Joel Reichenberger: Following adaptive skiers no easy task
January 17, 2010
Steamboat Springs — After the hurdle of a 7:45 a.m. meeting time was safely met, it didn't seem to me that newspaper assignments could come much easier.
On Thursday, I went on the All Mountain Adaptive Ski Camp's Buffalo Pass backcountry skiing day, a perk donated to the camp by Steamboat Powdercats.
"How could this possibly go wrong?" I repeatedly asked myself.
Here's the thing, though: Taking photos of adaptive athletes in the stunningly still-fresh powder is remarkably hard.
Anyone who saw the skiers dash across Steamboat Ski Area last week during the four-day camp might know my problem. Once they master the mono-ski, it's nearly impossible to get adaptive skiers to slow down, let alone wait.
On the first couple of runs, I tried to get a little bit ahead and then throw down my poles, pop off my gloves and goggles and whip into a shooting position.
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I did that, but as I pulled my lens around looking for the first skier or rider to focus on, about the only thing I ever found were a few clouds of powder and a pack of fresh tracks cut around me.
Waiting for a photographer was about the last thing on anyone's mind with such amazing skiing. There wasn't anyone riding in my snowcat who wasn't salivating at the top of every run.
I can't blame them. Three snowcats left the Dry Lake Campground parking lot early Thursday morning, and after gathering for a giant group photo, each went in a drastically different direction. And when they all came together again hours later, there wasn't a soul without a smile.
Despite hauling customers into the backcountry every day since the most recent snow, the Powdercats guides seemed to be able to seek out an untouched field from miles away.
I ended up with a few good photos. It started out a frustrating and slow day for Darin Cuskelly as he struggled to maneuver his mono-ski through the deep powder. It didn't take long for him to figure it out, however, and I got a great shot of him soaring over a jump.
I took my own tumble in the snow right before Lenny Browning attempted the same jump and was left with a blurry shot of him, arms and legs extended wide, soaring into the powder.
I got North Carolina's Butch Butler blasting through the good stuff, powder flying straight over the lip of his mono-ski and into his face, and I got shots of Connecticut snowboarder Lesley Schwarzschild cutting through the deep with a wide smile. I even ended up with a photo of swift mono-skier Drew Willis on his way to make more fresh tracks.
Even with a bunch of person-less photos of fresh tracks, the assignment still was pretty sweet. And judging by the response from everyone in my snowcat, they had a pretty amazing time, as well.