If you’re on the slopes with your significant other this season, and you spot someone dressed like a traffic cone, your life might be about to change.

“I basically just hide in plain sight,” Gabrielle Stowe says. “I’m in all orange. And then I’m just taking photos of random people passing by, and they’ll just assume that I’m doing some kind of marketing thing [for the mountain].”

But Stowe doesn’t work for the resorts, and she’s not interested in the snowboarding bros buttering their boards in front of her lens in the hopes of being the next poster child for A-Basin. She’s waiting for her client to drop to one knee.

The 30-year-old Summit County photographer has found her niche in the Colorado powder, where she captures engagements, elopements, and weddings—slopeside. Better known as Ski the Day on Instagram, Stowe’s often hilarious (and always sentimental) shots have earned her an impressive following since she launched her business in 2019. We sat down with the creative to find out how she went from working at an architectural firm to booking ski weddings all over the globe (she accepted a gig in the Italian Dolomites in January).

Editor’s note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Ski the Day photographer Gabrielle Stowe. Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Stowe

5280: Tell me about your upbringing. Were skiing and photography always parts of your life?
Gabrielle Stowe: I grew up in the Northeast, and I grew up ski racing. So I raced for about 10 years, and that was my life. I also had always loved photography. I never really saw it as a career, though. I never thought it was practical. So I actually went to school for architecture because I was just obsessed with buildings and I always wanted to design homes. I moved to Colorado about eight years ago to work at an architecture firm and realized it wasn’t really for me and started exploring photography more as a profession.

How did you end up merging skiing and photography?
About five years ago, I went full time with wedding photography [because I fell in love with shooting them], and not too long after that, in 2019, I was asked to shoot a wedding [on the slopes] because somebody was looking for a wedding photographer who knew how to ski. That was in Jackson Hole [Wyoming], and it was the most fun day. It was so cool. And after talking to that couple about their experience with planning their wedding day and how it was difficult to find a photographer, I was inspired because there are so many other people that have to have this same dream. They want to have their day documented, but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s the most unexpected career that I never thought I would have—but I absolutely love it.

What goes into planning a ski wedding?
Some people have a traditional wedding, and they just do one ski run for photos. Some people have a ceremony off-site, and then they spend an afternoon skiing. I’ve [been hired for] elopements—it’s just the two of them or maybe just a few friends—and they’re on the mountain the whole day.

Ceremonies on the mountain tend to have a small guest list because obviously you can’t roll up with 100 people; that’s not cool. So there’s a quick ceremony on the mountain. Colorado is awesome because you can self-solemnize, so you don’t need an officiant. I mean, sometimes I’m the only witness, and they just marry themselves.

What does it feel like to be a part of such an intimate, unique ceremony?
It feels very special. It feels like such an honor that I get to be there for the start of their marriage. And I have the honor of capturing it—but also being trusted enough to witness that. It’s very special. I take it very seriously.

Are you skiing and shooting at the same time?
Yes, safety is my priority though, so I’m never like on a black diamond actively shooting as I’m skiing down. Typically, I’’ll ski down a little bit, and I’ll have them ski toward me, and we leapfrog. Depending on how fast they are or what run we’re on, I just catch up with them, ski on the side, and shoot them as they’re going down.

What’s your ski set-up?
I don’t ski with poles since I need to easily grab my cameras. As for my skis, I just have an all-mountain ski: Nordica Santa Ana 93. Admittedly, I am not much of a gearhead. The only gear I get really into is camera gear. When I bought these skis, I told the person at the shop what I do, and he showed me them. He also suggested bindings that were easy to get in and out of since I do that more than a regular person skiing.

What kind of camera gear do you carry on the slopes?
I ski with two mirorrless Nikon cameras that are attached to a harness so I don’t have to worry about dropping them. I like prime lenses for this kind of thing because zooming in and out is one less decision I have to make while skiing (and typically I just zoom in by skiing closer).

I carry a 28-liter trail pack, and it varies in weight depending on the location and type of shoot. Typically I carry a CamelBak bladder, snacks, extra batteries, memory cards, and walkie-talkies, which isn’t too heavy. For weddings I carry more, like an “emergency wedding kit,” a flash if we are going inside, and a longer lens depending on the type of ceremony. The biggest reason why I have to ski with a pack is because most times I’m carrying things for the couple in my bag, like their phones, extra layers, touch-up kit, with their helmets clipped to my bag. A few times I’ve worn their backpack over my backpack, which I’ve gotten some weird looks for.

Have you had any shoots go…awry?
Oh, I did have one that was kind of funny. Weddings, they always run late, which is totally fine. But I did have one where we did it in the afternoon, and things ran a little late, and they were closing the backside of the mountain. The couple put their snowboards in the snow to have some framing, and one of the snowboards fell and slid all the way down the mountain. And that side of the mountain had closed, so there was no lift spinning. They couldn’t ski down to get it, so the bride’s daughter had to walk all the way down and bring it back up. It was way deep in the woods and the poor girl was in a dress and she had to dig through the powder to get the board. Finally, when we spotted her coming up the mountain, everyone just started screaming and cheering.

Your action shots are incredible, but you also capture endearing behind-the-scenes photos. Do you plan those out?
Obviously, there’s a planned time of like, OK, we’re getting ready from this time to that time. But I think something that is important to being a wedding photographer in general is just anticipating moments. Yes, you’re going to be putting on the dress, but anticipating like, OK, he’s looking at her, and he said this, and now they’re gonna laugh and have a moment or The flower girl just walked into the room and something cute is going to happen. Just being able to anticipate those moments.

We know it’s probably like picking a favorite child, but do you have a preference for photographing ski proposals or weddings?
Oh, gosh, it’s hard because they’re both so different. Proposals are fun because I feel like a super spy, you know? There’s a secret plan, and I’m hiding in plain sight, and they don’t know who I am. Sometimes there’s a little bit of acting involved. I did one yesterday at Aspen where they were on vacation with his family, and her family secretly flew in two days prior, and she did not know. We made diagrams of where the family should stand, and we walked around the corner and the whole family was there. So proposals are fun because I get to be in spy mode. And then weddings are fun because there is just so much going on, so much excitement, so many fun moments, and so much love and joy. It’s just fun to see that unfold.

Follow Gabrielle Stowe on Instagram at @skitheday. To inquire about her photography services, visit skitheday.com.

Jessica Giles
Jessica Giles
Jessica is a senior associate editor on 5280's digital team.