West Kelowna wildlife photographer takes his skills slopeside

Keelan Clermont and Parker Schnyder seek out Big White’s best untouched powder spots. (Parker Schnyder photo)Keelan Clermont and Parker Schnyder seek out Big White’s best untouched powder spots. (Parker Schnyder photo)
Keelan Clermont dashing through the powder. (Parker Schnyder photo.Keelan Clermont dashing through the powder. (Parker Schnyder photo.
A big bear pauses after digging up grubs in an open field near Canmore, Alberta. (Parker Schnyder photo)A big bear pauses after digging up grubs in an open field near Canmore, Alberta. (Parker Schnyder photo)
Two bear cubs tussle in a river near Bella Coola. (Parker Schnyder photo)Two bear cubs tussle in a river near Bella Coola. (Parker Schnyder photo)
A closeup of a B.C. black bear (Parker Schnyder photo)A closeup of a B.C. black bear (Parker Schnyder photo)

Keelan Clermont has been skiing since he was two years old and before that he’d go up in the backpacks of his ski patroller parents.

In his 23 years on the slopes, Clermont has had very few photos taken of him in his favourite place – that is until he started shredding with his good friend Parker Schnyder.

“It feels awesome finally being able to see the moment captured and keep some good memories from skiing,” Clermont said.

Schnyder has been snapping photos since 2019 and Clermont is one of his first human subjects.

To start out, Schnyder picked up a Nikon D500 camera and some cheap lenses. Then he and his brother hit the road and drove south along the Pacific Coast. It was there that Schnyder fell in love with photography.

“I instantly knew it was something I wanted to pursue so I sold all my lenses and bought the best ones I could afford,” he said.

His next trips took him to Jasper, Banff, Canmore and his favourite of all – Bella Coola.

“The trip to Bella Coola was probably the best 24-36 hour period of my life,” he said. “I was all alone on a river waiting. After almost an hour I was about to change locations when I looked up and saw a grizzly cub staring at me across the river with her two siblings and her mom behind her.”

Schnyder spent the next two hours snapping photos of the bear cubs fishing, wrestling and resting just 20 feet away from him.

With the COVID-19 pandemic putting faraway trips on hold, Schnyder needed to look through the viewfinder to capture his passion differently.

At the beginning of the 2021-22 ski season, Schnyder and Clermont got to talking. Big White had just received a huge dump of powder and the duo decided to get some shots of Clermont in action.

“At the end of the day, I got back home, uploaded the photos and was so surprised. It was my first time and we just winged it, but quite a few of the photos turned out really well,” Schnyder said.

Shooting sports photography — especially when that sport is on a snowy mountain – is a huge change from the wildlife photography Schnyder is used to.

“Absolutely one of the biggest challenges is dealing with snow since none of my gear is waterproof. If I need to adjust my position I have to pop my skis off and walk through waist-deep snow while holding my camera above my head.”

But the effort is well worth it. Every week, Schnyder and Clermont hit the slopes and search out Big White’s best untouched powder stashes.

“We’re always having the best time on skis,” Clermont said. You can follow along with Parker & Keelan’s adventures on Instagram @parker.schnyder and @keelanclermont.

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