Extreme Photo of the Week: Backcountry Skiing Squaw Valley
"I better stomp this!" This was on the mind of freeskier JT Holmes before he launched off the "Drifter," a 35-foot cliff in Squaw Valley’s Silverado Canyon, during a shoot for the upcoming Warren Miller film, Like There’s No Tomorrow. Holmes has been doing such stunts for ski flicks since he was 15 years old. "The Drifter offers a clear view from takeoff to landing—if you stop above it. But I was skiing for film and for fun, so I came in nonstop, blind," recalls Holmes, who grew up and still lives in Squaw Valley. "I was psyched. I had just become airborne to find that my trajectory was good, and my vision of the landing was only partly obscured by the falling snow."
Even after seeking out the world’s best backcountry, Holmes says nowhere compares to his home turf. “Squaw Valley offers the best skiing experience and community. The layout creates a great vibe on the mountain …” Holmes says. “On top of that, we tend to enjoy mild temperatures. I am not so keen on skiing when it is cold outside.”
Getting the Shot
"When I get the call on the radio that he is ready, I’ve got about ten seconds before JT drops into the line," says photographer Alex O’Brien. "This is the point when I take a deep breath and steady myself." To get this shot, O’Brien was positioned directly across a small valley at the same elevation as the cliff, which gave him a good perspective. It also showed where Holmes was coming from and where he was headed, which is something O’Brien always tries to communicate in action photos. He chose a Nikon d700 handheld with a 70-200mm lens for the conditions: "I use this lightweight setup when I am shooting a subject that requires me to cover a lot of ground in a day."