Saturday, 17 February 2007

The morning after

So it's Saturday in Chamonix and I've been in the office a while now sorting out some paperwork and getting everything ready to get cracking with the incoming work. It feels a bit frustrating to be waiting, but it's comforting knowing that it's all just around the corner and forcing oneself to be patient will pay dividends. I'm a bit nervous about the sheer quantity of work we've got around the corner as well - but hey, better that than the alternative!

Dropping a rock in the forest.

I went out riding yesterday morning for a short while to Vallorcine (the backside of Le Tour) with Kevin and Jon with the intention of doing a couple of runs in the trees and having a quick play on the small rocks and rollers in the backcountry. It turned out to be a nice morning finding some untracked snow as well as some decent tracked powder in the clear blue sky.

Blasting through the tracked powder.

A nicely inclined clearing in the backcountry.

There's a great camaraderie of riders when out beyond the lifts - it's easy to spot those who look comfortable and for want of a better word "professional". Those wearing the right gear, taking the right lines and looking comfortable and solid riding the terrain. It's also easy to spot the total numpties out there - those without headgear and just a pair of sunglasses for instance. These people stand out a mile - as do the skiers trying to snow-plough through powder or the boarders falling over every 5 feet. It's weird - everyone needs to progress but I know that one day it's going to be up to me to dig one of these guys out of trouble. The more you ride around here, the more you're aware of the risks and making sure that you really are eliminating as many, if not all, problems that you may face as possible.

Even though 50% of avalanches occuring within 50m of a pisted slope, I guess many casual skiers would assume dropping off the side of a slope would be perfectly safe. This is obviously not correct as shown in an instance recently where a skiier was killed after being
buried in an avalanche in Tignes. In actual fact he was between two pisted slopes but because it was foggy, the snow patrol couldn't even find the actual avalanche itself. He wasn't wearing an avalanche transceiver or have other safety gear with him.

This may sound like a doom and gloom posting, but a huge percentage of mortalities in avalanches are killed because they really have no clue whatsoever. It's terrible but there seems to be a total naivity when it comes to mountain safety. Strangely, the usual suspects of Chalet Le Courtil are all acutely aware of possible risks and make sure every possible precaution is taken when riding. We even practice with tranceivers to make sure should the worst happen it's second nature to use the safety equipment. When we ride, we ride with a level of awareness of the mountain and take absolutely no unnecessary risks or put ourselves in danger. Of course on top of this, we've all been on avalanche courses and done backcountry training and if we're in any doubt, always get a guide with lots of experience.

I feel happy and safe riding with the guys and we're here long enough to watch the snowpack and see the different conditions. Of course I'm always learning and very aware of how little I know, but things will always improve with experience and I'm looking forward to this ongoing chapter in my riding.

Full photos from the morning's riding.