March 18, 2014

Snow Summit: Top to Bottom

Skiing Summit's Miracle Mile, Sans March Miracle

It's been far too long since we've had a new edition of my critically-acclaimed top-to-bottom video series. True, you generally need snow to make skiing videos. But snow or no snow, I will not be defeated by this cursed 2013-2014 Winter! I will not be beaten. I will endure. I will endeavor to persevere.* I will...ah, heck.

Okay, the bad news is, Snow Summit is closed as of today. Yes, closed. You are not mistaken, it is the middle of March, the height of the accumulation period for (what used to be) normal SoCal winters. Summit closed the weekend of April 7 last year, I believe, after what then qualified as a horror-show season, with considerably better conditions than exist today. For the record, Summit did not close due to "lack of snow", according to their website.

No, lack of snow was apparently incidental to the decision. In any case, Bear Mountain is going to try to eek out another weekend—no promises beyond that. And Snow Valley, which today announced a suspension of operations, missed a rare opportunity to operate (albeit crippled) beyond rival Summit's closing date. In any case, on to the video!

I was not intending to shoot one of my electric top-to-bottom ski videos; rather I was just playing around with my GoPro Hero3+. But in the interest of science (and desperation) I've decided this video qualifies for upload status, so here you go: Snow Summit, ladies and gentlemen. As I mentioned in my review, color balance in the new 3+ is kind of wonky. What you see here is corrected twice, first in GoPro Studio, then in Sony Vegas Pro.

I could have gone full-monty and run the footage through Photoshop CC, but there are limits to even my own perfectionist tendencies. On the whole, I think you're getting a very nice look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Hero3+, operating in Protune mode, with the benefit of modest pro-grade post-processing. The color is strikingly saturated, favoring blues and indigos. That's quite a sky, isn't it?

The Hero3+ loves bright daylight, as you can see at the very start of the video, and flounders when the scene becomes backlit. I'm seeing some kind of aliasing or motion or sharpening artifacts around the edges of my son's body (AKA: little ripper!), and I also see occasional but obvious rolling shutter distortion, as well as fisheye lens distortion, but on the whole, I'm very pleased with this footage.

I would be more pleased if it were easier to get footage like this out-of-camera, rather that via two generations of post, but still: not too shabby. What most bothers me are the regular exposure bumps/jumps of GoPro's primitive auto-only exposure mode. This can be fixed in post, yes, by the equivalent of washing your kitchen floor with a toothbrush. That this issue persists now in basically three plus generations of GoPro cameras I find unforgivable. But on the bright side, Sony has a new helmet camera coming which might finally deliver a body blow to the GoPro empire.

And...Summit is closed. Mid-March. Here you see Summit's Miracle Mile run, sans (obviously) any hint of a March Miracle. Winter 2013-2014 continues to redefine the standard of SoCal worst-ever. We will turn our (fading) hopes now to the Sierra, and Mammoth in-bounds. 50" at the Main Lodge sounds huge by this year's standards...

*bonus points if you can ID this quote without Searching


Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow

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