When the chairlifts begin to churn and the snow starts dumping, the Ikon Pass community gears up for another season on the mountain. Then COVID-19 hit, and things looked a little different with new protocols and operations in place.

Daniel Brenner, a life-long snow stake watcher and powder chaser, knew this would affect his standard resort-skier life. Rather than give up his passion this year, he shifted course. During a season that was anything but ordinary, Daniel took the opportunity to reframe his ski goals, getting out of his comfort zone and becoming a little more flexible with his plans.


Daniel and his family decided to take a van trip to Steamboat, giving them the freedom to drive and stay wherever they pleased. Camping around town allowed them to hit the mountain early, scoring fresh tracks and pristine powder. Meals were even more entertaining, as Daniel got creative making food in the van. That extra effort saved money that they put towards future ski trips. Daniel was able to spend more quality time with his family, getting to know each other even better curled up in the comfy confines of the van. This nomad life, however brief, introduced them to a world they never expected, and new friends in each parking lot they hit.


Usually skiers take chairlifts or gondolas to the top of the mountain, a habit Daniel was very accustomed to at his home mountain of Winter Park. This year, with all the changes due to the pandemic, he took a different route to the top: Skinning.

Skier skinning up the hill at Winter Park

Daniel embraced this new activity. You really can’t beat the exercise and the fresh tracks before the mountain even opens. And soaking in the resort during sunrise was something he could never experience from the lifts. While riding a lift is a special experience in itself, skinning gave Daniel a different way to see the mountain he knew so well.


With limitations on dining at most resorts this year, Daniel adopted a new way to connect with friends on the mountain. They set up camp in the parking lot, where they could meet up between laps throughout the day. Daniel and his friends tossed food on their mini grill, and pulled drinks from full coolers, making it their own custom après, just the way they liked it. It was perfect for celebrating big moments, like a birthday tailgate where Daniel’s close circle of friends could hang out at their special spot.

About Daniel Brenner: A Colorado native and alumni of Winter Park’s Eskimo Ski Club, Daniel has spent most of his life in the mountains. As an independent photojournalist, his goal is to capture the narrative and uniqueness that defines each mountain. His photos have been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and many more.