The Ultimate Snow Report: New York Times on Mammoth Snow

“We can’t get the New York Times photographer in the NASA plane, it’s an insurance issue because they cut a hole in the bottom of it for the lasers.”

“Would the helicopter tour guys take the photographer up? Could still get the visuals of the snowpack that way.”

“Yep, we can make that happen.”

Anytime NASA and helicopters are involved it’s a good day’s work here in Our Outdoor Office.

But as much fun as planning missions with NASA is (can we actually say that? I want to say that), when it comes down to it, those last five words are the most important part of the exchange: “We can make that happen.”  This piece looks the way it does because everyone went the extra mile and made it happen.

The story actually began back in November, brainstorming unique news angles for the upcoming winter (having a client for 10+ years necessitates thinking creatively, not just dusting off what worked last year).  The pitch was tuned and sent to a New York Times editor who signaled interest. When follow up questions appeared in my inbox over the next month, we knew there was a chance. Weeks of back and forth ensued between the editor, us, our client Lara Kaylor at Visit Mammoth, and NASA’s Dr. Tom Painter, in the shape of questions & answers, data, info and more…

Fast forward to early this year when the Times decided to send a San Francisco-based photographer over the Sierra to Mammoth Lakes, CA in the middle of a record snow year, on a two-day assignment to capture imagery. Yet one small detail emerged–getting the photographer airborne. Apparently insurance companies frown upon putting anyone not in the employ of NASA on a plane with a hole cut into the bottom of it to accommodate high-tech lasers. Thus, plan B became a helicopter with its fuselage in tact, with Dr. Painter providing a narration of the vast topography.

Imagery captured, the Times put the full force of their incredible graphics team behind it, and the journalist spent extended time in Mammoth Lakes reporting it.

The Times probably wouldn’t have pursued this piece had our partners at Visit Mammoth not said those five words, and the willingness of Dr. Painter and NASA to be so accommodating. Their commitment, not just to tell the story, but to do whatever they could to tell the story the very best way it could be told is just awesome, and this is what resulted:

From the California Sky, Measuring All That Snow

Mammoth Lakes, Ca. – The majestic beauty of California’s Sierra Nevada never fails to impress. But the mountain range, which stretches hundreds of miles, is much more than a stunning vista. It’s a linchpin that helps make living in an arid state possible. That’s because one of California’s most important water supplies is melted snow.

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