Saturday, January 30, 2010

Waiting for snow can be hard to do.

The last week or so we've been enjoying gorgeous, bluebird days and great skiing. No new snow though. We decided to make some huge sacrifices for the snow gods at the local "establishments". This weekend the gods were happy with our sacrifices and granted us another foot of fresh pow.

Mikey Hovey is back from Vars, where he had been working for the last month on the Red Bull Lincatchers comp. His girlfriend Gretchen has also arrived for the winter. It's great to have some english speaking folks around to ski and socialize with.
On Saturday we (Mikey, Gretchen, and I) skied around Montchavin. The Glacier and Roche de Mio were both closed because of snow and high winds, so we stuck to the trees where we found great untracked pow. Mikey and Gretchen are great skiers and I think we all had a great time exploring some new areas around the resort. We all agreed that the lines we skied are worthy of putting into the regular rotation.
Saturday evening we skied down to Champagny for the Gorzderette. The Gorzderette is a weekend long ice climbing event in the upper village of Champagny. For the last seven years this event takes place on Champagny's 22 meter ice tower. The weekend is full of competitions, bands, and plenty of warm wine to keep the -15c chill away.

After watching the top 3 men and women in the world climb the tower we started back for Champagny proper for drinks, dinner, and the after party. We stopped at a friend's bar for some Richard and beers before dinner. I kind of lost track of time but I do know that dinner was over around midnight and we hadn't even been to the party yet.
We were being hosted by Quick all night. Champagny is Quick's home and I'm sure that there isn't anyone in town that doesn't know him. So I wasn't surprised when we just walked in the back door to the venue, crawled under the crowded bar, and walked out the floor to have a great time. Quick was working the bar and the beer flowed like the salmon of Capistrano.
Both bands were good and LOUD. Holy shit! They love their music turned up to 11 for sure. The reggae was rocking and the crowd was dancing and having a great time. We meet tons of great people and enjoyed the music until 3am.
Quick was now headed to the "Disco Tech" to hear his son play music. I don't think he was to0 surprised when Mikey, Gretchen and I said we were ready for some sleep. We thought we'd walk back to Quick's house, good thing we didn't. We would still be walking around trying to find the house. Quick graciously gave us a ride home and we called it a night as the snow kept falling.
I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks. Next weekend the Colts play the Saints for the Super Bowl. I'm hoping to watch it live here in France. Even if it does start at midnight. Go COLTS! Heidi is just days away from making her second of three trips out here. Can't wait to see her. She'll be here a few days before Mikey, Devito, and Charlie arrive. And while those four are there from the U.S., Rob and Kelly Parish are coming from Italy to ski for the weekend. Good times!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Day in the Life.

I have to start with a shout out to Jeff and Katie Peak for the birth of their son, Huxley Atturio Peak. A future river rat and NBA All-Star. Congrats y'all!!!
My week started with free skiing to Les Arches through untouched trees and seeing the biggest tram in the world. Yep, holds 200 people. You'll never see me on that thing with 200 people. The day was also sponsored by Kate McAtavey's Birthday Mix, if you don't have it, get it.
The next day off was spent skiing another ridiculous route to Champagny. Along the way we assisted in a helicopter rescue and drank white wine at a refugee that sleeps 46. I hope to spend a night here with some good friends to remind me of Polar Star.
The patrolling in France has proved again why I have the best job ever. After 40+ cm's of new snow fell a couple nights ago, we've been out working in bluebird skies. Loving every minute too. After O.B. and I finished our route we skied the line below. I went first. Then hauled ass to the left to outrun the avalanche I started on my third turn. Good times!!!!

Today we continued the PIDA work needed to get the Glacier Sector open. Overnight we had a lot of wind and it made for some good sized avalanches. Almost every charge had results that ran to the basin floor. My morning ended with some fun. Olivier Chenu and myself went to do a route under the Traversee TS that put us in a tight spot. Olivier couldn't get the charge to slide on the top of the snow as far as he wanted it to. He tried for a good 30 to 45 seconds to replace the charge. With only a minute and a half fuse on the charge, we had to grab what we could and hold on. I grabbed the flat rock I was standing beside and got a real nice hold of nothing. At this point the charge is only 15-20 meters away from us and I'm thinking the ride over the cliffs below us isn't going to be pretty. BOOM! We weren't moving, but the slide poured over the rocks we had knelt down behind and gave us a good white washing. Nico said he wished had remembered his camera when he finished watching us get blasted. The fracture line had broken above us and around the rocks where we were standing. When I looked down my skies were just the edge of another fracture. Man I love this job. The slide went over La Combe piste twice but without any riders, thank god!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Membership has its privileges.

