Tag Archives: snowboard

How to Find Fresh Tracks in Chamonix

There are an overabundance of reasons to love Chamonix but day-after-day of skiing virgin untracked powder just ain’t one of ’em. Finding fresh tracks, regardless of how early you get out of bed or how long you stand in the rain waiting for the Grands Montets to open the damn door can be incredibly frustrating.

Fortunately for you, young slayer, your difficulties are over because I’m here to give you insider beta on where to find fresh tracks all winter long, regardless of how long it’s been since the last snowfall. But like any good secret stash it’s going to take some hiking. So gear up and take the high street up valley past the post office, past Super U and when you get to Bistrot des Sports turn left and voila! Fresh Tracks – whoop!

Yep, seems your fav-o-rite freeride shop, Otavalo, have put their heads together with the good crew over at K2 to bring us the answer to every big mountain rider’s dreams … Fresh Tracks.

And while Fresh Tracks in this case might not mean you’re nipple-deep in cold smoke, it does have everything you’ll need once you find yourself there. As in a rock solid selection of shred ready gear including, but not limited to, the full range of K2 Sports’ most hardcore brands.

Fresh Tracks manager, Manu Mourier, explained the reason behind this step in Otavalo’s evolution,

“We already carried K2 and there was so much demand for it that it only seemed natural to bring something new, a K2 pro shop, to Chamonix.

Of course we’ll be carrying the full range, for sale and for test, of K2 skis, snowboards, boots and bindings, Line skis, Full Tilt boots, Marker bindings, Marmot outerwear and Ride snowboards, boots and bindings.

We’ll also carry core freeride brands like Dynafit, Norrøna, Dainese, Lange, Tecnica, Salomon, Conformable, Ortovox, Dainese, Sweet, Giro, Smith, Coll-Tex, Smartwool and Sorel.”

Bootfitter Thomas Aubin

And as for you pinheads, there’s no need to get your wooly underpants in a bunch because Fresh Tracks will remain the epicenter of telemarking for Chamonix and beyond.

Longtime Otavalo kingpin and freeheel fanatic, Jeremy Fournier pointed out,

“There are several things that have come together to make it happen: we’re the only dedicated telemark shop between Grenoble and Switzerland; K2 is a brand that has always supported telemarking; and there are loads of passionate freeheelers who love Chamonix. So this new partnership gives us the opportunity to really step up the telemark side of the shop. In addition to K2 and Line skis, we’ll also carry Scarpa boots, Garmont boots, and G3 and Rottefella bindings. We’ll not only have tele skis for test but we’re also still the only store in Chamonix that rents telemark skis and boots.”

Jeremy Fournier, Manu Mourier

Joining Manu and Jeremy at Fresh Tracks will be Snell’s Thomas Aubin who will bring his four years of custom boot fitting to the store, and Julian Vessaire who will also be on hand a few days  a week to lend his extensive knowledge and expertise.

And for those of us who enjoyed hanging out downstairs in the Otavalo workshop, the lurking will now be even better. Jeremy told us,

“We’re re-modeling the workshop to make it more of a lounge with couches and music. It will be an even better place for everybody to come and chill out, talk about riding and find out where to find fresh tracks – haha!”

Head for the blue pin to find Fresh Tracks. (click to enlarge)

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Xavier de Le Rue, Andreas Fransson vs Aiguille du Plan, Face Nord

North Face, Aiguille du Plan, Xavier de Le Rue, Andreas Fransson

Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

“When I came off that last rappel, I didn’t kiss the ground, but I felt like it.” –Xavier de Le Rue, when asked about the best part of the route.

It’s one of those unusually perfect days when Mother Nature decides to loosen up the ol’ apron strings and treat the kids to warm temps, fresh snow, light wind and clear blue sky. Yep, stunner of a day and if you happened to be on the Vallée Blanche on the afternoon of 5 May it was impossible to look around and not see big lines being fired: The Ordinary Skiers on the Face Nord of the Tour Ronde and the Finnish Mafia in the Couloir du Diable, to name a couple.

North Face Aiguille du Plan Xavier de Le Rue Andreas FranssonOver on the north side of the Mont Blanc range, the sun worshippers in the Chamonix valley didn’t even need to take off their flip flops to bear witness to cutting edge freeriding. From the comfort of a well-positioned lawnchair one could kick back with a celebratory Cinco de Mayo margarita and see two big-mountain chargers making their way methodically through the junk show of hanging glacier and steep granite that comprise the north face of the Aiguille du Plan.

