard effing work. It’s because it’s a contest. Eight teams of skiers and photographers shoot constantly over four days at each of the four Salt Lake City resorts, regardless of conditions. At night, they tromp through the streets of Salt Lake City in full ski gear, looking for the coveted Urban Meets Mountain shot. If they slack, it shows, because at the end of the week, they’re work is judged against that of their peers.
They’re competing for prize money, for sure. But more than that, they’re competing. “Competition keeps you sharp,” is how Australian photographer Tony Harrington puts it.
The Shootout isn’t like working a commercial photo shoot or shooting freelance photography. It’s kind of like shooting on assignment, but even on assignment, photographers usually have a few days of flexibility—to wait for snow or better light or even a glimmer of inspiration. In the Shootout, they have Tuesday through Friday to produce the best two images they can from each resort. Hard drives containing their submissions are due no later than 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.
There will be a lot of tired people at Brewvies at 6 p.m. Saturday night when the winners are announced—a lot of sore knees and frost-seared fingers. For four days these eight teams have worked it, “bell-to-bell… to bell,” as Utah photographer Mike Schirf put it. They worked through fog, grey skies, snow, wind, dinosaur bones and troops of modern dancers. They hiked, they skinning, they froze. They got up early, stayed out late, and climbed trees. The only thing more remarkable than how hard these teams work, is the quality of imagery they’ve been able to produce, sometimes in less-than-ideal conditions.
Come check it out for yourself. The award ceremony is open to the public. Doors open at six, and the $15 entry fee goes entirely to the Utah Avalanche Center. Tickets can be bought in advance at a discount here.