Location Mt Baker, Washington State | Skier Nelson Goosman | Photo Grant Gunderson
If Fall Line were a big, happy family – and it’s not far off – Grant Gunderson would be the snapping-away-on-his-SLR, filled-with-bonhomie uncle. A little eccentric (he collects vintage lathes) but with a rare ability to create magic amidst the mayhem of magazines.
He wasn’t quite in harness when Fall Line was young and footloose in London during the 1990s, but over the last two decades he’s become an essential Canon 1D X Mark III wielding hero, outlasting and out-delivering all other photographers on our books.
A quick MacBook check tells me there are currently 1249 of his images slowing down my desktop (and that’s just from last season) because, well, you just never know when you’ll need a spot of Gunderson to add some glory; something I regularly needed when editing the magazine, often commanding poor Steve the designer to lay-up whichever of Grant’s images was seared to my retina at the time (absurdly vivid moss-covered tree-bonk, mono touring landscape of such soul and mood it looked like a painting etc, etc), before corralling an insignificant sentence or two around it. Because when a photo is that strong, you don’t need to say much…
These days, after serving as photo editor of the Ski Journal for many years, the Bellingham-based bearded-one has what he calls the ‘dream job’ of shooting pictures for the Alterra Mountain Company. Which means a whole lot of Ikon Pass to explore, with 50 destinations across 10 countries.
But for me, his pictures are never stronger than when on his ‘home’ hill, Baker, the absurdly snowy zone he locked onto 24 years ago. “Still seems like it was yesterday,” he says, recalling a move that coincided with the resort setting a world record for snowfall (during the 1998/99 season).
As to the cliff in question here, “it needs a ton of snow,” says Grant, which fortunately Baker gets, with an average over 650-inches per annum, based on data from the last decade (with the big year an outlandish 1,140-inches).
Oh, and before we go any further, those of you sharp tacks at the front of the class who’ve already spotted it, well done and yes, we have featured the spot before. But it was five winters ago and with a different skier, so just pretend you didn’t see Zack Barrett bossing it here in December 2017. With the resort patroller confirming at the time, that he did have to ask himself, “Am I getting too old for the shit?” before taking on the rock-filled 10-15m drop.
Nelson Goosman, the Scott Sports sponsored star of the show this time, has no such quibbles. “I don’t know why I hit this stuff,” he says, (well, who has time for self-analysis at 18 years old?), before adding that he “sunk straight down to my head on landing and had to be dug out.”
“That’s one of the best things about the area,” says Grant, who shot this frame at 1/1250th to freeze the action, with a surprisingly short-for-ski-action lens (35mm). “It always has some of the deepest snow… and tends to get way more than Baker’s already record-setting amounts.”
“Most of the terrain would be permanently closed at other ski areas,” he adds, while because the 100,000-year-old volcano is in the heavily protected Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, there’s no accommodation for miles around, and just a handful of slow, clunking lifts.
In short, you have to really want to go – and we do.