The cover story of the December issue of Powder, titled “The Return of the Extreme Skier,” includes harrowing tales from several skiers who dedicate their lives to skiing the steepest, most dangerous lines on the planet. One of those skiers is Nathan Wallace, a Mammoth Lakes native who has spent more than 10 years in Chamonix, and survived several close calls. Given the drive and dedication that skiers like Nathan have (after all, it requires years of study and practice with flirting with disaster), you’d think that they couldn’t be bothered with mellow turns on relatively gentle slopes.

But you’d be wrong. They are skiers who above all else appreciate being in the mountains with friends. So when a the first big storm of the year swept through Chamonix in late October, they hitched a ride up the Aiguille du Midi, strapped on the boards, and enjoyed the perfect bliss of early season powder.

“The first days on skis after a long summer are simply amazing,” says Nathan. “For four days at the end of October, we skied the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, smiling and laughing as we welcomed the winter to come. Magic is the only word I can use to describe the feeling of being in those spectacular mountains, skiing with friends.”

What follows is a gallery and a video that proves that while Chamonix can certainly be tragic, it is the pursuit of a beautiful life that propels its skiers forward. -Matt Hansen

Autumn pre-season skiing