Face Nord, Aiguille du Plan. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

11:45 Xavier and Andreas complete the Midi-Plan Traverse and settle in to wait for the chopper carrying photo/video pros Tero Repo and Guido Perrini. [Bjahne Salén will also have amazing footage from his angle on high ground]. Despite the blazing sun, here at 3600m the temperature is -10˚C. Shivering in the cold makes it difficult to relax as they study the 2600m face below them. Andreas writes in his blog

“The north face of Aiguille du Plan is not really a ski, it’s more of a mind game where problem solving and keeping one’s cool is much more important than the actual skiing. I had already skied the face two years ago with Tobias Granath and that was probably the first descent in 15 years. This year it’s already had two successful descents. Last time I told myself I was not going to do the face again…”

Xavier de Le Rue. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

12:40 The heli arrives and Xavier drops in to the 40-45˚ snowfield. Within seconds he has a solid understanding of the snow beneath his board and rips five fast powder turns straight down the falline. Andreas traverses skier’s left and follows suit. The snow looks amazing, perfect. It’s an outstanding start – 200 meters down, 300 to go.

12:51 The boys have taken shelter in the shadow of a small serac where they can get a better look at the face below and evaluate their next move. The falline drops straight over several massive seracs before cliffing out to 300m of cold, clear air to granite. A snow ramp angles rider’s right to a corner that’s threatened from above by a 20m serac. From our viewpoint it looks like there may be a thin line of snow on the wall skier’s right and then a rappel to the next snowfield. Between the riders and the corner is a big fracture line. With three crowns.

“I was a bit nervous when the heli showed up because it was like, game on, but I had a really good feeling. There was no wind, perfect sunny day, the snow looked healthy and we just charged these magical turns, just this incredible stuff at the top. It’s funny because it didn’t really feel like we were hanging over the middle of nothing. But then, as soon as we got into exposure, there with this big crown in front of us that had just broken. It showed there was a lot of fresh snow ready to slide.” -Xavier de Le Rue

13:05 Andreas drops in, skis to the corner, then hangs left and disappears into a crack in the wall of the 60m overhanging serac. His head appears over the edge of the ice. He stops moving and we assume he’s drilling a V-thread in the serac to put Xavier on belay.

13:20 Xavier follows, joins Andreas at the belay. The crack in the wall continues for another 10 meters before emerging onto blue water ice.

Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport

13:40 Andreas rappels and rigs an anchor in solid blue ice. From here it’s difficult to see impossible to see how Xavier is going to follow without a top rope. Then again, that’s why Xavier is up there and the rest of us are watching from the golf course.

13:50 With his ice axe out, Xavier slips in and joins Andreas at the belay. Seeing how they make it past the ice will be another highlight in the TimeLine and Standard Films videos when they come out in September. Or ChamonixInsider.com if I can find a way to break into the vault where Guido stashes his hard drives…

Xavier: middle of the screen, in the shadow just near the sun where the granite wall meets the snowfield. Andreas: further right, directly beneath the 60m overhanging serac.

Xavier: middle of the screen, in the shadow just near the sun where the granite wall meets the snowfield. Andreas: further right, directly beneath the 60m overhanging serac. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

13:55 At an angle of 50˚+ the riders are now at one of the steepest parts of the route. Xavier traverses skier’s right towards the edge of the glacier where it meets the wall. Due to the massive serac threatening the route between their belay and the wall, moving quickly through this section is a clear priority. Xavier inches out slowly and to everyone watching, the worst case scenario becomes painfully clear: the snow here is total junk. Andreas later explained, “I couldn’t find the base with my ski pole, it was completely hollow. There was no base.”

14:00 Xavier makes it to the wall and sets a belay. Andreas, skiing delicately, joins him. The snowfield traverses left and down across a snowy shoulder, dips (if you were ski basing, this is where you’d want to point it), then crosses a snow spine, dipping further left to a rocky ridge that separates them from a rock cliff with an east aspect leading down to a snowy football field. Some of this section is protected by towers in the wall above.

14:15 A rider leads out and glides smoothly, confidently, over to the steep spine and links solid, controlled turns down the crest of the spine. The next rider does the same, skis out right to the rocky shoulder and out of sight to set a belay. Fully committed, fully controlled. I’m blown away by what I’m seeing.

