Lake Tahoe female winter athletes moonlight as models

Dana Turvey
Lake Tahoe Action
Courtesy photo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Pick up a copy of Title Nine — the iconic women’s activewear catalog, not the sports equality legislation — and it’s full of fit females well-outfitted in recreational clothing. If any of these energetic ladies look familiar, it’s because several models have been gleaned from Lake Tahoe’s sporty melting pot.

As far back as 2007, Tahoe ski pro Robin Barnes started modeling for the catalog.

“I worked with them at least three different years,” she said. “There was one shot of me in workout wear standing on a balance ball, which was fun. The first time something was published, it was like posting something on Facebook. There were so many old friends getting in touch, saying they’d seen me in the T9 catalog.”

Barnes, who is on the US Demo Team and is ski school director in Portillo, Chile, is by no means a professional model, due to her day job. But her athletic abilities and bright smile have led her to gigs with other brands like Nordica, Spyder and Head.

Melanie Garcia has been in Tahoe all her life and co-owns Moxy Fitness with her sister, Erica. Just another example of someone living the healthy mountain lifestyle, Melanie was on the cover of T9’s recent winter issue.

“I originally started with (photographer) Justin Bailey,” Garcia said. “A friend at Moxy said I should model for him and it was initially just stock things, like running with my dogs. But then one of those shots was used by Backpacker magazine. Then I did a few things with Corey (Rich) which included ads for Polartec and Canon.

“Since it’s action and sports, it suits me. For the Canon ad, I was climbing at Pie Shop. If I had to sit in one spot and stare at the camera, it wouldn’t work! It’s a lot of fun working with Title Nine for the same reasons and the clothes are always fun. I have to say, I’m a tomboy and sometimes there’s stuff I wouldn’t typically pick out. One time I was in an outfit and my boyfriend said ‘Hey, you’re in a dress!’ which I don’t normally wear. But in general they have great clothing and if it looks good, it’s fine with me.”

Part of the glue holding these photo shoots together is Rich, the photography.

His resume includes shoots with Nike, Apple, Sports Illustrated and REI, and he’s taken in exotic locales such as Pakistan, Kauai and the Arctic Circle. While his job is a wonderful way to see the world, Rich does surprising amounts of ad work right at home.

“For the past decade I’ve been living here in South Lake Tahoe,” Rich said. “I used to live in Sacramento and I’d travel up to 250 days a year; then I relocated to this magical place. I’ve learned that when I pitch a client, they are always looking for an incredible backdrop. And what I shoot isn’t in a studio — it’s in this amazing place for outdoor recreation.

“And knowing the community, I can choose talent from the area to best represent the client. With Title Nine, they have an application process for their models, but they’ll usually ask me for a referral.”

Part of his talent pool has included the attractive offspring of Tyler and Cheryl Cannon, owners of Sprouts, and, yes, the restaurant is one of Rich’s favorites when he’s in town. This past summer, Tucker, 11, Macy, 9 and Hayden, 7, spent a day at Zephyr Cove shooting an ad campaign for Columbia clothing.

“My kids have worked with Corey on a few things,” Tyler Cannon said. “They did a shot for Title Nine of Cheryl sledding with Tucker and they’ve been in ads for Northstar and now Columbia. It’s all outdoor recreation based, not studio or fashion. For Columbia, we actually had to submit photos, and they were chosen by the company.

“We really like when the kids go spend the day with Corey, because he and his crew are so much fun to work with. And Macy really likes the locations and catered lunches.”

Besides good food and the occasional free jacket, there’s something to be said for the shooting locations.

“I got to do a really cool shoot a couple years ago,” Garcia said. “We went up to Lost Trail Lodge, outside of Truckee and stayed at this great backcountry ski cabin. The best part is that we were with not just the photographer and stylist, but the owner of Title Nine Sports, Missy Park. She was just great.”

Park, well known in the sports industry, has said about her T9 models, “All are ordinary women capable of extraordinary things.”

Even if sports modeling sounds like a glamorous life, it’s not always brie and bonbons.

“For fall-winter 2010, I did a shoot that didn’t get used,” Robin Barnes said. We did it out by Kirkwood; it was 4:30 in the morning, I was in a mini skirt and it was about two and-a-half weeks after I’d had knee surgery. I can only guess I didn’t look too comfortable.”

But as Corey Rich said, “One of the coolest things, the coolest part about working with friends locally, is it’s not at all like work. We live in such a special place and when I get to work with such special people too, well, I just pinch myself.”

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