By Sam Cohen
My old man came to Alta, Utah in the late 70’s. A transplant from Glencove, New York. Back then Alta was much different. The Salt Lake Valley wasn’t harboring over 1 million people and the snow was just as deep, adding up to more face shots for the diehard hippies skiing Alta back then. Many of these diehard Alta locals grew up and started having families, ushering in the next generation of “Altaholics”.
My mom worked at the Alta Lodge while my pop was out shooting ski photos. For them this meant finding a babysitter that could work long hours and keep up with my ridiculous antics. The ski hill became the perfect babysitter as was the case for most the locals up there. This led to the children of these transplants skiing together. Through the years we became very close and skied together every day as we continued to embody the saying “you are a product of your environment.”
Flash forward twenty years and most of us are still in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Something about having everything at your fingertips has kept me here. The easy access to amazing skiing, the splitter granite rock climbing, the international airport and anything you could ever need lies within 30 minutes of your house. The more I’ve traveled the more I realize how great this place really is.
At age 27, I wanted to capture and portray my home in the way that simultaneously expressed who I was. Last winter my good friend and Filmer Nate Cahoon and I set out to do exactly that. Capture our home on film. Nothing ever turns out exactly how you imagine during a day of filming, yet day in day out we continued this pursuit. When the stars align and everything clicks, we get shots. Nate sets up his tripod, hits record, and I drop in. The radio silence is broken with Nates voice cheering a “Hell yes Sammo!” or “Man that one was close, but we should try it again.” If we get a single shot, we consider the day a success. My old man always told me that your best work of the season usually comes from one banger day.
My true love in skiing lies in the backcountry. Hiking up, ripping skins and dropping into a big line in deep snow has been the most fulfilling aspect of skiing for me. To film these lines the amount of effort is tremendous. Start in the bone chilling cold of the early morning and finish in the dark sky of the late evening. Go home, dry gear and pass out in your ski pants. After weeks and weeks of this it becomes the norm. Anything less feels like a rest day. To work all day for a single shot seems ridiculous at times when I know we could be working smaller zones with shorter approaches that will most likely film better. However, when everything falls into place and we nail the shot we dreamt of, it makes all the effort worthwhile.
After shooting all winter long it’s suddenly March and the snow has been falling at an insane rate for the past day and a half. Nate and I sit in his Toyota Tundra near the mouth of the canyon waiting for the road to open. We have been waiting for hours. The gates open and our waiting pays off. This is a day where we don’t waste time going for some gem line that I deem worthwhile. We head straight to the Wildcat chair at Alta hopping on an 8:30 pre public ride with my old man Lee.
The snow is classic Utah 3% and the sky is breaking blue. I break trail up to the classic hit dubbed “The Shoulder” or “Lee’s Corner.” My pop pioneered this spot and it still remains as the top spot for shooting deep pow. They both setup and yell up to me when cameras are 100% ready. I drop in. The snow blows over my shoulders continuously making it hard to breathe. I hit the cat road six turns later, my face caked with snow. I hike back up five or six more times before we call it a wrap. The day working at home considered a success.