Girdwood, for me, is one of the best places to go in Alaska because you have Alyeska to ski everyday. From a heli perspective, it’s affordable because there is a lot of great skiing that’s close. It’s always weird to put “affordable” with heli skiing, but it’s cheap in comparison. We had a great crew there. I ended up staying an extra week with Cody [Townsend], Mark [Abma], and Ingrid [Backstrom].
We had our fair share of down days in Girdwood. Clark Fyans has become a great guide, which is even cooler for me since we were homies in high school. He did all the guiding for Brain Farm for the Travis Rice movie. Before that, he was the lead guide for C.P.G. in Girdwood. So that’s him showing some terrain from the trip to me as [Richard] Permin looks on.
This is your classic shot of everyone talking about how rad their lines are. Abma, Cody, Ingrid, and Permin were great together. You never know what you’re gonna get into with four athletes, but these guys were really awesome to work with. Cody was on fire this trip. He was killing it.
That’s one of the zones we spent a lot of time at. It’s short and steep and really aesthetic. You have to be back at a certain time with the heli, but it was so close [to Girdwood] that we got to shoot some nice pink, end-of-the-day light. Which is sweet because I don’t normally get to shoot that since we have to be back in time for safety reasons. But there, you can stay out a little longer. So it was cool to be able to shoot that light in Alaska. It was probably 8 p.m. when I took this photo.
From left to right: Mark Abma, C.P.G. Guide Greg Harms, and Cody Townsend. “Some local knowledge there. Half the battle is knowing where to go. Getting access to Greg Harms’ computer is huge because he takes photos of everywhere he goes. You can see a zone and see what the light is like and what time of day to go there. You really need to execute your day wisely, so that you don’t burn through your heli time.”
Cody, Permin, and [MSP] filmer Steve Reska are standing on this sweet peak.
That’s actually a tighter shot of what’s behind those guys and it’s one of the spots that’s just…glorious Alaska. It was a different year for Alaska because they got so much snow that down low in the valley was more caked in that I’ve ever seen in the 12 years I’ve been going there. Middle elevation was really good and upper elevations were really variable because it was so cold and those spots got light, dry powder that sloughed off and didn’t spine up and cake in as it usually does. But it made the lower elevation stuff really cool and bigger bergschrunds everywhere I went, which created more hazards than usual.
That’s Steve Reska postholing to get the shot. We finished one of the better sessions of the trip. This was one of my favorite moments on the Alaska trip because it’s just quiet and you’re standing on top of the mountain, waiting for the heli to come and get you, and you’re done for the day and not thinking about anything, just enjoying a really beautiful place.
That’s our guide. We had great guides up there. He’s really enjoying his job right there.
That’s Guillaume Tessier, another MSP filmer. This is a good photo of Girdwood’s heli-ski terrain.
This one is significant because this zone is called Spine Cell. It’s been filmed a bunch over the years. Now, it’s an attraction to ski movie filmers because it’s stacked and has a ton of great terrain. This photo shows what that whole cirque is like.
This in a spot called Knik River. It’s a new spot in the Northern Chugach. It’s where Silverton Mountain does their heli skiing. We were based in the same place as them but our crew had our own helicopter. TGR did six weeks there, and I did three weeks with them. Sage [Cattabriga-Alosa] and Dana [Flahr] are hopping out of the heli.
The Northern Chugach has a little more variation between interior and coastal mountains. So you end up skiing more in interior because it’s sunnier. So there are bigger and rockier peaks with more couloirs and faces rather than spines and features. And some peaks are a few thousand feet higher than Girdwood. Steven Jones is hiking up with our guide, with Sage and Seth [Morrison] on top. We had to search for good snow up there because it warmed up by the time I got there. Which was fun because we all got to ski a lot since you couldn’t tell what the snow was like from the helicopter all the time.
That’s Grant Gunderson’s first Alaska trip. It’s always cool to see somebody’s reaction for the first time. He was stoked. Bottle of tequila celebrating his first AK trip.
That’s Todd Jones shooting Sage and Dana. By the end of the trip, the snow went to shit. So we were finding tiny little zones, hiking to them, and working hard to get a shot.
That’s the crew looking at this huge face, trying to find ways to ski down it. Knik has some amazing, crazy, beautiful stuff with a lot of it was impossible to ski. We decided that if we were to go back, we’d go back in March. There are a lot of west-facing aspects that have amazing faces and we couldn’t ski ’em because they got too much sun in April.
It took them nine days to build this jump for the MSP shoot and then right after that The North Face shot a commercial on it. The cat is grooming out the landing. Since the landings are so steep, the cats have to winch up them. So this cat is attached to another cat way up the mountain. I like it because it’s the combination of the winch with the cat and the dude who hand shapes the jump sitting there watching them on his jump.
It was my first Whistler park shoot. It was by far the best sunset kicker I’ve ever shot.
 So that’s Russ Henshaw in the yellow shooting Jacob Wester. It was the biggest jump I’ve ever shot at over 100 feet to the sweet spot, and I’ve never worked with any of those guys before. Every person was great to work with and I was totally impressed by how good they were. You see someone like Jacob Wester in the movies and you’re like, “Wow, that guy’s got really good style.” And then when you see it in person, it’s even more impressive. Every skier that hit jump said it was the best jump they’d ever hit.

Adam Clark Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery: Part Two

Shots of Alaska and Whistler from the 2011-12 winter

Words and Photos: Adam Clark

In part one of POWDER Senior Photographer Adam Clark's behind-the-scenes photo gallery, we saw images from Silverton, Chamonix, and more. In part two of the collection, Clark gives us the scoop on shooting in Alaska with TGR and MSP Films during a record-setting winter. He capped off his winter shooting at Whistler for one of MSP Films' spring park jump sessions. We pick up the conversation after he left Pleasant Camp, Canada, for Girdwood, Alaska.--John Stifter