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It has been a long time indeed. Lots of things have changed.

Competitive racing has finished for me. I feel I got what I came for in the 2 years of training and competiting. It was fantastic but its a time to return to just riding, adventuring and exploring. With that I undertook, as is my norm, a slight obsession with building a local trail. Its something Phil and I have wanted to do for a longtime and now, it is done. We weren’t expecting to complete it before the winter came but with the very late winter and awesome Autumn we did. I enjoyed every moment of it and have to say that the first rides on it were very satisfying. Seeign other peoples reactions were almost better than my own.

Part of the reason I wanted to make my own trail is that I wanted something very exacting so that with my future of less riding I would know where I would go and what I would get. Less riding? Yes, Kate and I will be (fingers crossed) having a Little HS in March. Life change but for all the good things.

Anyhow, Winter eventually rocked up with a few little snowfalls before the big storms rolled in. Before the big storms I met up with a guy called Adam Craig (www.adamcraig.net). Its the ol’ American Switcheroo trick, they come over and somehow they end up on my doorstep (its a small world). Adam is one hell of an XC racer (US Nat Champ), kayaker, skier and general adventurer. We got on. I thought I’d show him my fav place of Sex Carro.

As is normal, the snow pretty much sucked (got blow somewhere else) but it was great to be up there, seeing the mountains and checking in at the hut. Doesn’t feel like a winter without it. I have to say I wasn’t really feeling skiing. A funky knee made me feel very defensive and what with my change in mindset (Clips to Flats on the bike) I decided I was going to snowboard again….

I’d thought about this while I was in Costa Rica surfing (post to come), I like boarding, I like the feeling and the approach. I also snowboarded on the last day of the winter last year and loved it. There is a certain playfulness about it.

The big storm: Tempest Joachim rolled through Europe and precipitated an awful lot of snow on the Alps. Infact, it was more in 3 days than the whole of last season! I luckily got to sample it when Christmas Break came around and I choose to do it on a board. Also, my buddy had let me borrow his Burton Fish after I spent a day in Deep Conditions in the trees. I can’t believe the difference. Its really like snowboarding should be.

I got a GoPro Hero 2 from Kate for Chrimbo so this was its first outing:

 

I short Christmas break in the UK brought us back for more snowtime. With Kate pregnant but still wanting to ski meant we needed to find quiet skins and skiing. Nice trips up to Savoleyres when it was shut and Bruson made for great outings. Its pretty cool to think LHS is getting his first outings already!

Kate wanted to goto the Grand St Bernard Monastry and a sunny day dawned. It was go. I dragged poor Menso up there with the promise of some powder turns. That place is windy indeed. We had mandatory wine, cheese and soup and then I forced him up another 300m of steep, sunny, hotness. He was loving it (possibly not). The ski down was absoulutely shit. Very, very funny as it was full on carton snow with huge wind blown ridges. Still, it was fun. Sort of.

Another big storm rolled into Verbier and closed the lifts down. I managed to drag Menso up to Ruinettes in a tempest. Again, he loved it (possibly not). We skied the trees with 20cms of the light and fluffy stuff on boiler plate base. It was scary fast. Again. Top notch fun.

The freezing level went up and up and the rain/snow came down. I hit up Bruson with the Frennette crew. I have to say it may have been one of the few times where it was a wrong call. 50cms of Elephant snot BUT it really was fun. A lot of people having issues with the depth and weight of the snow.  A early finish for NY.

A little vid of what it was like. The GoPro was covered with snot most of the time.


 

Jonas and I started a 1st of Jan tradition last year and thus continued but this time with Jerry. Early doors and a road trip to a lesser known and high resort in the Valais. The sun didn’t play ball for a while but we had great fun and stress free riding. Easy hikes and no ‘Helmeted’ freeriders to speak off meant we had our pick of the terrain. We were just about to head in for lunch when the sun came out and we spotted a line. The day just got better and better. A perfect amount of riding done before we headed back to Planet Verbier.

The video to go with


 

One last skin in yet anther snowstorm with Kate for a cheese based lunch brought our Christmas period to an end. It left me with the terrible Snow Addiction again. Luckily, as I write yet another storm is pounding the alps.

