By Natalie Langmann
For the first time in the 10-year history of the Arc'teryx Deep Winter Photo Challenge, Chad Chomlack has become the first photographer to produce a snowboard-centric slideshow, and win. In a battle of mountain imagery against four other photographers, Chomlack unleashed a show done entirely in black and white, used all natural lighting for action shots, while exposing the life and times of JF Pelchat, David Carrier-Porcheron and Devun Walsh. Truth be told, when Chomlack was named 2016's King Of The Storms, grown men had tears in their eyes, and Pelchat started screaming and running through the crowd in his underwear while his two daughters, alongside DCP and Devun's kids, were on stage cheering. Wildcats never die.
Each season, Deep Winter invites five to six international photographers to shoot within the boundaries of Whistler Blackcomb over 72-hours and produce a three- to five-minute slideshow. For the show's 10-year anniversary, the line-up consisted entirely of previous winners—Ashley Barker, Russell Dalby, Zoya Lynch, and Guy Fatal—except Chomlack, who had been invited as the wild card just prior to Christmas. Many past competitors admit to spending months planning their shows, mapping out the runs, hits and angles, lining up their riders and putting together their storyboard. After all, with 10,000 dollars on the line, they need to produce 60 captivating shots, and some photographers are lucky to get that in a season.
When asked where he found his inspiration at the last minute, Chomlack said, "I have always been really inspired when I see dads that are super engaged and whom share their passion and values for shredding with our kids. So I wanted to tell that story. Also, I decided to go all black and white after I had heard news of Chris Brunkhart’s passing. His photography of our snowboard culture was pure magic, and I have always been inspired by his soulful art."
Chomlack's photos not only gave the sold-out 1500-person audience a snapshot into the heart and souls of local snowboard legends, but also exposed a side of snowboarding's history that may have went unnoticed by the panel of ski photographers. In the past, it's been said that to win this contest one must shoot skiing to appeal to the judges, and this weekend Chomlack debunked that theory by paying homage to the lives of the Wildcats.
Between banger shots off iconic spots, like the Hager's Hit near the top of Blackcomb's Crystal chair or Walsh dropping the rock face under the Glacier chair, Pelchat was partying in his underwear behind the bar at El Furniture Warehouse, DCP shirtless, playing air guitar strapped to the top of a car cruising through Whistler in the middle of the night (for history's sake, watch Origins Extended: Whistler where DCP is doing the same thing in his underwear near Whistler's police station).
Moving into the latter part of the show, Chomlack gives those cats some serious dad cred with images of them taking their kids snowboarding. But it's the moments outside of the mountains are ones for that stole the show: Pelchat braiding his daughter's hair, DCP's five-year-old son lying in the back of their car getting his boots laced up, and Walsh blowdrying and painting his daughter's nails. Watching Pelchat's daughter throw down a method and seeing DCP's and Walsh's kids link turns makes you realize that the legacy of the Wildcats will live on forever.
Contest or no contest, Deep Winter is all about camaraderie and community, right down to the competitors. Chomlack, who was walking around like a zombie from lack of sleep over the grueling 72 hours, was quick to point out that one of the best memories after being up all night editing, was a knock on his hotel door. When he opened the door to see who would be up at that early hour of the morning, there was a single beer on the hallway floor left by fellow competitor Russell Dalby. "Thanks for that, Russell," says Chomlack. "I needed that,"
2016 Arc'teryx Deep Winter Photo Challenge Winners
1. Chad Chomlack
2. Ashley Barker
3. Zoya Lynch