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The magic is in the draw

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Three days in B.C. with Sweetgrass Productions

By Max Lowe Contributor

NELSON, British Columbia – It is a privilege to do what you love and to go places that awe and inspire you, and call it work.

This crossed my mind as I looked out over the roots of clouds meandering up the troughs of the Selkirk Mountains, ablaze with the radiant glow of the setting sun. As the last feathers of light fell and cold darkness settled in the valley below, we switched on our headlamps for the descent to the small base area of Whitewater Resort, outside of Nelson, British Columbia.

I had just spent three days photographing with Sweetgrass Productions, and during that time I learned again why I throw myself at this lifestyle with ardor. It’s a life of uncertainty: never knowing where you might find yourself in a month’s time; a life of couch living and solo driving; of taking risks that might not pay off but will produce something fulfilling.


Darkness fell as we first entered the outskirts of Nelson, recently dubbed by Powder magazine’s readers as the best ski town in North America (a sore subject for some of us Bozemanites – we were runner up).

Nelson is home base for Sweetgrass’s team of athletes and artists. The crew sits deep within the methodology during the second year working on their forthcoming film, “Valhalla.” The name, which in Norse mythology means ‘hall of the gods’, is a call to Valhalla National Park, which surrounds Nelson. There, the unremitting snow and grandiose landscape forges a liking to that of the Norse realm.

White pillows of powder became our canvas, as athletes Johan Jonsson, Molly Baker, CJ Carter and David “Powder” Steele, romped through the destructible sweep. The snow in British Colombia is heavier than in Montana, and with this quality it prevails on the landscape and creates a surreal feeling of heaven on Earth. On these snow ghosts we cast our troupe of performers.

But movie magic lives in ski films as in any motion picture. An hour-long film with tantalizing visuals and captivating stories takes months, even years of work, painstakingly perfected shot by shot, word by word. So much effort and insight goes into each shoot, but many have small likelihood of being included in the final film – this, to me, shows insurmountable dedication to the bigger picture.

The process, passion for the sport and craft, and the feeling you get watching people enjoy something I’ve had a hand in is the draw. Even my part in the film, which in the end will be but a side note, brings a glow to my doggedness.

When trees shrouded in white light began to smolder that final afternoon, I thought about how traveling to this place and returning with images to share made it all worth it.

The folks at Sweetgrass, striving to capture the imagination of a waiting congregation, had found a setting out of legend. “Valhalla,” the film, will bring its viewers indeed to a place of dreams.

Find more of Max Lowe’s work at

Megan Paulson is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Outlaw Partners.

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