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Ephemeral Made Permanent

The best aspect of winter in Utah is the greatest snow on Earth. People travel all over the world to experience some of the greatest terrain provided by the Wasatch Mountains. In the winter, there are locations that receive upwards of 50 feet of snowfall in a season. It’s no wonder thousands of people travel to Utah to engage in the plethora of snow sports available. One of the most interesting things about snow, however, is snow itself. The variety and types of snow seem endless. There is even a subject known as snow science, which you can earn a degree in through Montana State University. As beautiful as snow is, there is so much we don’t know about it. This is what makes photographing snow and snowflakes that much more special.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

Photographing a snowflake comes down to having the right kind of gear. Since the first photographs of them in 1885, taking a photo of a snowflake has become significantly easier. You no longer need to attach a microscope to your camera, and you no longer have to wait until the film is processed to see whether or not you captured the perfect photo. Today, taking a photo using a DSLR allows anyone to get great photographs. Even with modern gear, there are a few things you will need to get a great shot.

First, you will need magnification. Snowflakes are really small. The average snowflake ranges in size from a few micrometers to a few millimeters. To get this magnification, it is necessary to use a macro lens, which allows you to shoot close-up photography and make objects appear greater than life-size without having to perform any significant zoom — all of the magnification is in the lens. To get even greater magnification, use an extension tube to help you push beyond the limits of your lens. An extension tube physically extends the lens further away from the body of the camera, allowing you to adjust the focal length for increased magnification.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

Second, you will need an old piece of dark fabric. The idea is to have a material that is dark in color to contrast the color of snowflakes. It is also used to catch the snowflakes as they fall. The frayed fibers of an old fabric will catch a snowflake and suspend it above to prevent heat from being transferred that would otherwise melt the snowflake. Snowflakes that land on metal surfaces, for instance, would turn into a water droplet instantly. Try using colors other than black to help bring out the beauty of each snowflake, but make sure to keep the color dark.

Third, it is important to have good lighting. Almost always use some sort of external light source. Providing your own light helps you capture the exact photo you are looking for. It is rare that you will get a photo of a snowflake when direct sunlight is present, so using an external light source will help bring out the elegance of the individual branches and their reflectivity to light.

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

It’s important to note that taking photos of snowflakes requires a lot of practice. First, you have to wait for snow, and not every snowstorm produces the picturesque snowflakes we commonly envision. It will take a lot of patience as well as keeping warm in the cold, but with luck maybe you can be the first to find two snowflakes that are alike.

 

Photographing snowflakes with Kiffer in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Peter Creveling.

 

 

 

 

 

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Wasatch Winter Mountaineers

Through each season, the peaks of the Wasatch transform with the elements to take on a radically different façade,

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

and during the period of snowfall and cold, this range is an entirely different beast. While the notion of climbing to the apex of one of the many cloud-carving goliaths seems intimidating and prohibitive to most in the valley during the summer, doing so while the Wasatch is encased in snow is downright unimaginable. For some impetuous local mountaineers, however, the endeavor is exhilarating, sublime, and worth the struggle and risk. If you’re an individual with a bit of cardio, grit, and interest in learning, surmounting one of the glistening peaks in the winter is merely a matter of will and determination.

Sports like this, of course, are contingent upon connecting with a community; knowledge is often best passed-down by a mentor, as it is not wise to approach these expeditions alone (particularly on one’s first attempt). While social media may be among the modern practices keeping people either indoors or buried in their smartphones, it has served as an incredible mechanism for bringing together like-minded folk from all walks of life. This sport is no exception.

