You will ask yourself why Part II if there is no Part I. To understand why I travel back in time you will have to bear with me from Slovenia to the Swiss Alps, Chamonix France and in the end the southern alps of Limone Piemonte. As far back as September 2017 I contacted my riding buddies Gašper and Žiga. We had spent one of the most epic trips of my life together in Japan two years earlier. With real life chugging at us piece by piece, it was time for a new adventure. First we wanted to go to Sotchi, but with the winter the way it was here in the alps we decided to do a bit of exploring here. After all this might be the last big winter according to some projections and we were not gonna miss out. With me and my go to bestie Jan not being where we were as friends with stupid distance and walls between us, I was not really sure he would come along too. Specially since our weird falling out before my Dachstein adventure. Yet he was up for it too. So two weeks ago on an early Saturday we set out. First stop. Disentis Switzerland.
PREPARATION IS HALF THE JOURNEY, OR REAL FRIENDS HELP WHEN YOU NEED THEM
But before we took of I had quite the week. Work, work, work and everything real life trows at you. Winter 2018 has been quite the roller coaster up till now. Starting with the falling out and the end to our entire planing with Jan for the Freeride World Tour quilifiers and our winter together, a pretty botched sale of our calendars, that still somewhat managed to get us a bit of headroom with a mere 15 prints (yeah only 15), to me loosing a ski in Zauchensee on one of the deepest powderdays imaginable. In short explained: If I blended out the real world and only saw the adventures on snow, ignored relationship problems and a weird state of the world, it was a winter for the books of old. If you looked at the whole picture thou it was a total mess,, but not a creative mess, not a good mess, a wtf mess.
In short I needed this trip more then I was willing to admit. I did not have a lot of cash on the side but a bit was still there since I left Ljubljana… it would have to do.
But before getting started even two days before takeoff a few problems needed to be solved next to working the whole day. The car needed a ski-box and I did not have the right rails. Or at least so I thought. After borrowing some from Smole, who I have to thank here for all the saves this season. From the ZAG test ski that got me through epic days in Gastein, to the roof racks that were just too rusty to use. Whenever I needed help Jernej was there. So thanks Jernej. Unlike some who even on our travel day did not manage to check if his roof racks would fit because they “forgott” you helped out. But I degrees. Still in the end the once that were useful where 15 year old uni racks that my dad had for his old Opel Astra, stored maticulasly and in perfect condition. Who would have thought 😛
Then there was the problem of a powder ski. I was still without a powder ski. With the amounts of snow coming down and no budget, fellow Salomon athlete Rok from Vertical Adventures saved my ass with his old MTN LAB ski. After quickly finding one of the last pairs of the Salomon Guardian in a shop in Holland, driving all the way to Škofja Loka to Extreme Vital for a last minute mounting and to Jan for a in week perfect ski preparation (Jup buddy you rock at that :)) we were ready.
Despite so many boulders in the way of our adventure I now saw a path. My hope now was for a lot of pow, cool terrain and a chance to fix shit up with my riding buddy.
Tune in 9 hours later and we arrived in Disentis Switzerland. 20 km from LAAX into the valley towards Sedrun-Andermatt this village is more a destination for local Swiss tourism. I had found the place by chance while looking for cheap places to stay. It was well situated to cover tons of awesome terrain. We would stay here for 3 nights and then head on to Chamonix. As we arrived at a apartment building that used to be a hotel, a Serbian “housekeeper” greeted us in serbo-croatian and let us in. The place was great. We even had cable so we could watch the Olympics. We checked the resorts in the area and made a quick plant for the next day. We needed to get as high as we could because of cloud cover. LAAX was the perfect choice. Also it would give me the opportunity to try something I had dreamed of for years. Ride the LAAX Half pipe.
Early we got up. I opened the blinds and it was snowing. Not was not a mega dump but it was good. Soon we were in LAAX checking the terrain. The tickets were mega expensive but wtf you live only once. We ascended and went up to the plateau. Still clouds. Still fog. No visibility. Then at the top station of the old cable car we finally came above the clouds. Bam bluebird. Now we all got hyped. This is what we were here for to ride places we never did before. See new terrain do new stuff. The clouds were messing with us for the whole day but we had a blast.