Andreas crests the rocky ridge towards the east aspect as Xavier traverses. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDP Freesports.

14:26 Due to the east aspect we are unable to get a clear view of how they make it down the cliff to the snowy football field below. Andreas’s blog mentions a ‘hidden couloir … with great snow.’ They traverse right to an apparent belay high and skier’s right to steep turns down to the football field. The boys are far from being finished but they’re past the difficult skiing and the crew gathered in the Flégère parking lot breathe a huge sigh of relief. The only thing between the riders and a veggie burger is 150 meters of rappels down blank, compact slabs.

Xavier and Andreas opt to descend via the slabs on the right bank of the glacier. they traverse over and find Andreas’s anchor from two years before.He replaces the webbing and the rappelling starts. Protection is extremely difficult to find in the compact granite. On the second rappel, Andreas raps to within five feet of the end of their 60-meter ropes before finding a crack that would take two #7 stoppers.

“Yes, they were in the same crack, but that’s all there was and I backed it up with a half-good knifeblade. Still, there’s two big boys with ski equipment hanging from this belay and well … it was pretty intense.” -Andreas Fransson

16:30 The guys are kicking back with a coke and a smile at the buvette at the mid-station. In four hours of steep skiing on a variety of snow and heavily-exposed terrain the team had made a balls-out descent of the north face of the Plan de l’Aiguille in fine style.

Andreas Fransson, Xavier de Le Rue, face nord, Aiguille du Plan (3673m).

Andreas Fransson, Xavier de Le Rue, face nord, Aiguille du Plan (3673m), 5 May 2011. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

In Mont Blanc et Aiguilles Rouges à ski, Anselme Baud rates the route TD+ / 45-55˚/500m (passages of 55˚). Laurent Giacometti and Jean-Marc Boivin were the first to ski it in 1977. Some may think that yet another descent hardly makes this ‘cutting edge.’ In fact, by calling it that, the thing to which I’d like to draw your attention is the outstanding style with which the two rode a heavy, heavy line. If there’s any criticism that can be leveled at the two it’s that they hung it pretty far out there. Yes, they did. They charged this beast with both barrels blazing and they stuck it. Full respect.

Kai Palkeinin, Chamonix Freeride Center, Andreas Fransson

Chamonix Freeride Center's Kai Palkeinen and a much more relaxed Andreas Fransson following the post-Plan, pre-AK repair.

“Taking my boots off in the parking lot I discovered something that explained the bad feeling I had at the top. Just before I took off I double-checked my boots and bindings like always, but this time there was a small gap under the left heel allowing me to lift the boot up and down 1 cm in the binding. I thought the binding was just getting old or something but taking the boots off I realised the boot was broken and the metal piece on the heel was gone. Skiing was fine without it as long as I stayed on the middle of my foot…” -Andreas Fransson, from his blog report.

“I drilled out the old screw, used a secondary Low Tech piece, put a bigger screw in, bit of Araldite. It’s 110% now.” -Kai Palkeinen, Chamonix Freeride Center, post-Plan, pre-AK.

“I think this is the first time it has taken me four hours to get down a mountain – normally it takes me 20 seconds. It was one helluva run. Done. Probably never again.” -Xavier de Le Rue.

5 May 2011 - The light shines on Andreas Fransson and Xavier de Le Rue

“The best part of the route was getting back to the lift station. This is not a run you do for fun because there is so much objective danger. It’s not like you go there to enjoy yourself.” – Andreas Fransson

Xavier de Le Rue, Nissan Juke, Chamonix

Everybody go out now and buy a slick new Nissan Juke just like Xavier's so they will continue their generous support of these kinds of shenanigans.

Check out these high-res images and loads more over at http://www.JDPfreesports.com. Photo mashup: ChamonixInsider vs Alex di Suvero.

Snowboard Porn Smackdown: Klaustrophobiatch-erific

You wanna know what Klaustrophobiatch means? I’ll tell you what it means. It’s how you feel when one o’ them hoity-toity foreigners with their tight pants and perfectly casual hairdos comes up with a word you wished you’d have thought of and English ain’t even their first language!

And Carlos, I know you consider English to be a second language for me too (especially after reading the sentence above. Maybe I need to slow down on the Sarah Palin fail vids for awhile) but don’t change the subject.