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

While many local groups have existed long before the induction of social media in contemporary consciousness, platforms like Facebook have played an essential role in uniting and organizing mountain junkies and their activities. The most prominent and active among them include the longstanding Wasatch Mountain Club and the accurately named Wasatch Mountain Wranglers, collectively comprised of 7,375 members (the latter having the most at 5,502). Each group routinely organizes a variety of expeditions into these mountains throughout the year, serving as an inclusive environment in which locals at any level of practice can get connected with exhilarating trips, as well as experienced, knowledgeable, and passionate mentors.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I reached out to some of the impetuous Utahns to determine just why they do it, what it takes, and what advice they may have for newcomers. At every level of expertise, these determined individuals all have something that drives them to these peaks.

Nicole Frazier Condie is a lifelong Mapleton local, mother, self-proclaimed mountain-lover, and is relatively new to winter mountaineering. She explains that while she has spent her entire life treading the slopes of the Wasatch, she has found recently that “the winter brings a gift: a quiet extreme. You experience this rush while at the same time you feel so at peace —  safe but not safe at all. It is an absolute juxtaposing experience. Its beauty is truly something straight from Narnia.”

Courtesy of Nicole Frazier Condie.

This quiet extreme is something Condie came to learn most profoundly on her perilous group expedition up South Thunder Mountain (11,154 feet) last March. While the weather had fared well for her group throughout the day, Condie says “the wind changed dramatically up after 10,500 feet to 50-60 mph gusts. One smaller woman on the team was actually lifted and fell from the wind during the last push to the summit. As sharp ice flurries burned past my face I worried that the wind would pick up one of those large pieces, sending me over the edge. But I pressed on, unable to see or hear the others in my party.” Despite the treacherous conditions, including — at one point —  making a wrong turn  toward a precarious ravine and later having to learn how to glissade with an ice axe on-the-spot. Condie persevered nonetheless, leaving her with the sense of accomplishment.

Courtesy of Nicole Frazier Condie.

“I really had done something. I really lived in that moment. Something beautiful truly awoke in me,” she says.

Each individual capable and driven in winter mountaineering seems to develop their own intimate relationships with the mountains and motivations for climbing them. Joe Butcher, an experienced mountaineer and Kaysville native, affirms his motivation for climbing “really is spiritual.”

“I enjoy being reminded how small I am in the grand scheme of things. I also enjoy the difficulty, and training my mind with the fortitude to overcome some of the most difficult obstacles I have ever encountered. My experiences in the mountains have provided me with the wherewithal to endure many other trials in my personal life,” he says.

Jonathan Scott, a Utah County native and active all-season mountaineer in the Wasatch Mountain Club, finds himself drawn to these peaks in winter due to the sublime challenge they hold.

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

“[In the winter] there are more variables that make it more difficult, but also more rewarding, like solving a 1,000-piece puzzle as opposed to a 100-piece puzzle. I like challenges, and the winter offers that for me,” Scott says.

Scott urges newcomers not to shy away from the challenge, however daunting it may seem.

“Don’t be so afraid of a winter objective that you don’t try it,” he says. “Just like when you project a boulder problem or climbing route outside of your current abilities, start at the bottom and work your way up the mountain, even if it takes you 10 times.”

Tanner Maxwell is an avid Wasatch Mountain Wrangler and photographer. He finds a sublime aesthetic and self-actualizing potential on these ridges.

“Solitude and incredible beauty that can only be found in high places in the winter is what drives me to the Wasatch in the winter months,” Maxwell explains. “Challenging myself and setting summit goals is what keeps me sane. There is no place like the mountains, and seeing them firsthand in all types of weather and seasons is what makes it worth undertaking. I feel like I better myself when I am up there.”

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

Each of these practicing winter mountaineers had their own perspectives on the greatest risks associated with the mystifying sport and tips to ensure a safe and positive experience, but one thing that remained consistent in their responses was that avalanches are among the greatest possible dangers. One must always be mindful of conditions on the mountain — to “know before you go,” if you will.

