This past 20 days i haven’t skied at all but the conditions were all time and i watched the history of steep skiing unfold …it was very entertaining. The cult of self providing 3 min bad video footages and mostly bad pictures of everyone’s steep descents all over the social medias. While it was all bad quality it was showing a nice view of the steep skiing phenomena …I was baffled by the amount of good alpinists and skiers tackling 5.4 and 5.5 runs all over the mont blanc massif. I lived in chamonix for 10 years , not an alpinist, it took me 4 years before i could get on the north faces of the midi or runs on the argentiere basin north faces. I never heard of anyone skiing the north faces of the midi or the col de la verte within my first 4 years. Today with the new gear technology, every alpinists can ski and every skier is better. It takes less than a season learning skiing for an alpinist to tackle a 5.4 run which on an alpinist point of view is just a easy descent they usually run down on crampons. I saw young skiers skiing the mallory on their first season in chamonix (with a friend alpinist or guide) . So, anytime things are good (global warming helping), people line up on every run. This past 20 days was the biggest so far with every ski runs in the argentiere basin north face skied by minimum 10 people, sometime 20 people or more , the aiguille du plan north faces , pain de sucre, frendo, all the runs on the aiguille du midi skied by many. Most with huge G.S turns at mack2. Amazing. If, people were less competitive, less self centered, the medias/industry more unifying, interested and honest, the best ski movie of all time could have been made this steep season including rock star pros as well as struggling sponsored dirt bags and all the other passionate freaks. Instead, we will hear about some privileged prefabricated super hero athletes skiing whatever something in the alps or exotic location in a fabricated story with all sort of superlatives and logos claiming first decent of a 30 meters variations … I randomly stumbled on the descent of the Nant blanc by Alex Pittin, tony Lamiche and Hélias Millerioux. The nant blanc face is the most impressive, intimidating , steep and exposed face visible from the valley. The climbing is a D+ the skiing a 5.5. It was first skied by J.M Boivin in june 1989, repeated on snowboard by Marco Siffredi in june 1999. repeated again by Pierre Tardivel and Stephane Brosse in june 2009 and then by 2 of the T-crew and more (?). This mid April, Pittin (ex world cup skier) with tony Lamiche (guide, 9A rock climber , alpinist, skier) and Hélias Millerioux (guide, top alpinist, hangs out on Nupse with colin haley and ueli steck) were the first on this face, arguably the most beautiful face visible from the valley. I enjoyed the descent with Alex pittin’s father who was a little stressed and I took some photos. It was very nice. A very clean descent from first bin grand montet on sight. I’ve never been interested in skiing that face myself. I would need an alpinist for partner on that one. But you never know, 5 years from now, that face might get good from january on, until then , this face will get skied a lot more in the next month or so…
This is the argentiere basin north faces , All those approximate red lines show the ski runs, in the past 20 days , each one of those receive between 10 to 30 skiers.
this is the top of the aiguille verte, on the top left you can see 3 skiers going up. they skied down the couturier (i saw 9 skiers that day going that way). on the right of the calotte, you can see helias millerious,tony lamiche, alex pittin getting involved in the Nant blanc face.
this is Alex father watching the descent a little stressed.
Back in Chamonix , My friend from San Fransisco was at my flat for another day so i took him down the cosmique back to cham via the junction. The cosmic had been tracked and was OK but the junction was all time …what a beautiful way to come back and a memorable last day for my friend.
next day 10 of us took a heli up the petit mont blanc to ski the super classic bonatti couloir to celebrate our friend lionel hatchemi aka so-connard birthday . A classic day. so-local. next morning was hang over day.
we went with tof henry to try to shoot something nice but it wasn’t in the way we wanted.
Lofoten being talked about in the Chamonix ski scene extensively every goddamn year, i naturally want to go .The Chamonix february crowd was not inspiring so Minna and myself decided on an early arctic trip hoping to capture some magic winter light and powder with my lens. We stayed at the Lofoten ski lodge link. which is pricey for a dirt bag like myself (i almost puked in my mouth when minna talked about the price) but worth every penny. Seth Hobbit’s knowledge on the area is worth a million $ and Maren will make sure you are very comfortable. It is full board: breakfast , lunch , waffle apres-ski and dinner with local fish and every thing fresh and tasty superbly cooked by their chef. The lodge sits on the water with comfortable cabins spread around. At night the sun wind comes in. The skiing is spectacular, couloirs everywhere, hanging faces, big bowls of powders, steep stuff all around fjords. I was here to make good images so we were chasing the light more than the great classic or first or gnarly . The weather was difficult , typical lofoten changing weather at first to consistently grey later. The snow was also variable. I didn’t get “the shot” but i will surely come back for more light and powder and maybe for skiing something big, steep and gnarly. The changing weather and light make the place magical and mystical. Skiing lofoten and staying at the lodge is truly a priceless ski dream experience.
