Written by Taylor VanRoekel
Four years ago, photographer Jordan Manley brought his passion for the lens to videography. He wanted to take a wide-angle look at skiing, and give context to the culture and landscape that skiers encounter while traveling. “There was some amazing ski porn being produced at the time,” he says, “but I felt there was a lack of context.” And so “A Skier’s Journey” was born. He’s now traveled everywhere from Baffin Island to Dubai, and has produced nine thoughtful, artful, travel-based episodes. We caught up with Manley to talk travel, art and transcendence.
Photographer, videographer, journeyman. [Photo] Courtesy of Jordan Manley
Backcountry: Tell us a little about yourself.
Jordan Manley: I am a Vancouver/Whistler-based ski and bike photographer and videographer.
BCM: How long have you been skiing?
JM: Twenty-three years.
BCM: When did you scheme up the idea for “A Skier’s Journey”? Did you have a specific concept in mind? What did you hope to convey through these videos?
JM: Four years ago I pitched Arc'teryx and Gore-tex on a concept of ski-travel videos. I wanted to travel to some unique ski destinations, and I wanted to give context to the culture and landscape encountered along the way. There was some amazing ski porn being produced at the time, but I felt there was a lack of context with respect to the places they visited. I didn't really know what form this would take, exactly. I have learned a lot along the way.
BCM: Were you hoping to tackle greater subjects beyond simply skiing?
JM: For myself and many others, travelling to Kashmir, or Japan, or La Grave isn't simply about the ski terrain and snow you might find there. It is about the overall experience of skiing, the landscape and the people you meet. Each of the destinations we've visited has a unique mix of these elements. People live in so many different ways around the globe—travelling is a way to see experience different ways of being human and experiencing life.
BCM: Were you hoping to reach an audience beyond just the core skiing viewership?
JM: Correct. From the start, I made it my goal to appeal to skiers but also to reach beyond the core skiing viewership.
BCM: Which athletes have you enjoyed working with the most?
JM: Chad Sayers has been a central part of the series right from the beginning. He's involved in developing the concept to some extent, but his largest contribution to the series is through his work on the ground when we are shooting. He is always scanning for images and engaged. He has a great sense of light and imagery, being a photographer himself. Forrest Coots joined us last year. He's a great spirit: a very talented skier and a welcome addition to the team.
BCM: What has been your favorite destination to film in?
JM: Japan was such a pleasure. The snow was amazing, which makes filming so much easier. Onsens Hot Springs, which punctuated the ending of each day, were a blessing. Learning to hang out naked was fun.
Baffin Island was a huge challenge. It was so cold. But you had to pinch yourself every time you looked at anything. It was the most beautiful landscape I've experienced.
BCM: Travel is an important subject throughout your films. Why is traveling so transcendent when done for skiing?
JM: Travel is a theme that ties the series together. In and of itself, it's important to have some sort of theme to bridge the gaps. Travel keeps things interesting. It would be easier to stay at home, and I would have a higher chance of filming and skiing better snow, but travelling is exciting and engaging. As I mentioned earlier, it's a way of learning and experiencing all these different ways to be human. With respect to skiing, it’s a way to experience different forms of skiing and landscape, yet be united by a common passion of sliding on snow. There are limitations, I think. Skiing is also a predominately wealthy (or at least privileged) sport. There are some inherent challenges when approaching certain story lines from a skier's perspective because of this identity.
BCM: What hazards have you had to mitigate while filming, obvious or otherwise?
JM: Mostly Chad's smelly feet. And avalanches. There was some mild political instability in Kashmir when we were there but everything turned out OK.
BCM: What does skiing mean to you?
JM: Skiing is fun. It's freeing and makes me feel good. It also is a way that I make my living. I ski to work and I work to ski. It is difficult to separate the desire to represent something (in film or video) from the desire to simply go and experience it. Representation and experience are all tangled up together.
In the latest episode of “A Skier’s Journey,” Jordan Manley, Chad Sayers and Forest Coots travel to Iceland.