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Filming first tracks

Mel Fletcher

Anyone who’s skied more than one day quickly learns, “There are no friends on powder days.” All is fair in love, war and the pursuit of first tracks.At Park City, powder days evoked tough competition between members of the ski patrol and the ski school. Each was capable of some pretty underhanded tactics for beating the others down. And no one was sneakier than Gary Knudsen, a member of both departments.One spectacular morning, Gary showed up with a 8 mm camera. He told a group of instructors that he would film everyone skiing down. The group nodded with approval and headed up the lift.Whenever the skiers came to a sparkling field of untracked snow, Gary said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll ski to the bottom of the run and film each one of you coming down.”The group was not only thrilled about getting early tracks, but also for having their runs saved on film for posterity.After several weeks, Gary’s filming sessions became legend. Everyone wanted to be invited for “First Tracks on Film.” The sessions continued for more than a month, when one of the skiers asked Gary when they were going to be able to see the footage. Gary replied, “Next week. I haven’t had a chance to get the film developed.”This went on week after week, month after month. One morning toward the end of the season, someone finally confronted Gary with his camera and asked him when they were going to be able to see the reels. Once again, Gary made excuses about not having the opportunity to process the film. Suddenly, one of the instructors wrestled the movie camera out of Gary’s hands and announced, “Hey, there’s no film in this camera!”As the angry crowd closed in, Gary finally confessed, “There never was any film in the camera. If I’d have told you that, you never would have let me go first all the time!”- Mel Fletcher, Park City, UtahVail, Colorado


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