Adventures in Antartica!! An Aspen kid heads South.

Longtime Aztech Mountain collaborator Jesse Hoffman - the man behind many of our images - finds his way to Antartica.

Great article on Jesse by by Samantha Bear

A dedication to following artistic and outdoor passions has allowed local photographer Jesse Hoffman to both carve out a niche in his hometown and recently travel to the ends of the earth, he told a capacity crowd last week at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies in a presentation on his November trip to Antarctica.

“The overall theme is really about following your passion” Hoffman, 25, said during the Potbelly Perspectives presentation featuring his stories and photos.

The two-week trip to Antarctica “was half an adventure, half a photo shoot for Spyder and Kästle,” Hoffman explained in a later interview. In other words, Hoffman has found a way to build a career doing what he loves — playing in the mountains — and the community turned out to see his work and to show its support.

In order to get to Antarctica, Hoffman and his party flew into Ushuaia, Argentina, nicknamed the End of the World. From there, they set sail through the Beagle Channel which snakes between Chile and Argentina and then continued sailing through Drake Passage — a 50-55 hour trek. Before arriving on mainland Antartica, the group toured the South Shetland Islands. They started on Livingston Island and then moved on to Deception Island, Nansen Island, Enterprise Island, Bluff Island and finally King George Island.

Each night, including after their arrival on mainland Antartica, the group slept on board their ship and took little zodiac boats to each destination. Onshore, they skinned and skied. As a desert, Antartica receives an average of only 8 inches of precipitation annually. Therefore, typical avalanche risks are lower than those experienced in Colorado. However, the greater danger Hoffman’s group faced in Antartica were crevasses. The group generally used ropes while hiking in order to mitigate the risk. 

Regarding snow conditions, Hoffman told the ACES crowd it was everything from powder to corn to “crazy, frozen, rimy” snow that was all “super fun.” He also added that “it was never that cold,” with their coldest day being roughly 15 degrees and their warmest as high as 36.

The number of photos of penguins presented in the slideshow rivaled the number of skiing photos — as well as photos of the terrain. 

“Most of the shoreline is guarded by these 100-300 foot walls of ice,” Hoffman said, demonstrating the extreme geological features of Antarctica. “You can’t really get close to them because you have no idea if they’re gonna rip off the wall, so you have to look for a ramp or a little peninsula” in order to get onshore.

Due to the logistical challenges of getting onshore, the zodiacs left the group with emergency overnight supplies that they fortunately never had to use. Photos of Deception Island, a volcanic island featuring black sand beaches between glaciated mountains and the Antarctic Ocean were also striking and foreign.

Potbelly Perspectives are typically attended by 30-60 people, according to Amanda Boyle, events & development manager at ACES. With roughly 135 in attendance, Hoffman’s Jan. 25 presentation was the season’s largest turnout to date for a Potbelly Perspectives night. 

“Jesse’s from the valley, his family has ties with the whole community, and he’s just an amazingly talented photographer. We knew it would be big so we had overflow capacity and the overflow space was full as well,” Boyle said.

Born and raised in Aspen, Hoffman acknowledged that finding a way to stay in Aspen is a “big thing” for people both from the valley and for those that have moved to the area. 

“You’re constantly trying to figure out a way to stay in Aspen. For me, photography is a way to not only go on these awesome adventures but also a way to stay in Aspen,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman’s photos of local ski mountaineer Chris Davenport, who helped guide in Antarctica, are being used by Spyder. In addition, Hoffman plans to submit other photos to various magazines. Not all of his work, however, features far away destinations. “The Process,” a five minute film which was also shown at ACES, was shot entirely in the Elk Mountains. The video placed second in REDirect’s 2016 video competition, a partnership between RED and Outside TV.

The film pairs images of the outdoors with voiceovers from not only Davenport but also Bob Wade, owner of Ute Mountaineer and a co-traveler to Antarctica. 

“I go to the mountains to restore a feeling of peace … . If I’ve got a view from a high place, really that’s all I need,” Wade says at the beginning of the film.

That same sense of the love of the outdoors was instilled in Hoffman, in part, at ACES. He remembers going to ACES as early as four years old, “so it’s come full circle,” Hoffman said about his return to ACES to share his professional experience.

Regarding his recent success, Hoffman alludes to the famous fake-it-‘till-you-make-it expression. 

“I’ve always joking said that but I think there’s some truth to it. There comes a point where people take you as a professional and you need to take yourself as a professional and have the confidence that this is what I’m doing, this is what I do for work, and I have the skill to make it work,” Hoffman said later.

Heifara RutgersComment