Manning Park Winter Photography
Castle Peak North Cascades #64796 Purchase
Last week I made a trip to Manning Provincial Park for winter photography and skiing fun. Weather forecasts were for cold temperatures and a good amount of fresh snow. Perfect conditions to make some new winter photos.
Manning Provincial Park is a large park in southern British Columbia. It encompasses the northern reaches of the North Cascades Mountains, along the U.S. Washington State border. On the U.S. side, the mountains present a rugged appearance with high jagged peaks. However, in Manning Park, the range mellows out into high mountains with more rounded summits. Just north of the park the North Cascades ends, and gives way to the Thompson Plateau.
Gibson Pass Ski Area Lifts #64771 Purchase
Skiing Manning Park
In summer hikers in Manning Park can find some great trails offering high views and meadows of wildflowers. In winter the park offers a network of cross-country ski trails in addition to the small Gibson Pass downhill ski area. Backcountry skiers and snowshoers can also find fresh snow and solitude on the Fat Dog ski route to the Brothers Mountain group.
On this trip, I took advantage of both the Nordic trails and downhill ski runs. Manning Park’s Gibson Pass Ski Area offers a bit of a unique experience in the Pacific Northwest. Most ski areas in this region receive a copious amount of heavy wet snow, often referred to as Cascade Concrete. Manning Park, on the other hand, often has colder powdery snow, due to its more inland location.
A few other things set Manning apart. For one it has a laid-back retro feel perfect for families and avoiding adrenaline junkies. Also, while the big resorts like Whistler Blackcomb charge a staggering $180 (Canadian) for a single lift ticket, Manning charges only $59 (Canadian). Plus, there are usually no lift lines. On my recent midweek visit, I skied directly onto the chair each time! The downside to these benefits is that there are only two chair lifts, with only one operating in midweek. The vertical drop is a modest 1400′.
Manning Park in Winter #64780 Purchase
Winter Photography in Manning
While the Nordic trails are fun, they usually don’t offer much in the way of landscape photography. Therefore I made a point of taking advantage of the views offered from the top of the ski lifts. From the ridge top, the views south into the Washington North Cascades are very good. The two dominant peaks in that direction are Hozomeen Mountain and Castle Peak. Further off west are the jagged peaks of Mount Spickard, Mox Peaks, and the northern Pickets, in North Cascades National Park. To the north are the rounded summits of Three Brothers and Big Buck Mountains.
To photograph the twin summit towers of Hozomeen and the Pickets you’ll want to be on the ridge top early in the morning. However, unless you hike up to the ridge before dawn you’ll be limited by the ski lift schedule. The lifts open at 9:00 so you’ll miss the sunrise. Of course, depending on lighting and snow conditions you can still make good photos throughout the day. If you want to get to the top only for the views, you can purchase a one-trip lift ticket.
Later in the afternoon both Castle and Frosty Mountains will begin to receive warmer light. Note that until late spring the north faces of Castle and Hozomeen will be mostly in shadow.
Manning Park in Winter #64783 Purchase
Timing is Everything
While having great light is always imperative in photography, another important consideration for winter photography is timing the snow conditions. In winter most of the landscape will have a blanket of snow over it. However, trees and forests without snow on them will become black holes for light against all that white.
In my opinion and experience, the best conditions can be had just after a storm dumps fresh snow on the trees. This sounds simple and obvious, but it can be tricky. Often in the Northwest, a warmer wet snowstorm is followed by sunny conditions, which melt snow off tree branches very quickly. That pristine scene can be gone within a few hours!
Frosty Mountain Manning Park #64791 Purchase
Colder drier locations such as the Rockies present another dilemma. The snow can be so cold and dry that very little to no snow may adhere to tree branches. Unlike the coastal Northwest where wet snow acts like glue on everything. In cold locations and conditions, a slight breeze can also remove the snow as easily as warm sunshine.
In the end, winter photography can be more fickle than photographing spring wildflowers or perfect autumn colors. Depending on weather patterns where you live or are able to travel, there may be only a couple of good opportunities a season. So keep a close eye on those forecasts and be ready to go at a moment’s notice!
Manning Park in Winter #64778 Purchase
If You Go to Manning Park
Driving time to Manning Park is about 4.5 hours north of Seattle, and two hours from Vancouver. Winter camping is available, as are RV hookups at Gibson Pass Ski Area. Manning Park Resort also offers excellent lodge and cabin facilities, along with a restaurant grocery store, and gas. Cell phone signal is limited to the immediate lodge area.
Want to Learn More?
Would you like to learn more about photographing in Manning Park and or winter photography? I offer full-day, half-day, and multi-day photo tours and instruction. Check out my Private Instruction/Tours page for more info, or contact me directly. I would love to help you take your photography to the next level and shoot like a pro!