Lovely to watch the light powdery snow being lifted by the breeze then swish and swirl across the road. Then anxiety flashed into my dreamy thoughts as I warmed up in the van after an afternoon of trudging up and down the slopes, snowshoeless: if I happened to fall back and lose sight of my companions, this lovely drifting powdery snow would soon cover up our fresh, knee-deep tracks, making it impossible to distinguish the path back to the van from the older paths that occasionally crisscrossed the vast expanse of land around us. A sobering thought as the warming cognac was passed around.
This is what some of Altai’s countless unskied slopes looked like a few weeks ago. Something tells me that most of them are too remote to ever become crowded ski resorts, but you never can tell.
Every winter for some years now, hundreds of swans have been flying southwards to Svetloe Lake in the Altai Region of Siberia. Because of the warm springs that feed this Lake, the water never freezes, and in fact it is said to never go below 5°C no matter what the surrounding air temperature is.
The lake water may be warm enough, but the winter temperatures here are well below freezing! These preening swans are doing what needs to be done to keep the cold at bay: feather care. By spreading the oil produced by their uropygial glands, the swans keeps their feathers waterproofed and in good condition.
Even in temperatures of -25°C to -40°C, visitors come to watch the swans and hear their loud honking. But in the chilly hours before and after sunrise in late February this year, the only visitors were me and a small group of Russian photographer friends.
Farm animals walking freely through the village, snow-eating cows, buildings that blend in with the natural backdrop, washing hung out to dry in the snow, and a cheeky sheep that stuck its tongue out at me when it spotted my camera…