by kanski on 9 December 2013
My name is Sander and I loveee skiing! I'm working in Verbier/Nendaz as a Swiss Snow Pro. Let me tell you how my powder addiction started.
For me powder skiing began way back in the winter of '82. I was 16 years old and every now and then I visited my sister in Switzerland for a skiing holiday. In my second holiday that winter season a huge quantity of snow came down over the 4 valleys! During the previous holidays I became highly inspired by my sisters Swiss friends regarding skiing off-piste. It was really good skiing with these local lifties and with them I got to the conclusion that the mountain does not stop at the side of the groomers… but it actually just begins!
Photo; Bert Romani (Diavolezza)
So far I hardly ever skied real DEEP POWDER snow. Yeah you gotta be lucky if you live in the Netherlands and you go skiing twice a season! This time I was lucky! An enormous load of fluffy powder flakes came down from heaven!
Previously my parents always told me that it was a NO go to ski off-piste with fresh snow, too dangerous, at least not for us flatlanders! You had to be local… what did I know! However, these guys showed me that this fluffy powder is extremely well skiable and is there to be ripped! Although with short turns and those long skinny skis. But on those skinny skis you got face shot after face shot! Backpacks were not invented yet, at least I think…. Safety was another thing what had to be invented. We were dropping in all at the same time. I can't remember anymore if any one spoke about avalanche danger. Strange… because some of those faces I still ski and with similar conditions with a lot of prudence! Probably we were there on that face at the right moment at the right time.
Back home in the flat lands I began to gather footage of skiing images on a video tape. These images occasionally were showed on German television. I was actually making my own ski movie! I could watch this for hours, how those guys shred the powder. Much later I came to the conclusion that this must have been the time where my addiction for the white stuff actually began!
Photo; Bert Romani (Bad Gastein)
When I was about 20 I had some friends who were crazy about skiing as well. So quite often we drove 1200km to go skiing for a long weekend. And after three days 1200km back again! The destination was hardly ever based on a dump. In those days we didn't have a Powfinder app! Most times we just went to Val d'Isère. Because it's such a beautiful area. As I said before, Val d'Isère was one of our favorite areas and we regularly opened the season there in December during the World Cup, "Critérium de la Première Neige". We didn't see a lot of the races, but the ambiance was always superb! My friends and I in the powder and the cracks on the slopes. And than afterwards drinking a beer with these guys at the same table!
In the ski area "l'Espace Killy" we experimented a lot. We were constantly looking for those untracked faces far away from the slopes. At one point we discovered a tunnel. We had to clear the entrance of snow before we could go in. On our hands and knees and the skis dragging along we crawled to the other side. We had a rough idea where and on what face we would see the sun again… perfect! Exactly there where we expected we dug us out into the light. Like a couple of marmots prematurely awakened from hibernation. What a beautiful sight to stand in the middle of a face where nobody has been so far! On that face we drew three magnificent lines! Later in the cable car, we heard people say in French, “wonder where those three ski tracks come from”?
Steeper and deeper
The following years, we traveled a lot through the Alps. Around '95 it wasn't good enough anymore and I started looking for higher, steeper and deeper, more extreme. So I got to La Grave for the first time. In March '97, we drove over from Serre Chevalier where we were on holiday. In Serre I met a women who could ski and she invited me and my two buddies to go skiing in La Grave for a day. Never heard of at the time, but never forgotten ever since! What a place… !!!
That day was so good and I knew immediately I needed more shots off something similar to this every winter!
Photo: Robert Bos (La Grave)
How did your powder addiction start?
telemikey 9 Dec 2013 9:38 PM
My winter escapades started in Toronto, Canada, when I was 3yo. We lived above the Don Mills valley, which is little more than a dimple and cannot be called skiable. But it wasn't completely flat. Actually cross country skiing is pretty big in Canada, or at least that's the impression I had.
Anyway, my parents bought me a pair of cross country skis to play around on. And little Mikey sought out every unevenness to slide down. I didn't like physical effort at the time They soon had me in a ski class with a bunch of adults. No fun but I could snow plough my way down super easy stuff.
