Last Saturday was probably my last comp of winter. A blend of missing a few comps at the start and then other commitments have meant the Quallifer season hans't quite gone to plan for me this winter, but it just means i can get read for next year.
St Foy - Probably one of my favourite places to ride. Stunningly beautiful, incredible freeride terrain and barely anyone around....its the perfect place. The main face, Folliet, is where the FWTQ is held each year and it never disapoints. Its such a fun face loaded with features and a good gradient, last year we have a fresh 20cm before comp day.....this year we wern't quite that lucky but it was a blue bird day, albeit the snow was very very firm. It had been upgraded to a 3* event this year which meant more terrain was open and a higher class of competitor.
I had a really solid line picked out with 2 smaller drops and one large one, mixed with a few technical sections. There's always a good atmosphere at St Foy, Evolution 2 do a great job of organising it and there was more going on then at the Les Arcs comps.
Start time was 11am to let the snow soften a little bit, i was bib 62, which actually meant i was the 100th person to drop in. The hike up from the chair takes around 35 mins and it gives you a great view of the top section of the face...meaning any last minute changes to your line can happen. I stuck with my choice and began the long wait until my number was called, which turned out to be around 2 hours of chatting to to other riders and sun bathing.
All of a suddenly my number is called and i am not ready, i think the order had changed slightly so i rushed up to my start point at got myself setup. I then get the 3 second countdown and drop, its always a good feeling when other riders are cheering you on.
I stomped my first drop and made my way over to the steep rocky section where my second drop was, i missed the entry into it but managed to find an untracked couloir. I carried way to much speed out and approached my big drop a little out of control, i sent it off the rock but knew it wasn't going to end well. I had gone big but landed on my back, the force smashed my knees into my face and disintegrated my goggles lens. I bounced up and carried on riding, i knew i had messed it up so just tried to claw some points back by finding a smaller drop to finish my line.
It wasn't until getting to the bottom i realised my eyes were watering due to having no lens left. Feeling bruised, battered and a bit concussed i lay down at the finish line to watch the rest of the riders. I felt i had let myself down a little as i knew i could have done a lot better. But thats all part of freeride, you get on chance to impress......and it doesn't always work out.
Its been a while since my last post, mainly due to working so much, but lately its because the snow has been so damn good. We had the Feburary half term which pretty much wrote off any real riding for two weeks and then we were hit by some of the most perfect snow storms ive ever seen. The past 3 days have been the real highlights though, we revisited some of the classic lines that ive done in the past and also some new lines.
First off was a line under the Aguille Rouge gondola called Les Cables. Although its in resort it has the feel of high mountain backcountry, its a very steep and rocky couloir where falling isn't an option. We decided to take the more risky route of jumping the fence and starting at the very top of the couloir instead of traversing in from lower down, this meant the run was alot longer but had more risk involved. The clouds were coming in fast so there wasn't much hanging around, we picked out route and then let it rip down the face. The snow was incredible dry, deep, blower powder and was so much fun to ride......albeit with some 'sluff management' to take into account. This was the first time this winter i felt scared, mostly due to the sheer exposure i felt, it has an invisible presence and pressure that puts fear into you and keeps you on your toes.
The run was spectacular, we were the first people to ski it after the fresh snow and so both of us were pretty happy to say the least.
We didnt wait around and jumped onto the gondola again and headed to the next big line, 'Les Cascades'. This is another fairly exposed line but maybe not as much as Les Cables but there is a huge cliff band that you really dont want to be falling off.
Again there was a fence to jump and then we were greeted with some of the deepest snow of this winter, each turn was a face shot. This run was alot of fun, and once we navigated around the cliff band we lucked out and found a completely untracked face.......i felt like i needed a snorkle!
We finished the day while the stoke was high. A Perfect day with alot of satisfaction and achievement, its one of the reasons freeriding is great......that exhaustion you feel at the end of the day which is a product of pushing your limits, feeling scared and getting out of your comfort zone all melts into an overwhelming feeling of being alive.
The next day brought about another adventure, it didnt go quite to plan but we still got alot out of it and had another great day. The goal was to go touring off the back of Aguille St Espirit and head towards the Mont Pourri refuge. The first challenge was to reach a ridge line where we could drop down, this involved boot packing a 400 metre col that was loaded with 2 foot of fresh pow in places and windblown crust in others. I had massively misjudged the steepness and the amount of snow, thinking it would only take us an hour to hike....wrong! After about a third of the way up i realised we were going to get to the ridge line in time, the sun was strong and would be affecting the planed route down the other side making it dangerous. The plan changed and we deciede to hike as far up the col as possible and then score some fresh lines back down said col, this was a good choice...it took us over an hour and a half to hike over two thirds of the col before it became too steep to set a good boot pack. I made a ledge below some rocks so we could sit and get our breath back and soak up the views before working out the next challenge, getting my feet into the snowboard on such a steep angle........a challenge overcome in the least gracefull and stylish way. Alot of respect goes to my Swedish friend who made it up the boot pack with true scandinavien grit and viking determination, they are made of tough stuff over there, must be all the tinned fish.
There isnt much to say about snowboarding this face, it was stunning. A very steep face loaded with dry pow, what more can a snowboarder want. It was a super long decent to the valley floor and after some high fives and admiring our lines we got the skins on and toured towards the chairlifts, but not before we had one more face to ride. short and sweet but with a small cornice drop to enter the line. It was North facing so had no been affect by the sun, meaning more fresh snow and high fives.
Another great day, it makes such a difference knowing you have used your own steam and determination to get what you want. It can make something which at the start didnt look to promising into something to be proud of.
Another Best Day
One app that helped alot with these past few days was FATMAP. And their latest development is even more exciting. You can now access your favourite ski areas on your desktop or laptop. This means bigger maps making that planning phase even easier. Especially when looking at routes with exposure or when i was unsure about certain parts that i could not see in person, it was great to be able to look at FATMAP and feel more comfortable with line choices.
Check out the Les Arcs map below