Monthly Archives: September 2009

Ski-o-licious 2010 – Dynastar

So Frippe and I went up the Midi yesterday to put together the little video you see above. We were thinking, OK it’s a ski vid so there’s gotta be snow in the background, right? That, and the forecast for a beautiful autumn day was all I needed to pull me away from the computer to go hang out in the sun at the top of the Midi and strut around like a hotshot film producer. “Can everyone on the deck please stay quiet for three minutes while we do this take? Thank you and roll ‘em!”

Anyway, on the way up, we’re checking out climbing routes, as you do, and what do we see but fresh tracks down the Mallory! Ski tracks!! In September!!! I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the season as much as anyone, but whomever made those must have a permanent address on Planet Jones. Respect.

So we go up and do our thing – man, what a gorgeous day: climbers everywhere, paragliders launching from Mont Blanc, Japanese tourists by the truckloads – and on the way down we run into a guy with a pair of prototype skis in his hand and a huuuuuuge grin on his face. Turns out Tom designs the skis himself with recycled wood cores and a hemp top sheet and he’s pressing them here in Chamonix. Right on, Tom. More on his project in an upcoming post.

Anyway, there I was this whole time thinking I’m the only guy in town who’s got the jones, and feeling like there’s no real rush getting my 2010 ski guide up (Snell doesn’t even get their skis in the store until October), when in fact it’s as ubiquitous as the changing colors of the leaves.

So here it comes. A different brand every few days for the next several weeks (except for next week when I’ll be getting in one last blast of warm weather bolt clipping). And of course, I’ll also be throwing out a video teaser every so often ‘cause you all know how much I love the ski porn.

Autumn’s here, nights are getting colder, colors are changing. Breathe deep and smell the stoke.

Dynastar 2009/10

6ht Sense Huge, Big Dump, Pro XXL, Pro Rider

6th Sense Huge - Big Dump - Pro XXL - Pro Rider

Skis2010_Dynastar

Take one look at the Big Dump – a big, stiff ski for guys and gals with tree stumps for legs – and you’ll realize Dynastar’s Legend Series is all about charging hard. The Pro XXL and Pro Rider don’t seem to have changed much since last season when the crew in CHX  skied them and loved them: the XXL for its  all-mountain versatility and the Pro Rider for its performance as a touring and steeps ski for some, and as an all-mountain enduro for a whole lot of others.

I’m also hearing about another big ski called the 6th Sense Huge that, with the big twins, looks a lot more versatile. Frippe’s telling me it’s included in the Freestyle Series for a good reason and if you’re into spinning off big cliffs then the 6th Sense Huge is a ski you’re probably gonna want to look into.

To see Dynastar’s full line check out www.dynastar.com.

Tele Teaser Tuesday – Flakes

I know I’ve been promising and it’s finally here. A long-awaited tele teaser to serve as a reminder that you can’t be slacking this autumn or your skinny thighs are gonna pay in November when it comes time to drop knee. Flakes is the latest from a crew called Powderwhore and with a name like that you know this vid’s going to be good. Good as in how about that amazing line at 2:00.

So here’s what the boys say about the new flick:

So while we were on the road showing “The Pact” we thought we should choose a title before we even start filming and make a movie that has a recurring theme throughout. We decided we liked “Flakes” and thought we could play up the flakiness of these people we ski with, who devote their lives to telemark skiing. We also thought if we fail at showing the flakiness we can always just say we called it flakes because of snow flakes.

When the snow started to fall last winter we reverted back to the days of old where all we want to do is ski. So we didn’t end up capturing too much flakey behavior. What we did manage to capture was by far the most beautiful footage we’ve ever shot. What we thought was going to be a light hearted movie turned into a sort of art flick. Don’t get me wrong the whole movie isn’t that way at all but a few segments are very different. We still have the PW humor that will always make it in our movies.

