Category Archives: Off Piste Skiing

Greenland Heliskiing and Spring Update

What a winter! There was so much to do I needed 36 hours in the 24 of each day. Hiring some of my favorite guides to look after the clients I couldn’t ski with did add some of those hours. But it still felt non-stop. We were lucky too this winter, with the bulk of the Alpine snow falling in this corner of Switzerland. Mid February showed us with 138% of norm snow depth.

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This has meant a lack of updates from me. By then, my knee was strong enough to start guiding with confidence. There were so many fun trips in my backyard and further afield around the Valais and to Italy and France. One of my favorite powder shots was in late February, Nellie on her second run from the heli, super exhausted already…

Heliskiing Verbier 20176

Heliskiing Verbier 2016

Then Greenland again! What a pleasure it is to stay in the tiny village of Kangaamiut, our base for heliskiing on the west coast of Greenland. There was less snow than I’ve seen, yet the skiing was as good as ever. A few more days of bluebird weather would have been nice. But the glaciers were so well covered, it allowed us to again ski lines never skied before. We will be in Greenland again from April 17, 2017 to May 7, 2017. Come join us for the best heliskiing in the world.

Summer is almost here, and I’ll be traipsing around looking for fun rock to climb and waters to sail. Please drop me line to join in any adventure.

Fiona rock climbing above the Rhone

Fiona, rock climbing above the Rhone Valley- June 7,2016

Early season ski touring and lift serviced freeriding

Two weeks after our first snowfall, the skiing is still supreme. Conditions are rapidly changing though. The 50-70cm of snow at 2500 has squashed to 30-60, and is powdery only on the north aspects. Some of the wind blown couloirs are even showing fine spring snow. At 2000 meters, it’s been around +3. This has lead to a lot of melting on south aspects. The forecast is calling for fine weather for another 6 days, then some models show some snow… The opening of TeleVerbier last Friday offered super fun, lift serviced, freeriding. There was just enough snow on the ground to ski the front face of Attelas to Verbier, and conditions were not far from as-good-as-it-gets. Here are a few photos from the past few days. Hope it’s getting snowy now too, in your neck of the woods!

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.