Category Archives: Freeride

Discovery New and Old

Days and days of skiing, another line, another resort, another peak, and another valley. The challenge for me changes, with old clients down new wild lines I’ve never skied, and with wonderful new clients, down old lines I know and love.

After a superb 6 day trip into the Val d’Aoste, heliskiing in the Valgrisenche, then in the Freeride Paradise of the Monterosa area, I met 4 tough Englishmen who followed me up a peak in a storm. It should have been an easy skin, their first, but turned out to be so wild, as a fresh sou’wester blew in deep, fresh snow. They’d never done a kick turn, but survived the odysse with smiles, floating down deep powder on the calm, lee side. Then day two, after a suggestion to get high quickly with a heli, we dropped into one of my favourite couloirs above Verbier, coated with 45cm of excellent sponge. The joy I have, of taking such wonderful people to places they’ve never dreamed of, is something tough to describe. The challenge I have, to take a small group of friends into terrain they’ve never seen, is immensely rewarding, as I see them struggle at first, with the first turns of a narrow 45 degree couloir, then watch and see them adapt to their new environment, allowing gravity to do its thang, draw their skis in wide open arcs, effortlessly riding down the mountain, with huge grins of wonder on their faces. So fun!

After 20 plus years together, Rob and Jane again pushed me to find lines I’d never done before.  Our ski safari last week took us back into the Monterosa Ski area, between Alagna and Gressoney. We climbed through little cols and rode into big valleys. New views, so fresh for our eyes, stopped us in wonder as we gazed around us at the magical valley of Otro. We took the advice of local alpine guide Marco Zaninetti to find a high line in, skiing fresh powder down this seemingly endless valley. The day before, rappelling into the Malfatta, I teamed up with local guide Fabio, me down below, he above, helping our clients wiggle and rappel into a new couloir, into a new valley. So fun, all this discovery, with old friends and new.

From April 18, I’ll host another 5 day ski adventure and am looking for a few more to join us. The location will depend on conditions and people’s desires. The price will be around 1’080.00 including all guide fees, accommodation and lifts. The Haute Route is a bit crowded this time of year, though leaving out of sync from Chamonix could still make this a fun trip. The Bernese/Jungfrau area could be super nice, as could a romp through the Italian Grand Paradiso, drinking cappuccinos and eating fine Italian cuisine. So many options. Please contact me here to join in the fun adventure.

Powder in Verbier’s Hidden Forest

It’s a funny season this. A slow start when I think, that in good years, I could have skied deep powder for 2 months by now. But funny indeed when I think about all the wonderful skiing we have done whilst the media writes we have no snow. Verbier is at 90% average snowfall at this point in the season. Everything is relative. So while we are used to deep powder runs of over 1500 meters on a daily basis, now we “only” get 1000. Bummer! 😉

average snow hight

90% of normal snow hight today in Verbier

We have not been confronted with a massive high pressure system this early winter. Low pressure systems have swept over us on a regular basis. Conditions change rapidly as temperatures fluctuate wildly, winds blow 20cm snowfalls into 50cm cavities in the couloirs, making for exciting zone and scene choices each morning. Sometimes the weather forecast helps, but mostly I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants and point my browser to current conditions rather than forecasted ones.

If you’re following local politics, you may have heard about the new laws prohibiting professional ski instructors to take their clients into some of the Verbier classics like the Attelas couloirs, the lovely NW face of Mt.Gele and Back Side. Due to their lack of training in avalanche and glaciated terrain, they are restricted to slopes below 29 degrees when the forecasted risk level is at 3 (most of the winter when powder is everywhere) and any glaciers (our Heliskiing terrain). In addition to being a professional, Swiss trained mountain guide, I’m also a certified Swiss ski instructor and love to help you improve your technique. Since I wear both hats, I can take you into these classics, plus lots more! And using years of proven techniques, I help you appreciate the joys of movement over these creamy hills, couloirs and faces in and around Verbier.

Here’re a few shots of the past few days showing those rapidly changing conditions. Have a fine day outside!

Finding the Christmas goods

It’s been a challenge, finding soft snow when none exists at lower elevations! That lovely base which grew above 2200 meters in November on the main alpine ridge, extending from the St.Bernard pass, through to the Simplon and on east, into the Graubunden, saved those of us willing to travel to ride. Duncan and his son Max have been keen to find that good snow. We skinned to the monastery at the St.Bernard pass, rode boot top powder, then visited the chapel and treasury to look at 1000 year old bibles and trinkets. We helied to 4000 meters to ride creamy snow down to 2200 meters and endured 200 meters of breakable crust from the rain event of 10 days ago. Courmeyeur offered excellent off piste runs to the funkiest little restaurant serving super savoury food to worn out snowboarders. Our split boards took us up to untracked powder, corn and crust. Cervinia offered the best conditions around with a full-on, lift accessed, winter base. And the high off piste around Verbier gave us a taste of the powder still to come this winter.

But that’s changing now, as I look out my window to the 20cm of fresh snow, and still falling. It’s cold! -13 and windy at the Col des Gentiannes. The forecast calls for snow all day today and tomorrow with total accumulations up to 40cm. That would be a fresh start indeed. Can’t wait to get the new Coombacks and Kingpins into the fresh stuff.

Wishing you all a fine and cosy holiday season!

Autumn Rock Climbs

After a cool and wet summer, we have been experiencing a wonderfully warm and dry autumn. Temperatures have been very mild, making for fabulous rock climbing on warm rock. One still needs to carefully choose the aspect since climbing in the shade means cool fingers and dramatically lower temperatures. Add to that, a wee bit of air movement, and one wants that light puffy jacket.

You’d think that all these wonderful colours and low light would inspire me to take a half decent camera. But I have settled for the iPhone and a touch of Lightroom filters to bring out what I saw on these climbs. Whether sharing new experiences with clients, friends, or family, in the mountains or on the water, fine autumn weather is magic. Don’t you think?