Go the Powderwhores! And as for me, I’m heading out for a few hundred lunges before dinner. Two months (hopefully) and counting…

www.powderwhore.com

Surfer Poll Awards

Photo of the Year nominee Grant Ellis

Photo of the Year nominee Grant Ellis

OK, if you stare at this photo long enough you might begin to realize that it’s not anywhere near Chamonix and has nothing to do with skiing or climbing and what the heck is it doing on the Insider? Well, gentle reader, as I’ve said before the Insider is by, about and for the Chamonix Massif and as we head into a long snowy winter I thought I’d throw in one last blast of summer. For the Massif, doncha know. And with the recent announcement of the winners of Surfer magazine’s annual awards it seemed like a good opportunity to get a few waves on these pages. Hey, we can always dream, can’t we?

Surfer Poll Awards 2009 winners are:

Surprise Men's Winner Kelly Slater

Surprise Men's Winner Kelly Slater

Wow, now there’s a surprise. Let’s see, the guy just scored his 9th world title and he’s just been voted Greatest Surfer of All Time by his peers in Surfer’s Big Issue. Does anyone else even come close?

Women's Winner Stephanie Gilmore

Women's Winner Stephanie Gilmore

Australian and two-time world champion. That’s about all I know. Go Steph.

Best Film Still Filthy

53 cameramen, two years of filming and the best surf spots on every continent. When Billabong makes a surf film they do it right.

Other nominees:

• One Track Mind
• The Present
• BS!
• 5’5” x 19 1/4” Redux

Best Documentary Waveriders

The story of surfing in Ireland and the Irish big wave scene.

• One Track Mind
• Fly in the Champagne
• Echo Beach
• Musica Surfica

Best Cinematography The Present

• One Track Mind
• There’s No I In Go Ry
• Lost Prophets

Best Male Performance Dusty Payne  BS!

• Dane Reynolds (The Present)
• Nathan Fletcher (Lavese Las Manos)
• Andy Irons (Still Filthy)
• Wade Goodall (Still Filthy)
• Ry Craike (There’s No I In Go Ry)

Best Female Performance Chelsea Hedges  The Present
• Sofia Mulanovich (The Present)
• Kassia Meador (Dear and Yonder)
• Belinda Baggs (Dear and Yonder)
• Rochelle Ballard (Surf Into Yoga)

Best Barrel Cory Lopez  5’5” x 19 1/4” Redux
• Dan Malloy (The Present)
• Danny Fuller (Lavese Las Manos)
• Todd Morcom (Storm Surf)
• Kelly Slater (Days of the Strange)

Best Maneuver Taj Burrow, frontside air  Still Filthy

• Wade Goodall, 360 air (Still Filthy)
• Dusty Payne, Kuston Air Stike air (BS!)
• Mitch Coleborn, double-grab flip (BS!)
• Ry Craike, one-handed rodeo (There’s No I In Go Ry)

Worst Wipeout Ken “Skin Dog” Collins  BS!
• “Chris” (Surfing 50 States)
• Maya Gabeira (Dear and Yonder)

• Unknown (Destination Unknown)

• Dan Malloy (The Present)

Coors Heavy Water Nathan Fletcher  Lavese Las Manos
• Richard Fitzgerald, Gabe Davies, Alstair Mennie, Duncan Scott (Waveriders)
• Dylan Longbottom (Still Filthy)

• Todd Morcom (Storm Surf)

Breakthrough Filmmaker Tiffany Morgan-Campbell  Dear and Yonder

Photo of the Year: Secrets by Todd Glaser

Photo of the Year: Secrets by Todd Glaser

• “Sand Trap” by Clark Little
• “Sea Smoke” by Nick LaVecchia
• “Multitasking” by Brian Conley
• “Perfection” by Trent Mitchell

[Vimeo http://vimeo.com/5223766%5D

Web Clip Jordy Flip

• Dance Off
• Yazzy Arctic Surf Documentary
• Hitler Boat Trip
• Mad Clips
• Shipstern’s
• Jamie O’Brien

Sponsor Me Breakthrough Performer Brett Simpson

Ski Pass 09/10 Pt. 2 – The Best of the Rest

Val di Fassa, a mere drop in the Dolomiti Superski bucket

Val di Fassa, a mere drop in the Dolomiti Superski bucket

Man, as long as I’ve been blogging on WordPress you’d think I’d have a vague idea of how it works by now. Think again. After my initial three hour attempt at getting the below info attached to the bottom of the CHX Season Pass post I’ve given up and started with a new one.