Mike Gibby, a well-seasoned climber and mentor figure in the Wasatch Mountain Club with dynamic experiences both domestic and international, claims that the ideal conditions to keep an eye out for are “low avalanche danger, snow consolidation, cold weather — to help stabilize the snow — good visibility, and no wind.” It is ultimately best to pick a cold, clear day and push-off as early as 2 or 3 a.m. This is such common practice in the sport that it has been named an “Alpine Start.”

Gibby also advises aspiring winter mountaineers to recognize that safety must be taken as the primary objective, and to always “be prepared to turn around if conditions change.”

Other potential dangers associated with this sport are dehydration, exposure to the elements, snow and ice hazards, like melting cornices and snow bridges, and, of course, involuntary sliding and falling.

Regardless of outdoor experience level, potential newcomers to winter mountaineering are encouraged to 1) begin by practicing in shorter and less precarious winter hiking locations to familiarize themselves with the equipment and conditions, 2) take at least one avalanche course, 3) develop a habit of assessing snow-levels on the Utah Avalanche Center site, and 4) acquaint themselves with people well-experienced in the practice, like the Wasatch Mountain Club and Wasatch Mountain Wranglers. It is also important to 5) be transparent with yourself to ensure you have the composure to lead your body up such an icy mountaintop. Aside from a firmly level and clear head, the essential equipment for winter mountaineering largely depends upon conditions, but the basics include:

Courtesy of Jonathan Scott.

>ice axes

>crampons

>full-shank boots

>many layers (top and bottom) for varied conditions

>multiple glove layers

>water with freezing prevention methods

>helmet

>sunglasses/goggles

>gaiters

>trekking poles with snow-baskets

>snowshoes or skis with climbing skins for the approach

>short, mountaineering, or climbing rope depending on route

>avalanche safety equipment (like a beacon, shovel, and probe)

>knowledge of weather and avalanche conditions

Courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

While you don’t necessarily need to break the bank when attaining equipment, particularly while you are still uncertain whether or not the sport is for you, you should always err on the side of quality equipment, since cheap and unreliable gear can either ruin your day or even cost you your life. It is a general rule of thumb that any gear you will trust your life with — this includes ropes, harnesses, carabiners, etc.— should not be bought for just this reason.

Though virtually any snow-covered peak or route can be taken on with sufficient gusto and preparation, some of the most popular and appraised are the Pfeifferhorn, the Everest Ridge, and Timpanooke routes on Mount Timpanogos, South Thunder Mountain, White and Red Baldy, Lone Peak, Mount Olympus, and the Tripe-Traverse goliaths: Dromedary Peak, Sunrise Peak, and the Broadsfork Twins.

Stay safe out there.

Title photo courtesy of Tanner Maxwell.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

 

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The Nine

It’s unlikely that if you have ever driven by 9th and 9th on a Thursday night you haven’t noticed an assortment of bicycles. Similar to what you’d see at a dog park, you will find bikes and their owners from every spectrum of the community. Heavy duty mountain bikes, racing bikes with colorful LEDs, even vintage Wheelies that look like they belong more in an art museum than in a bike stand lining the area starting at 9 p.m. every Thursday.

The 999, more commonly known as “The Nine,” is an all inclusive bike ride that traverses the moonlit streets of Salt Lake City.  It welcomes people from every skill level, to the point that they follow a “no-drop” rule, which means they go no faster than the slowest biker. Like many of my college friends, I look forward to Thursday nights when bicycles reclaim the roads and my commute to school becomes a kind of playground, forcing automobile traffic to yield.

The Nine gather in mid-January on the corner of 9th and 9th just before 9 p.m. Photo by Conner Ashton.

“I bet it was just two guys drinking on their porch one summer night who came up with the idea, or some biker junkie with piercings that started the ride,”  some participants theorize. The truth behind the story is that it started with a man named Naresh Kumar. Kumar is 33, handsome, tall, slender, with dark brown hair in a bun and warm brown eyes. He has a degree in bioengineering and chuckles when I tell him how some people believe “The Nine” started. Five years later, Kumar is happy there is still a mystery behind the origin story of the nine because he started the event with the intent of making it leaderless, where the people riding were in control.

