So much skiing and so little time to write about it. What a winter it’s been so far. The people I have been skiing with have been so open to so much adventure in such amazing and changing conditions. Chris was so stoked to ski glacial powder in -17C. Alex and I got back up Mount Lollitop for a big day out. Bobby and I were psyched to ski some of the fine couloirs in the Val d’Anniviers, untracked, 2 weeks after the last snow storm. And that’s straight off the lift! With Franco and his boys, I felt like I was back in Hawaii, riding the huge wave of Combe d’Orny on my snowboard. What amazing g-forces felt, arcing turns through deep, untracked powder, from the top of the Trient Glacier to the forest trails below Champex Lac. It was awesome watching the Hartley’s kids tear down a 45 degree Arpette couloir in the morning, then follow me, perfectly, one at a time, at the right time, down another wild couloir into the Val Ferret, with chamois and deer bouncing along the sheer cliff we hugged. And with friends, wonderful Fi, and Steve and Cherries, and Marie-Lou. So fine, so fine, you all. Thank you!!!
Winter started will a Big Bang, got hot, snowed again, dried up, snowed again then got glacial. It’s just turned mild and is forecasted to snow again. The Vermont Boyz are arriving and will certainly be missing our minus 17′Cs from last week. But with a little dump tonight, they could enjoy deep powder without too much skinning.
Here’s some photos with some stories…
Winter bloomed into Spring this week as I prepared for another five day heliski safari. Though in the past, I’ve traveled far and wide looking for adventure, this week I chose to stay close to home. We flip flopped between Switzerland, Italy and France, riding lifts, helicopters and skinning to get to mature, spring snow. We started with a traverse across the head of our very own Val du Bagnes, from the summit of the Pigne d’Arolla, down the Otemma Glacier, then skinning up through the Fenêtre de Durand. The ski down on the Italian side was a trip to the Moon- it was so wind blasted. But with a supreme descent into the belly of Val d’Isere, back to the back-side of the Mont Blanc, then down the 8km long Tré La Tête glacier to Contamines, with a savage return to Bagnes, even *my* head was spinning. I’ve tried to whittle the photos down to a manageable number, but failed miserably. I hope they demonstrate that sense of adventure we all experienced, right here in my back yard.
With the avalanche hazard down to level 2, freeride conditions in Verbier are outstanding. Every day has delivered new and exciting descents down hidden valleys and deserted towns. The snow is layered thick on chalet roofs. Rock, stumps, cliff bands and glaciers are all blanketed with a wonderfull thick coating of frosty snow. Launching off little jumps to help change ski direcetion is de rigueur right now. It’s mid winter in December!
Here are a few shots of the past week…
The first runs we did the day we arrived were already so impressive. It is quite impossible to describe. Even though I have been skiing all winter in Verbier, I was completely euphoric with my first run with these clients. How could that be after a full winter’s season under my belt? Certainly the views of the Fjords, the powder snow quality, the terrain and the feeling of the boundless area before us was part of the reason. I don’t know. But what I see and feel is the most amazing awareness with all of us here together. I was into summer/rock climbing mode back in Verbier, but look out my window from Kangaamiut to the mountains and sea and am so happy to be back again.
And that was just the first day! Yesterday, we skied the Kangaamiut Couloir for the second time in the 10 years I have been coming here. Landing at 2000 meters in a tiny slot on the edge of a cliff, we skied fine powder down to corn snow, an enchanting line, squeezed between an icy, glacial, bulge and a granite cliff, 2000 meters long!
Every area we visit seems to have its own special character. Every day is so different than the previous. Conditions are again fantastic, yet completely different than I have ever experienced. It is -10 at 2000 meters, but it is hot on the sunny slopes. This is leaving powder perfect on the north slopes.
And I have not yet described the tiny island we live on, nor the food we are eating at Regina’s house. The Muskox is delicious, the fresh Halibut in a breaded curry sauce was mouth watering and the Reindeer for tonight will certainly be scrumptious. We are getting to know all the locals, walking about town in the evening.
It’s great to be back. I can’t wait to get out for another run!
45 cm of fresh snow had fallen as we left to Engelberg to start another fantastic ski safari Monday, February 28. The forecast called for the clouds to clear more slowly in the north. So looking at the blue bird day brightening through the wind screen, we deiced to make a quick stop on the Trient plateau before leaving the valley. As it turned out, last minute changes were the order of the week, as our plans continuously changed day to day, minute by minute. Even right up to the last and third heli drop above the Loetschental when the pilot informed me that he didn’t have enough fuel to go to my planned drop. Flexibility took on a whole new meaning as I hoped out of the heli and began to lead my 4 young chamois down the heavily crevassed glaciers below the Jungfrau. Skinning, flying in helicopters, walking ridge lines, roping up through crevasse fields and skiing down remote and virgin powder fields is what this type of tour is all about. I’m looking forward to the next one already!
It’s been over a month since my last post. My annual ski trip to India has come and gone. The snow on the ground in these Alps has gone from 3-D to 2-D in lots of places. Spring skiing was de rigueur for much of February. But that has changed with fresh snow on the south side of the main alpine ridge and the light snow falling outside my window now. The forecast calls for light snow through the week. Some bright spells in the Vallais, then clear weather for the weekend.
