The first official trip of the season was a little 2-day-warm-up a few hours north to Ski Brule resort, just over the border in upper Michigan. The original opening day was slotted for Friday, November 11th but a week of relatively warm, humid weather saw it pushed back to Saturday. Opening weekend in the Midwest is traditionally a slushy affair and this was no exception, but free tickets on Saturday ensured a healthy turnout.
It's been years since my last trip to this resort, so it was kind of fun to see how things have changed. What you will find is a small, but well managed family style ski hill with up-to-date facilities and a ticket that is priced right. We stayed in your standard Americinn, but there are a ton of on-hill and near-hill lodging options for around the same price. I'm normally the guy who goes for the cheapest accommodations regardless of the trade-offs, but I can definitely see the advantage of being within walking distance of the lift for a longer trip. Shuttling the ten miles back and forth from the resort to the hotel a few times a day, combined with settling for the base lodge burgers, starts to eat away at any money you might be saving with off-site lodging.
Saturday was super sunny and cloudless, and to be honest, its been a while since I've shot anything in these conditions. I got a chance to test out some of the new gear I picked up over the summer. This year I decided to carry a bunch of small strobes instead of the Lumedynes I was using last year. I really did like the Lumedyne stuff, but I sold most of it after last season, so this summer I picked up a dozen or so Vivitar 285's to replace them. The theory is that the many small flashes are more flexible to use and less expensive to replace should they get smashed up. (this happens often)
Update: My strategy seams to be working out so far, these little guys are holding up pretty well despite being knocked over repeatedly. I have just about replaced the feet on every unit with metal ones, but all of them are still working fine.
There were no shortage of good riders sessioning the small boxes and rails on Saturday, and while I certainly wasn't planning on shooting any bangers, I can't think of a better way to get back in to that action shooting mindset then by clicking off a few hundred frames in just a couple hours.
I was actually kind of surprised at the turn-out, but I guess there aren't many places to get your fix (especially for free) at this time of the year. I also didn't expect to see quite so many cameras as where out there. Not just little P+S clickers either, there were more than a few dudes lugging healthy sized bags around, not to mention the nervous parents snapping away with the finest gear available from the local Best Buy. For the most part everybody was respectful of each others space and angles, but I know there was a little grumbling later in the day as a dozen guys were trying to shoot half as many features.
Of course, I was the only guy using lights and so I ended up fielding a lot of questions about why that was needed on such a sunny day. A few people were honestly interested in learning why, and a quick before and after shot made it clear the benefits of using a fill flash, but I think some of those dudes just thought I was crazy or something. I have never had so much unsolicited advice before. Just about every conversation I had ended up with a critique or suggestion of why I should be using a different CF card or some other useless gadget read about in Pop Photo.
The results of the day are the images contained in this article. There were so many people on the hill that it kinda ruled out any sort of wide angle action. In theory, low and wide would be the way to go, but all the traffic made it impossible.
So, I shot from the background with a 80-200. Not too much to say about the results, just some good, clean, pre-season fun. Gosh, it has taken a couple of weeks to get this post into something coherent, I promise the second half of this post will be coming much quicker.