Anyway, here’s the rest of it. Being a true Chamonerd it would take a lot to pull me away from these mountains but if something like a nuclear attack hit us and melted all the snow or all the Swedish girls left town or something equally catastrophic happened then these are a few of the places I’d consider going. For instance, check out the crazy deal on Dolomiti Superski – 460 lifts for €630! And when I saw that Ski Canada magazine awarded Best Powder, Best Trees and Best Steeps to Red Mountain I have to admit that it made me wonder, albeit for the briefest of moments, what life might be like outside the bubble.

SkiPassGryBlu

LaGrave

LaGrave

Arlberg / St Anton

Arlberg / St Anton

Verbier / 4 Vallées / Mont-Fort

Verbier / 4 Vallées / Mont-Fort

Courmayeur / Funivie Monte Bianco

Courmayeur / Funivie Monte Bianco

Granite & Red Mountain

Granite & Red Mountain

Red Mountain's Grey Basin

Red Mountain's Grey Basin

Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole

Kicking Horse

Kicking Horse

Whistler Blackcomb

Whistler Blackcomb

The Bird

The Bird

Snowbird Mineral Basin

Snowbird Mineral Basin

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Chamonix Season Pass 09/10

Mont Blanc Unlimited / Chamonix Le Pass

Mont Blanc Unlimited / Chamonix Le Pass

SkiPassCHX
Compagnie du Mont Blanc have announced lift pass prices for the 2010 season. You’ll notice I made a bit of a table to help make sense of the different offerings. I know, I know … time for me to get a life.

Unsurprisingly there’s been a price increase over last year and while there’s dissension among the ranks – especially from local retailers who are concerned that skier visits will drop this season as a result of the financial meltdown – things aren’t as bad as they would have been thanks to the Mairie who evidently stepped in to prevent a whopping 26% increase over last year’s prices. The originally-planned increase would have made a lift ticket in Chamonix the most expensive in France.

In any case, the price issue is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, none of us wants to pay more for a season pass but on the other, higher lift ticket prices will mean fewer people to battle in Chamonix’s notorious, powder day free-for-all that makes most MMA cage fights look tame in comparison. So while it may cost you a few extra euros we can all thank the CMB for filtering out all but the most hardcore CHX junkies.

Early adapters can take advantage of a 35-40% discount by buying your pass before November 30, a preseason discount that’s both more substantial and available much later than many other ski areas (see Ski Pass 09/10 Pt. 2 – The Best of the Rest). And with the dollar at 1.48 against the euro we can forget about having to endure interminable lift rides with Americans talking smack about how hard they rip back in Tahoe. Thank the Lawd.

Good news on the halfpipe front is that when asked to build a pipe in the valley (which would both increase lift ticket sales and perhaps more importantly, support our community’s future generation of X-Games and Olympic hopefuls), the CMB responded by suggesting the €60,000 needed to build and maintain the pipe should be raised with private funding.

And the answer to your next question is … Sales for Compagnie du Mont Blanc in 2008 were €55.692 million.

Anyway, back to the lift ticket thang. For those unfamiliar with the valley and what the different passes mean, check out Chamonix Snow Report’s excellent pass value analysis based on different skier types.

For ski holidays to Chamonix and other ski holidays in France check out Inghams.

The Pleasure of the Peigne

Aiguille du Peigne - west face

Aiguille du Peigne - west face

28 July 2009 – Mont Blanc Massif

OK, I’ll start right here by saying there are a coupla people in the world who are better climbers than me. That’s right, I’m no badass. Been having the best summer of my life, in fact, ticking off super-fun routes from  LaRoche and LeLong’s 60 voies-plaisir 4 à 6a+ and asking myself how could it possibly get any better than this. I mean, seriously. Pleasure route? Man, I’m first in line.

Right. On to the story. Ode calls. He and Jarkko have been all over the range in the past two weeks. “Jarkko just left. Let’s climb the Peigne.”

