I’ve worked with most of the photographers who entered Whistler Blackcomb’s Deep Winter Photo Challenge and like and respect them all. So I wasn’t going to vote in the People’s Choice for Deep Winter. I hate giving my email to enter random contests. Everyone put on amazing shows. I was happy that Robin O’Neill won, because she blazed such a trail through my heart last year as the first she-photographer ever invited to compete. I had closure. I didn’t need to engage any further.
But when I chatted to Robin O’Neill yesterday, she told me that she’s just trailing behind Mason Mashon in the People’s Choice contest with one week of voting left, and she’s really hoping to win.
So she can take her athletes heliskiing.
I know Mason put his heart on the line too. And I’m sure he and his crew would love a day of heliskiing too.
But the Voleurz crew have, inshallah, next year.
Robin’s athletes are all over 75 years old. And they’re the people who built Whistler. Werner Himmelsbach. Peter Alder. Trudy Alder. Peter Morin. Betty Vogler.
So I voted. And I’m saying, why don’t you vote too? Send Karl Ricker heliskiing. How freaking cool.
Much as I love that any of the teams have a shot at a day heliskiing – they all deserve the playday, after putting on such great shows – I get goosebumps thinking about those grey-haired Lifers, who have devoted their entire lives to this place, all hustling out of a helicopter, standing on top of a perfect peak as the bird flies away… with a pristine field of pow unrolling before them.
So that’s my pitch.
The best argument of all comes from an email Robin received on Monday:
Having just got back from possibly my last downhill trip – thinking of giving it up due to age – I am re-invigorated by the dignified photos of elders. Your work was inspiring and I am thinking of maybe another trip this season – two trips in a season, I haven’t done that in 10 years
At some point in our lives, we are no longer in the realm of ticking firsts… We start inhabiting a place where each trip, each adventure, each farewell, could be our last. A different kind of pioneering mentality is required. And that’s something to honour.
Trailblazing is what these elders of ours have done. I’d like to pay a little something back.
If you feel the same way, vote here.
I was 100% in your corner last night at the Deep Winter Photo Challenge, but damn, was I nervous for you. “First woman competing for the King/Queen of Storms title.” Girlfriend, that’s a lot to carry on your shoulders.
I love that you owned that, telling the Pique “I hope I can rock it for the girls.” And I love that you resisted becoming the spokeswomen for female photographers or under-represented women in the industry generally when reporters probed for juicy quotes: “I don’t think I’m going to touch that, thanks.” I love that you spent days in the lead-up to the event, scouting locations, exploring story angles, canvassing for subjects, preparing, researching, talking to people. I love that the compressed time-frame of the contest forced you to trust your instincts and your voice. But more than anything, I loved your 5 minute show. By choosing to feature women, you broke even more trail. The only time I’ve ever seen girls featured in Deep Winter shows was as bikini-clad pro-hos in the hot-tub scenes. Your female athletes are deeply dedicated to Winter, to skiing, to the mountains, but you also showed that they are more than that, they are also partners, supporters, wives, mothers, working just as hard when they’re off the mountain…
It’s probably because I’m a girl that I was crying watching it. But when at least half the room got to their feet to cheer and applaud when they handed over that giant cheque for 2nd place, it was a crowd full of men and women, locals and friends, all cheering because you told beautiful stories artfully, soulfully, well.
As for me, I was cheering because I was proud of you. And because your show was so strong and subtle and resonant. And spoke to some deep place that I’ve kept shut off from the light and tried not to feed.
The first time I wrote an article about the female energy in the mountains, someone told me I was a man-hater who should leave town. The next time I wrote an article about women working on the mountain, my boss, who had never commented on any other article I’d written, pulled me aside and suggested I’d made some people uncomfortable. That was the last time I wrote about girls. That was 2005. Which is a shame. Because this town is full of amazing stories, and at least half of them are stories about women. Thanks for owning that. So that we all can.