An Artist Paints En Plein Air On Ski Slopes.

[Editor Note: We are pleased to present a painter-on-skis, Judy Calhoun, who regularly brings her artist kit to the ski slopes. Her biographical and contact information is below.]

Oil-on-canvas by Judy Calhoun captures the Wasatch.
Oil-on-canvas by Judy Calhoun captures the Wasatch.

I try to find a pleasant rhythm as my skis follow the feel of the mountain. With the weight of my cumbersome pack and the ten years I didn’t ski, I know I’ll need to learn to trust my legs again. I take my time making wide, cautious parallel turns. If I tip over, my imagination will turn my heavy pack into a make-believe shell and I’ll feel like a turtle on it’s back! Yikes, don’t want that! Right now, I am pleased in the knowledge the muscles in my ski legs are coming back. Hopefully, I’ll soon feel strong enough to telemark in more of the steeper areas.

Here's Judy Calhoun capturing a scene on canvas at the top of an Alta run. Credit: JCalhoun
Here’s Judy Calhoun capturing a scene on canvas at the top of an Alta run.
Credit: JCalhoun

The texture of the snow beneath my feet makes me feel like I’m flying. Up in the sky, an electric blue sparks my awe. Where shall I stop? Ahhhhh, here!! Perched on the ridgeline, I know that the wind will whip at my pochade box and canvas. I eagerly start setting up. My painting pack settles with a ‘plop!’ on the snow. I secure my tripod to the pack, knowing that its weight will prevent the wind gusts from playfully stealing anything from me. That was a lesson quickly learned from other times that I’ve dangled near the edge of these dramatic drop-offs. Ohhhhhhh, how I love to look out over everything!

Will I be able to capture the dazzling white of the distant peaks, the grayed, geometric patterns of color of the valley? What about the richness of the closer rocks? There seems to be one color family that my (totally cool!) goggles tend to change. I have to lift them up off my face to view with my naked eye, the colors of the evergreens.

A couple of skiers suddenly swoop past on the traverse just below me. Most of the time I am invisible to them as they are busy gauging where they’ll create their next few turns. A snowboarder playfully pops up from a mogul-turned-spring, “Whooooo hooo!! Beautiful!!!” I understand his exuberance. Love the purple Mohawk on his helmet.

Ohhhhhhh, how I love our mountains!!! They lift me up, keeping me physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy. As I repack all my paint supplies, I secure the finished paintings. I don’t want to accidentally get any fresh oil paint on anyone else riding the ski bus! I don’t mind the flecks of color on my dark blue jacket, but others may not be as enamored with them as I am.

As I hoist pack over shoulder, I smile at my thoughts. I never know what’s better. Is it the painting or the skiing down? I guess I’ll just have to do it again tomorrow and see if that answer will come.

If you happen to see an invisible skier/painter on the hill, please holler a “Hello!” If you’re not going too fast, you may hear me ask, “What are the colors of your passion?”

[Editor Note: Judy Calhoun’s dad introduced her to skiing when she was a child. Weekends were spent skiing at Buffalo Ski Club, a small ski area just south of Buffalo, New York. After high school, the west beckoned to her and Alta, Utah became her home. The dramatic beauty of Mount Superior is what got her into painting. With a pack full of paint supplies, her days were spent ski touring in the winter and hiking in the summer in order to paint the intimate treasures of the Wasatch Mountains. For twenty years, she’d ski with her dad in the mornings. Nothing could compare to the twinkle in his blue eyes after bounding down a few mogul runs or ‘flying’ in the powder together. She would then be at her art display in the Albion Grill most afternoons. This skier/artist finds that both Snowbird and Alta present unlimited beauty, challenging runs, incredible conditions, and fellow skiers/boarders that feel like family. To inquire about her artwork, contact [email protected]]


  1. Wow. Definitely a cool article and equally talented artist.

  2. Gary Carpenter says:

    I’ve known Judy for some time and have a few of her works decorating my home. She’s definitely passionate about her painting and everything about the wonder of nature. Oh, and she inherited the twinkle in her eye from her dad, which helped make her a popular fixture in the Albion Grill during the many years my wife and I vacationed at Alta for ski vacations.

  3. Cindy Nowakowski says:

    Buffalo Ski Club! Where my children learned to ski and only 10 minutes from our house. Now 2 of my 3 kids live in Denver so they can ski the mountains (and we can visit often) Great to hear a local girl is living her dream in Utah!

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