“Nope, can’t go.” Thoughts of how gripped I was the last two times I’d been on it. How the closest I’d ever felt to death was on the Peigne. How I vowed never to go back. “Sorry, bro. Busy with work. Find someone else.”

The Peigne forms one of the giant gendarmes descending from the Aiguille du Plan dead straight to the mid-station of the Midi. I’d been on it twice. One of those times was when I first arrived in Chamonix and still had morals, the climbing kind. Went up with Per, Swedish masseur, worked in the Patagonia store with Will and Martin and Victoria with the fierce blue eyes, the posh accent and the Ducati Monster. Can’t remember how Per and I first met but we came to be lifelong friends despite this particular day. OK, it actually wasn’t that bad. In fact, I thought we were on fire – climbing strong, good pro, safe. And even if I do say so myself I held up admirably well under the barrage of shouting from below, “Pull on it! We gotta speed up! Pull the damn webbing!”

Quiet, Satan! I shall not to be led astray.

We passed the crux and then the second. The wall eased back and became more cruisy. Climbing as strong as I’ve ever felt, before or since. Totally jacked up from two nice crux pitches. They’re moderate, right, but man I was on top of the world.

Moving fast on moderate terrain, cruisy with the gear now, way above my last piece of pro and suddenly, as if waking from a dream, the search for a left hand snaps me back to reality. Hmmm… My feet aren’t that good. My other hand isn’t that good either, sloping. The broken terrain between me and my last piece four or five meters below me flashes into my head. Look for better feet. Nothing. Feel for something better on the sloper, nothing. I gotta make a move, hard bitter panic wraps its tentacles around my chest, my arms, my brain. Deep breath and reach with the left knowing that something is up there, gotta be something, feet slipping, what the hell, it’s only 5a. Nothing. Stretch again, fingers out, nothing, nothing, nothing, a foot slowly sliding, focus everything on the sloper. Will the hold to be there. One last gasping reach, a bit farther left … Bucket! Yessss! Yes. Thank you, God. Thank you. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Got the rope stuck three times on the way down. Something that’s never happened to me before or since. Except on the Traverse of the Aiguilles with Super and The Kid that time, but that doesn’t really count, does it. I mean it’s the Blatiére, right? Frikkin climbing rope graveyard.

Anyway, three times and it was me pulling when it got stuck the third. I really should have gone for it but screw it, it was his turn. Not an easy pitch either. Attitudes had turned shitty after the second one. That, and the subsequent realization that we’d miss the lift and be walking down in big boots. Water? Gone a long time ago. That’s about the time I realized fast and light is complete horseshit. Flaking the rope, “Your turn, man.”

Something is said that snaps me from the daydream. Ode’s persisting. “I’ll lead every pitch.”

Reason versus desire. Brain says no, heart says hell yeah!

“We’re not climbing Vaucher. We’re climbing Maillon Manquant.”

“That’s harder. 6B.”

“Yeah, a bit harder. More sustained. You can do it.”

Luckily there’s a shot of adrenaline to counterbalance the overwhelming trepidation. I remembered Maillon Manquant from both of my previous trips, careening up left towards the top of the Peigne. Steep, sustained, dark.

Ode: “We can rap back down the route if we need to. But we won’t need to.”

“OK, if you’re leading, I’m in.”

181 - Le Maillon Manquant  ED-/400m/6a oblig - "Magnificent crack climb, very susutained."

181 - Le Maillon Manquant (ED-/400m/6a oblig) "Magnificent crack climb, very sustained."

IMG_9031

Ode Siivonen

5th pitch

5th pitch

Starting just before us were Richard and Brice, confident guys who’d crossed the glacier in running shoes. They said it had been tense but it looked like they were on it now. Hit the rock and climbed five fast pitches. The climbing was awesome. We were stoked. Brice and Richard swung right. I shouted, “Thought you guys were climbing Maillon Manquant!” And in return, with the confidence of locals, “We are!”