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Haven’t got back into doing my blog. Lots has been happening. Back into training for the summer and have a good long list of Enduro events. This year they are spread out a lot more so less stress and less impact on normal life.

Skiing. Yes. Lots and lots and lots of Chrimas and New Year. Great christmas present of a foot of cold snow. Unfortunately we have been living of this for a while before a warming period and some more snow. Its been a lean Jan but is fairly standard. Cold weather means snow has stayed good and stable and if you like to walk you’ll still get the goods.

Biking: Yes. Been trying to get out a bit often with commutes and some bike rides. Its just great to be out and the highlight was a solo nightride at Branson with new light. Ace.

A load of photos

What a great weekend. Started a little cloudy then went bluebird. Win

Saturday: The main event

Holed up in the office I sent my hands around the internet looking for a new adventure. Target acquired. The Pointe Ronde sits above Martigny at 2700m and is a fairly well known popular tour as its 20 mins up the road.

The schedule looked to be quite big for this early in the year. A vertical mile of ascension with a possibility of a mellow ski down if conditions weren’t on or a more direct and steeper north facing bowl.

Well organised, Kate, Matt and I (and Pinto of course) set off at 10am with a  friendly group behind us. A gentle start up a meadow soon gave way to up and up at a solid gradient. Really “nice” gradient that shot us up 600m like THAT. Kapow. Exiting the woods we started to get some great views of Rhone Valley, Genepi, Aguilles Rouges and Mont D’Arpille. Stunning. A brief flat section before the steep face.

Matt’s splitboard didn’t really like this, Kate didn’t like me (I am a memeber of the SS so its fair enough) but we got to the col and had a STUNNING view, soup and bread. The world was better. Off we went up a really beautiful alpine area. Sun came out and smiles started.

The altimeter ticked over and over and we started getting some impressive views to the north bowl. We eventually hit the summit with some good airy exposure and it was all worth it. Looking down and across to Trient Glacier, Aguilles Tour, Chardonett etc, etc..aka Good Shit.

The Dynaclones (heart) set off and ventured into the North Bowl. We were thinking about not going in there but that settled it. Some cheese, sausage and wine were eaten and off we went. The top was just about stepping down as there were too many rocks but once in the bowl it was tip top and really not bad. It could have been horrendous but I enjoyed skiing the whole thing and boy did it go on and on and on.

A spot of bushwhacking and almost some river time we skied out. Tired and happy to be done. It was a big day for so early in the season. Chapeau to us.

Slideshow or pics at bottom

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Sunday: One run for the win

A lovely, easy morning lie in and breakfast. Gentle start up the lift and then headed to Gentianes. We met up with Paul ‘International man of Leisure’ and then Jerry, Anna etc…Beautiful winters day.

We sort of had plans for Catwalk or something but as soon as I saw Mont Fort it was mine. It didn’t take much to persuade Paul to accompany me. A liesurly skin up with plenty of time for chat, photos and telling idiots not to ski into crevasses we summited. Boom. Full on gale and -20 but lovely out of the wind. Perfect views from the cross and the back looks good to go.

We met a fellow skinner, Eric Le Dr. Good guy and we immediately got on. We skied the steeper face. Eric first,Paul and then me. Just as I went the sun caught a lovely, slight ridge. Beautifuly steep, amazing light and empty. A run that has given me a smug feeling and will keep me excited till the next time.

A full on yard sale on the way down the piste due to binding pop nearly ruined my day and somewhat agrivated the old shoulder but luckily nothing popped out.

Piccccies

Saturday

A friday night Xmas party meant we didn’t arrive in the mountains till late morning but my god they were pretty. Perfect weather, fresh snow and good buddies. Team Splitboarder arrived, faffed and off we went. The plan was to take Marlenaz by storm.

A skin track was already set so we followed that and it was nice and direct. Beautiful weather and views. Great to be out and enjoying it. Team Splitboarders hung with us the best they could but the extra heft and width slowed them down. Hung out on the summit, did a quick run on some beautiful fresh snow and took in the view.

