today is Sep 27, 2022

Born in Toronto, Canada, Shapiro took his first photos at the age of seven when his grandfather gave him a camera. One image that particularly inspired him was the cover photo on a 1962 issue of life magazine, showing a girl doing a handstand on a skateboard.

While in college, Mark Shapiro shot photos with a manual camera and lens, developing them in a lab his roommate had set up. Graduating from trade school with a degree as a mechanical draftsman, he got a job in a factory outside of Toronto but was rapidly disillusioned. A co-worker who was from Zurich urged Shapiro to see Switzerland. So, in 1970, Shapiro left Toronto with a one-way plane ticket for Zurich, spending his first winter abroad in the ski resort of Verbier. Then, like now, it was a photographer’s idea of visual perfection. Powder was and is the obsession- skiable terrain all around. Shapiro took typical ski bum jobs to support his photography habit- he worked a grape harvest, followed by eight years working in Swiss hotels to buy film and equipment.

Today, Marko is considered the “Godfather” of freeride ski photography, having been one of the first to document the freeskiing movement of the 1970s. His work with “Team Clambin”—alongside John Falkiner and Ace Kvale, who lived in a chalet in Verbier’s Clambin neighborhood—is the stuff of legends, and spearheaded the pilgrimage of many ski bums to the Alps to seek the truth behind his mythical pictures. Exotic landscapes, big adventure skiing, and ridiculously deep powder were his trademark, and his subjects, a who’s who of the international skiing brotherhood.

Here are Marko’s Top 5 photos of his illustrious and inspirational career.

Chalet Bellaluiva-Clambin. Verbier, Switzerland.

Photo Credit: Mark Shapiro

Chalet Bellaluiva-Clambin. Verbier, Switzerland.

Team Clambin Verbier, a ski bums haven. John Falkiner and I were hiking one summer and came across the owner of the chalet who kindly rented it to John. As things would have it, the chalet would eventually become HQ where world cup freestyle/freeride skiers and a few FIS racers from around the skiing world would come to stay. I had the pick of the crop to work with through the late 70s, 80s, early 90s.

John Falkiner. Verbier, Switzerland

Photo Credit: Mark Shapiro

John Falkiner. Verbier, Switzerland

It was 1978 and I had acquired a Nikon F2 with a motor drive I think 3 or 4 frames/sec. It was Easter morning and it had dumped big time the days before. There we were — John Falkiner, Dana Willmer, and Larry Roux at the top of Creblet. I dropped in a ways, then the three of them took off side by each. John and Dana were skiing K2-710s. All I could see were hats and sticks. After a couple years shooting in snow I learned to read the light for the camera was fully manual with a built in light meter — not that accurate. It was around this time that Ace Kvale and Sarah Ferguson joined up and the makings of Team Clambin truly began. TeleVerbier had noticed what we were doing and how the resort of Verbier had profited from our publications and began supporting us. John was affiliated with K2 Europe who began supplying us with skis and Ski Service stepped in with Powderhorn apparel. With visits to ISPO the winter sports fair in Münch, the next 30+yrs, we were unstoppable.

John Falkiner and Ace Kvale. Verbier, Switzerland.

Photo Credit: Mark Shapiro

John Falkiner and Ace Kvale. Verbier, Switzerland.

My first picture published in Powder Magazine was in 1977. Powder's 1985 photo annual featured this picture of John Falkiner and Ace Kvale blasting through a snow drift. They held hands on the approach letting go at the last second so they came through the drift side-by-side. This picture dubbed “Best Photo Period” has been printed worldwide in many ski mags, color supplements of various countries, posters, a lithograph by Aka Skidor-Sweden, K2's 50yr book, a K2 floor matt, and wall art in huge sizes etc, etc, etc. A continuing great relationship with K2 USA and K2 Europe still continues today. Team Clambin began with Ace, John, myself and went from there. John is now a UIAGM Mountain Guide and Ace a well known adventure photographer. We are all still very close today.

Andy MacMillan. Himichal Heli Skiing, India

Photo Credit: Mark Shapiro

Andy MacMillan. Himichal Heli Skiing, India

The people you meet and the places you go. I had been working with Dominique Perret since 1994. In '96, he invited me to come with him and alpinist, Jean Troillet who were attempting to ski the Horbine Couloir on the North Face of Everest. After three attempts the expedition failed because of the weather. Powder Magazine did a feature on this in 1997. Anyway, Dominique had brought Andy MacMillan along on that Everest trip as base camp radio man. In 2000 Andy invites me to join him and Paul Verchère for a week heli-skiing at Himichal Heli Skiing in India. With experience at Everest base camp dealing with altitude over 5000m, I knew what to expect. The cameraman Andy brought along was another story. Our main guide was a grumpy old bugger named Nick Cradock who I knew from my adventures in New Zealand.

Dick Barrymore. Grand Montets, Chamonix, France.

Photo Credit: Mark Shapiro

Dick Barrymore. Grand Montets, Chamonix, France.

The actual year is a bit cloudy, late 70s I think. I was working the bar at the Pub Mont Fort. I got a call from Yves Bessas as he need a photographer for a ski film he was producing starting in Argentiere on the Grande Montet then moving to Tignes. Dick Barrymore was the camera 1 and Didier LaFond on camera 2. Ever since I saw the ski movie “The Performers”, Dick was my hero. I quit the Pub. Not knowing camera protocol I got in his way with a shot. For that I was his worst nightmare. But, when I took this picture of him, I became the greatest man on earth. The picture was used on the cover of Dick's book before he passed.

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