We started along the Crap Maseng station towards Fuorcla. The first run on my new MTN Lab – Guiardian setup. It was a weird feeling. Used to a rocker ski, this taper beast was quite hard to handle. Never used so much power for turning. Thou speed stability on this ski was insane.
The dumb cloud cover had us move to the Vorab glacier where I found a nice hidden north side steep run into the middle of nowhere where we could charge like idiots. I took a really cool picture of Jan there. Then when the clouds did open a bit more we moved to the Vorab Pign and back down to the valley. The upper part was super fun.
That completed our inspection of Laax and I gotta say it reminds me of Serfaus a bit. There is endless terrain and tons of interesting options. Specially from the Bündner Vorab to the south above black ski track 35. Lots of interesting chutes.
We decided it was time for a beer at the super park. While the boys started I had to do one more thing. A few more lines in the LAAX pipe. So much fun and a dream come true. Also Jan was quite normal and somewhat more communicative. My world was ok again. Specially after the pipe run and the descend trough the endless terrain park. I was happy. Something that had been missing seemed like it might fall back into place.
SEDRUN – ANDERMATT
After picking up a few beers on our way back the plan for day two was already set. We would check out Sedrun and Andermatt. Connected by the Zermatt-Gothard railway these two resorts hover over the glacial pass at the end of the valley and give access to a huge area with tons of potential.
I checked topo maps and it soon became apparent that we would concentrate our efforts on Gamsstock peak at the far end from our starting point in Sedrun. We looked at where to go and I was eager to descent the side to Felsental on the riders left and especially a long crossing trough the Bodental all the way around the Gamsstock with a few cool chutes in the middle. One that side there is a whole new world of options.
It was perfect bluebird and we were exploring the hell out of it. Epic. I wanna come back here I thought in perfect bluebird. We managed to do all the things. The route around the Gamstock into Unteralp rewarded us with a fresh chute and in the middle we found a cadaver of a Gams that seemed to have been eaten by some predator. It was really adventure at its finest. The unteralp valley ads up to a good 18 km before you return to the Gamsstock station.
While Žiga and Gašper were feeling the burn 😛 they opted for for pizza and beer at the first pizzeria we found while coming out of Untertal. Jan and I thou were not done yet.
See in the topos I looked at I naturally started checking for steep terrain. With our crew being comprised of two freeskiers and two steep addicts we would stay on the safe side, for most of the time 😛 At the riders right side of the Gammstock there are a few steep couluars. With the conditions super stable they might be doable I had thought the day before. Jan and I originally wanted to just check the area but then we stumbled on the “Giraffe”. Looking like a giraffe this steep chute is steep and on the lower part wide open. I was giggling.
Jan was also super stoked. I could see it. He was in the zone. I had not seen him like that in ages. It felt really good. I wanted to take a epic pic of him again while he dropped. 3.2.1. and bam. He charged into it full throttle and it was awesome to watch. Now thats the buddy I know I thougt. Seeing that made me happy and stoked. I soon followed. Turn by turn it was good. I also wanted to get a good picture and Jan tired his best but still … the story of my life. Everyone gets a good shot, only I do not.
Then we descended into the valley. Another couluar at the bottom made one thing apparent. My “get me over till next season setup” would not work for shitty conditions. The MTN lab is just to stiff to ride on crud crust. For this to work I would need a 130 flex boot. The MTN Lab boot only if strapped to the shear max barely got me moving. It was quite exhausting. Still I soldered on missing my lost Q118 buried somewhere in Zauchensee Austria.
Riding out of the valley I felt it again. I was happy. These are the places I wanna be, with the people I care about. Having done the cool Giraffe with my bestie reminded me of the old days when we used to be like 100%. When we used to like actually talk, I would almost say when we used to be human.
Again on the way back we took the train. A bit surreal I thought. Here we were. Four people with the same passion, friends on an adventure, not having to worry about the world. Sure we all had our daemons to deal with but still, I thought hoping more of these days to come, it was happiness in it`s most basic form.