Jason appeared first with somewhat of a pained look. A desperate plea for some sandwich and a sit down made him feel better. Miss Finland arrived and looked glad that it was over. Tea, boar sausage and we were ready to go.

The ski down was nice enough and the beer after was even better. A GREAT day even though nothing GREAT was undertaken.

Sunday

Weather came in and we headed off to Sex Carro for skin in woods and some fondue. Kate and I, Paul and Uncle Jerry. First issue was road closure so we parked in un finished tunnel and hiked like gringos up the Dorenaz DH course. Pretty physical but got us up quick enough.

Skins on and up, up and up on the consistent steep path. The higher we got the more we noticed a lack of snow due to wind. It had been ravaged. Anyhow…

In the cabin for fondue and wine. Thats what this trip was about! Fire started, heat created, cheese melted, wine had and full stomach achieved.  Looking outside a tempest had arrived. Perfect for the correct atmosphere!

Out into said tempest we went. A traverse, trail break kept us warm and we found the gully. It looked okish on one side but bare on the other. Oh well. Off we went. Was Sub Optimal but we got down and walked out full of the joys of life!

Snow and cold weather. Like.

Saturday reveals some fairly widespread snow all the way down to the resort. White, windy and cold at the top sends us to mid mountain. A fair amount of snow but still need to be pretty careful. Good to get the relaxed style going though. Kate and I decide to head up to Savoleyres to test her new skiis (Dynafit Stoke’s, FT 12’s and Dynafit Zzeus boots). I started the day like a keen, annoying little dog and continued that way with loads of energy. Kate did not.

I pretty much ran up from Carrefour to Namaste with a few waits for Kate. I realised that she wasn’t too keen on getting up there as quick as I was. I am always like this but I take the view in and wait till we get to the proper steeper bit with fresh snow. I have to break trail and that slows me down suitably.

Its very much winter with cold temps and a biting wind. Bootiful! Up on the ridge its windy as hell and Kate is getting ‘Bum Bite’. A quick, copnserted effort sees us at the top. I have desires to ski off the back and then back up but Kate doesn’t so we compromise and have sandwich and ski down the front.

Its pretty darn white and a bit worrying as there are lots of ditches but good turns were had. Some more lift runs and then home to prep for some ThanksGiving Turkey!

Sunday was forecast to be snowy and rubbish. It didn’t turn out that way. I wanted to do some laps in the lovely Vallon D’Arby and head into it as quickly as I could. Some excellent snow and plenty of people heading through to Col Des Mines and Ba Combe. None coming my way apart from the La Tzoumaz skinners who put the track up to the col for me 🙂

Up the ridge and first pretty terrible turns from me. Suffering from some beer fear combined with lone fear made me overly tentative but next run I found my feet. Really nice snow and great to be doing secret turns in a great place.

Kate came round to join me and the sun came out. Always better and more fun to be skiing with Kate.

Back up again and the Splitboarder crew of Matt ‘the Hiker’ and Verra came over. It was to only be one run due to some skin glue issues. Matt wanted to maximise his exercise time and hiked out in groin deep snow, he really loved it!

A few flat light turns from the Mobile Phone Device thingy: Vid

Final run all the way to the resort was more than a bit good at the top, middle and not the bottom. Excellent!

First for a while, new snow and arrival of winter means I want to write drivel upon the web.

Sat: A Bromance tour with Matt up and over to Vicheres. High hope of a bit more snow was pretty much VERY optimistic. Good once we got to around 2000m and some wonderful turns were had on the way down with the Hounds of Baskerville. A mellow 750m up but a lot of traversing and trail breaking.

Sun: A lone tour upto Col De Mille from Bruson. Figuring its a bit flatter, grassier or something like that. The view from apartment looked like there was more snow…

A long, long 2.5 hr slog of very flat terrain plus trail breaking made it quite an effort. Not enough snow to go direct so I had to take the forest roads. I double checked myself about whether I wanted to go all the way to the col but I did, very much so.

