Tuesday, 22 May 2007

The Winter Season

So here's some of the favourite photos from the winter season that finished last month. Funky stuff. Looking forward to the next one!

Photos from Le Tour
Ice crystals forming on a fence. These little bits of beautiful natural formations always blow me away. I always stop and look around at these things when riding and they never, ever lose their allure.

Jon using his cool photographer skills to get a shot of himself in my lens. He's actually holding the camera by his waist and I'm looking down. A fantastic day's riding with a really good mate in beautiful weather. It doesn't get much better.

A turn in a steep clearing in the woods in Le Tour backcountry. One of my favourite places to ride with really interesting terrain. I'd just come flying off a natural roller and stomped the landing perfectly about 200m farther up next to where a group of around 7 or 8 people were having a picnic. They gave us a whoop and a cheer and as always my face went bright red and I got a big embarrassed grin on my face.

Backside ollie 180 on the path down to Vallorcine. After a while, you spend the entire time on paths doing flatland tricks to pass the time. I like this photo because it just looks so strange mid-air. Jon and Kev and I had just been riding some gullies and chutes on the back side of Le Tour and we were heading home via the Vallorcine gondola.

Photos from Les Houches
Kev's board and my board in a snowstorm at the top of Les Houches waiting for the girls to arrive after a great day cutting first tracks all over the mountain. Kev came out with some great quotes that day putting forward the opinion that riding powder is a privelege and you shouldn't ever waste it.

Looking down the valley in a brief moment of clear skies. It's me riding down in the foreground feeling like I'm dropping straight into the valley floor. It's not actually that steep but it looks proper gnarly.

Trying to pick out a line in low visibility. The whole valley was whited out this day but Kev and I found masses of untracked powder amongst the beginners at Les Houches blasting through everything we could see. I remember people cheering me from a draglift as I put in a couple of powder turns then dropped a little ridge covered with snow-covered bushes. Awesome memories of that day.

Photos from Les Grands Montets
The sun dropping below the ridge casting grooved shadows on the piste. This is the start of the run from the top of the freestyle park to the middle station.

First lines dropping in from Le Petit Vert. I hiked up with Mark from All Mountain Performance to catch the first lines down. We spent the vast majority of the time looking around at the view and then trying to catch our breath with the altitude stripping the air of oxygen. It was the last bit of riding I did for the season. The last run - fresh tracks down the mountain. Perfect.

Monkeying about in deep powder on one of the best days of the season. It just was binning it down with snow for a few days previously and on that day. I think the previous day the whole mountain was closed with avalanche risk 5 out of 5. This photo was just taken just next to the cat track that runs through the Dream Forest. It was the best tree riding all season with huge powder pillows and endless small drops. We kept meeting people we knew and ended up riding in groups around the mountain before all going for a beer in the FuBar in Argentiere. One of the highlights of the season was this day.

Stopping to listen to an awesome tune - headphones are built into the hat. I've posted before on listening to music but I just love it for easy piste riding. It's like having a soundtrack playing to your own personal snowboarding film. I've even got different playlists on my iPod for different riding like pistes, parks and rails, hiking and clear and low light. Unfortunately I cracked the screen on my iPod after a slight mishap with a quarterpipe but it still plays so it's all good.

Blasting down the glacier from the top cable car. This was taken by Kev a bit further down from when we hiked up Le Petit Vert on the last day of the season. It reminds me of how massive the mountains really are. I remember riding really well for this section - fast and powerful.

Dan and Jules on a chairlift in a snowstorm. We had some incredible days riding all together and Dan ripped up most of the mountains he set foot on. One of the best skiers I've ever ridden with. Jules is Kev's wife and has an amazingly fluid style that far outclasses most of the boys!

Some days were so cold and low visibility. This was one of them - but the powder was incredible. When I was little we used to have a 1.5k single person chairlift to get up the Wiedersbergerhorn mountain at Alpbach, when it gets cold and the weather closes in I always think back to then and remember how much fun it is just to be in the snowy mountains. I still get the same feeling of excitement on the way up a mountain on a chairlift. I guess when that's no longer there it's time to turn the snowboards into shelves.

