Next Level Skiing S5, E2 | Lee Cohen: The Cosmic Release

by Wagner Skis / Jan 09, 2023

S5: E2 – Lee Cohen: The Cosmic Release

Lee Cohen in his element

If you’re like most skiers, you drooled a bit in the driveway, mail tucked under your arm, as you ogled the new ski magazine cover. Unfathomably feathery powder billows around a mitt and a bit of pole, maybe a flash of a sun-splashed goggle lens. In the background, jagged Wasatch peaks. 

You know that photo. Meet the photographer, Lee Cohen … he’s the apostle of Little Cottonwood powder, who has spent decades sharing the promise of the uncommonly deep and light through the lenses of his Nikons. Since hitchhiking out West to spend a winter in a snow cave in the Arapahoe Basin parking lot in the late 1970s, Cohen has fed millions of skiers stoke with his powdery photos. 

He’s seen a lot of changes over the years,. Skinny skis got fat. A dozen ski magazines dwindled to three. His medium shifted from film to digital. Cohen has had a front-row seat to the evolution of skiing. Tune in to Next Level Skiing and hear from the legend himself. 

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[0:45] Growing up in Long Island, skiing with his dad at age 5
[2:40] Hitchhiked from college in North Carolina to Yellowstone to spend a winter skiing
[3:10 ] Ended up in Summit County, with a $100 midweek pass
[4:10] Living in snow cave in Arapahoe Basin parking lot and deserted campgrounds 
[5:50] The first year of the Pali at ABasin on 177 Dynamic VR17s
[6:40] Skiing Utah for the first time after the Grateful Dead’s infamous Closing of Winterland New Years stand in San Francisco in 1978.
[10:40] 1983-84 at Alta, with 400 inches by January 1. “If you came to Alta on a winter like that, you are probably a lifer.”
[12:50] First photo in Powder “Ignominy.”
[13:40First Powder cover
[14:30] Life as a ski photographer was “unbelievably different back then.”
[16:20] The transition to full digital 
[18:30] Stop “winging” in powder photos. Keep hands nipple high
[20:10] Don’t lay it over. Stay upright. 
[23:30] Tight powder shots, don’t be afraid of backlight, under exposure is better than over
[25:50] Try working with an idea when shooting for a day
[29:00] Storm versus sun for shooting
[33:00] Liberation at the core of skiing. “The release is cosmic.”


Lee Cohen Photography

More Episodes

S5: E1 – Chris Tatsuno: A Lot Less Ego, A Lot More Amigo
S5: E2 – Lee Cohen: The Cosmic Release
S5, E3 – Krista Crabtree: The Strength of Femininity in Skiing
S5, E4 – Nadar Jamal: Empowerment Through Skiing
S5, E5 – Steve Casimiro: The Transformation of Skiing
S5, E6 – Angela Hawse : Finding Your Center
S5, E7 – Mark Morris: An Ambassador to Life
S5, E8 – Adrian Ballinger: Putting Work into Fun

-- Next Level Skiing Recorded by Jason Blevins

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