WTF?! – ENGELBERG’S ETHEREAL ICE

LOCATION: ENGELBERG

WORDS: JONNY RICHARDS

SKIER: William Larsson

PHOTO: ELIAS LUNDH

It’s not the first time we’ve featured Engelberg’s ethereal ice. But given the strange world we currently live in, and the fact this is the Eco Issue, it felt right for once to show the mountain of angels as boss; with mother nature all-powerful, almost chasing the skier out of shot. Be gone humanity, you can almost hear her hiss…

         As a result, it’s a more thought-provoking picture than our usual “What the Frederick!” fare, and while less likely to make you swear admiringly at some absurd athletic feat, hopefully none the worse for it.

         In terms of detail, the where and how, the first part is easy – it’s the ever so pretty and ancient Steinberg glacier, which sits below Engelberg’s top station, the 3028m Klein Titlis (reached by the usual medley of funiculars, cable cars, and, er, the world’s first rotating gondola of course!).

         As to composition and how the image was captured, a DJI drone (they make the Mavic and plenty more) was used by WTF?! newcomer Elias Lundh who moves to the top of the class not just for his aviation skills – you try flying £1000 of delicate kit in deep winter, up a Swiss mountain – but also his perseverance.

         “We did a similar picture the year before,” says skier William Larsson (like Elias yet another Swede in town regularly during the season, with the fair-haired-nation’s freeride invasion having being in full flow for well over a decade). “Anyway” he says, “this time we wanted to get a higher angle. Kind of popular nowadays…  but it’s such a good feeling when I look at it now. I think it’s one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve been involved in.”

         Just in case you think that all sounds a little too predictable – find incredible natural feature close to the lifts, return the following winter with even more expensive kit to secure success – Elias chips in that it’s always a battle. A fight against the light, the cold, the weight of all the photo gear you need to lug around, and in a way even yourself as you must stay inspired, while shooting a lot of images.

         Just how many, our man from Lidkoping, in the west of Sweden, is not sure. But after we start firing numbers at him – 1000? 10,000? 100,000? – he settles on around 5000 actuations a winter. Before adding, “if the conditions, light and flow are right, I can easily shoot more than a thousand pictures on a single day.”

         He’s got a similarly all-in approach to editing, with just 50-100 images submitted to the likes of Fall Line every winter, making him far more decisive in the edit than most of the camera-wielding competition.

         “I try to have fun,” says our man who proudly deals in Megabytes rather than the usual hard-drive hernia-inducing Terabyte submissions. “But not getting too serious can be tough for me. If I miss the shot or the skier screws up, that takes away some of the joy and I can get very disappointed.”

         Partner in crime William L thinks his friend is being a bit hard on himself when we catch a few minutes via email and Messenger as he prances around ever so remote Northern Sweden during a week-long shoot for sponsor Peak Performance. “It’s always good to work with Elias – and fun!” says the 26 year old. “This one was easy as he’s a fast-working photographer, but as always with skiing it’s a waiting game for the weather and light.”

         This winter, more then ever, we’ll all need to have that patient yet positive approach. Who knows when things will be right again? But with luck (and a lot fewer flights) the mountains are not going anywhere…