The Southern Hemisphere is often overlooked when thinking about mountains, snow and winter time vibes, but the truth is there’s great terrain and opportunities in places like Chile, Argentina and New Zealand. Over the past ten years I’ve road tripped to one of these aforementioned places in search for wintery conditions, with the ultimate goal being to capture great pictures!
You could never put a finger on what the weather conditions will be a few weeks down the line, Mother Nature is going to do what she’s going to do, so you make the best educated guess given current snowpack (conditions) when you’re booking the flight ticket in advance. After many phone calls, emails and consulting with the locals, our crew made the decision to arrive in Christchurch, New Zealand early August (2013), head to the small village of Methven and do our best in the Arrowsmith Mountain Range.
Our ten-day window to shoot and film snowboarding with Mikkel Bang (Norway) and Danny Davis (USA) started out with an incoming storm promising to drop plenty of fresh snow. This storm system was calling for 12 inches (30cm) of snow, followed by high pressure, which would clear the skies and allow us access into the backcountry (via helicopter). Our anticipation of riding powder snow in August in New Zealand was peaking; we couldn’t wait to get out there!
As I mentioned before, Mother Nature is going to do what she’s going to do, so this first storm cycle turned into another and another. On day five, there was a brief clearing, so we headed up, landed on a tall peak, tested the stability of the snowpack, the entire slope avalanched, so we headed back in. The next storm arrived a few hours later, so we waited another three days for a clearing, didn’t happen.
It was time to make a move south and use the final two days of the trip to do some snowboarding, and we hoped heading to Cardrona would produce something for us. Upon arrival (six hour drive south), the weather was better, but a storm system was sitting just on top of the resort, creating low visibility and flat light, which is difficult to maneuver while snowboarding because you can’t see the ground under your feet very well.
Now that we’re to the point in the story, why would it be called ‘Best Time Ever?’ As with all photo shoots or road trips in general, it’s all what you make of it! Our goals of riding fresh powder were dashed, so we bought a used car, painted it, road tripped to the surrounding villages and cities, hit up the skate parks, met up with the locals, went sightseeing and kept ourselves entertained anyway possible.
Since it was my job to document the mission, whether we snowboarded or not, I stayed busy setting up photos, working with my gear, experimenting with lighting and taking advantage of where I was at. It’s not everyday you’ll be in a foreign country on a road trip, so you have to keep the camera out, snapping frames, enjoying the moment and laughing it up!
An entire ten-day window of snowboarding vanished just like that due to weather, but the amount of laughter and good times being with your buddies made it the ‘best time ever.’
Dean Blotto Gray
Principal Photographer Burton Snowboards