I enjoyed myself so much at the Les Arcs qualifier i decided to put myself though the stress, panic and fun again and enter the qualifier in St Foy.
I loved the feeling of being nervous and not know what was going to happen, especially mixed with the atmosphere at these comps plus the euphoria after you've finished your run.......its a strange mix of emotion but always has the same result of being stoked.
The St Foy qualifier was set up a little differently, it was more like a normal freeride event. I got there at 8am and had 2 hours to look at the face from the bottom, and to get a few piste laps in to warm up the legs. The start gate was a 40 minute hike from the chairlift, so we had to take that into account and make sure we were at the start for 11.30. There was only one start gate this time which meant everyone was standing around and chatting and just relaxing (or trying to)
I had picked my first drop but after that i had no idea wha t do next so was just going to wing it. No one had chosen my line either so it meant i had freshies.
I was number 62 to drop so i had plenty of time to freak out, question my line a good 10 times and then relax.
When you get the shout that your next to drop you get a weird feeling of calmness and focus........and then you drop.
It was one of the best lines i have picked, i chose to go for a slightly smaller drops but keep the run fast and smooth with some techy parts in between the rocks.
I nailed my drops, found fresh snow and kept my speed up. I got towards the end where i had planed to do a 360 off a windlip.........which didn't go to plan. I lost a lot of speed and just couldn't get the height i needed and ended up on the floor about 3 metres from the finish line..........gutted!
The face was so much fun and overall i was really happy with the line i chose.
Red bull was thrown at me again and i sat to watch the rest of the riders thrown down. The skiers were going huge again, such a high level out here and it seems that your not french unless you can stick a backflip.
I couldn't stay for long as i had to get back for work, but the day was amazing. It was so well run and felt like a proper freeride event on a really fun face.
The weather was looking good to get out touring, so me and Oli decided to head to La Plagne to tour off the back of Mont Jovet. We weren't expecting much in terms of good snow for ripping around on, but thought it would be good just to get out into the mountains and away from the crowded resorts.
We took the main chair lift out of Plagne Centre and then a short drag lift. From here we dropped out of the back of the resort and headed towards Mont Jovet. We had planned to just tour to a hut on the back of it due to the hard snow, and to start with the snow was defnitly that. But after the first pitch we found some of the most perfect corn snow. There were skin tracks through a valley that would end up on Mont Jovet but along this track we looked up to the left and saw two perfect couloirs that had no tracks in, safe to say it was a pretty easy choice to ditch the plans and hit these couloirs.
We detoured off the skin track and made our own, halfway up the furthest slope we had to boot pack to the top due to the soft snow being tricky to get a grip with skins.
A short ridgeline hike brought us onto the top of the first couloir, it looked perfect....and to top it of there was a guided group below looking very jealous at the choice we had made.
I got first line down and it felt amazing! The kind of snow that was perfectly soft but still held an edge.....we could haul ass down it with no problems! Both of us were so surprised that it took no time at all to decide to follow our boot pack up again, and hit the next couloir.......and again, it was the most perfect snow with Oli getting an unexpected full face shot....
Its days like these, when you go out with no expectation, that can end up as the day of days. We finished the day so pumped, it felt great knowing we had gone that bit further to get the goods.
We definitely earned our turns, and the rewards made it worth the effort.
Two couloirs, two days...
We have been looking at two couloirs in Les Arcs all season, they are stupidly steep and very narrow. Conditions right now are perfect for hitting them so we decided to go for it.
The first is really tricky to get to and involved a long ridge hike over loose rock followed by a short snowboard down and another boot pack up. You know how sometimes things look steep when you look from afar, but then when you get to it you realise its not that bad......well this was the opposite. It looked steep, and was steep.
The way down was pretty ungraceful, alot of side slipping and short jump turns....but such an epic run, it seemed to go on forever!
The second couloir started from the same ridge line that we had scrambled across the day before. The first part look fine, but then it dog legged to the felt so we could see what was around the corner. We knew there was a band of rock right about the narrowest part....but we could see from the top.
