By Hans Ludwig
Chamonix isn’t going off. It’s been a crap winter, and spring has been in full-effect in the valley for weeks. With the last of the lifts closing in Argentierre this week, and the snowline thousands of feet above town, only a few die-hards are even skiing at all in Cham. But these aren’t your regular die-hards and they’re putting on quite the show for late spring in a low-tide year. Despite the snow conditions, the boom in Chamonix gnar that we reported on in last December’s Return of the Extreme Skier hasn’t slowed down.
Sometime Powder correspondent Nathan Wallace has been in Cham for weeks now working with Seth Morrison and JP Auclair on the Oakley/Morrison film project, The Ordinary Skier. Over the last couple of weeks the O-show has been breaking new ground for both Seth and ski films, using the full array of modern cameras and tech to film some of the most cinematographically challenging possible scenarios.
Wallace, who’s been helping out with safety and getting a bit of time in front of the camera as well, mentions Morrison’s commitment to the mission—the guy could have been heli-skiing powder all winter, but the last two springs he’s spent weeks out of his element, opting for the ultimate crash course in high-consequence ski-mountaineering. For a skier who’s been so focused on AK-style skiing, it’s a big learning curve to move onto this kind of terrain, to learn ice-climbing, rope-work, and glacier protocol.
If the teaser images are any indicator, the movie will be be chock full of serious skiing over massive exposure. To ski the lines they’ve hit is setting the bar way up there; to attempt to film it is a huge step in complexity. When I spoke with Wallace, they had just skied the North Face of the Tour Ronde and the Col du Plan in firm conditions.
But the Seth Circus isn’t the only show in town. Andreas Fransson (see the Dec 2010 issue of Powder) flew in for a couple of days and did Andreas Fransson things—first skiing the Mallory route under the Aiguiile du MIdi solo, and then descending the horrow-show North Col of the Aiguille du Plan with Xavier de la Rue… with a broken Dynafit heel-fitting on one boot (shudder).
This shot by Mike Weyerhauser pretty much says it all. With Standard Films shooting from a heli and a random paraglider in the foreground, it could have been taken in the 80’s extreme skiing heyday. Fransson has apparently made a good recovery from the huge fall he took last season on the Aiguille Verte (write-up here by his partner Colin Haley—scroll down).
If you really want a taste of what’s been happening in Cham even in a low-tide winter, a nice Italian snowboarder named Davide has been kind enough to share his season with everyone via the superb photos on his blog at www.snowhow.it/blog.htm. Davide and his various partners, including Fransson, Glen Plake, and the world’s best monoskier, PF Brun, teed off on the Mont Blanc massif this winter, skiing an unprecedented number of big alpine lines in good style, often in full powder. If the skiing is done where you’re at, here’s some over-the-top entertainment to keep you going through summer: