Left in spring 2014, Damien, Thibaut, Remì and Francois in the dizzying colours od Baffin Island. A special sort of trip, ski, discover beyond the 70° parallel. This is another way to live the adventure.
Riders in this news : François KERN
In a busy guiding season it can be difficult to get out and tour for yourself. A lucky day appeared in the diary when fellow Dynastar Ambassador and Avalanche Geek Mike Austin and I were both free with a blue bird forecast. We decided on the Breche Puiseux and were on the first cable car to the Aiguille du Midi. The ski down the first part of the Vallee Blanche could best be described as terrible with hideous refrozen snow until we could get the right aspect and altitude to find some sun softened corn and enjoy a few turns. Skins on at the base of the Périades glacier gave a couple of hours skinning then skis on the back for the 450m climb to the Breche. The early start was worth it with the climb being completed before the sun got to hot.
The Breche is a low point on the section of ridge known as the Périades, this spectacular group of granite spires is home to the tiny Périades bivouac hut one of the most characterful and spectacularly positioned over night shelter in the range. We scrambled along to the hut before making 2 abseils onto the upper Mont Mallet glacier.
The position here is amazing right under the North Face to the Grand Jorasses this has to be one of the most spectacular backdrops to any ski descent in the Alps. The descent winds its way through huge crevasses with amazing views all round before joining the Leschaux glacier where perfect spring snow and less crevasses allowed us to let the Cham’s run making big sweeping turns all the way to the train at Montenvers. A beer sitting on the terrace was the perfect place to reflect and a fantastic journey through the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif.
After no new snow in Chamonix for over two weeks and the sun blazing down on the snowy peaks for what has felt like an eternity, there was only one thing for it this week… to grab those skins and get touring.
Ski touring used to be seen as a hobby for the more, how shall we say this, aging skier, but things have been changing rapidly over the last few years. Keen skiers of all ages have been sampling the delights of shuffling up hill, eager to get away from the crowds and into the wilderness.
This week I was proud to be part of a group of six young, female skiers out to try and ski some spring snow in Chamonix. With not a man in sight, we headed up to the top of the Grand Montets ski area in the small cabin, which brings you out at 3275m. We then clipped into our skis and descended down into the Argentiere basin, with the Col Tour Noir as our target.
Skiing with a group of girls, all of whom can ski pretty god damn well, is always a lot of fun. No testosterone to deal with, although stereotypically quite a lot of chat! This was definitely the case as we regrouped on the glacier to put our skins on and start the log flat skin across the basin before we peeled off left and started to ascend to the col at 3500m. As soon as things got a bit steeper, and the higher we got, the normal 100-mile an hour chat started to subside. Once acclimatised the Tour Noir is not complicated, and the views you get are out of this world, but with it being one of our first high altitude ski tours of the winter, it was tougher than I remember!
For this particular tour my weapons of choice were my Cham Woman 97s with a Look pin binding. Although not a super light touring ski, they are still light enough for a 2 – 3 hour ascent and great in corn snow. Once we reached the peak, we took in the views of the other side, where you can see into Switzerland, with Verbier and the Matterhorn easy to pick out. Once we had re-fuelled it was back on with the skiers for a fantastic ski down in the spring snow, which we caught just at the right time before it got too slushy.
As we descended back through the glacier it was back to gossiping and looking back in satisfaction on what we had just ascended and skied. For me, spring skiing is about getting away from the crowds and skiing with friends, and quite often this is a group of girls – a perfect day out to ski hard and get all the latest news from the Chamonix Valley!
Legendary Aurélien Ducroz (FRA) and rookie Hazel Birnbaum (USA) won the 20 edition of the Verbier Xtreme. Reine Barkered (SWE) took second place and finished third at Overall Freeride World Tour. Congratulations!!
On Saturday, the battle for the Freeride World Tour titles took place on the mythical Bec des Rosses (3222m), all while celebrating 20 years of Verbier Xtreme. The much respected north face showed a new challenging side, being dressed in a lighter snow cover this year. But Aurélien Ducroz (FRA) and Reine Barkered (SWE) managed it pretty well and used all their experience to put down an impressive run and claim victory and 2nd place on ski category.
Aurelien Ducroz (FRA) who has already won three times on this face and who was competing on an honorary wildcard did not let his fans down. He opened the men's skiing with a spectacular line below the highest start that set the expectations of both the judges and the crowd as to the awesomeness needed for a podium. He has now set his print in the history books as the only skier to have won the Xtreme Verbier 4 times with a score of 88.50. “I'm just really pleased - a 4th victory for the 20th anniversary of the Xtreme! I have so much love for this face. I really feel good here,” Aurelien said emotionally. “I almost changed my line last minute and then with Reine we motivated each other and I went ahead with it. I'm so happy I don't know what to say...”
Just behind Aurelien with a score of 88.12 was another skier who has experience written all over him. Reine Barkered (SWE) went a little slower into the same line as Aurelien but quickly picked up the pace in this line leading to an enormous cliff that he landed perfectly in the exposed area, making it possible for him to take immediate control of the acceleration despite the very steep part of the face. Another A-run from the stomp master that he ended shooting down over the apron at the bottom.
On the women ski category, the young Hazel Birnbaum (USA), rookie on the Freeride World Tour, surprised everyone by winning Verbier Xtreme 2015. She spotted the winning line, and the way she rode it got the crowds screaming in excitement twice! First when she stomped an exposed double up top and second after another big double on the bottom. She scored 88.00 standing out as the only woman scoring in the 80es. “As my rookie year I feel like I learned a lot and I got to be inspired by a lot of incredible women that I've looked up to for so many years, so it's an incredible privilege and an honor to even be part of this event. I'm beyond ecstatic!” Hazel expressed after realizing her outstanding performance.http://www.zapiks.fr/hazel-birnbaum-winner-of-ver.html
When you think of Lapland you probably don’t think of skiing, certainly not free skiing or ski touring. I made a recent visit to Riksgransen a small ski hill in the far north of Sweden close to the Norwegian border to check out the terrain do some ski touring. Armed with my trusty Cham 97HM’s I boarded the flight to Kiruna and headed north.
The Swedish mountains are old mountains very similar in age to the NW highlands of Scotland, the peaks are spaced so there is a far greater feeling of space than you would find in the Alps. We arrived late and night and drove for a couple of hours ice covered roads in studded tires to our hotel. We woke to fresh snow but lots of wind, a short walk to the ski lift and we were soon enjoying our first turns on arctic snow. The ski area of Riksgransen is small but perfectly formed for such a small area I has great terrain, cruisy pistes on one aspect and steep interesting terrain on the other. A short hike to Nordalsfjell gives access to the face used for a regular free ride competition.
The weather improved for the next 3 days allowing us to get the skins on we skied Vassitjakka a fantastic peak with great views all the way to the sea at Narvik. We had a short day on Bjornfjellet then a stunning final day with no wind and the most perfect blue ski skiing Laktatjakka from Kopparasens.
While the mountains in Lapland may not be big by alpine standard they offer some great skiing and with the Fjord mountans round Narvik being less than an hour away this a ski destination worth another visit.
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