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Firsthand: Mary McIntyre

Posted on 02 April 2019

Firsthand: Mary McIntyre

Firsthand | Mary McIntyre

Growing up exploring the woods and streams around her family’s cabin in the Wasatch Mountains, Mary McIntyre now travels the world as a skier, hiker, kayaker, and climber. A Black Diamond athlete and adventure-travel freelancer, Mary recently returned from a powder hunting trip around Japan (see video below!), where she and her team found face-deep powder to ski, but not without doing some serious snow hunting first...


Mary, on Japan:

"'I told you it would ruin your life forever,' my ski -- and life -- partner said solemnly as we sipped coffee, watching snow pour down outside. And it was true. My life was ruined. The powder in Japan was unlike any other skiing I'd experienced and my powder lust would likely never be satiated anywhere else on earth. That said, it wasn't an easy, carefree trip of faceshots and relaxation. We were on a powder hunt and we drove 13 hours straight off our flight from the US through blinding blizzards, only to get stuck in snow drifts five minutes short of our destination with useless plastic chains - necessitating a tow to reach our hotel - night one. But it was worth it. We skied neck-deep powder the following three days. But then the forecast threatened rain, so we picked our whole production up and drove back to Tokyo, flew to Hokkaido where the temps were cold and the snow plentiful, and drove six hours to ski our faces off for the next five days. Then, it was looking really, REALLY good, like fives inches/hour for three days straight good, back where we had been on the main island. So back to the airport, back to Tokyo, and another 13 hour drive through blizzards later, we were back where we started. Skiing scary deep powder,  and having the time of our lives."



Quick Questions with Mary McIntyre

How did you start adventuring in the outdoors? Who were your earliest influences?

"I started adventuring in the outdoors before I even remember. As the story goes, my mom was ski touring from our cabin in the Wasatch when I was already one week overdue. So I was born right into skiing and mountain adventures. My parents instilled a sense of freedom to explore in me early on. I was left to my own devices exploring the woods and streams around our cabin and we've rock climbed, kayaked, hiked, and skied as a family my whole life. I'm really, really lucky."

As an adventure-travel freelancer, tell us a little about where you've been!
Which places were your favorites to visit?


"I have a problem were every place I go becomes my new favorite, but I think favorite is a hard word. There are places I love because I could actually see myself living there - like Georgia or Japan - and other places that are just so utterly different and foreign that they become the most memorable over time - like Uganda."

Which places challenged you the most?

"A ski mountaineering trip in Georgia last year really pushed my comfort level. I dealt with fear, self-confidence, and listening to my gut in the big mountains and ultimately came away with a better understanding of how I function when I get scared."

Where do you find yourself returning to? Why?

"I've returned again and again to Northern India. I'm fascinated by the Tibetan Buddhist culture that exists in the remote Himalaya and have now visited four times. I'm planning another trip this summer and hope to spend a few months straight there at some point."

Can you walk us through how one of your trips may start to take form? Do you start with the sport or with the story?

"It goes both ways. A lot of trips start with a murmuring of something bizarre and wonderful. Someplace off the beaten track that also just happens to have skiing or climbing. For example, maybe six years ago now, my friend Kasha told me about the Mountains of the Moon, a glaciated massif towering above Uganda's equatorial jungle. The glaciers were melting fast and they wouldn't be around for much longer. Two years ago, another friend mentioned an interest in going to those same mountains, so the three of us bought tickets, packed our skis, and went to check it out for ourselves. It was the most unique trip I've ever been on."

Is there a highlight of your career or travel lifestyle that you are most proud of? If so, what and why?

"One of the most enriching experiences I've had was staying at a 2,000 year old Tibetan Buddhist monastery in February in the Indian Himalaya. The monks were amazed to see us as they hadn't had any visitors in the winter before. It took us 10 days walking on a frozen river to reach their monastery perched in a cave high above the canyon, and it was the most visually spectacular and spiritually potent places I've been. Listening to the monks chant for hours and days on end, praying for world peace, and smiling and sharing so much of their joy with us was incredibly powerful. I was so happy I'd followed a career path that could bring me to those experiences." 

Photography by Mary McIntyre.
Photography by Mary McIntyre.
Departing for Zanskar, Mary and team hike up a frozen river to visit monasteries and villages in one of the most remote inhabited places on earth.

How would you describe your writing style?

"My mom was an English teacher for 35 years, so I try to keep things at least mostly correct grammar-wise, but I do like to be playful and creative and as sensorially descriptive as possible. I don't usually like writing about myself. I'm fascinated by other cultures and peoples' understanding and experience of the world around them and aim to share that rather than my own preconceived notions of a place."

How would you describe your photography style?

"I started out shooting people and culture before transitioning into ski and sports photography, but now I'm trying to strike a balance between the two. I love shooting out in the mountains, but the stories I want to tell are often down in the towns, in people's homes, and I want to capture those images just as much as the perfect powder turns and big airs."

Photography by Mary McIntyre.
Photography by Mary McIntyre.

What motivates you to tell stories? What do you look for when you look through the camera lens?

"I look for high contrast in light and shadows, shapes, and often some lens flare from the sun. I'm not usually one to cue an athlete to turn in an exact spot of an exact frame. I'm more driven to capture the joy of skiing in a beautiful line, however my friend chooses to ski it. I also love: wrinkled faces, worked hands, big toothy smiles, and mostly unplanned magical moments."

Do you have a favorite story you've been able to tell?

"I was able to be the videographer for a shoot in Northern India last year, visiting the Tibetan Buddhist region I referenced before. Telling the story of the rapidly-changing culture - due to military road building - in this incredibly remote and unique part of the world, is one of the more important stories I've worked on. I look forward to continue working with the Zanskari people in the coming years."

Besides exploring in the mountains, what are some of your favorite things to do?

"Eat! Food is one of my biggest passions. Cooking it, eating it, food is a huge part of travel for me. I love summer at home when I can pick heirloom tomatoes and eggplant out of the garden and revel in fresh peaches and apricots."

What's up next for you? Where to?

"Up next is a spring trip with some of my favorite ski friends: McKenna Peterson and Keree Smith. It should be allll time!"

You can find Mary McIntyre's photography and writing on her 
website

or follow her most recent adventures via
 

 

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