The cruiser ride in Boulder, CO inspired Kumar to try to start something similar in SLC. Kumar didn’t have much riding experience before he started The Nine. In fact, he remembers that he had to go to his mom’s house and dig through the garage to find the rusty bike that he’d used as a teenager. Kumar and his good friend Skylar then began to meet every Thursday on the corner of 9th and 9th at 9 p.m. and the two would set off. Slowly the word spread and the two-man team grew into what it is today, with nearly 200 people some nights.

Some of the bikes gathered before The Nine sets out. Photo by Conner Ashton.

Originally called “An Evening in the City with Naresh,” the popularity of the location and time quickly caught on and the name 999 stuck. In the winter months the numbers of bikers wane, but there are still people who are willing to brave the weather all 52 weeks of the year.

Each person creates their own meaning as to why they ride The Nine, using it as a way to socialize, exercise, or even to protest our current air pollution. T.R., suited up in a retro purple and green ski onesie to brave the 32 degree weather, leans on his bike and says, “this is my time. My wife knows that Thursday nights is when I get to socialize and get out the funk of routines.”

Kumar hopes to create an environment that brings people of all ages together; a place without the daily distractions of phones and media that often keep us less connected, and hopes that this event is one way to make our community more welcoming. Kumar compares the ride to having a child: you set guidelines, hope that people listen to them, and cross your fingers that the original idea doesn’t stray too far from the core values. So far, that’s what has happened. Despite there being an emphasis on making the event leaderless, there are “administrators,” which are some of the original members that model bike etiquette and help up a rider who might have taken a spill on the TRAX lines.

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Conner Ashton, c.ashton@wasatchmag.com.

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Review: Beaver Mountain Ski Resort

Two hours from Salt Lake City, just past Utah State University, sits Beaver Mountain Ski Resort. Though of modest size, it has a significant history as the oldest continuously family-owned ski resort in the US. Opened first by Harold and Luella Seeholzer, the resort is run today by Marge Seeholzer, who joined the family when she married Harold’s son, Ted, as well as their daughter Annette West, son Travis, and her husband and his wife.

At a total of 828 acres accessible via 48 different runs, which can be used by skiers and boarders, Beaver Mountain might initially seem easy to overlook for its smaller size when compared to the big players in Utah’s ski resort industry.

The lodge at Beaver Mountain Resort. Photo credit Beaver Mountain Resort.

While it is small, it’s well cared for, and the size gives the resort a friendly intimacy harder to find in other settings. This year of strange snow patterns, Beaver Mountain is an especially good option, having received more snow this season than any other resort in Utah, according to Ski Utah.

Beaver Mountain boasts both groomed and mogul runs. An intermediate skier myself—I’ve skied from the time I was eight years old to now, but never enough each season to improve all that much—the green and blue groomed runs I tried when I visited on Wednesday, Jan. 24 were all enjoyable and doable.

The greens were, as seems common, more like the skiing approximation of a walk in the park, with plenty of time to slow down and enjoy the scenery and less emphasis on having skill. Since the scenery is stunning on these runs, it’s not hard to relax moving at a calmer pace.

After a few greens to warm up, I started to try the blues to challenge my skill at not dying when trying to reach the bottom of steeply angled slopes. Every blue I tried posed enough challenge to keep me careful, but not so difficult that I was constantly terrified of falling hard enough to break something. In the end, I avoided falling at all.

I took some time in between runs to eat in the resort’s lodge where a fresh-cooked meal was available for under $10 and made right in front of me. The gardenburger I ate, after deliberating over their fairly extensive menu, was perfectly cooked and delicious in flavor. I’m already craving another one.

By the end of the day, I had spent just over three hours on the mountain, managed to get five of my slow-fall runs in and wished I could stay just a little longer to get a few more.