When we got back we were all super stoked. The adventure was in full swing. Like the day before we watched a bit of olympics and we even settled for a game of poker. It was fun. My brother had lent me the game. Jan was the first to fall victim to Žigas excellent bluffs. Then second I flew out. After that it was david vs. goliath. Slak tired to stay in the game for as long as possible but in the end, with a documentary about the huge Gotthard-Basistunnel in the background Žiga took all our franks 😛
A SHORT STINT IN CHAMONIX
Since this was an adventure. We deiced that to get to Chamonix, we would ride over trough the alps. It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to just take the freeways around it but we were on a Le Grand Tour de Alps. Like in the dumb childish Top Gear episodes we would take 6 hours to do 250 km and end our journey in a fancy restaurant in Chamonix.
And that is exactly what we did. We took the Car train from Sedrun to Andermatt and proceeded to another car train at the Furkatunnel, to drive the scenic road trough Fiesch where the acclaimed Swiss HEIDI used to look after her cattle next to the Aletsch Glacier. Then we approached the Pass to cross over into Argentier and then Chamonix we ran into a problem. The pass was closed for some reason. The only way to get to cham would be to either go around half of Swiss or over the St. Bernhard Tunnel and then the super expensive Chamonix tunnel. Yay. Just what I wanted to avoid. Expensive tunnels. We took a vote and decided to do it like that as we would head back home over Italy. By then we did not yet know that a good two days later we would be skiing in the Piemonte :P.
We arrived in Chamonix. I was in contact for our AirBNB place with the host in google translate, as none of us knew any french. We were hungrey and tired. We also almost ran out of gas in Italy XD. After getting one of the most expensive dinners in the last year, a 20 EUR mediaum raw stake at MBCHX, the same place Jan and I had visited a good year earlier after the Outdoor fair in Friedrichshafen, and with Krištof on our Mont Blanc attempt. Guess you could say that this is my go to restaurant in Cham haha.
Then an odd thing happened. Before leaving a magician showed up. Jup a magician. Apparently for entertainment they have one at the restaurant. He showed us a few card tricks and we were all looking at catching him somehow, but we did not. He was in perfect control. He decided that Jan would be the “victim” of choice. He got us with a good trick where he picked a card and made it appear at random places. Then form nowhere he managed to slip a egg into Jans pocket. We were all somewhat Slovenian… weary. Was he official or was he a pocket thief. Skeptics haha. Turned out he was official…
Then we made our way and took about an hour to find our AirBNB. A cool place, but with no towels and bedding. I had not seen that on the information because it was in french. So we sorted that out with stuff from my car. Then the first crack apperad in the serenety of my advneture. Jan did one of his fukcing flipflops that drive me crazy. Im not gona go into the details but it really pissed me off. Žiga saw it and did what any good friend does. We talked a bit and it really hepled. Still skepticizm started to creep into the back of my mind going to sleep.
Then we woke up. Perfect bluebird. Still I was not in a good mood. I was sad, dissapointed nad hurt. Jan had not said anything. Pretending as if nothing had happened. Still we did manage to make a bit of a plan.
Checking the whole thing and a book we had for steep lines in the area the idea was simple. Head up to Aguie Du Midi, and then see if we attempt a steep line just above the Cosmic couluar. If not we would head into the White Valley and try to go towards Aig. de Tacul and then either descent there back into the valley or climb over and do one of the coluars on the other side.
It took a whole hour and a half of wait in the weirdest caffe with the most stoned bartender we have ever meet for our tram tickets to be called up :P. Then we where at the top. Wow.. this was another world. We suited up for skimoutnaineering. Took a ton of pictures and descended towards White Valley as the north steep sides were a no go. I was still not in it. My mind was somewhere else while being at one of the best places on Earth. This was not good. I made sarcastic remarks and was not being myself. Then Jan wanted to take a picture of me turning next to huge glacial seracs. I did not think much of it.
Still this season was amazing. There were no crevasses to be seen anywhere. So much snow. The sun was out. It was tracked as fuck but you could find some fun. Still at this stage we were all just scouting and taking it in. The size of everything here is insane. It is another world. As we approached under the the Chandelle du Tacul in the valley we started to skin up.
We identified three wide chutes that had no track in them on to the norht side under the Aig. du Tacul. It would we nice and it would be fun.
