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…