With three days, a handful of athletes, and free reign of all of Whistler Blackcomb’s inbounds terrain, six-photographers were tasked with producing a three-to-six- minute slideshow that showcased skiing and the lifestyle that goes with. Historically, the Deep Winter Photo Challenge has occurred in the middle of heavy winter storm cycles, providing access to Whistler Blackcomb’s deepest snow. This year, warm temperatures and a lack of fresh snow leading up to and during the event forced the competing teams of photographers athletes to get creative. Steve Lloyd, Mason Mashon, Jussi Grznar, Mark Gribbon, Reuben Krabbe, and Robin O’Neill did just that, and O’Neil’s slideshow rose to the top.
Whistler-based Robin O’Neill is a Canadian commercial lifestyle and documentary photographer. Her photojournalistic approach and knack for story telling earned her second place last year, and top honors this year. Titled “Lifers,” O’Neil’s slideshow featured local pros like James Heim, Matty Richard, and Eric Hjorliefson, as well as patroller Pat Bougie, in addition to Whistler locals who aren't pros, but are stll out every day. Her story was inspired by the intersecting passion of these two groups. “[Heim, Richard, and Hjorliefson] are very committed to the sport. Every day, that’s what they think about. And the older guys line up at 7:30 every day, they meet their posse, and they go skiing. So I think the commonality between the two is [interesting]. “
Despite all three athletes battling injuries and sickness (Heim was swept off an 80-foot cliff in an avalanche two days prior; Hjorliefson is recovering from a knee injury; Richard was battling sickness after a big-mountain comp), the team collaborated to produce the best slideshow. Said O’Neill, “we had no [fully-] functioning skiers… but they can still thrown down even so.”
Local photographer Jussi Grznar nabbed second, and 21-year old Reuben Krabbe took home third, as well as the honor of “Best in Show” for a particular photograph. “I had amazing athletes to work with and I was very happy with the product I was able to show everyone,” said Krabbe. “I wanted to make a show that everyone would enjoy.”
Regarding the warm weather and lack of snow, O’Neill said “I had to adapt. No one would choose to shoot in these conditions. Your goal is always to [make things look as good as possible.] You’ve got athletes volunteering their time, and the only thing they get as a reward are the photos at the end of it.” Said Krabbe, “A lot of the time you adapt to everything, and the mountains are a very active and volatile place, so even times when it’s snowing a lot, you have to…modify your plans to what Mother Nature dictates.