The Boss des Bosses moguls competition. I rode for the Chamonix team against Zermatt, Val d'Isrere, Meribel, Courchevel and Verbier. We ended up a very creditable second. Two things stick in my mind - the sheer size of the moguls. I'd never ridden anything that size and I doubt I ever will again. It was incredibly daunting dropping into moguls waist to chest high with a kicker at the end. They were pretty dangerous and one of the competitors had a bit of a tumble and ended up getting choppered off the mountain. The other thing that stuck in my mind was the after-partying. It was really weird to have people I didn't know come up and say hello and buy me drinks. I was out with two friends so I stuck with them most of the evening, but it was a strange feeling nonetheless. Funky for a day I guess.

One day Kev and I saw there was a boardercross comp on so we decided to go to the Grands Monetets for a ride and have a look at it. It was very nicely put together and it's always interesting to watch really talented riders in any snowboarding discipline. I remember this day too because I caned myself trying to ride away a switch 360 and bounced and ragdolled down a slope for what felt like ages. Luckily I didn't injure myself but I remember sitting at home afterwards thinking that I was lucky the snow was soft - these guys were falling on hard packed at full speed.

Photos from Brévent/Flégère
This day stood out for me this season. Deep powder everywhere and Kev and I by ourselves ripping the mountain putting down fresh lines everywhere. This was one of the rare times going through chop but there was so much snow it was still awesome. You can see on the trees how deep the snow was and we just tore it apart until my goggles broke after a bit of a tumble. Definately a standout day. Taken at Flégère.

Firstly - how deep is this!! Taken on the same day as the photo above this was possibly the best run of the season. Deep, deep untracked powder - really solid technique all day and hardly anyone on the mountain. I'd dropped into a chute and was putting slash turns in the whole way down - like a kilometre of thigh-deep powder that was as flat as an artists canvas. I can still remember riding the whole day with my ears pounding and adrenaline pumping through the veins. Taken at Flégère.

This is just Dan at his best styling away on a windlip. I know we all had a go at doing this but Dan just caught it perfectly and Kev snapped a great shot. This was one of the few bluebird powder days we had and the Chalet Le Courtil crew was out in force riding together. We had some great long runs on this day hitting The Tit (a natural kicker) and spending the whole day grinning at each other. Taken at Flégère.

Shortly after the above photo was taken we rode into the Charlanon bowl and dropped one of the big cornices that had built up in the wind. I got the oppertunity to drop in first and my hand's reaching down for a little tweaked indy grab to try and style a little more. I love jumping in powder because the landings are so soft. Joe and I ended having to hike out of a terrain trap soon after this. Taken at Flégère.

The mountains are so high in the valley that you often get the cloud layer miles below. In Chamonix itself it was nasty weather - sleet and 100% overcast. Where we were it was glorious and the views were dramatic. I love it when the climate produces things like this. You just don't get to see it in England and I never tire of it. Taken at Brévent.

A wicked shot of the Aiguilles from Brévent showing some cool cloud formations.

Joe on the way up Brévent in the gondola for a days riding. On the way up the gondola was always full of laughter and energy. On the way down it was also full of laughter but at the start of the season everyone was shattered. As it went on everyone had more and more energy as we got fitter. Towards the end we could ride all day and still have enough energy to go climbing in the evening! I was surprised just how fit I got this season.

Photos from going out
Aaah, dancing on the tables at Chambre Neuf with the band playing. I loved this place - a proper apres-ski atmosphere with everyone drunk after one beer and singing and dancing everywhere. I can't wait to go there next season. The boys from the chalet (plus some random on the left) showing how it's supposed to be done. Left to right - Random dude, Dan, Chopper, Al, Jim.

Jon came out for a week with Godfrey and unsurprisingly got plenty of snowboarding and drinking in. We'd cleverly been on the Jagermeister test tubes and were in the process of turning into naughty mode. It was really great to see him out here and he's coming back for a bit of climbing this summer. Looking forward to it immensely.

Aaah, the end of season party. Everyone up the mountain for fun, games, drinking and general monkey activity. Nice switch water ride from this chap.

For the end of season party at Le Delice Andy and I decided to pitch up in drag. Katy's help and clothes were hired and she did us proud. Rather worryingly Andy's still got his lipstick at home. We spent many evenings in Le Delice having a beer and talking to friends. Everyone really misses it when it's closed as it's such a hub for all the friends to congregate in.

Joe, myself and a rather worried looking girl in Chambre Neuf towards the start of the season. For some reason in this photo Joe and I have swapped hats. It was my favourite beanie but someone pilfered it (or rather I lost it!) after a particularly agreeable night out many months ago.

There's some people to thank for being there this season and letting me steal their photos: