Author Archives: Hans Solmssen

3 Weeks of Greenlandic Polar Powder

We have just finished our second week of heliskiing in Kangaamiut, Greenland. Conditions are so fine. Over 3 meters of snow is covering these glaciers, giving rise to new and outstanding first descents. The weather has been just right, with cold fresh snow and 5 out of 7 days blue bird last week and 5 out of 6 this week. Our clients who have made their way to our little operation on Kangaamiut, have found life in Kangaamiut super rewarding, spending precious time with locals to really feel like they’ve been in Greenland. The skiing in the Fjords surrounding Kangaamiut is certainly some of the best in the world, from long cruisers to steep faces and couloirs splitting the granite spires surrounding us. Here are a few quick shots of the past few days, through a super slow and sporadic internet connection.

Fat Verbier

With the 30cm that fell last week, and another 20cm this week, it now truly feels like winter in these Alps. I’ve waited to post more photos and stories since my last edit because of the polemic surrounding it. Though many of us were able to find great skiing on safe slopes, others were not so fortunate. But I do believe it’s important to continue showing how much great skiing can be done in deep snow on safe slopes. To immediately criticise those who have been in an avalanche, shows not only a complete lack of respect, but utter ignorance by those people judging a situation they know absolutely nothing about. As the great Paulo Coelho wrote:


Though the “tragic” accidents that happen daily on our Swiss roads are not even mentioned in my circles of attention, our “professional” media sources take great steps in their eager work to sell a few more “stories”.

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Stay safe and enjoy these great outdoors.

Here are few photos from a fine day in the hills back on January 12…

Snowboarding Steep ‘n Deep in Verbier

Wow! At the bottom of that first steep and deep pitch, I immediately texted Gilles, “OMG!” He was just behind me, savoring an expresso with his client, at the top, just before dropping in. Only in the Alps! We do aim to please, and pleasure it was. Franco had a grin from ear to ear as we carved our way through half a meter of light, cold smoke, toe to toe-side, ear to ear. Oh wow! The snow this morning was so light, the northerly system had arrived with no wind, gently placing many centimeters of fresh snow above 3000 meters. Lower down, that blanket of fresh snow had insulated the warm snow of yesterday, preserving that porridge for those low riders, seeking powder in the trees. But it cleared way faster than predicted, and by the time Franco had found a way back into his house, it was indeed blue bird. Timing, even if it means rolling up to the lift at 11:00AM, is what’s it’s all about, n’est-ce pas?

The forecast is threatening us with hot air from tomorrow, 0° @ 3000. Yikes! Oh well, one never knows what that will heat will create. Maybe a solid bridge over all these facets we’re dancing over right now. There sure were lots of spontaneous slides on NW to E faces between 2300 and 2800. Funky indeed! Have a blast whatever and wherever you are.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

I wish you a cozy Merry Christmas, happy and content within you, surrounded by friends and family, whether they are close or afar, and lots of joy in the coming new year.

From our avalanche awareness course, to these past few days on split boards, the beautiful, sunny skies have given us ideal conditions for moving about in these mountains. The snow cover is thin, low tide indeed! But with expectations low, the reality of linking turns for 700 meters of vertical decent in boot top powder is pure joy, shared with happy free riders.

After half a day of lecture on the evolution and metamorphism of snow on the ground, we moved outside to skin over varied terrain and talk about route choices up and down, slope aspect, altitude, terrain, and snow pit analysis. My 6 students were so keen to absorb everything we talked about, creating a desire in me to add more and more stuff to the curriculum. Thanks to James for this link to an interesting article on what it means to be an avalanche expert. As my instructor Werner Munter once said, “Beware avalanche expert, the avalanche doesn’t know you are an expert.”

Most recently, I have been out riding with Duncan and his son on a snowboard. What a joy that has been! Thanks to K2 and their new Quicker system on the Ultra Split snowboard, I have been enjoying my passion for surfing at a level I couldn’t achieve before. The whole set up must be lighter than any other split out there today. (My client is on the Jones Carbon, which is renowned for being light, and it’s heavier than my K2.) This weight issue has been big deal for me, wondering if I would take my regular board or split. And the shape of this new board makes it by far the most forgiving and pleasant board to ride yet. It’s so quick and easy to go from ride to skin mode. I’m even breaking it apart for the traverse along the Cleuson lake to skate on the two sections!

We are in an intense episode of high winds from the south, the Foehn. If it does stop, we may see a few centimeters of snow. My finger are crossed! It will be dicey out there if it does snow substantially. The facetted snow we are skiing on now, will not offer much support for the weight of the new snow. Let’s hope for a big dump which will create spontaneous avalanches on all aspects before we can get there to trigger them ourselves.