Despite its small size and the regrettably long drive, it takes to get there, Beaver Mountain Ski Resort has a lot to offer. Cheap prices are one of those things, with day passes at just $50 for the whole mountain from its operating hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com

Photo credit Beaver Mountain Resort.

 

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Hiking Through the Mental Illness Struggle

Contributor piece by Jenna Baker of Wildhorn Outfitters. Published first at https://www.wildhornoutfitters.com/blogs/sessions/its-like-going-home on January 30, 2018. 

Almost everyone today has been, or knows someone who has been, affected by anxiety, depression, or some kind of addiction. In the words of Jessica Grambau, “we’re in a heavy epidemic right now–whether it is drugs or depression or anxiety,” which is why she started New Heights Hiking.

New Heights Hiking is a nonprofit, Utah hike group for anyone who has struggled with any type of mental illness. As Jess herself has anxiety she understands how overwhelming it can be. The group supports people in all walks of life and helps them to find happiness and wellness in nature. They meet for hikes throughout the year to explore trails in the Utah mountains.

She invites everyone who wants to come and states how if you’re having a bad day, a hike can be the perfect remedy to help you heal. You can make new friends, get outside, and experience something you haven’t before.

Through New Heights Hiking, Jess has found a way to share her passion by encouraging others to get outside and enjoy the wild around them.

When asked what “share the wild” meant to her she explained, “for me I guess ‘share the wild’ is just showing everyone how beautiful it is and how magical it can be for your life to just take that hike or take that walk or take that hour to just experience something that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I feel more alive, I feel way more alive out here than I could ever probably feel at home. I think when I’m traveling and hiking, I am at home. That is where my home is…that’s where my heart is and that’s where I feel the most alive.”

With the following Jess currently has on Instagram, she wanted to use it for more than just pretty pictures of her on a mountain. She wanted to give a purpose to her platform, to voice her thoughts on the sometimes taboo topic of mental illness.

We fully support Jess in her cause. To raise awareness, we are selling Jess’ Session T-shirt, where 100% of the proceeds go to New Heights Hiking. Help us raise awareness for mental health while sharing the wild!

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Capturing Winter

During winter in Utah, you can create some of the most picturesque images you have ever captured. It is this time of year to focus on polar opposites: fire and ice, lights and darks, etc. Utah’s unique climate means you will be able to find great contrast between the red desert landscapes and a fresh coat of white snow. Seeing fresh snow coat the most iconic landmarks within southern Utah’s national parks are moments you will never forget. In the north, the abundance of wildlife upon a winter canvas shows the endurance many species have to survive, including humans.

Frost accumulates on trees and shrubs from the high moisture content during an inversion in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

As you travel throughout Utah this winter season, keep your eye out for these memorable opportunities. Don’t only take a picture for the sake of using your camera, but take a picture that tells a story. Look for those situations where you are able to photograph a picture that’s worth a thousand words. Some of my favorite pictures during the winter are those that illuminate the beauty in harsh weather conditions.

Think outside the box to capture a multitude of compositions. This can range from your wide-angle shots of the Salt Lake Valley from the top of various mountain peaks, to the zoomed-in photo of individual snowflakes highlighted by the sun’s rays, and everything in between.

The snow adds a harsh brightness to any daytime photo. For example, a complementary dark object of skiers, wildlife, or the buildup of snow upon a parked car are all exaggerated by the bright, white snow. Use this to your advantage to control and guide your viewer’s eye towards the main story of your picture.

Sunrises and sunsets during the winter are also quite breathtaking. Due to the reflective properties of snow, the vibrant colors from the sun are not only on the clouds above, but on the snow below. You see an abundance of colors across the snow including bright reds, oranges, and yellows. It’s these types of natural phenomenon that are truly exciting to photograph.

Photo by Peter Creveling.

