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Words and Photos by Frank Shine
All that's good in skiing and the general lifestyle of exploring in the mountains via skis on snow, can be found in Engelberg, Switzerland . Easy to get to, beyond words beautiful, fun, friendly and a ski dreamers paradise for powder, food, company and cocktails. So why did it take me over 5 years to get there?
Engelberg at an elevation of 3,323 feet is surrounded by peaks that reach as high as 10,623 feet. (That is a VERY LONG run down)
People throw around words like authentic, quintessential , inspiring and unique without thought -- those words have almost lost something in meaning to me as they are repeated in chorus around the ski industry.
With that said, I have to admit that spending time in Engelberg is like being trapped in a perfect little snowglobe, that merits the use of those words more than any place I have visited with my skis and cameras.
It was 5 years ago that I was first "encouraged" to come and explore the awesomeness of these western alps.
What have I been waiting for?
The Swedes have it all figured out. For over a decade, Johan Jonsson has been coming here in the winter because he knows what's good for him. It was Johan who first started chirping in my ear about this place. Mix in another Swede who is arguably the best ski photographer in our galaxy, Oskar Enander , and I don't think you can find a better host / tour guide duo.
Johan had the planning and details of the trip tied up with a bow like a Christmas present for me. Oskar opened up to me his personal photography play book that he has developed shooting imagery in Engelberg for over 16 years.
He just handed it to me...THE GOODS!!
That just doesn't happen, and it should be emphasized that Oskar's level of professionalism and willingness for everyone to succeed is truly unmatched. Thanks Oskar for that huge gulp of refreshing kindness.
Johan during one of our several powder bonanzas.
Oskar didn't have to share every nook and cranny of his favorite and most productive domain -- but he did with a smile on his face.
Marcus and Johan probably discussing the finer details between a right footer and a left turn.
If you read or just fantasize over ski magazines, there is a pretty solid chance that this past fall you saw a number of images of both Johan and Marcus Caston on those covers and image galleries. Johan and Marcus turned Engelberg into their own home field advantage -- like the Yankee stadium of print photography for Oskar and fellow camera marksman Mattias Fredriksson .
Marcus is one of the first athletes that I started working with for Blizzard and Tecnica. He is a passionate skier that takes photography seriously, and maybe that is why when he and Johan come up with an idea for a photo -- you really need to listen.
Marcus knows what's good for him, and more importantly pushed me to understand how good Engelberg would be for me. Add him into the mix of voices ringing in my ear to buy a ticket via Zurich to Engelberg, and the momentum is full on.
If I knew 5 years ago what I know now, this would have been my 5th trip there and not my first.
Engelberg is not the Bermuda Triangle or AREA 51 -- people have been shooting incredible ski images here and film for years and years. Skiers in the know know -- they know what Jamie Pierre and Julian Carr jumped off of, they know of the high peaks above the hovering cloud line, the incredible shadows and perfect aspect offerings from morning to sunset. Admittedly, I knew about it all and studied the images that our company purchased and considered for marketing materials from Oskar and Mattias -- but still I kept my distance.
I will not soon forget shooting these first runs after the storm moved out. Johan may not have known at the time, but he was creating flashbulb memories for me.
Day 3 went full blue and the boys are about to open a small playground that I can guarantee you will see images from Oskar next year in your favorite ski mag.
Marcus wanted to know where to go for the photo, but it was hard to tell him since we really coudn't see him. Honestly, it really didn't matter the snow was so crazy.
For a few days it was a shooting frenzy, we couldhn't wait to get to the next spot -- I think Marcus was okay to catch his breath.
While I was in Engelberg I was spoiled to amazing accomodations at the Ski Lodge Engelberg , skied world class terrain, ate amazing meals, started new friendships, laughed my ass off, learned from a master , skied with the best and was reminded why I love skiing so very much.
So here's the deal. I don't have a good excuse for why it took me 5 years to accept Johan's invitation to visit Engelberg. However I sure am glad that it took me 5 years instead of 6 or 7 or even 10 years -- I plan on going back next year.
Frank is the Digital Marketing Manager for Blizzard and Tecnica USA , and has been the in-house photographer / videographer for the past decade. Previously he was the Freeride Team Manager for both brands in North America and remains close to the athletes via photo shoots and continuing to be their biggest fan.
Blizzard and Tecnica is excited to share more of Frank's trip with Johan, Marcus and Oskar later this fall. So please stay tuned for complete photo gallery and short film from Engelberg...