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WHAT DO YOU GET when you dangle $10,000 in front of 20 top ski photographers? If they were all in one place, you'd get an ugly pileup of expensive lenses and worn Gore-Tex-these folks don't get stock options and 401k's after all. Which is why for Skiing's inaugural Mountain Media Awards, we spread 20 shooters out over nearly two dozen Colorado Ski Country USA resorts, handed out 1,000 rolls of film, and flew in more than 150 athletes. The areas put everyone up for free and gave them carte blanche, but the rest was up to the contestants.

Drawing locations from a hat, some folks were granted fresh powder and blue skies, and others just had to make do. The basic format, however, favored no one. In the end, a six-judge panel awarded most of the spoils (and the blue ribbon) to Mark Gallup of Calgary, Alberta, who worked Vail's bowls and glades. Paul Morrison of Whistler, British Columbia, took second with his images of Telluride, and Scott Spiker of Columbia Falls, Montana, snagged third after his stint at Monarch. Says Gallup of his favorite prizewinning shot of a snowboarder and a painting: "I'd had this concept in my head all year. Snowboarding is becoming so urban, almost like skate-I wanted to bring the mountains back to the sport." He found a $5,000 painting in a Vail gallery and charged it to his Visa. "I told the gallery owner, 'I'll be back in 20 minutes.'" Then he hired two (drunk) guys to act as movers, walking the masterpiece in front of a rail-sliding snowboarder.

He also convinced Megan Pishke to go topless, don a blond wig, and ride a white horse around Vail Village-to the delight of Texan tourists. We're certain that's not why he won. Really.

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