Im not going to lie, it didn't take a lot for us to decide to go for it, we had been staring at this this all winter.
The top was fine with some soft snow and a lot of sluff, it was definitely a no fall zone though. Sam went first to check out the rock band, he shouted up to say it was fine and there was a way around it.
Once past the rock outcrop is suddenly got insanely steep and narrow for about 3 metres, i struggled to get a turn in and was feeling pretty exposed.
After this initial part though it opened up again and you could rip down the rest of it.
Again, a gnarly run, but so worth it. Another one ticked off the list.
Les Arcs hosts one stop on the Freeride World Tour Qualifier series. There are qualifier events hosted all over the world though out winter, if competitors want to make it on the the main tour then they have to compete in the qualifiers and accumulate points. At the end of the season the very best will make it on the the following years tour.
The events have different ratings depending on difficulty ranging from 1 star events thorough to 4 star.
The les arc event is a 2 star, and this year Sam, Sarah and i decided to take part as a bit of fun and to challenge ourselves. We have been riding pretty hard all season and all felt good. This was my first event where as the other two had competed when they were younger back in NZ so i was a bit nervous going into it. The days leading up to it were spent looking at the face we thought it was going to be on, until they decided to move it to another venue two days before.......which threw a spanner in the works as we thought we had an advantage.
The new face looked fun though, lots of features even though it wasn't particularly long.
The morning of the comp i was pretty nervous, everyone looked focused on what they were going to do. I had picked my line, but as i made my way to the start gate i suddenly decided to ditch my plan and go for something bigger.
I had seen a drop right at the top which looked big, i figured if there was a time to just go for it then now was it.
The anticipation of dropping is a very surreal feeling, its a mix of nerves and excitement. The suspense builds pretty quickly, i was 35th to drop in so i didn't have to long to wait where as sam was 64th. My time came to drop and i could hear the MC at the bottom announce my name, the event marshall next to me counted down.....5...4...3..2..1 and i dropped.
I felt really calm and focused all of a sudden and sent it off my first drop. It was by far the biggest i have ever done and i stomped it, i had so much speed coming out of it that i missed my second drop and pretty much screw the rest of my run. But it was smooth and i didn't fall.
I crossed the finish line with so much adrenaline i didn't know what to do, so i smashed down a Red Bull.....probably not the best idea!
I was pretty stoked to say the least, the event had a wicked vibe and everyone was pumped to be involved.
Sarah put down an amazing run and qualified for the finals, she ended up 4th...
Sam dropped the biggest cliff of his life, it was sick. he dropped his pole though which meant he didn't qualify for the finals.
I came 10th and just missed out too, but to be honest i was stoked to finish 10th in my first freeride comp. I scored really high considering i only got one drop in.
Overall it was probably one of the best things i have ever done. I've missed the feeling that competition gives you. It makes you push yourself and take yourself out of your confront zone.
People say that competiton isn't the best thing for winter sports as it takes something away from the free spirit of the sport. I think its the opposite, your not competing against rivals, your competing against yourself.........thats the beauty, thats what makes humans push the limits, that inner battle with yourself. Its not like other competitive sports, all the other riders are stoked if you put down a good run.....they are happy for you. Its like a community.....which is what this lifestyle is about.
I have signed up for another qualifier in St Foy at the end of the month.......
Here is a really interesting article from Mcnab Snowboarding
A lot has been said about the very unstable snow conditions this year. Much like last winter there is an unstable layer of snow buried under the top layer. This year there is two unstable layers, a thin one which was from the very start of winter, then a layer of packed snow followed by another thicker layer of loose sugary unstable snow that hasn't bonded.
There have been a lot of avalanches and a lot of deaths again, which is terrible.
A lot of article have been released, and a video from St Foy showing a group caught in a large avalanche went viral.
Going off the beaten track is an amazing thing, people need to make sure they are knowledgable, are well prepared and cautious. You need to take notice of your surroundings, wear the proper avalanche rescue gear, make sure the group knows how to use it and are aware of any potential dangers on the chosen route. If in doubt, then don't go.
Heres a Q&A session with the same guide