Winter 2005, my first year in Chamonix, a complete rookie in anything alpinism-glacier. A classic February storm day lapping the top grand montet staying within the resort. On the last bin to the top, 10 pax max, i see that tall agitated guy wearing a back pack and a harness , talking to the lifty excited about a weather window and how he would be first track down the pas de chèvre . All i know about pas de chèvre is i can see it from my balcony , it looks sick and somehow finishes in Chamonix. I waited and watched him disappear into a sun-setting with fluffy snow flying around. I followed his track to realize he wasn’t going into my balcony view. I felt stupid and worry . i kept following the track until i could see what i was about to ski . The rectiligne. Jeezing in my pants. Spectacular run all the way to where i met with Luca at the mottet hike . He immediately asked me if i’am a mogul skier because i followed his track . I admitted it is my first time and i have no clue of where i’am . He realized i didn’t have a back pack just free riding , he laughed . A friendship was born.
This is pre internet and smart phone. At that time for low income mountain plébéiens like me and Luca, to progress anywhere in Chamonix, without the red lines on runs all over the internet-go pro and a 1000 post per days , required a sense of adventure , a fair bit of stupidity which i prefer to call ” innocence ” and a huge amount of faith. So that day we both realized we’d be a match . I love his other motto “chi va piano, va sano e va lontano” which is very frown upon within the ski -alpinist-royals and elite scene . He sure was taking this to some annoying extreme at times . But this allowed us in years that follow to have many days bivying in the mountains to achieve climbing or riding goals. This is what our companionship was built on. Laugh-tranquillo-good times . The mountains are not an olympic stadium. The leisure class .
We both acquired a lot of experiences playing in the chamonix valley/italian mini golf riding zones and climbing . The climbing was by far the most comical but where I gathered the most knowledge. We were both 5c max so our days spent on aiguille de L’M north face , stuck in a lighting storm on the moine integral or climbing the frendo are some of my fondest memories.
In 2007 I had enough confidence-knowledge and along with other friends we started to tackle the bigger chamonix/alps extreme -steep skiing classic test pieces. Many of the north-east faces of the argentiere basin often sleeping at the top of the grand montet station he had the keys for , drinking wine , eating good food and having an amazing time . The couloir du diable. the yager. mont blanc west face . Monviso coolidge, of course still keeping it stupid/epic/faithfull with regularly storm riding the Marbree, cosmique , the eugster and anything in between. This period until 2013 is the most epic unreal intense skiing experience i’ve had . I cherish it .
Meanwhile we also lost some of our ski partners and/or influencers: Felix Hentz , Arne Backstrom, Remy Lecluse, Kip Garre .
In 2012 I invested into bigger camera equipment and Luca started to be seriously sponsored . I very fast was getting attention from brands and magazines and in 2013 I was booked on an heli trip to canada for 2 weeks and then in Haines Alaska where i would be the house photographer for a month , taking industry standards photo of pros and possibly work along sherpa cinema whilst they were finishing their movies “into the mind” shooting in Haines . This was a huge step up. Unfortunately , a cornice broke in Haines after 5 days and took all those projects with it. I lost a friend in the process . And this is where i started to loose my faith.
The years that followed , Luca’s professional snowboard career was launching, he skied Layla peak in Pakistan, big mountains in Peru. The shangri-la in Nepal, some first descents in the alps. I was trying to recover among a cycle of tragic accidents which was taking our friends/ski partners one by one sometime 2 by 2 each year for the next 5 years . I also went thru a couple of close call myself, getting beat up one too many times . The result is I lost my faith entirely but most importantly the trust in myself , in my decision’s and others’s . Including Luca.
Since, we spent those years after a bit frustrated. He kept on calling me for every mission he had or every powder days to go out with him , telling me how good it is and how fun it would be. He never understood how loosing faith and trust (in me and other) could block me from skiing anything fun.