We skinned up. Jan and I had quite a bit of a faster tempo then the other two. We did good time but then at about three parts of the way I got to a boiling point. I was pissed. Pissed at myself for caring. Pissed coz I was not enjoying the perfection around me with my bestie. The stupid wall distance was to much to bare. I asked a few questions and first got a shit of selfish ahole answers and then I snapped. I pushed him into the snow. Now he was all white and wet I felt ashamed. Why would I let anyone let me lose my cool. After all that had happened only twice in 35 years. Why did I give a shit about these kind of people. Was he really just a shitty parasite? I started cleaning the snow of him and we muttered some stuff and then something clicked. I asked if he asked to take a picture of me at the seracs because he saw I was in a bad place. And he said that he did. Was that not what friends are supposed to do. We talked a bit more and it kinda got better. At this point I was even more confused about this whole thing.
Gašper and Žiga cought up in the meantime and were making fun of us. We were kinda like an old stupid couple. They were right of course. We continued up to a rock where we enjoyed an epic break and then we descended. This was the fun part. We did a fun followcam together and enjoyed a super steep part. Jan did a really nice 3 turn run here almost touching the ground at at least 90 km/h XD. as for me… with 2018 the way it was my gopro battery died for the best part of the clip. Another memory I will only have in my mind.
Still it was interesting. Here the mountains have a scale that the way one interprets steep gets turned upside down. Even on steep open flanks it almost seems like you are riding regular slopes when in fact they are quite nice 😛
After that we were all happy. My mood changed too. At this point I decided to give Jan the benefit of the doubt. Clouds started moving in and we proceeded to the Mer de Glass train trough an epic landscape. Then we did a dumb thing. Instead of taking the train we decided to ride to Chamonix on skis. We got a bit lost and then our stupidity came into play.
We decided to take a shortcut on the trams trail. Just over a bride into a tunnel. We had to be quick. No telling when a train might arrive. We started off and I was picking up speed.
My ski got stuck on the trail and I was not stopping. I decided to get some friction from the snow on the side. Then my right ski got stuck in the trams metal rail and sent me flying.. Nice side flip. Like the one that broke my collar bone a few years earlier. I did not feel any pain. I was ok. 1.2.3. get ski get of track. The others barely made it too and I was laughing. If anyone would have filmed that I would have made the “Jerry of the day”.
When we got back we checked the weather. Like my demenar a day earlier the weather forcast had changed to crap for cham. The south would be getting pounded thou. The Poemonte was to be the center of it and the White Valley would be well white in fog for the next few days.
Now we had to decide. We would as hell not stay idle in Cham for 3 days. I started looking for resorts down south. Then I rememberd an episode of Salomon Freeski TV a long time ago. They mentioned Limone Piemonte. A resort half way to Nice on the French-Italian border. Should we just pack up and go there?
IF LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, HEAD TO LIMONE PIEMONTE
We woke up and started packing. The landlord was a bit confused. Why were we leaving. I had booked a really nice place for cheap in Limone. We checked the topograpghy and were looking at tons of powpow in the trees. Žiga nad Gašper had switched into their cool stand up comedy routine. Ahh the good times. Just like back in Japan :). We were back on the map.
As we were approaching the Piemonte the weather changed to snowstorm. Still even 30 km out there was no snow. We were worried. Was it really so much snow. We approached Limone. There were tons of signs for Snowchains, warnings ect. Then in the last 20 km bum. It was dumping. More and more snow on the roads and all around. We were grinning.
We arrived at our place. Holly molly. Completely new complex. With everything even a SPA. Only the sofa bed Jan and I shared was kinda cranky lol. It made a lot of cranky noises. We wanted to go eat. But this is Italy. Before 19.00 everything was closed. The receptionist hooked us up with a really nice Italian restaurant named after the highest peak there the Cresta. Prices were really good. After a week of Swiss and France everything seemed cheap :P. Such a epic calzone and tiramisu with a Erdinger. We were eager for the next day. After a few beers and a nice “walk” in an empty snowy town we went to bed.
Morning came. I had checked the whole terrain and identified areas of interest. Gašper and Žiga were ready for the trees. We drove up to Limonetto to find out that we should head to Limone 1440. I was worried. It was dumping and I did not want to put up snow chains on the car. I had to buy them for the trip. More cost lol.
We made it to the parking lot and it was dumping. It was good we went to the upper part of the restort as the connection to the lower part was not open because of avalanche danger and bad visibility.
