Vail photographer fired for taking photo of dangling pantsless skier

By Jim Stanford on January 7, 2009

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Updated 12:30 p.m.

SI should give Marty Odom a job!

Marty Odom, the Vail, Colo., photographer who shot the immortal photos of a skier dangling from a chairlift with his pants down, has been fired from his job at the mountain photo concession.

Odom said he was off-duty and used his own camera when he shot the photos, circulated with glee around the globe yesterday. He was employed by Sharpshooters, a corporate chain that used to operate at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Melanie Wong (no joke) of the Vail Daily reports:

“‘I was out on my own with my own camera, so I didn’t think it was a big deal,’ Odom said. ‘I thought it was going to be the photo of the New Year.’

“However, when he arrived at work on Monday, he was told that he was suspended until further notice.

“’We all know what that means,’ said Odom, who has been working for Sharpshooters since the beginning of the season. ‘I guess it embarrassed Vail Resorts, and they called [my] shop.’”

Odom told the paper he had no regrets. “‘I would do it all over again,’ he said.”

He also sent a note with the photo to TransWorld Snowboarding, where of course everyone snickered this never would have happened to a single-planker.

This story sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

(Updated 1/11: The Denver Post reports that Odom, in fact, lied about using his own camera to take the photos.)

If I sound sympathetic to Marty Odom, I am.

My first great winter job in Jackson Hole was Powdershots ski photographer. Powdershots was a local business owned by Rob Broadbent and was the on-mountain photo concessionaire at the Jackson Hole Ski Area in the 1990s. (Today it operates solely at Snowbird, Utah, and is owned by former Jackson resident Carl York.)

We were action photographers (Roll 91!) and would set up our flags in the middle of the slopes and shoot tourists skiing past. The top of Thunder chairlift was a particularly good spot for action photos, with the limestone cliffs looming large in the background. The real money shot was to capture the tram overhead in the frame, too.

One day in February 1996, I was assigned to shooting Thunder. Mid-morning, the tram stopped running. People were stuck in the two cars, one near the summit and the other at the base of the Lower Tramline run. People kept skiing past me, asking, “Hey, man, you gonna shoot the tram evac?”

Well, I probably should, I figured.

Brian Siegfried, then a Powdershots ski photographer, too, captured the shots of the first three people being lowered out of the tram near the base. The first person out, not surprisingly: Sick Rick.

Zig left, and I came down a short while later, as we were required to return to the shop to turn in our film for processing (film! a quant notion!). A group of local tram evacuees had gathered in the woods nearby to collect their wits, so to speak, and I joined them to assess the situation. They reported that everyone was calm and trying to stay patient while enduring a lot of talk on radios.

Having determined there was no panic, I did what any enterprising ski photographer would do at that moment: I set up my “SKI PHOTOS” banner and began taking pictures. I hiked up the slope a short distance to frame the shot with Sleeping Indian in the background. Garth Dowling of the News and Wade McKoy of Focus Productions, two photographers whose work I admire, were also on hand.

I took shots of skiers being lowered three at a time, about 100 feet from the ground. When someone announced over the radio that a Powdershots photographer was working the scene, cheers and laughter could be heard inside the tram.

Not everyone was amused, however. Before I had even returned to the shop, the resort brass called my boss to complain. Rob Broadbent stood his ground, and the resort relented. I sold more than $1,000 in photos that afternoon, prints as large as 16 by 20, to wide-eyed tourists looking to immortalize one of the greatest thrills of their lives.

A few years later, possibly for unrelated reasons, the resort spurned Powdershots when the concession came up for renewal, and gave the contract to a corporate chain — you guessed it, Sharpshooters. (That operation folded after a few seasons, and today Elevation Imaging runs the photo concession at Jackson Hole.)

The lesson here, in both cases, is don’t make an embarrassing situation worse. Powdershots offered to give the tram evacuation photos to guests at a discount or even for free, if the resort would pick up the tab, which would have been a nice p.r. move. But the resort declined to pay.

In the case at Vail, it was hard not to feel sorry for everyone involved when looking at those photos. No one was hurt, and we could all enjoy a good laugh.

Now the resort looks like the evil overlord it has always been made out to be.

