The Snow Report
With over 45 magazine covers, several photography awards, and a series of ski films to his name, Jordan Manley, 28, is something of a ski-industry phenom. The British Columbia-based videographer-photographer is the creative force behind A Skier’s Journey, his annual three-part series of short ski films, which dropped the second episode of its third season, "Dubai: A Skier’s Journey," earlier this week. The 10- to 15-minute webisodes are mediations on various ski destinations, from the funky mountain co-op of Shames, B.C., to couloir Mecca Baffin Island, and aim to show viewers these places from the inside out. Launched in 2010, Manley’s series marked a shift in ski movies toward shorter, more episodic films with richer cinematography and storytelling that bring places, rather than athletes, to life. For many, Manley’s films are a highlight of the ski porn season and a welcome respite from the two-hour-long, powder-smashing, cliff-stomping bro shows.
In addition to A Skier’s Journey, Manley’s work has appeared on the covers of Skiing, Powder, and The Ski Journal. He’s won Whistler Blackcomb’s Deep Winter contest three times and has shot commercials for Arc’teryx, Oakley, and Helly Hansen. All of this is impressive for any cameraman—but even more so given Manley’s age and the fact that he received no formal training as a photographer. He started casually shooting his friends mountain biking and skiing in high school. At 21, he published his first images in Skier Magazine.
Since then, he’s shot in Bulgaria, Japan, France, Iceland, and many places in between. Watching Manley’s films, it’s hard not to feel connected to something bigger than just skiing. Sure, there’s blower pow shots and amazing skiing by Forest Coots and Chad Sayers. But through Manley’s masterful camera work and storytelling, he captures the art of moving, living, and being in the mountains in a way that transcends pure sport and touches on something greater. In offering viewers a deeper understanding of skiing’s places and people, he gives us skiers, if you take him up on the opportunity, an opportunity to express why we do what we do—and why we love it.
Here, Manley discusses Dubai’s ski community, what draws him to mountain people, and being naked—a lot—in Japan.
Do you think ski films are changing? If so, how? It seems like there's a trend toward shorter, more episodic type films and films with an actual storyline as opposed to pure porn.
I think so. In general, technology has changed the production and distribution of film and video. It isn't only open to the people that had big budgets and were entrenched in the market and in their ways. This change has given people new ways to tell different stories. It's refreshing.
You say you aim "To tell stories about people who live and work in the mountains?" Why do you want to tell this story?
Outdoor spaces are where a lot of my favorite experiences in life occur—in the mountains, in the forest, or on the ocean. As a photographer, I'm interested in experiencing landscapes but also the people who make them home. I think the sense of commitment and immersion that you find in mountain communities is an interesting world to explore.
How did you come up with your series, A Skier's Journey?
Four years ago I thought about doing a series that would try to dig a little deeper into the experience of traveling for skiing, compared to what I had come to know from a lot of ski porn out there. I had very little idea of how the series would evolve though.
How do you pick the destinations to feature in A Skier's Journey?
To some extent, we've honed in on places that exhibit contrast, and in some cases, extreme landscapes. The landscape we encountered on Baffin Island was an extreme contrast between horizontal—frozen ocean—and vertical planes, vertical rock walls, and some of the the highest cliffs on the planet. There are very few places like it on earth. Dubai's desert and urban landscapes are also extreme—where the tallest building in the world rises out of the largest sand desert on the planet; where a ski hill operates in 104-degree heat; and, strangely, where we found a quirky, endemic ski community growing.