Avalanche danger also brought another plus. Ticket prices. 26 buck 😛 EPIC. We made our way up and noticed the first problem. Ok there was zero visibility on top but the trees. Deep as it was they were thick. Not a lot of space to run trough. We scouted the area and had a lot of fun.
Then we proceded to check a bit of a back track from the top to Limoneto and this is where we hit the jackpot. Open, deep and fast. And ours XD. Then we came to the back chairlift and found it to be super fun to ride under it. Also deep and fun.
Still more to find we found a pillow line under a power line 😛 that was super fun to charge trough. We were having a lot of fun and Jan took it to the next level trying to just skip one of the middle pillows. I guess that was his “Jerry of the day moment”. I remember thinking well that is fast from the bottom and a second later.. wow that is not fast enough haha. He also like to flip on that day.
We were super happy and decided to have a bit of a apre ski fun in town while it was dumping a reset above us. We went to the local beer pub served buy the worlds unfriendliest waitress. Gašper could not take it not to try to dazzle a smile out of her. He went up to her and told her that she is the unhappiest waitress ever. Then she just said “Thank you” :P. Then it was a bit of time for intervention as both Žiga and Gašper noticed that Jan and I had our drama and the bottom line was that I was tense, Jan was closed off and both of them were not used to seeing me like that. It is good to have friends who do something like that for one. It is always easy to just pretend it ain`t our beer or ignore when someone needs to be smacked out of it, but it takes something like caring to actually do something. That was the hard part. It really was. It is not something I can write about and I wont. Still the whole thing like the whole year have been a roller coaster and it took a toll on everything. Even besties. People are different and some of us are complicated. Specially us two idiots. Puff.
Regardless of that some things remain unsaid. As I stay true to myself I still cling to my motto: I will not give up on the people I care for. We are all different and we have to trust each other, talk to each other and be open about what really goes on in us. Until we learn to do that or just cherry pick what we want to see and close our eyes and hearts to what we do not or are afraid of we are not going to grow. Getting a bit philosophical and preachy that is how I see it. And if we can not grow as people how will we grow as explorers, skiers, mountaineers. We wont. We will be stuck in the perpetual to do lists of our ancestors repeating the same, by the line of least effort, routines.. in short we will be conform… And I am not conform.
Still the rest of the evening was a blast after that. Great food fun. Even the town was full as it was a Saturday. We went for pancakes and even had to wait in line lol. It was also surprisingly full suddenly. As I later learned Limone, like Disentis is a place where Italians have apartment weekend homes and that is where they come to escape their daily routines.
Then the last day of riding came. Jan was silent and so was I. Žiga and Gašper were out. Žiga had a wired problem with his knee and Gašpers issue with his boot and toes got so bad that it was just Jan and me for the last day. Maybe they both did that so we could do what we did best together. Be on snow.
After the turbulent evening it was a bit awkward at first. The damned silence. Just basic conversation. But as the day progressed it got better or at least I hope so. I felt a bit bad for the night and as usual my heart got the best of me so I bought Jan the day ticket. For me if u care the best thing on a material plain one could give me, next to a big hug when I am down is a ski ticket. Our dynamic might be wired and messy at time but somehow I drag Jan to the oddest of places and he comes along. Like Limone Piemonte. He also took a great epic pic of me there . So at least now I have a good photo from me charging. it is also the cover of this little story. Even Gašper agreed that for once I was riding full throttle haha.
We ran most of the stuff we did the day before and even got the first line under the chairlift. That was super fun 🙂 check it out in the clip bellow.
A good ten hours later I was back at home. The week had passed quickly and we saw so many things in so many places that what I had left here in Maribor seemed like a different existence. Soon I would have to fall back into the routine I like to avoid as much as possible. All the emotional up and downs with the magnificent scenery made me think about a lot fo things lately. If life has thought me one thing is that things change and usually in a way that we see only in retrospect. What I do want to avoid is loosing more people, friends, close firends and people I care for along the way. After all the journey is what counts. The destination is only an empty mirage at the far end of the rainbow. And it is the people, places and experiences that make up the journey… all factors that to a certain degree we can pick or “design” to be happy. But there is a vigilant reminder that nothing is eternal. Time, and after all time is a fire in which we burn… that is why we need to cram as many cool adventures into the time we have as possible. For me only then and there I am happy…