Telluride Off-Piste is a photographic journey into the hinterland of Telluride’s beloved, and oftentimes esoteric, winter ski terrain. Folding out like large, photographic maps, Schreckengost’s striking black and white compilations of Bear Creek and Palmyra Peak signify the first comprehensive photographic documentation of these massive and oft-skied backcountry (and side-country and in-bounds) areas.
“It’s designed to enhance the experience of the expert skiers who are already using those areas, with the hope they will become more familiar with the terrain,” says Schreckengost, whose two separate photo-reference compilations hit local shelves last week.
The photographs offer bird’s-eye perspectives of Bear Creek’s and Palmyra Peak’s skiable routes, from the Little Wasatch Face clear to Alta Lakes Basin. The black-and-white aerial shots are marked with popular route and area names and include reference points like ski area boundary lines, backcountry access points, and popular traverses and climbing routes.
The project began as an effort to provide San Miguel County Search and Rescue with aerial photos of some of the trafficked off-area routes where they would potentially be performing rescues. “A lot of these areas you can’t see from anywhere – the only way to get a good look at the terrain in the winter is from an airplane,” Schreckengost explains.
To document this vast, enigmatic area, Schreckengost logged many hours in the air alongside local pilots Jeff Campbell and Nick Kennedy. To get the best angle for certain shots, the passenger seat and door were removed, allowing Schreckengost to literally hang his camera out of the plane – while Schreckengost himself was secured to the plane by harness. These flights, which sent Schreckengost and his camera flying high above the terrain he has also traveled extensively by skis, allowed the longtime local photographer to do what others could only dream about: Glass some really sick lines.
Over the course of nearly ten years of documenting Bear Creek and the surrounding area from the air, Schreckengost was then charged with the major task of recording all of those routes’ monikers, many of which are known by name only to the savviest of local skiers. Determining consensus about which areas were called what emerged as a significant undertaking, since the responsibility to “do it right” weighed heavy on this skier/photographer’s shoulders.
“I consulted with as many of Telluride’s sage experts as I could to try and create the most accurate representation” of what things are called and exactly where they are located, he says, noting that there was some disagreement even among the most experienced local backcountry travelers. “That highlighted the fact that there really is a need for consensus to be made about the names and locations of some of these areas,” he said.
The Bear Creek reference spans the expansive terrain stretching from “The Lowers” (the currently out-of-bounds Temptation through Contention chutes,) to the Little Wasatch, to the south face of Palmyra Peak – and everything in between, including Nellie, Revelation, the Wedding Chutes, and Waterfall.
Telluride Off-Piste – Palmyra documents many of the more obscure spots on the Telluride Ski Area, including the recently opened Gold Hill chutes, Palmyra Peak’s north face, Jello Bowl, and Black Iron Bowl. It also provides aerial shots of Bald Mountain, the Chair 6 area, and Alta Lakes basin.
While the polished pamphlets may have the look of a high class map, Schreckengost is quick to correct that they are not a ski guide or trail map, but rather a photographic reference. A lengthy disclaimer, found on the back page, states that the references are “no substitute for good judgment and expert backcountry skiing ability.”
Telluride Off-Piste – Palmyra and Bear Creek are available for purchase ($12) locally at Paragon, Between the Covers, Jagged Edge, Telluride Sports, and Bootdoctors. Find more information, photos, and news at www.tellurideoffpiste.com.