Asit Rathod knows Mount Hood.
Two popular Mt. Hood Meadows regulars have won photo-of-the-year honors and brand new boards from on-the-mountain action photographer Grant Myrdal and his sponsors.
Austin Yaklich, a 17-year-old junior at Oregon City High School, won best skiing photo for Myrdal’s shot of him dropping off a cliff with fresh snow on Lower Elevator.
Ian Sherrod, a 29-year-old employee with the Meadows maintenance department, won in the snowboarding category for laying down a big, bold, toe-side turn to create his own personal cloud of snow crystals on a windless day up on the upper mountain.
Yaklich will get a new pair of Icelantic Skis, and Sherrod wins a new snowboard from Never Summer Industries.
Myrdal, a South African-born surfer, snowboarder and action photographer, shoots thousands of on-the-mountain photos daily at Meadows when conditions are good. He has been staging a photo contest at the end of the season for four years running, in conjunction with sponsors Icelantic Skis and Never Summer Industries. Normally he edits hundreds if not thousands of favorites down to his top 100 — 50 skiers and 50 snowboarders — to put up to a public vote. But with the low-snow year on Mount Hood in 2014-15, he went with 20 skiing finalists and 20 snowboarding finalists, and Yaklich and Sherrod picked up the most votes to win.
“It has to be a combination of sick action and a good photo, with some nice composition,” Myrdal says of the initial selection process. “Good powder shots definitely make the cut easier, but we didn’t really have a lot of powder days this year.”
Myrdal captured both winning photos in April, after some late-season snow boosted spirits on the mountain. One of the best days of the year came on April Fool’s Day, and the day after was even better visually. The light was sweet, there was no wind to speak of on the upper mountain, and the snow was crystallized cold.
“If you slashed a hard turn in the pow the snow would just hang there above you like a mushroom cloud,” he recalls. “I noticed this was happening and I saw Ian coming over the lip up above me and I called out, ‘Dude, come down and turn right next to me here.’ And he did it and, yeah, got the shot.”
"Everything was good that day," says Sherrod. "There was zero to little wind, bluebird sky, and I could just throw my natural spray and it would hang there. There was no wind to carry it anywhere else. So yeah, those shots came out pretty cool."
Sherrod grew up in Keizer, Oregon, and he has been shredding Mt. Hood Meadows for about 20 years. He was riding a Salomon Powder Snake, which he describes as "a super laid-back and a really fun board." But the rocks have taken their toll this season, and he is definitely stoked to get a brand new board from Never Summer.
The photo of Austin Yaklich came a few weeks later, after another April snowstorm. Myrdal had already captured a nice image of Austin Yaklich dropping off a cliff on Lower Elevator with his dad Zeb Yaklich, a lifelong powder hound who runs Off the Wall Media in Portland.
Zeb Yaklich says that if the snow year had been better, the rock probably wouldn't have been exposed. This year's thin snow has made cliff-dropping hazardous because you don't know what might be lurking just under the snow on the landing. But Zeb tested the drop and found it safe. "It's got a good, steep landing so your knees aren't banging into your chin," he says. "We had just gotten like four inches, and the blower had filled in the troughs in there really well. It was just a good day to go flying off things."
Myrdal liked his first shot, but he wanted something more dynamic for the next lap. “I put my wide-angle on because I knew it would be a more dynamic shot if I was close up with my wide angle,” he says. “So I changed lenses and hoofed all the way up from the bottom until I was right under the cliff."
Austin Yaklich just started skiing without poles this year, and he says he likes the extra freedom and control it gives him. He says he felt confident hitting the cliff because by this point he had dropped it three times already, and he was feeling pretty relaxed.
“I always have that excitement factor when I jump," he says, "and I’m always just a little nervous, because I don’t know what to expect, especially with cliffs, where there can be so many factors to consider. But it was fine, it was a nice, soft landing.”
At first it looked like Austin would be too late to enter the photo contest, because Grant had already selected the finalists. But while looking through his top 20 skier photos Grant noticed that he had a duplicate, so he was able to add in the shot of Austin.
Austin couldn't be happier with the winning result. He already has park skis and powder skis, and now he gets to pick up a brand new pair of sturdy all-mountain Icelantics for future adventures.