Work ended on a good note last week. My last day of work we received 3o cms and the glacier was closed for the day. That next day was one of my best days of skiing.
Nico and I woke up fairly early and headed straight to the Glacier Chalet for coffee and cake. As we made it to the top of the gondola the crew working that day was just finishing up the PIDA. Long story short. We had the glacier to ourselves, the snow was stable, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The view was amazing. The snow was even better.
Our first two runs were non stop to the bottom form the outpost. Both lines were through a couloir with an easy foot of fresh blower. The first line I went "White Room" twice. The smile didn't come off my face for the next three days. The rest of the day continued as it started. We worked away from the the roast beef, and skied amazing lines with no other tracks in sight. EPIC!
Day two I skied alone. I went back to an area were we had done some work a couple days before. (Black and White photo). Again the sky was bluebird. Seeing the area without snow and clouds just dropped my jaw. After gape'n it up a while, I realized no was alone. Not a soul for as far as I could see. I made another great run and enjoyed the solitude.
My last day off I met up with Quick to ski to Champagny. Quick is another patroller working on the glacier with me. He also lives in Champagny, so I think he knew the good lines. We took the Glacier TS up to the top and the rest is history. Bluebird skies, good folks, excellent skiing, plenty to drink, and views you'll only see in France. This type of skiing really puts the soul of skiing in perspective. Great weekend.
The weather has been beautiful for the last few days with only a couple of inches of new snow. Looking forward to my next three days off. A couple free skiing days and another adventure to Champagny with Quick should make for a good weekend.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Helicopters+France= "Thanks! Opps I crapped my pants."

The snow just keeps coming. It's getting exciting and sketchy all at the same time. Yesterday (Saturday) the weather broke for a bit in the evening and it looked like today would be bluebrid. With the clearing came the colder, no freezing, temps and wind. La Plange's snow is changing daily and keeping ahead of the danger is tough. The plan was to get some P.I.D.A done before the danger went up anymore.
Our neighboring resort, Les Arcs, had 3 avalanches fatalities in a huge slide this weekend. 9 meters deep! It had been 24 hours this morning since the slide happened and they still hadn't found the third body. The area where the slide occurred is almost inaccessible, so no cats to help move snow. Lots of digging. Val Thorens, near Courchevel, also added a death this week.
I think the "higher ups" were getting the picture. The danger is going up and the snow keeps falling. Thursday, Nico and Jean Eves set off an avalanche that was 3 meters deep and at least 300 meters wide. That was just one of the two it took to clear the whole area between the Roche De Mio and the gondola mid-station. HUGE!

Friday morning the weather was partly cloudy and clear enough the get back at it. Olivier and I were paired up again and headed to the Traverse Chair for a round trip of dropping charges off the chair. Our next mission was up the Bellecote Chalet chair for another round of air bombs. Those three charges set off two big avalanches a meter deep under and ran below the chair. On our way back down we did another route in the same area under the Chalet chair. We were less productive this round but the good sized slide we did have broke above us and I almost shit my pants. Remember Thursday?
That day the rumor was that we were going to use the helicopter (heli, bird, ship, chopper, huey, etc) for some P.I.D.A work. YES! I was stoked to say the least, but it didn't happen that day. The weather changed again and no flying.....Until today.

We came into work early and packed up everything we needed for the morning rounds. Met the bird at the base and flew to our drop areas. I was in a crew with Olivier and Vins. The areas we covered were above the Traverse Chair on the southwest ridge line of Bellecote, and the area above La Combe.
I don't mind flying and I had been in a helicopter before. I felt like things were good and sat back and enjoyed the ride. It was when we circled the "knife" ridge where we were to land when I started to think. The pilot took a loop of the ridge line and I hadn't seen any "good" landing zones. Good thing I'm not a heli pilot, cause our asses would have been hiking. The L.Z. he did choose wasn't really a landing zone, rather a hovering zone. As I jumped out of the bird I noticed only one scag was on the snow and I'm standing on a knife ridge with three people. The heli takes off and the fun began. I couldn't stop thinking about the snow we were standing on. What's under it? What's stopping us from falling off this ridge with the snow? Which way do I fall if I fall? I don't know what was under the snow, the snow didn't move with us, couldn't fall. We were all carrying 10 to 15 pounds of nitroglicern on our backs. We made our way down the ridge (I was last, and on both skis) to an area big enough for three grown men to put explosive charges together.
We weren't very productive today, but the trip was amazing. Our last area to control was a section above La Combe that's filled with coulior after coulior. Once our last charge went off we climbed down into the same coulior we had just thrown the charge. To ski. To access this last coulior you have to climb down a 15 foot ladder. IT WAS AAAWESOME!!!! I had been looking at this line since I first rode up to the glacier, and it was everything I imagined. Skiing down an avalanche path you just created is pretty cool too.
The forecast is for snow the rest of the week. I'll keep you posted!!

I almost forgot! Today a patroller in the Roche de Mio sector found a goat. Not a mountain goat, a farmer's goat that disappeared over the summer. The goat was found at 2000 meters in elevation. A lot higher then the farm he's from near Montchavin. La Plagne is thinking of using it as a avy goat.

Check out the video below!!!!