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Posted under Humor, Ski Resorts, Sports

11 Comments so far

  1. Alan January 7, 2009 8:58 am

    Hmmm … both Vail and JHMR use Sharpshooters. From their recent not-so-positive press, it looks like they also share the same public relations firm.

  2. John January 7, 2009 10:09 am

    “‘I was out on my own with my own camera, so I didn’t think it was a big deal,’ Odom said.

    Makes you wonder then what is going to be an acceptable photo on the web. The photographer was on his own and if he had posted it in his own blog would the world and his employer be after him?
    What a load of crap. I’m sure Marty will have no problem finding a better job after this timeless photo.

  3. David January 7, 2009 11:17 am

    I used to work for Sharpshooters. It was my first ski bum job, in Breckenridge. I always thought the owners were jerks; this pretty much proves it.

    Seems like if the guy was off duty and shooting with his own camera, he could file a wrongful termination suit.

  4. Fresh Tracks January 7, 2009 11:23 am

    By this logic, shouldn’t the liftie who didn’t put the seat all the way down get fired too?

    Most resort managers aren’t known for their sense of humor. This confirms it. Lawsuit certain to follow from humiliated guest.

  5. Dave January 7, 2009 11:39 am

    Marty is a rockstar.

    The Sharpshooters’ crew are wankers.

    I guarantee the poor bloke is laughing his bollocks off over the situation. This is unfortunate for Marty.

  6. Jim Stanford January 7, 2009 2:23 pm

    the Deadspin comments just about brought tears to my eyes:

    http://deadspin.com/5125163/hero-photographer-canned-by-fussy-ski-resort#c

  7. Karen January 8, 2009 10:45 am

    Good for Sharpshooter and Vail. Odom is bum. Imagine someone needing help,and you pick up a camera. Idiot! No one was hurt, says who???? The guys young son was watching his dad hang upside down naked. The man was naked and humiliated. When we do it to prisoners, the lawyers call it public ridicule and a violation of civil rights. When it happens to a guy who paid ALOT of money to ski, it is okay?

    Good for Vail. Good for Sharpshooters. I hope Odom takes a course in common decency. He would do it all again? Fool.

  8. You're f*cking up January 8, 2009 12:41 pm

    Karen, there’s nothing wrong with documenting reality. What’s wrong is when people try to suppress the truth. This seems to be the priority for both Vail and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: to warp reality. What these two resorts appear to be overlooking is the very basic fact that skiing is fun and that people will continue to ski regardless of deaths, avalanches, emergencey evacs or naked people dangling from a ski lift. How hard can it be to work in a ski resort’s marketing department? People will always come skiing. It’s not like they work in the marketing department for Phillip Morris. These people are making it look difficult when their job is to make it look effortless.

    They need to get over their idea of resort branding and get on with the idea of skiing.

  9. Jason January 8, 2009 1:27 pm

    Wow, Karen. Comparing a tourist to a torture victim is a bit of a stretch isn’t it? This photo is hilarious any way you slice it.

  10. Jason January 8, 2009 1:31 pm

    I mean, this photo could really turn this guy’s world upside down. He may have been stuck in a rut before that trip to Vail, y’know? Now, he might get exposed to numerous opportunities he never imagined. Maybe he’ll hang out more with his son, or stand taller among his peers.
    You have made a lot of ass-umptions about the quick shooting photog. without looking for the upside.

  11. Alex January 8, 2009 2:11 pm

    Karen,

    I see your point in some respects.

    However, it’s the task of the journalist to report on things as they are occurring. To report on the bad things that sometimes happen. Ideally, business entities, governments, and private individuals improve their behaviour in response to this kind of event.

    Let’s take the journalists who reported on the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

    Would the journalists have done more good just picking up a shovel and cleaning up the mess themselves? Or did they do more good reporting on the situation at hand — the ecological damage, the corporate actions, and the piloting of the ship?

    Or that dude who narrated the Hindenburg disaster. Not much he could have done to help, so he filmed the terrible wreckage of the once mighty hydrogen blimp. Maybe his reporting led to blimp companies switching to helium gas?

    I feel that I can say this not because I’m a journalist but because once in Austria I plopped myself on a chairlift without the chair in the down position and had to wrestle the thing down while 20 feet in the air in a rapidly moving lift.

    It made me mad and made me wish that the lift operators had done their job better.

    I just want people to do their jobs better.

    Thanks for listening.

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