I’ve been skiing since I was six years old, but I only started snowboarding at eighteen. Those were the first years of the new snow sport, I was totally hooked and I left my skis aside for good. I competed on the first snowboard contests but my results were never too impressive. Finally, in 2000, I became a snowboard teacher in Aosta, thus realizing something I had long dreamed of. 2002 was a turning point. A trip to AK enabled me to ride steeps I had never face before. When I came back, I felt the need to get deeper into alpinism; I went on a tour on the Mont Blanc massif: the first steep descents on a snowboard, like couloir Gervasutti at Tour Ronde, Couloir des Aiguillettes at Col du Diable or the Contamine Negri route at Triangle du Tacul. Mont Blanc is universe of its own, easy to access through ski-lifts, but once you’re up there it’s serious stuff, and you need to learn to move safely, so inevitably your skiing is influenced by the type of terrain that surrounds you.
My priority is always the same: the main thing is not falling down.
I grew up like that and that’s for me the most important thing.
Gervasutti couloir. Tour Ronde. Photo: Luca Rolli
I always look for the beauty in a line but that doesn’t mean everyone finds it beautiful. I like to go for powder-loaded steeps, that’s the best conditions for snowboarding. On the other hand, as years go by, I get more and more scared facing really loaded lines; anything can happen and you can never be 100% sure about the conditions. The exposure and direct consequences of facing a steep line, I don’t necessarily look for that but you’re inevitably going to run into that at some point. My priority is always the same: the main thing is not falling down. I grew up like that and that’s for me the most important thing.
No one’s ever encouraged or lead me into what I do. I love to be on the mountain and to ride down all the mountains around on my snowboard; easy or sketchy, it doesn’t make a difference.
It is important to be an alpinist; I’ve learned that from my more expert friends, but I still have a lot to learn. Obviously, snowboarding has lead me into alpinism, it’s a path I had to take.
Fear is always there, and that’s how it’s meant to be, but it shouldn’t be too much. Being aware and alert is one thing, but being scared is something else; it’s even dangerous and not fun.
Skinning uphill in the Cirque Maudit. Photo: Marc Sixto
I analyze thoroughly the goal I have in mind -that’s a major part of my activity- and it allows me to dream about descents that I want to take on one day. Mentally, once I’ve made up my mind to go for it, I try to focus on the difficult spots I am going to face. When the action starts, I am totally focused and I try to stay cool, knowing everything is going to go fine. Fear is always there, and that’s how it’s meant to be, but it shouldn’t be too much. Being aware and alert is one thing, but being scared is something else; it’s even dangerous and not fun.
Every descent is a whole different story; after so many years, it’s a bit easier to understand when is the right time. The main thing is not to be in a hurry. For me it is crucial that the face is in the right condition and that often requires a long time. Also the weather conditions have to be favorable: the temperature, the wind.
Definitely, it’s just a matter of being patient and not rushing. The combination of some crucial ingredients can result in the perfect descent at the right time.
Foggy morning in the glacier. Photo: Marc Sixto
Every descent is a whole different story; after so many years, it’s a bit easier to understand when is the right time. The main thing is not to be in a hurry.
I don’t go out there with just anyone, but with people who give me a good feeling. Even if they’re accomplished mountain riders, if I don’t feel the right thing, I rather not go. I know it all about my mates: their qualities, defects, weaknesses and virtues, and they know me well too.
Mont Blanc is home for me, but it’s always nice to see new mountains. I’d love to travel more often. For me, the sheer idea of preparing a trip to a new location is already realizing a dream.
After ten years of descents, it is hard to tell about all of them, but here are some lines that have remained deep in my heart: couloir Gervasutti at Tour Ronde, my first steep descent at Mont Blanc, back in 2002…it all started from there. Sperone della Brenva and Gervasutti at Tacul in 2006 were my first two big descents, that I had never imagined I would accomplish. Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey, Aiguille du Plan, Pain de Sucre, Col Armand Charlet, the west face of Mont Blanc and Grivola (3 different lines), Becca di Nona. All of these are for me awesome mountains, full of memories.
Splitboarding opened a whole new world. I’ve never had a problem on steep terrain, on the contrary, I prefer the stiffness of some splitboards, so I ride them on steep lines rather than using a solid board.
Punta Garin west face. Photo: Julien Herry
I started splitboarding in 2009. There weren’t many splitboarders in the valley back then and I tried it as a challenge; I wanted to see what it was. It was a revolution for me, It opened a whole new world. I’ve never had a problem on steep terrain, on the contrary, I prefer the stiffness of some splitboards, so I ride them on steep lines rather than using a solid board.
Yes, I think splitboards have improved, moreover, I think it’s the only aspect of snowboarding which has evolved.There’s still a lot to be done: lighter boards, more performant bindings and better precision in their manufacture.
Furberg snowboards are the most outstanding boards I’ve ridden over the last years, their shapes are unique, I love them. I try to contribute regarding their performance on steep descents and this year the board came out amazing. The first month of the Winter season I rode it on steep descents like Nord de la Tour Ronde. Daniel Furberg has got it dialed, I may contribute somehow but he does things right no matter what.
Yes, the new stiffer boots for alpinist use mean a great step ahead, but I’d like to think that the concept can still evolve further.
For me snowboarding is soft, with all the good and bad things that come with it, if not I’d go skiing and solve all the problems.
Coming back to the Pointe Helbronner. Photo: Marc Sixto
For me snowboarding is soft, with all the good and bad things that come with it, if not I’d go skiing and solve all the problems. I think in splitboarding/alpinism, it’s a matter of trying and I’m a bit reluctant to change, but I can’t judge unless I try.
Thanks to those who help me and believe in what I do: The North Face, Furberg Snowboards and Salice eyewear.
WORDS: David Pérez PHOTO: Marc Sixto / Luca Rolli / Julien Herry