The Host: Seth, Maren and family.
Minna Riihimaki diving in the ocean outside the sauna. ((which we did every eve))
Sun wind and the lodge
ski and views.
Every morning view from the lodge.no filter.
We had to sit thru a few rain days. Drinking beers, netflix, taking the train to the beach on the sea of japan. Visiting temple. eating fresh shrimps. Eat the deadly blowfish. Rain in Hakuba mid february is not completely unusual. Yet, Can it be global warming. We burned jet fuel to fly half way around the world to find rain. I find this uncomfortably amusing.
The snow finally came in. We got a good taste of what that Japow forrest storm riding is all about. It is good indeed. Fluffy pow. space out trees. Beautiful.
next day was a pretty good japanese blue bird.
we arrived in Tokyo a day late at night after a day skiing. We stayed at those capsule hotel so typical of japan. Japanese being civil, well mannered the place is pleasant …no loud douche banging on walls, destroying things , puking all over… it is well organized which makes it a good cheap option in the center of tokyo. Tokyo was a bit overwhelming after a week in the mountains…I thought of Japan being an expensive destination, it was not. The plane tickets were 400 euros on turkish airline which happens to be a great airline. The lodging in Tokyo at the Oak Hostel Zen on the first night and at the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel were 25 euros a nights. In Hakuba we stayed at the west coast inn for 307 euros for 7 days. All those were very clean and comfortable. We bought points for lifts which ended up costing 20 euros a day. The transport is where we spent the most , to and from tokyo was 30 euros by bus and about 80 euros taking the bullet train…the food isn’t more expensive than average europe or USA. So it was a very affordable and pleasant trip. Japeneses are amazingly welcoming and sweet and very helpful. We left our stuff unattended many times at busy train stations or subways and never feared to get them stolen. Amazing.
I am currently enjoying Japan skiing. We went to hakuba on a low snow year thinking we could ski the higher peaks. However, as we rolled in so did the snow/rain. It isn’t Japow yet but it is on its way…
Chamonix being the bastard child which sprungout from a gang rape by british, french and scandinavians, it is only logical for me to go visit some of the origins. Norway. That is beside the constant social media bragging about that ski paradise somwhere far up north. Minna Riihimaki’s plan of going late may was working with my schedule so i jumped on the occasion despite being somewhat late for skiing even for the arctic. Upon our arrival we were taken by local crow Thor Falkanger deep in a melancholic forrest somewhere around moody tamok in his parents’s completely off the grid cabin. A 1965 nothern california hippy dream come true: grass roofed no electicity, none of that electronic air pollution such as wifi or tv, no running water. The water, house and sauna are heated with local wood. The water is taken from the close by river, the food can be fished or hunted around. A very comfortable , soothing and quiet situation. Skiing was not hapenning locally due to weather so We went skiing in the chamonix finish mafia’s birth land : Finland, Kilpisjarvi With skipe Oivo and Mikko Juntunen. We then Travelled back to tomok, tried to ski and almost all got taken down by an avalanche like bowling pins. skipe lost one ski , all his stuffed wached down hill . Decidely too hot. We Travelled up north to Lyngen,Lyngseidet… try to ski ended up fishing instead.
We then drove back to tomok. We Tried to ski again… We Scored some midnight sun runs which are a photographer dream come true, from 9 pm to 5 am is a constant magic light sunset sunrise moonrise moonset. Outsanding. My [#no filter] pictures look like they are photoshoped. Trip Done. it was More of a fishing/ road trip than a ski trip . Nothern norway at this season is very unusual: A forever day still life painting of an arctic jungle with jagged snowy peaks of sort . And well, truly a (potential) ski paradise . That is not a lie. I didnt see the night for 10 days, i couldnt wait for that darkness again. ….