Once you have your subject setup, try a variety of options with your camera to achieve the perfect composition. For example, during sunset photos, try using a longer exposure to highlight all of the colors in your scenery as well as making your image appear smoother. Another tip for photographing snow it is to slightly overexpose your images. Snow tends to have a blueish color when viewed through your camera lens. Overexposure will help solve this problem and give you an image that better resembles what we actually see. Don’t forget to play around with a variety of aperture settings. To make a snow storm look more harsh, lower your aperture (increase your depth of field). The image will include more snowflakes in focus over a greater distance to exaggerate the severity of a storm.

These next few months, I will be out trying to implement these techniques in my photographs of our winter environment here in Utah. It will mean cold fingertips, but it is worth enduring the freezing temperatures to capture the beauty our state has to offer.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Camping in Style

I packed my bag just like I had hundreds of times before. Sleeping bag on bottom, stuff sack with clothes above that, and water bladder, camp shoes, food, etc. crammed in all the gaps. This time, however, I left out the stove and warm pajamas. There would be no need for them because I would be sleeping in the backcountry’s most luxurious accommodation: a yurt.

A true yurt is an impermanent, circular, dome-shaped dwelling. The form originated among the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. Modern, American yurts have deviated greatly from their origins. Today, they are often built on permanent wood platforms, use thick, reflective insulation to cover the walls, and have a host of modern amenities. Utah is one of the few states in the United States that has yurts on public lands available for rent.

Hiking to the yurt. Photo by Nick Halberg.

Typically, reservations are booked months in advance for one of these coveted spots, but when I looked at the online calendar (found at brorayurts.org), I saw an opening. I called the reservation number the next day and booked the first of five yurts in the Lily Lake Hut system. This series of ski trails and yurts are located in the northern part of the Uintas, near the Wyoming border, and are managed by the Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance. Weeknight fees are $50 and weekend fees bump up to $75, after you pay the one-time $20 fee to become a member of BRORA. Compared to other getaways, it’s a pretty good deal.

With a heave and a thud my friends and I lowered our packs out of the truck and into the mud puddle that was the parking lot. Sitting across from us on the horizon were the peaks of the Uintas, covered in snow and shimmering beautifully. The trail started out a slushy mess, but soon turned to solid snow. After walking short two miles later we arrived at our home for the night—Bear Claw Yurt.

Fireplace inside the yurt. Photo by Nick Halberg.

We were instantly impressed. The yurt itself was located in a secluded grove of Douglas-firs, had a picnic table outside, an outhouse close enough for the inevitable midnight run to relieve oneself, and a stack of firewood that’d last any pioneer through the harshest winter. Indoors was even better. Three bunk beds lined the left wall, allowing enough room for eight people to sleep; the center was filled with a circular table and four benches; and to the right stood an old cast iron wood stove that looked as if it’d come straight from an Alaskan trapper’s cabin. There was no running water or electricity, but lines fed propane to a Coleman stove and lantern, and the cabinets were stocked with dishes, pots, and pans.

A sunset from Lily Lake. Photo by Nick Halberg.

The sun was still reasonably high in the sky when we arrived so we picked our jaws up off the floor, dropped our packs, and headed farther down the trail to the nearby Lily Lake. We arrived with just enough time to catch the glowing pinks of a fading sun. Within a half hour of our return to Bear Claw we were seated around the little table enjoying warm bowls of chili, Hawaiian rolls, and grilled asparagus. The perfect ending to a peaceful weekend.

 

 

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Forecasting the 2017-18 Snow Season

Utah’s ski industry is looking for another year of record-setting revenue and snowfall this year. Last year, Brighton recorded 633” of total snowfall, and at the time of Ski Utah’s press conference, it was on track to match that. Since Utah’s ski industry has a huge impact on Utah’s economy, this is great news.

