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Ambush In The Andes, Day 5: Farming the storm

The 2008 South American Photo Challenge

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A free for all. The storm puked a good six inches on us and stormed all day and into the night. Walking between the buildings though the wind was absolutely brutal. Luckily it dawned clear, calm, and cold. What followed was a frantic scramble to round out the shots the teams already had in the bag. Sure, the first few days were warm and sunny and spring-like. And they offered soft snow on south aspects—

backwards, remember?

—and corn on norths. But this was a taste of

ice-cold winter


So all five photo teams hustled for the early lift. Ski Portillo was kind enough to let us get on almost two hours before the public. The 7:30 lift made all the difference. Still, the next five hours were a scramble. At one point, three teams jockeyed for position in a single, small drainage. Normally etiquette calls for photographers to cede control of the area to the photographer that gets there first. Not so during the contest and no one was ornery about it. Lloyd and West shot steep fins and 30-foot hucks. Clark and Roner shot powder turns against a craggy backdrop. Dwarkin and Van Jura milked deep deposition zones for tight, classic, over-the-shoulders powder shots. Across the valley, Manley and Sayers worked a deep couloir.

Gunderson and Fujas did much of the same.

Today they were kind enough to let us tag along with them. We figured we were cut-off. They had every reason to be pissed at us because when they invited us to hang, we bailed. And we missed “the backflip heard around Portillo,” Fujas backflipping over Tio Bob’s restaurant—three times. The crowd erupted. Today Gunderson shot Fujas skiing powder.

“I’m from the Northwest and all we shoot is pow,” said


. “So it was game-on today. I’ve shot Pep once and we killed it. What’s nice about working with Pep is that

he can throw down

no matter the conditions.”

They started in a narrow gulley, working both sides. Fujas hiked up to get speed and made enormous powder slashes on the exposed ribs you see



“My focus isn’t on working still shots because I focus on filming,” said Fujas. “But when you work with a photographer who

makes a living doing it

and the snow is good, you do it. I think I got the best powder shot of my life today.”

— — — —

The 2008 South American Photo Challenge, held at Chile’s Ski Portillo, is an invite-only, five-day event to determine who can shoot the best photography in five categories: air, powder, big mountain line, ski culture, and creative angle. The photo/athlete teams are Grant Gunderson shooting Pep Fujas, Adam Clark shooting Eric Roner, Steve Lloyd shooting Jason West, Jordan Manley shooting Chad Sayers, and Gene Dwarkin shooting Josh Van Jura. The winning shots will be published in the February issue of

Skiing magazine

. In the meantime, check

for daily updates.