Luca was also a big believer , he believed in fate . Everything is written on stone somewhere in the universe . The day we die is written . This is very symbolic that he died during covid restricting all the freedom he based his lifestyle on. The climate crisis is also making us guilty for any travelling, the series of mediocre winters and of course aging is limiting that freedom too. So. Evidently. If there is one guy who is now one of those free choucas up in the high mountains it is him. I just hope he is a female . Harassed by all those male. Give him some pizza .
For a guy like Luca Pandolfi who started snowboarding at 18 without any alpinist/snowboard royal/elite lineage guiding him , no internet red line , working night shift at the tunnel, to get to the very top professionally, riding the Shangri-la in Nepal with the biggest snowboard legend Jeremy Jones is so impressive . His resume of achievement and fun is epic. No matter how corporate he got , he was still the jester, never bending to the corporate elitism and conservatism. His video riding skyway got 100K at his death. He is happy 😉
Sahara sand storm
Anecdotally, residents in areas of frequent foehn winds have reported experiencing a variety of illnesses ranging from migraines to psychosis. The first clinical review of these effects was published by the Austrian physician Anton Czermak in the 19th century. A study by the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München found that suicide and accidents increased by 10 percent during foehn winds in Central Europe
Or how Michael “bird” Shaffer, JT Holmes and Valentin Delluc are showing skiers/snowboarders a new style of getting out of runs without dicking around with ropes or sidestepping shit snow.
Black crows ski have been hosting this festival for many years now. It used to be an intimate home made 3 days bacchanal called the black week end with sweet DJs and crowd. This is now a full blown (mostly) electronic music festival with cutting edge sound designers and huge crowd. As usual, my procrastinating punished me, i didn’t get that “black bracelet” on time allowing drinks and entry to all events for cheaper…i had to choose which and what without costing my arms and legs. Luckily, my wish was on heavy , dark industrial techno berliner Berghain resident Marcel Dettman, playing 3 times with 2 free events. It is easy to find good house music or dance music in any event but techno is far harder. Marcel dettman is a sure thing. Under the same MDR/Ostgut-Ton label, answer code request was playing as well. the cherry on the cake. (on the techno ostgut-ton label, ben Klock was here as well but i missed him)
For me the festival started at the aiguille du midi. Which happened to be my first time up there this season. Yes, kinda unreal but a mix of bad season leading to work a lot and my bad attitude had this happen …what a treat to be partying up there…
The most defining moment was at the refuge de lognan , me and Nate at a table when answer code request (Patrick Gräser) started with playing that song. The scenic, clouds, the song . This is where i fell in love. What followed was pretty amazing . Precise bass in an outstanding setting in the privacy of a mountain refuge…priceless.
the good stuff of 2016
I bought 3 music albums.
Le trio Joubran-as fâr and Majâz. Amazing music from palestine!
radiohead a moon shaped pool.
ben milstein-untitled EP : sweet intricate electro
I bought one ski movie: Sam favret : backyard: sweet film showing the chamonix backyard and sam’s crew. Amazing imagery and editing.
Manley is still my favorite .
and also: la liste where jeremy heitz show us how to ski steep today.
2016 started at the infamous berghain
All kind of Chamonix happened.
The Alps under high pressure, we can’t breath in Chamonix. Skiing can still be fun , sometime finding pockets of ancestral cold powder, some fun days out here and there with good company…
At the top of a powder face , binding broke. Luckily the snowboarder Davide Capozzi comes to the rescue with a spare toe binding in his pocket and a screwdriver . pretty unusual-random. saved the day.
It is currently very dry in chamonix and the Alps in general. Although the high mountains are skiable, anything under 2500M is grass. It is of course not necessarily due to the global warming trend but if you add it to the arctic being 20c warmer than it should be.Over 61 millions americans voted trump and believe global warming is a chinese hoax-we should keep drilling everywhere-keep using as much fossil fuel as possible and fuck the research for better energy sources. This is worrisome . Meanwhile in chamonix , we breath the most polluted air in France, we have no snow in december. Oh well!
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.