In 2016, Utah’s ski industry recorded $1.4 billion in revenue and $8.2 billion in tourism and visitor spending statewide, according to the 2016 report from the Utah Tourism Industry Association. That’s $1 billion coming to the state in tax revenue to pave roads, educate kids, and protect national parks. With all the exciting events and changes happening for the 2017-2018 season, skiers, snowboarders, and general Utah citizens alike have a lot to look forward to.

What’s New

Alta, celebrating it’s 80th anniversary, decided to get itself an early anniversary present by installing a new high speed quad lift to replace Cecret and the Supreme lifts. Now riders will be able to access more runs in less time.

At Snowbird, The Creekside Lodge was remodeled and includes new dining options along with a “boosted breakfast” to keep you going all day long. The Creekside Lodge is also a great place to grab a hot chocolate before heading back out to the slopes.

For those who are just learning to ski, Park City has installed a new covered chairlift designed to serve beginner runs.  The area will provide a comfortable and spacious place to learn and relearn how to pizza and French fry.

Upcoming Events

For the 20th year in a row, Deer Valley will be hosting the FIS (International Ski Federation) Alpine Skiing World Cup from Jan. 10-12, 2018. Come see future olympians compete for a spot on the Olympic team for the 2018 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

In the spring, Park City will be hosting the Spring Grüv Celebration which includes concerts and Pond Skimming.

d.valiquett@wasatchmag.com

Header photo courtesy Ski Utah.

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How to: Get Great Shots

Rock climbing with Ben, Peter, Colin, Claire, John, Brian, and Kim at the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho on Saturday, June 10, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Holding your camera firmly in both hands, you kneel against a fence to stabilize your body. You have steadied your breathing and can feel each and every heartbeat pulsate through you like a lightning bolt. In front of you is a picturesque scene that you want to capture. Alone, with nobody to consult, you look through the viewfinder and envision the photograph you are about to take. In your mind, the image is in the same ballpark as Ansel Adams, a legendary pioneer of adventure photography. You take the shot. You move on.

When you look over the photo later, you realize to your dismay that the image you got is nowhere near that of the great Mr. Adams. Why is that? Why was the image that you mentally created nowhere near the final result?

There are many reasons this could happen.

Check your camera settings.

Was the camera in auto exposure mode?  Were you letting the camera think for you? Were you using a telephoto zoom lens when the scene you wanted to capture was wider angle? Did you have a fast shutter speed when you wanted to capture more of a motion blur? The list goes on and on. The truth is that there is no fail-safe method to avoid this every time, since you are human and will always be susceptible to mistakes. Over time, though, you can become familiar with which settings work best for where, and remember to change everything accordingly.

Rock climbing with Ben, Peter, Colin, Claire, John, Brian, and Kim at the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho on Saturday, June 10, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Have your camera with you always.

Be on your toes at all times, constantly shooting less-thrilling moments to be ready, camera in hand, for that one perfect shot you will never get again. Let’s say you are backpacking in the mountains and it has been raining all day. Your feet are wet, and you can feel blisters threatening to form. Every step you take is agonizingly painful. All you want to do is stop and wait out the storm. The camera you brought with you is not weather resistant, so you haven’t taken it out. The rain turns into a torrential downpour and you need to set up shelter to wait out the storm. While it might feel like there is nothing to shoot at this point, this is actually the perfect opportunity to take your carefully protected camera out and photograph everything you can.

Leave your comfort zone.

When you are the most uncomfortable, you will be able to capture difficult scenes that you would have otherwise never have imagined. You will grow from the experiences of intense discomfort, which will often get you great photos and improve your skill level in any outdoor adventure.

Skiing and pond skimming with Blake, and Kristen at Snowbird on Sunday, June 4, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Change your perspective.

The average height of an adult male is around 6 feet and the average height of a female is 5-foot-4.  I would estimate that 95 percent of photographs that are taken are shot at or near the eye level of either of these heights.  One very simple way to set yourself apart from the majority of photographers is to change your perspective. Try and find a vantage point where you can look down on your scene, or better yet lay on the ground and look up at your subject. Just by changing your perspective you will add more life to the images you capture.