BACK TO TAMOK
Magic mountain lodge, Lyngseidet fishing dinner and other wandering
back to Tamok. midnight sun riding #no filter
Easyjet 140 euros return ticket geneva -Reykjavik could not be ignored. I mean…Bjork… . My skiing social networks feeds are filled with Norwegian imageries and other exorbitant Svalbard dream trips. Iceland wins. This mysterious snowy volcano-island in the middle of nowhere way up north with unpronounceable words fascinates. The people seem to be very liberal not so narrow minded religious or sexists: not douchebags land. They came out of the economic crisis with pride bailing out the people and kicking out the banks: I appreciate that and happy to spend my money there. I talk to Ben Briggs who seems very enthusiastic. So much that he takes control of the entire organization. I end up in a RV with 3 funky Britts i don’t know and one crazy Czech guy. We didn’t have goals or objectives. We just heard tales of a big skiable volcano in the south west, legends of road side couloir descent to the ocean in the north and some vague descriptions about good stuff in the east. The RV is the best cheapest option we could think of for this type of trip. Iceland is a 1400 Km circle we can drive around and stop when we please. The best idea really: Iceland has natural wonders and curiosity at every turn of the road: water falls, hot rivers, fartsmoke machines, hot tubs and roadside ski lines. The highest mountains is a volcano in the south west , we were shut down by poor snow coverage and cold wind. After a long road and a blizzard we stick around the northern troll peninsula a few days hoping for a window to ski which never came. We managed a few descents but nothing great. The best was on our way back to Reyk thru the east where we found a pyramidal mountain filled with powdery couloirs. The trip was officially a ski trip but really ended up being a nice sometime hectic drive around a beautiful country with fun new friends, joking/goofing around, playing poker wilst discovering an enchanting island filled with geological oddities, dreamy landscapes, inter winded elements water fire ice earth all in one place. soothing energy. It felt like being in a pre-holocene time travel …I surely want to go back, the skiing looks promising there, nothing to bragg about just simple good fun skiing, ski in ski out from the RV in an very breathless landscape all around the island. People told me iceland was expensive however it wasn’t anymore expensive than chamonix for restaurants/bars or any supermarket in france, the rv was 2000 euro for 10 days rented at geyser rental at the airport. And well, i was happy to give my money given their political stance. The people are awesome and very helpful very happy to see you sometime with a zest of burly humorous cynicism . ….
Waking up in the south west desert at the foot of the highest volcano we want to ski with the unspeakable name: Hvannadalshnúkur
In the troll peninsula where we heard of roadside skiing to ocean and other splendid ski descent more inland. Unfortunately the snow coverage wasn’t optimum and we were there during a winter storm. It made it hard to move around with the RV. we still scored what we could. We didn’t have time to stick around and wait for weather to clear but I’m sure the skiing got pretty good there…
there isn’t a bar or clubs in every town in iceland, but there are town outdoor swimming pool and tubs, naturally heated which makes it easier to roll around in a RV. There are also countless natural tubs and hot rivers…
it is a sweet delicacy to dive neck deep in fluffy snow after such a dark and heavy period where the French were hit at the very heart of their laic culture of blasphemy and irreverence towards the rich-powerful sacred and not , they were hit deep in the altar giving us corrosive and offensive humour targeting the absurdities of our world. The leftists French laic will remain impertinent and insolent against power , tyranny and intolerance sacred or not …hopefully.
One classic grand montet storm day followed by one classic la palud blue bird day were perfect to forget this absurd world. Powder all the way.
A shameless storm day At Grand Montet
Irreverent face shots
An Offensive day in la Palud, Italy
9am hellbroner on a mission with Luca Pandolfi , strong wind and cold at 3500M. I am delighted when i see Francois Thevenet and Arthus on their first beer at the bar up top. It is easy for me to call it off and start chillin’ . That is until we see Tof Henri, Seth Morrison and Nate Wallace annihilating the entreve face. Every body/Luca freaks out and in less than 5 mins all my cozy plans of hanging out at the bar by the fire place with cigs the cat and beers vanished. I am now braving the minus 50c (-1) wind and climbing M6 (M0) to get to that face. It is all great, i am dreaming of those big big turns in perfect champagne powder all the way… Well, those top gun riders made it look like perfect champagne snow , the reality was more variable than that and with sharks. SO those big 5 flawless turns turned into 15 maybe…im floating 98 underfoot these days. that is. Good fun. The rest of the descent to the mid station was on refrozen stuff mostly which made the all day seems/feel big…
I was invited to follow Seth Morrison, Tim petrick, Heather Paul Featherman, Tom Day, Matty Moo herriger , Mike hattrup on a warren miller film segment shoot here around cham. The guide was Miles smart and the sherpa oli herren. The weather forecast was the typical spring unpredictable crap but Miles was able to make the best out of that, taking the crew to
where we were able to skin up to the refuge des vignettes ski a bunch of cool stuff. Next days heli ski the local classic couloirs with local young gun Gille Sierro. Back to cham on a very hot spring high pressure we went with helis back to swiss land ski some other classics . I managed to forget my ski boots on one of those epic heli days, ah , i will put it on my tiredness after working round the clock between that shoot and my nightshift desk job . It was all good times and pretty fun for me( ordinary ski bum) , to hang with people who have been shakers and movers in the ski world for quite sometimes now… We met with 1 swiss legend André Anzévui , the first to ski the north face of cervin among other beautiful swiss summit…I love flying with choppers, i won’t deny that. I should get my pilot license. 70 000$ -anyone?