TRUCKEE, Calif. — Grant Barta reaches to turn off his buzzing alarm. It’s cold and dark and he resists the temptation to stay in bed.
He dresses, makes some coffee and packs his three dogs into the back of his truck. He drives to the mountain in darkness, and when he gets out of the car, temperatures bite. He looks up at the peak he’ll soon be skiing down.
Watching the sunrise while skiing is Barta’s favorite way to start a day. As owner of Tahoe Print Shop in Truckee, the photographer spends most winter mornings with boots and skis on his feet and a camera in his hands.
“Once you’re out there, you forget about the 5 o’clock alarm,” he said. “Or for that matter, you forget about anything else.”
After 20 years of working for other people, Barta said he was ready to open his own business, and he opened Tahoe Print Shop in January of this year. His days now consist of mornings on the mountain and afternoons at the office.
“I realized early on there was no way to be on the mountain every day if I didn’t figure out a way to pay for it,” he said.
Tahoe Print Shop offers building plan and fine art reproduction, large format scanning, signs, vehicle signage, event posters, banners, stickers, business cards, post cards and all other things printed.
The shop is located on West River Street and shares a space with Fred Zabell of Alpine Mounting Systems and Tahoe Posters.
‘FROM AN EARLY AGE’
As the sun slowly shows up, soft orange light spreads onto the mountain and casts long shadows. The light is perfect, the kind worshipped by any photographer.
Barta descends the snowy hill first, savoring the long turns before cutting back and waiting at the bottom. His brother, Kern Barta, or his friend, Daron Rahlves, follow and put fresh tracks onto the powder.
Grant then does what comes naturally — he points his lens at the skiers and captures their run.
As sons of ski patrollers, Grant and his brother Kern grew up skiing at Sugar Bowl, the resort they still call home.
“It was ingrained in us from an early age,” he said of the sport.
In high school, Grant began bringing his father’s camera to the mountain. Photography was at first only a hobby. The UC Berkeley graduate was on the path to becoming a physical therapist until the snow changed his plans.
“I was too distracted by skiing,” Grant said of his decision to abandon his goal or pursuing a degree in physical therapy.
Fresh powder days took priority over classes at University of Nevada, Reno, and Grant pursued photography and later, printmaking.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
From his jacket pocket Grant hears the muffled sound of his phone. He has a few minutes left on the chairlift and pulls out his phone to communicate with customers.
Grant answers questions and sends quotes from the chair. He stays in contact from the mountain by utilizing technology.
“On the clear powder days, most of my customers know I’m up there on the mountain shooting,” Grant said. “I get as much done as I can on the chair, and I am rarely 25 minutes from the store front. Technology is definitely helping to move around.”
Some of Grant’s favorite photos are ones he took of Rahlves in 2012. It was a clear October day after a night of fresh snow, and the men had the resort to themselves.
“We took 10 photos that day and have been able to live off of them for a couple of years,” Grant said.
One of the photos from that day ran in Powder Magazine, bringing the resort and the photographer notoriety.
“Daron makes it easy,” Grant said of photographing the champion skier. “He kicks snow over his head.”
Grant and his brother also publish the Tahoe Mountain Report, a photography-based alpine sports journal.
After a few hours of skiing, Grant picks up his daughter Lola from school and brings her to the print shop where she colors, paints and listens to music while he works.
The six-year-old shares her day with her father and sings the songs she has memorized from Disney’s epic film “Frozen.”
And on weekends, Grant can bring Lola to Sugar Bowl, where he skis with her and shares his love for snow.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at email@example.com.
“I realized early on there was no way to be on the mountain every day if I didn’t figure out a way to pay for it.”