The last 200m was delightfully steep kick turn territory and some much better snow depth. Sandwich outside cabin in biting cold winds taking in the view and then couldn’t help but to ski the little couloir. 25 turns of lovelyness into Flat as you like skiing. I am quite glad as there really was hardly any snow.

A good walk and fresh air. 850m up, sun, some wind and some turns. Wicked.

L’Hiver arrivè or something like that 🙂

Given the conditons were on I called it on Thursday. Biking can wait and this mountain has been starring/taunting me for 5 years. I informed Kate of the plan, we then displayed the Carrot to Brad who took it and a plan was hatched.  Alarm clock set for 04:50am! Yikes.

A well oiled team set off for the summit at 06:15am from the car park beneath Brunet. Cup of coffee and some cake after 750m vert/2 hrs skinning outside Brunet Cabane. Stunning morning and the mountains were lit up with wonderful light. Only another 900m to go. We stomped up with a stop evey 45 mins to tak ein the view and the realisation we were going to make it.

I get a HUGE buzz from looking around and realising how high you are. Every 20 mins or so a new vista opens itself to you. One moment the Petite Combine looks HUGE then next it looks just so. Loads of people taking the opportunity to enjoy the mountain but with different desitantions. Was impressed when I skinned past two kids who were sub 10 yrs!! Standard Suisse practice.

We hit 2800m and saw the final push. Looked like a mini Mont Blanc and with some tech skinning on it. Great summit ridge, airy, exposed kick turns and all doable with good snow. So close and the anticipation was massive for me. I couldn’t wait to see the view down the NE Couloir, one of the longest in the Verbier area.

Hit the summit, photos and then a magnificent foot wide ridge which was exciting! I went off to find the entrance. Kapoow! Its huge! 1000m of vert till you can get out of it so its one to be done when its very stable! The size sort of made the steepness less obvious. Top sections was steep but as I dropped in I realised was great skiing with SLUFF everywhere.

It took us a long time to get through the couloir with good turns and variable snow. I loved every second of it. High on our acheivement.

A traverse out, 60m step up and then some steep trees with good snow/bumps/bush whacking lead us finally to the car. A total of 7 hrs 15 mins, 4500 cals burnt, 1860 meters ascended and a plethora of mountain action. The biggest ski tick for me!

Drive to Super St Bernard, couple of runs on Suisse side then hike up, over the ridge, spring turns down, dress down to t shirts and crusie to Etroubles, Italy. BIG lunch, coffee and return to Switzerland. Perfecto!

Back with Stephen Hadik and an early start. Really don’t where to start with this but will simply say ‘Best day on Skiis Ever’. Its all about the mountains (and Italian food and coffee).

What with the Frigid Winter we lucked out with THE week that turned to Spring. Saturday we took it easy, lie in and breaky then a bit of skiing. Decided for a bit of Alpine boots and skiis. Wow. Fantastic. Its so easy. I don’t see what people complain about with regards to snow…just plow on through. We hit up a Mt Gele, Number 1 couloir and then  a Perfect Spring Snow Bacombe. So good! And probably the last of the year (as it all ripped out yesterday with huge wet Avalanches).

Sunday we picked up Grumpy Swede for an attempt on Le Parrain but due to a) Grumpiness and b) forgotton skins + sleeping late we fed him breakfast, coffeee and snus then off we went. A pretty stable snow pack saw us try ‘Dead Swede Couloir’. A steep and lopng face indeed. Now known as ‘Grumpy Norlander’ 🙂 I showed my best short turns for Anders and he started to get excited.

Up the ridge and over to Hat Couloir. Stunning weather. Whilst waiting for Kate, Anders got his horn on and started stripping off. Not so grumpy anymore! Skiied Hat Couloir which was fun but tricky conditions. Love that place though.

Monday. Varaible weather but we headed for pastures new with Stephen Hadik from Alpine Guiding. Over to the little ski resort called Ovronnaz and a beautiful 1000m skin up to the evil Dent De Morcles. Weather was so and so, snow was so and so but it was fantastic. HUGE cliff of doom at the summit too! Wine, Cheese and meat for picnic, soft turns down and then hot baths. Perfecto!

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