Practice, practice, practice.

The moral of the story really is practice makes perfect. If you bring your camera with you and really want to get better at photography, try using different lenses in all types of situations. If you see other photographers at a national park, ask them what lenses they are using, and what kind of results they usually get. Being open to new ideas and experimenting constantly will undoubtedly improve your camera skills, getting you a few great shots in the meantime.

Skiing and pond skimming with Blake, and Kristen at Snowbird on Sunday, June 4, 2017. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Remember, when you are out photographing, be considerate of other photographers. You don’t want to ruin another individual’s photographs as you wouldn’t want them to ruin the shot you are trying to take. Happy shooting.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Header photo by Peter Creveling.

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Improving Air Quality

We all know what winter in Utah is like. Crowds will travel from all over to see the lights at Temple Square, thousands of skiers flock to experience the best snow on Earth, and we all get to experience our favorite thing about Utah—never ending smoggy air. With Salt Lake City’s ever growing population projected to double by 2050, it seems that the air quality is only getting worse from here on out.

According to a study conducted by the American Lung Association, Salt Lake City ranked as the 7th most polluted city in the nation in 2015. The same study gave a letter grade to every state based on the quality of their air, where Salt Lake received an F. This is because every year there is a substantial increase in the number of bad quality air days with short term particle pollution, which is a mixture of primary particles like dust, volatile organic compounds, and emissions and their reaction in the atmosphere. We Utahns definitely have experienced this, and unfortunately not just during the winter time. If you’ve ever been on the top of one of our many mountain peaks and realized you couldn’t really see the city clearly, then you know what I’m talking about.

HEAL, which stands for Healthy Environmental Alliance of Utah, is a group here in Salt Lake City that advocates for clean air and renewable energy sources, and helps to protect Utah from nuclear and toxic air hazards. HEAL originated from another group called Families Against Incinerator Risk (FAIR), a grassroots organization that started in the ‘90s, aimed at stopping the Army from incinerating toxic weapons in Tooele. FAIR was worried about the downwind effect that surrounding communities might face from nuclear and toxic threats being introduced to their environment.

Sitting down with Noah Miterko, a grassroots organizer at HEAL, I got to learn what this organization was all about.

“When HEAL is working on something, we try to work on the grassroots and advocacy side, you know, getting people involved, connecting concerned communities and individuals with the tools and education they need to make a difference,” he said. “It’s important and people really care about this. People get sick from the air quality here, or people even move away because of it. It really blindsides people, I think, who move here from out of town. They think, Salt Lake City: beautiful mountains, the Olympics; it must be super clean. But then they get here, and well, not so much.”

HEAL works to help preserve Utah air by advocating about hot topic issues, educating the public, helping to enact different policies and bills by working with regulatory agencies, and also by encouraging the public to participate in citizen lobbying.

While there are many small ways for individuals to improve Utah’s air quality, such as biking to school and work, switching to renewable energy sources, and being more pollution conscious, the solution to Utah’s air is also tied to legislative work.

“One of the most effective things you can do as a resident is speak to your representatives, speak to your senator, and speak to your city councilperson,“ Miterko says.

University of Utah students, and other community members, interested in clean air or sustainability can find many ways to get involved with HEAL. This upcoming winter they will be holding meetings during the legislative previews, and teaching people how to citizen lobby. In addition, HEAL also hires students for prestigious internships during the spring, summer, and fall. Students involved in these internships work closely with HEAL on research projects relating to Utah air. Anyone interested can contact Noah Miterko at noah@healutah.org.

As a lover of the Utah outdoors, I am grateful to organizations like HEAL that are actively working on helping to clean the air, so that I can hopefully one day breathe without wheezing when I go for an outdoor run in our not-always-so-clear Utah air.

s.marty@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of HEAL Utah.

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