6th pitch

6th pitch

The climbing over there looked hard but amazing. An airy arête with a couple

IMG_9040

8th pitch

parallel cracks on the side facing us, maybe 100 meters away and in full view.

Ode, looking at the book, “Oh no they’re not.”

Good laybacks, solid handjambs, sparse but bomber gear with a bolt or piton every now and then. Bolted belays. A bit of route-finding but in the end a really natural line. Ode glides through the first crux, slabby 6b. Next pitch he throws in a kneebar so effortlessly I think it surprised even him. We meet Richard and Brice just as the routes converge. They’re

9th pitch

9th pitch

stoked. Great, fun, positive-energy mountaineers. Ode tiptoes through the beginning of the 2nd crux then puts some muscle into a steep crack and a featureless wall. I don’t know how he did it. Me following, flaming out while searching for crimpers.

Bottom of the last pitch; Ode’s stoked about the last pitch but tired. He sees it and slows down, savoring the warm sun, the cool breeze, amazing glaciers, big steep granite, blower day. Ode’s safe. I’m on belay. Climbing. Up a small ramp, past the first piece into a steep crack. Nut’s locked. I try with my tool but it’s not moving. I sit back on the rope for leverage, glad for a too-easy excuse to not depend on my tired arms in a not-bad-but-could-be-better handjam. Suddenly I hear Richard breathing hard and swearing as only the French can do before I see him. I look down to the belay and see his arm groping for a hold around the smooth left corner from the side. Ode and I had come from right and below. “Merde! Pas d’collant.” He’s struggling. His left hand is on something way out left. The belay ledge is just beyond a steep bulge that he can’t quite reach around. I can tell his feet are bad. He starts to gasp, swearing hard. I shout to Ode, “Gimme some slack!”

He can hear Richard panicking. “What’s going on?!”

“Slack!”

top of the 10th pitch

top of the 10th pitch

I’m hanging on the rope, he can’t lower me with my weight on it. I can reach Richard if I can just get three meters of slack. Ode: “Get off the rope!” Richard: “Merde, Merde, Merde!” I envision the last piton, two or two-and-a half meters below. A bit rusty. Bent. Richard sucks in his breath, for a moment everything is quiet. Then PING, a freefalling arc, animalistic cry – fear and anguish, a deeply instinctual battle, well-fought, hard lost.

The top of the route is amazing. The summit of the Peigne still towers behind us. Two teams, like ants, working the normal route – one on the summit, one at the base of the slabs – dwarfed in its grandeur. We sit in the sun and eat sandwiches. The Midi, glacial ice shining in the bright midday light to the southwest. Two climbers smiling and laughing, stoked beyond belief. Nothing like a PBJ at the top of a route in the warm summer sun.

IMG_9052

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Ski Porn Smackdown: TGR v Matchstick

Transition. The sun’s just as bright but like a fast dive into a cold clear river there’s suddenly a chill in the air. Shorter days, cold clear nights, a view of the descending snow line right outside my window. Seems like yesterday it was full-on, can’t-get-enough, summer stoke. Today it’s fuzzy feelings about autumn colors, Indian summer days, clouds moving fast and light across the lower hillsides. Clear cold nights on the couch under the blankets, sky full of diamonds, a glorious calm before the storm.

Bring on the ski vids.

Teton Gravity Research Re:Session

Matchstick In Deep

So waddaya reckon? Despite the cornball voiceovers (OK, they’ve both got the horrific voiceovers) I’m giving this round to Matchstick. Only just. Agree? Disagree? Don’t give a plugged nickel what I think? It’s all about you, is it? Well, guess what? We wanna hear it so throw it out there in Comments. Whether you ski or not, grace us with your thoughts and while you’re there, hit me with suggestions of other teaser-riffika that deserve five minutes in the ring. Show us your best. Transition time. Bring it.

if you want an email alert of new postings, fire your email address to me and I’ll add you to the hit list. And be confident in knowing that I hate spam as much as anyone and I wouldn’t even think of selling your personal email addresses to that Viagra guy who offered me the lifetime supply and a freezer full of grass-fed angus ribeyes. Nope, not even for a medium-rare minute.