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

5 thoughts on “Snow Summit: Top to Bottom

  1. brad brown says:

    *Winston Churchill (honest, no fancy inter mail net thingy research)? Cursed Santa Ana Winds (aka Great Basin high pressure) seems to have been our undoing this year combined with an overall reduced precipitation on the west coast. Locally it kept us too warm and pushed the wet to the north, though no one was killing it this year. Mt Baker, 467″ to date (less than 1/2 of all time), about same at Alyeska at 444″, and 303″ (top) at Kirkwood. These 3 areas are the beneficiaries of meteorological magic in our sport, so this was just not our year. Earliest closure of Summit in memory (started there in 1971). Have faith, skied 16″ of new on April 14th in 2012, and my son hit 10″ on April 9, 2011. Like us die hard Dodgers fans say, “wait until next year”.

  2. Pieter says:

    Easy: it’s one of Lone Watie’s great lines delivered to Josey Wales in “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”

    One of Eastwood’s finest movies, and one of the best westerns ever made.

  3. SkiwiAl says:

    Hey, that looks like fun, and kudos to Summit for sticking at it! Hope to catch you and the little ripper at Mammoth!

  4. Brad Brown says:

    This just in, Bear Mountain ain’t half bad. First actual black diamond (well SoCal double black) runs of this forgettable season. Spring snow but decent, on the upper 2/3s of the mountain so less mush, low crowds particularly on the hard to find chair 4 which was my fav today . They look good to go for at least one week for those of you (ahem) who aren’t planning something more adventurous. Tahoe for me next week.

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