From then on we went skiing at least a week a year, also after we moved out of Canada quite soon after. Turns out I was pretty decent at it, despite not being in the mountains more often.
Then came the movies with Glenn Plake and Scott Schmidt. Man, they blew my socks off. They were skiing sick lines in the backcountry, hucking cliffs. Now THAT was what I wanted to do. That looked like a lot of fun. So I started tearing up all the pow I could find in between the pistes. Totally oblivious to avy danger.
A few years on and I met a cool girl who didn't know how to ski just after a trip where I'd seen 3 super cool telemark skiers flying down in the (semi) off piste. That's what i wanted to do and meeting the non-skier chick gave me a great excuse to turn it back a notch and learn something new. She would learn skiing, I would learn telemark. I ended up marrying her and have been on tele's ever since we met.
Seeing the number of tele-skiers isn't very large in the Netherlands I hooked up with the annual telemark get together in Val Thorens and poked around on Telemarktips.com (RIP). My first trip to Val Tho we got a ton of powder. And it turns out I could tele in pow reasonably well. A lot better than most of the others... Fun!
On TelemarkTips.com I started to read about avalanche danger and how to avoid. That piqued my interest so I dove into that and thus heard about Munter. After hearing about a dutch initiative to teach safe conduct in the bc I hooked up with the Snow Safety Centre and a website that would later turn into wePowder.
WePowder changed my world. Now I understand I can score powder by looking at the weather forecast. And if I'm willing to don the skins and do a little walking, soft snow can be found all over the alps. Search and ye shall find!
Nowadays it's all about the powder. Once a year we still do the annual ski trip with the family. Piste party with wife, kids (6 and 8yo) and my parents. Totally different kind of fun but fun none the less.
Still though, telemark + powder is an incredible combination: like walking on air. And being able to do that in the winter wonder land that is the alps with friends. It just hits the spot, you know. Gotta love it!
Chester_Tartsnatcher 10 Dec 2013 2:46 PM
I remember the galoshes. They were red. A faded rubber red with white piping around the top. They smelled like rubber, like a tire store, like a new bicycle.
I remember the skis: a pair of little wood jobbies, also red with white pinstripes and a thick white strap binding.
I remember my mother who had a red anorak with white edelweiss trim around the hood, hem and cuffs. I liked that anorak a lot. I never really understood why she was always mad at me or why she left. I knew dad was always busy.
I remember days outside in the snow up to my chest, literally swimming around in the neighborhood hills in snow with the local kids. We skated a lot, but in those long Minnesota winters, the ones where it snowed a lot, the rinks were closed or too hard to skate on or dangerous because the snow insulated the water and the resulting thin ice claimed victims. There was one winter like that when I was 4 or 5 when all I did was ski. I spent a lot of time out and looking away.
We lived at the end of a dead end street that sloped. All the neighbors had big hills behind their houses, either rising above or falling below. The hills were either lawns or covered in big old oaks.
I remember getting yelled at for standing up on the sled or toboggan, for coming into the house with road rash on my face after going off jumps to land on plowed gravel roads. I remember having the skis thrust at me and being warned about standing up on sleds or toboggans. I remember the frostbite on the toes, the footfire of soaking them in likewarm water as feeling returned, the earlobes as crunchy as potato chips and oozing from being frozen too often.
I remember being my mom and grandmother laughing at me as they watched me struggle up the hill in our backyard trying to herringbone. I remember being really mad and frustrated, but I kept trying and trying through the hot tears, all the while my mom and grandma laughing and pointing and reeling throught the window.
At one point I fell down tangled and couldn't get up. The maternal tree was obviously in stitches inside. I remember lying there crying when my dad came out to pick me up, brush me off and then he returned to his study where he was writing a book on Infrared technology.
I managed to get the hang of climbing the backyard hill, maybe 200 feet long, and screaming down in utter glee. I think that was my crucible: I was then a skier.
telemikey 11 Dec 2013 5:16 PM
Haha. Yeah, I remember the toboggan runs too. Fond memories; thanks... Standing in that faded red plastic contraption hitting all the jumps and falling hard. Awesomeness.
Well written @Chester_tartsnatcher!
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