My parents moved us from the Bay Area to Pocatello, Idaho, in the early ’70s because they wanted my brother and me to experience an outdoor life: skiing, river running, hunting, and fishing. Pocatello was a tough town then. We were immediately picked on, and I learned to fight.
Mom would pull us out of school to go duck hunting on the Indian reservation. She was good with a gun. We spent a lot of time adventuring in the Idaho backcountry. I didn’t really cut my teeth as a skier until I went to the University of Utah. I may have skied more than I went to class.
I started working at Park City Ski Area in 1982 as a ski instructor and then in the marketing department. I left to become the marketing director at Pre skis and then returned to Park City as communications director around ’93. In the early days we were trying to put Park City on the international map through ski racing. I worked side-by-side with Craig Badami (son of the resort’s former owner, Nick Badami), the Barnum-and-Bailey promoter of the ski industry, creating rock concerts called World Cup ski races. I got to introduce America and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at the street dances. I emceed races. I flew with Bonnie Raitt in a helicopter just before she won a Grammy for Nick of Time. On powder days, C.B. expected us to go out and ski. We called it “product awareness” and “slope analysis.” We had the keys to the kingdom.
With C.B., anything could happen. And it did. One day he came stomping through the office in his ski boots yelling, “Charlie! Mark [Menlove]! Front and center!” I was like, “Oh, shit.” Come to find out, he had a helicopter out front, and we were going for a ride. Next thing you know, we’re strafing the slopes, buzzing tree lines, just having a great time. I had an extremely close call with Craig in a helicopter during the ’89 World Cup. Two days later he was killed in the same helicopter. I haven’t flown in one since.
Fidelity Investments recruited me in 1998 to build its corporate brand in Utah. Are you kidding me? I didn’t know the difference between stocks, bonds, and mutual funds then, but I traded in my skis for a business suit and a 401(k). It was hard to leave Park City, but Fidelity generously allowed me to work for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games Organizing Committee for 50 days as Park City’s venue press chief. It was right after September 11, and security was crazy. A national guardsman stationed at the top of the Eagle Lift fell in the snow and accidentally fired off three rounds from an M16. It was my job to keep that out of the press. And I did. Until now.
Photography became a way for me to cope with grief when my parents died. They were my best friends, and they passed within 18 months of each other. Their deaths made me want to change the way I lived, slow down. For me, stopping moments in time with my camera is like hitting the pause button. I find healing in solitude and immersion in nature.
I never feel more alive than when I am in grizzly country. I’m wary and respectful of bears, but there’s nothing like being in the wilderness when you know you’re not at the top of the food chain. What’s scarier to me are the threats and encroachment on the West’s wild places and habitat, which I believe are vitally important to our quality of life and who we are as Americans.
My photography is largely influenced by my parents’ conservation values and the West of my boyhood imagination. I’m often up at 4:30 a.m., excited about what the day might bring. I like to hike in the dark to a beautiful location and watch the day unfold in a beautiful place. It’s the moments that never end up on film that are the most special to me: the hint of autumn in the air or the sound of trout feeding, a herd of elk bugling, or a pack of wolves howling before dawn. The experience of being completely and utterly present in those moments of indescribable beauty keeps me going.