Tero Repo comes from a cold part of the world, and whenever he can, he returns to his natural element. The Finnish photographer’s love for skiing-and for a young Swiss-Australian who has since become his wife-took him to Vollèges, on the outskirts of Verbier. His world revolves around big mountain skiing and freeriding. We pay a tribute to his talents and those of his favourite subjects.
His images stop you in your tracks. Where is the top? And the bottom? Where is the snowboarder? Is that him, there, lost in this vast frame mainly filled by the mountains? Tero Repo loves huge peaks, preferably high, steep, shrouded in white and wreathed in sunlight. “For me, action is not the most important thing,” he explains. “It’s the way light plays with a picture. And freestyle gives me that little bit of freedom to bring it to the fore.”
You would almost think the freeriders are hurtling down the slopes on a sudden impulse, that the photographer just happened to be there. But far from it. Everything has been planned in advance, calculated, assessed. Tero is a hard worker, who leaves nothing to chance. The position is carefully chosen, the route mapped out with the freerider depending on the time of day and-always-the light. “Out of 60-70 days of shooting per year, I have maybe two or three good days in all,” reveals the photographer. “Every time I go out, I try to bring back at least one good image, but nothing is guaranteed. It’s all about patience.” So what are his favourite spots in Verbier? “Difficult to say. The region has been photographed from every angle by some of the best… there is stiff competition. I would say Les Attelas-and some places which aren’t necessarily ultra-spectacular, but which inspire me.”
Tero has worked with some of the best: Xavier de Le Rue (whom he follows closely), Samuel Anthamatten, Sam Smoothy, Phil Meier, Andreas Fransson, and Candide Thovex, among others. And what about the risks? The experience of being pulled with great difficulty from an avalanche by a friend has, he says, taught him to take greater care. Heavy equipment makes it difficult to move around on steep slopes, and you need to be armed with crampons and ice axes to secure your hold-even if the best view points are often found on a neighbouring ridge or from a helicopter. “Safety is vital,” says Tero. “We never take unnecessary risks. We wait for good conditions. Sometimes, an image even proves impossible to capture.” Whatever happens, Tero is philosophical-and patient. And he can always let off steam on the hockey pitch, as a player for the Verbier Polar Bears!