Anyway, here’s the full download of the second and last video from Ducksjen. Yep, you read that right. Second and last. Alas, Ducksjen, we hardly knew ya but what we saw was truly inspiring. Here’s hoping this isn’t … oops, I mean ‘ain’t’ …  the last we’ll be seeing of the wildly talented Kasper Häggstrøm.

The Black Bosses Telemark Weekend

2009 Boss des Bosses Photo: UpstairsChamonix

Boss des Bosses 17 March

Oh yeah, it’s that time of year again. The sun’s out, the snow’s softening up and the silly outfits are slowly but surely making their way from the back of the closet to the slopes. Must be time for the Boss des Bosses.

2010 is the 21st anniversary of Chamonix’s most important inter-resort, fancy dress, mogul rivalry and with last year’s crowd breaking all previous records, the 2010 edition should not be missed.

Teams of men and women skiers, snowboarders and telemarkers from Chamonix, Verbier, Meribel and Courchevel will be oiling up the knees and waxing up their shortest, skinniest skis in their attempt to unseat 2009 champion Zermatt. Local DJs will be banging out tunes and there’s always more than a few truly fantastic outfits on parade to keep everyone entertained.

The contest starts Wednesday, 17 March around that time and will finish when it’s over so don’t be late.

The Black Weekend 17-21 March

There’s not a whole lot you can say about The Black Weekend other than it’s pretty much everything you’d expect and more from the world’s coolest ski brand – skiing, partying, debauchery, repeat.

Check BlackWeekend.com for a schedule of the weekend’s many festivities.

Otavalo Telemark Festival 19-21 March

Thankfully we’ll have a day to work off the hangover from the Boss des Bosses before the good crew at Otavalo kick off their Telemark Festival on the 19th and running through to the 21st. The event will be held at the top of LeTour’s Charamillon lift and will feature a free ski test with over 70 pairs of skis and boots to demo from K2, Zag and Movement as well as handmade skis by Rabbit on the Roof and Chamonix-based Homeski by Brotherwood.

For those who’ve been thinking their legs are just simply too strong for a girly sport like alpine skiing, or for anyone in need of brushing up on their drop knee technique, there will be instructors on hand giving free instruction.

And finally, there will also be a free telecross race held throughout the event and there’s rumors of some kind of fiesta going down at the refuge one night followed, no doubt, by a boozy midnight Chinese downhill.

Last but not least, those whose thighs have not yet burst into flames will leave Sunday morning with a wool-clad herd of other pinheads and ski via the Haute Route to the Telemark Festival Zermatt which will start on the 26th and ends when people can no longer walk.

Chamonix Guiding Snow Report – 11 March

So this video right here does more than anything to show the value of a guide in Chamonix. Last week when those who were brave enough to endure the icy howling winds on Brevent were scraping around on bulletproof snow our buddy Seb was scoring freshies again. Once again the vid features some great powder footy but the shots of the bouquetin and the killer 3D map add a whole other element.

Oh, and about that map, Seb. Seems as though there’s a new ‘Wanted’ poster with your picture on it that’s beginning to appear around Marécotte. It’s written in Finnish.

ChamonixInsider Snow Forecast Compendium


Pico’s Pics – Glacier Rond Avy

all photos: Pico

Went up the Midi after that last big dump and had waist-deep first tracks down the Grands Enver du Plan. Dangerous Dave and a couple of the boys were in the same bin and turned right towards the Cosmiques. Round about the same time, back on the valley floor Pico was out shoveling snow, heard a huge roar, and turned to snap these images of a massive chunk of the Glacier Rond calving off and obliterating the exit traverse of the Cosmiques and Rond.

I saw Dangerous in the supermarket a few days later so to answer your question, no, he and the crew are not buried beneath tons of snow and ice somewhere below the Rond. That 1000 watt smile of his seemed to have increased a watt or two.

Chamonix Guiding Snow Report – 11 February

Seb Montaz’s most recent snow report showcases his video editing skill more than the epic powder we had last weekend and I’m hoping that’s simply because he was out there scoring freshies for himself rather than filming. Nevertheless, if you’re wondering what conditions are like then the ChamonixGuiding.com Snow Report is the place to go.

And for those wondering what the future has in store…

ChamonixInsider.com Snow Forecast Compendium