The Ski Salt Lake Shootout is an invitation-only photo contest that in four short years is quickly attracting some of the best talent in ski photography. The event wrapped up Saturday with an awards ceremony in Salt Lake City. This year, wily veterans like SLC-based Lee Cohen went head to head with talented newcomers (Matt Turley) and dark horse entries (like New York-based James Douglas Shields). I also scored an invitation, chalking one up for the writers out there.

The overall winner of the contest was Garrett Grove, who worked with skiers Forrest Coots and Jason West and snowboarder Nick Russel. Whistler photographer Andrew Strain (and his team of skiers Eliel Hindert and Jake Cohn and snowboarder Mark Rainery) finished in second and Salt Lake City local Steve Lloyd (along with skiers Kevin Brower and Eric Balken and snowboarder Jake Lawlor) took third.

"We didn't have a plan," said Grove. "The chemistry of the group was so great, everyone was able to work really hard and we had a good time. I realized that things were going to go really well on our first run at Solitude, when everything just clicked."

The competition was intense with seven photographers chasing the $3,000 first place prize for the best overall portfolio, which had to include two images from each of Ski Salt Lake's four ski areas -- Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude. Also on tap was $1,000 for the Urban Meets Mountain category and, starting Monday, the Facebook Favorite, a $1,000 prize, which will be determined via votes on Facebook.

Lee Cohen won the Urban meets Mountain category with his shot of Carston Oliver rappelling with skis on his back against the Salt Lake skyline. "I had a lot of fun," said Cohen. "I knew that my location for the urban shoot was a good one. You could see the city and the skyline. I thought I might be a contender."

The contest started last week, just as a February storm hit the Wasatch. The format was simple: Photographers picked their teams of athletes in a "fantasy" style draft, then drew one of the four Ski Salt Lake resorts from a hat. They'd start at that resort and then work their way through the rest of the ski areas in alphabetical order.

On the second day of the shootout, when the wind chill dropped below zero and equipment started to freeze, participants began to wonder what they'd gotten into. Dawn patrols were common and hiking was inevitable as photographers and teams had to battle with powder-starved skiers to score fresh snow and the best images. "It was exhausting," said Jake Cohn, a Whistler-based skier who worked with photographer Andrew Strain.

A panel of judges selected the winner based on a portfolio featuring eight images (two from each resort). "There were so many solid images, that it was really challenging," said judge Gabe Glosband. "And it's really tough to get eight truly great images out of four days of shooting."
"I think if you took the top two shots from each photographer it would have been really hard," added judge and Powder Magazine photo editor David Reddick. "The winner was the photographer who submitted the strongest eight shots."