The ingredients were simple: skiing and beer, snow and stoke, and – most importantly – avalanche education and rescue training. Combined, they created a tasty bouillabaisse that was the first-annual Hard Snow Festival, held at locations across Italy’s Val Di Susa, including Exilles and Bardonecchia.
The event, the brainchild of journalist, photographer, freerider and event manager Tom Winter, was organized as a fundraiser for the Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico Piemonte (CNSAS). Winter, is a Colorado, USA native who fell in love with the area and,, “made the slightly insane decision to purchase and rehabilitate a 400-year old medieval stone tower in Exilles,” where he now spends part of each year.
“I made the connection with CNSAS’s Simone Bobbio a year ago, and we did some skiing together and I realized the crucial rescue and emergency assistance role that they played for the mountains here,” says Winter. “I was inspired to do something and also to add to the cultural life of the community in Exilles. The town quickly adopted me and I’ve experienced incredible generosity from my neighbors here. With my background in skiing and action sports, a freeride and ski mountaineering festival was a no brainer.”
Winter readily admits that the first year’s effort was organic and small, a grassroots experience with plenty of potential for growth. The weekend started with a casual ski touring and freeride day that saw members of the group explore the Val Freda zone behind Bardonecchia’s Jafferau sector, while that evening’s showcase event – a ski mountaineering and freeriding film festival that featured a curated selection of short productions – was attended by approximately 100 people and featured raffle prizes from RECCO, Taos Freeride and other brands.
“If we have more than 90 people, that’s a good problem to have,” observed the CNSAS’ Simone Bobbio.
The weekend wrapped up with a day of avalanche rescue training organized by the CNSAS and one last aprés ski at Exilles’ quirky and intimate Café il Forte, where, over beers, plans for the 2020 edition were already being discussed.
“We wanted to do something to bring skiers and snowboarders together, to celebrate freeriding culture to have a party but also to make sure that people are making smart decisions and that they have the skills to manage risks in the mountains,” says Winter. “We hope we can continue to do this and continue to have a lot of fun while educating people and raising a couple of extra euros for the CNSAS. Everyone wins in that scenario.”