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.
the refuge des grand mulets is one of my favorite refuge. Sitting on a rock at 3000 meters in an ocean of chaos. It is on the original itinerary of Mont blanc summit and now is used mostly by skiers in spring. I may do a trip there this year. most likely.
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.
Not finding what i need in Cham i escaped once again to middle earth, the center of the world: La Grave. My first time there. La Grave feels isolated, a small french village surrounded by gigantic jagged peaks. The world capital of soul-skiing. I surfed Joe Vallone ‘s couch. Joe Vallone is pretty much a local. His flat is an ode to skiing with past memorabilia , hundreds stories. I am a thousands light years from holly-cham, back to the source maybe. Finding skiing. Him and Ptor Spricenieks take me on a stroll without using the postcard lift to a corner of their playground along the flank of the Tabuchet. In a couloir where no one ever goes. A lost couloir . A possible first descent? How could that be? It has everything of a classic. We skied it leisurely with a sunset light. Apres ski at the skier lodge K2 bar, a Place filled with ski history. This was a classic ski day, reminiscing those days i had in the eastern sierra california , reminding me why i am a skier.
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