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Tuesday, March 8, 2011
The POV pro

When pioneering filmmaker Dick Barrymore strapped a camera bigger than his helmet to his head in the 1960s, it was a historic moment in ski cinematography. Fast forward to today, where tiny, high-quality helmet cams are everywhere, and for some athletes, they are creating a new path to the professional level.

Traditionally, skiers have made a name for themselves through competition, a tried and true route to the pro skier dream. But times change, and for some aspiring pro freeskiers, such as Andrew Whiteford, whose recent POV edit netted almost 70,000 views and counting in several weeks, the helmet cam has opened the door.

Among a sea of shaky action POV edits, Jackson Hole-based Whiteford has carved a tidy niche for himself. Thanks to his short, cleanly-shot videos, Whiteford has acquired sponsors like Line, Full Tilt, Orage, DaKine, Smith Optics, and of course, GoPro helmet cams. He has even netted a coveted spot on the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort roster of athletes, alongside the likes Travis Rice, Jess McMillan, and Lynsey Dyer.

"It's a world away from the old school way where athletes waited around for someone, a mag, a production company, or a promoter to take interest in their story," says Zahan Billamoria, communications director for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Andrew Whiteford from a perspective you're not used to seeing him.

The odds of success of any sort when Whiteford started making video edits about a year ago were quite low, and he knew it. So he developed a careful plan of action. "It's hard to stand out with POV footage; there's a huge number of people making video edits," he says. "To hold someone's attention for upwards of four minutes is really challenging. I quickly realized you need to ski with a purpose, and find lines that give great perspective."

Now, a POV edit is something that companies are taking more seriously. Josh Malczyk, marketing manager at Line Skis, points out that helmet cams provide a legitimate assessment of up and comers. "Action sports brands are getting a clearer view of amateur riders because those riders can self produce footage from POV cams and simple editing software," he says. "It's still a fledgling medium but has already made major effects."

Whiteford's work and success is indicative of new opportunities for athletes, according to Rick Loughery, director of communications for GoPro helmet cams. "Essentially, he is an example of the mission of GoPro. It's the ability to promote yourself, and to ... well, go pro," says Loughery.

It might not be the path for everybody, but for Whiteford, it works. "Edits are way more productive [for me] than going up against a raving pack of meat huckers," he says. Ski companies agree, to a point, according to Line's Malczyk. "Brands will always love the competitors and gravitate towards their skills, but with Line, comps and self edits go hand in hand. Sometimes a great edit is more influential than a podium shot."