Since I couldn’t think about anything but photography after graduating from the University of Utah, I excitedly took a job at Shutterbug Photo camera store in Salt Lake City. It was a great time helping people with cameras. photo printing, darkroom (yes, darkroom!) gear and more. I also met really interesting people.
This guy started coming in the store to print photos of something odd. It resembled a surfboard but he was using it on snow. I always liked watching big wave surfers on TV and in movie theaters so I asked what he was working on. Dimitrije Milovich described his project as a surfboard for snow. I learned during succeeding months how Dimitrije modified, refined and reengineered what he called a Winterstick. Keep in mind, this was 1975 & 1976. Always interested in a great skiing photo, I said to Dimitrije, “If you ever need photos of your Winterstick in action, I’d love to shoot it with you.” Dimitrije said he’d keep it in mind. I watched several more months’ development through Dimitrije’s photo finishing. His Winterstick was getting cooler and cooler looking, culminating in his ultra exotic Swallowtail design. Yes, no wave could match with our more than 2000 foot vertical drop. The rides were going to be fantastic. And long!
One afternoon Dimitrije called me asking if I could be at Snowbird based Wasatch Pdwderbird Guides the next morning for an early takeoff and helicopter ride to virgin snow fields between Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. I had to make sure I held the phone tightly when I answered with a resounding “Yes!” Not having the correct photo gear for this shot, I begged one of my co-workers for his Nikon F2. My Minolta SR-T101 just wasn’t going to get it done. John graciously leant me his motor drive equipped F2 and lenses. To this day I hate loaning my photo gear so when John agreed, I was overwhelmingly grateful. I always wanted to be a ski photographer and figured this would serve as my first step.
Off we went one Mid April morning. I never heli-skied before so this trip was a double bonus. Dimitrije, our pilot, guide Eddie Jacobs and I flew to a sun drenched wide open snow field beneath a rather sharp peak. Our pilot perched us atop the peak, we dismounted our ride, lowered our skis out onto the snow and geared up. I watched through whirling snow as our pilot leaned his bird forward from our landing zone, gracefully arcing down the valley. We gathered ourselves then hit the greatest snow on earth for long carves through trackless powder. Stopping here and there for few shots, though beautiful, Dimitrije’s smooth turns weren’t particularly awe inspiring to me.
During a stop, we could see a small chute ahead so I skied down into the crevice, positioning myself for a good angle when Dimitrije entered from above. I preset my focus, aperture and shutter speed. Dimitrije cut and carved his way down, bursting into my shooting field fast and high. He cut a great turn, I clicked off a series and that was it. We finished that run, made two more runs and lots of exposures including 1 open snowfield shot backlit so the snow glowed against a rich blue Utah sky.
We came away from that day’s skiing/boarding with 2 memorable photographs. The famous, “Rock Shot,” and the un-named backlit flying snow shot ending up in a Playboy magazine “Cool New Products,” issue. That all happened over 42 years ago. Seems like yesterday.