I flew to Delhi January 28 and was skiing at 4000 meters the next day. Reports from Gulmarg stated lack of snow and lots of rocks. Well, coming from the Alps, that was all relative! I found powder on all aspects. Though the main ridge was heavily tracked, I found untouched terrain skinning North and South from the top of the lift. I teamed up with Wild Bill, helping to guide his team of Australian ski patrollers across this beautiful alpine ridge above the Kashmir valley of Srinigar.
A week later, my team of gung-ho skiers arrived and the adventure began. After a few days in Gulmarg, we skied down to Tangmarg in a blizzard, drove to Dal Lake and spent the night on a house boat. Local merchants passed through our door until the wee morning hours. The next morning before our flight to Manali, we slipped over Dal Lake, enjoying the serenity of the sights, and fought off more merchants! We landed in Kulu and drove an hour to Manali for a week of heliskiing. The blizzard of Tangmarg arrived in the form of 1.5 meters of fresh snow over 48 hours, allowing us plenty of time to enjoy Manali and all it is known for! 4 days of non-stop heliskiing left us weary legged and overwhelmed from curry other local dishes. I slept all the way back to my sleepy village of Verbier which awoke with a start three days later. Vivre la vie d’aujourd’ui! Planes trains and powder snow… Sign-up now! January 30 – February 15, 2012
We are back in Maniitsoq, Greenland again to heliski. It has so far turned out to be some of the best, classic, corn snow conditions ever. Yesterday was just so wonderful and my 4 clients seem to be quite blown away by the quality of every run. They are a group of 4 men that are acting just as childish as myself, laughing and giggling with each new run. Landing at 1500 meters, roping over a cornice, then skiing 45 degrees of deep corn, turning left after the flats into another steep couloir and riding that down to the lower flats, then over another drop to a long glacier to the heli sitting on the beach… It really is too much. I so wish all my friends and clients I skied with this past season could be here now to experience this wonderful playground.
Getting a good angle to take fine pictures has been tough. But here area few of the ones I have taken so far.
I am back from the tiny village of Kangaamiut, Greenland, just north of Maniitsoq. It was colder than I have seen it in the 9 years I have been visiting, which made for really fine skiing conditions. We had soft powder on the North aspects and nice, squishy corn on the South. The trip was unique for me in that it was all about creating a film about world champion snowboarder Xavier Delerue. Ben Pugh of Between The Eyes was here for Relentless with his excellent team of camera men, sound man, focus pullers and all. I can’t wait to see the result. We had ideal conditions, with only one down day out of seven. Have a look at my Greenland Heli Skiing Site for more info on what it’s all about.
Here are few shots of this year’s trip. They are mostly ambiance shots from Tero Repo and Guido Perrini. For more action and what huge potential this place has for wild, steep terrain, mouse over the galleries here.
That’s it! The snow around my house melted last week, the southern slopes have avalanched and melted away, leaving supreme skiing at altitude. We were hoping to get on a few fine steep descents, but the weather has not cooperated completely. The Foehn here is blowing hard up high, and the south side has seen over a meter of fresh over the past week. But what a perfect winter! Snow fell often and in abundance, then when Spring came in late March, it got real hot real fast. Perfect!
I am in Greenland for another fine adventure of heliskiing. It has been cold and wintery, providing us with some of the finest snow conditions I have seen. Ben Pugh of Between The Eyes is here with his film crew creating a film of top snowboarder Xavier De Le Rue. This movie should appear on Relentless‘s site soon. Have a look at some of the films they have made. They are very appealing. Certainly surfing a super thick wave, winter time in the Irish Sea, makes for a fine story.
At last, we have touched the first spring snow of the season. Temperatures were quite high these past few days. The snow on northern aspects is moist from 2200 meters down. There is a solid crust from 2800 meters down on which to ski supreme corn snow.
I just returned from another very memorable safari, cruising these Alps from Verbier to Andermatt in search of fine adventure. With a changing weather forecast, high temperatures and winds, the challenge was to find new and fun runs to get to Andermatt.
The first 2 days were a challenge, though a real nice run of over 2000 meters descent and 15 kilometers long brought us all the way to Wengen. Bobby had not been back since he was 14, 95 years ago ( ha! joke! sorry…) We skied a real double black diamond trail in Grindlewald the next day. I thought this idea only existed in the US of A. Extreme! The lifts in Grindelwald seemed to go across the slopes and the runs seemed to go uphill.
But Monday brought us an unexpected blue bird day, high above the Sustenpass. We used the heli to ski 2 runs in powder, the second down a spectacular 50+ degree slope. Sloughing snow rekindled memories of Alaskan steeps. I was in skier’s heaven. Bobby skied like a kid, Jane flew, Rob ripped, and Nick roared down this fine alpine descent. After another hot skin, we descended another long and scenic valley, arriving at Andermatt with the setting sun.
Andermatt and the River House Boutique Hotel was such a nice place to stay and ski for the next two days. We found powder, steep couloirs and nice spring snow. On our last day we skied all the way to Airolo, in the Ticino, thereby crossing through 3 linguistic regions in our little 5 day ski safari.