I’m often asked about my favorite places to ski, so here are some of my recommendations from around the world:
Kootnay Mountains, British Columbia’s Red Mountain Resort and Whitewater Resorts:
While I love almost all of the skiing in BC, I’m choosing this area because of the consistently great snow that adheres to rocks, GREAT ski towns, the friendliest locals, phenomenally varied steep terrain, affordability and easy access (flights to Spokane,Washington,USA and short drive across border). When folks ask me if and where I have a pass, I respond that I don’t, but if I did I wish it was here and I wish I could live in Nelson or Rossland! Almost nowhere in the world have I experienced pillows like those in Steep Roots at Red Mountain, or powder that felt like backcountry but was actually inbounds like in Whitewater. It’s no wonder I choose to spend most of my season at these two places and that I run most of my Steep Skiing Camps in the Kootnays. What I also adore is the non-resort vibe at these towns/ski areas – reminds me of my childhood at Crotched Mountain New Hampshire. This is skiing as it should be.
Tip: Don’t miss the $25 dorm rooms at the Adventure Hotel or pay-as-you can or trade for rooms at Angie’s B&B. Don’t forget about the great slackcountry — bring all your backcountry gear almost every day to these areas.
Verbier, Switzerland + Chamonix, France or La Grave + Serre Chevalier, France:
I’m mushing these together because different folks may want one over the other or, ideally, both. Both are beyond words when using the lifts to access the backcountry. When I want to scare myself, I go to ski the couloirs in Cham. Besides Argentina, I don’t think I’ve ever almost peed my pants like when we skied the Rhonde when icy, and a guide died that day in the couloir next door in the same hour. I’ve also skied almost 7,000 feet of blower snow in a chute almost all to ourselves. Verbier also has epic backcountry off the lifts, but it is more wide open peak to peak adventure skiing and if you want to end up at a place with a bus or train back where you started, hire a guide or make a good friend at the bar. Another strong contender in this category is La Grave (pucker factor even higher than Cham) and Serre Chevalier (OMG steep trees/spines).
Manali, Indian Himalayas:
Typical response, “what Mountains are there?” Duh, they’re the HIMALAYAS, only the greatest, tallest and most epic mountain range in the WORLD. But great mountains don’t always make for a great skiing experience. Case in point, I adore skiing in the Chugatch Range of Alaska (Valdez, etc), but the rest – grey weather, greasy food, epic down time, heli expense, lack of trees for backcountry hiking on gray days, etc.) don’t contribute to my absolute favorite overall experience. Manali is an breathtaking Indian honeymoon destination, which changes everything. Epically tasty and inexpensive cuisine, no AK47’s like Kashmir/Gulmarg, colorful and almost weekly Buddhist and Hindu festivals, 5-star lodging and service at a budget hostel expense, Colorado-like weather/snow with Utah-like Intercontinental snowpack, and the mountains? Well, need I say more? Don’t leave home without: CR Spooner’s book “Ski Touring India’s Kullu Valley.”
To Be Continued…
Osprey Athlete ALISON GANNETT is a self-sufficient farmer, World Champion Extreme FreeSkier, mountain biker, award-winning global cooling consultant and founder of the multiple non-profits. In addition to being an athlete, ambassador and keynote speaking, Alison runs KEEN Rippin Chix Camps which offer women’s steep skiing, biking and surf camps around the globe. She has starred in many movies, TV shows, and magazines receiving many awards for her work including National Geographic’s “Woman Adventurer of the Year,” Powder Magazine’s “48 Greatest Skiers of All Time,” and Outside Magazine’s “Green All-Star of the Year.” In 2010, she and her husband Jason bought Holy Terror Farm, kicking off their next chapter of personal health and self-sustainability.
In May somewhere along the Annapurna Circuit’s long, winding, dusty road, I began to believe that after a safe and successful slaying of snow on two peaks that I had finally achieved my goals as a Himalayan mountaineer. This shouldn’t be that shocking since I have spent ten years pioneering first ascents and descents in the world’s highest range with narrow-minded focus and more than a handful of narrowly missed catastrophes blending the good times with the bad and no regrets for how we did it. This insight was forced upon me in January, when my friend Jack died in my climbing partner Jon’s arms and then I decided to take a day off from filming heli-skiing in Haines, Alaska and my friend Rob died on a routine run guiding clients. The number of passionate people I have seen meet their demise in the mountains now takes up two handfuls of digits and that is likely too close for comfort, and forces me to ponder my own fate.
This week was pretty awesome. Snow is falling and the trees still bear the last colors of summer. Jon Miller and I found ourselves atop a crag in the desert and it was nothing short of Alpine conditions. It’s a big reason to live in Telluride, Colorado, being able to leave town on a questionable day and reach sunny desert sandstone. Sometimes, the weather is a little more widespread than we think and we jammed our hands into splitter cracks while rain pelted down and wind made it impossible to hear… all this on a 40 foot, 5.10a route before the rain really set in. Oh boy, it’s no wonder the Himalayan slopes have never felt like much of a jump from here, it’s a wild country and no matter what you want to do, something is always “in”.
Please enjoy Ski The Himalayas Season 3 premiere episode and follow along with us this winter as we prepare for a spicy Himalyan ski traverse in spring.
I was just sitting on the ski area in Telluride watching the leaves change today in a drizzly meadow. I love living in the mountains in the fall. There is snow on the ground in the high country and looking west to the desert a blanket of clouds peter out and lead to splitter cracks baking in sunshine. Transitions between seasons are always so dynamic here—you can see from mountaintops to arid sandstone plateaus, summer’s orange alpenglow fades into blazing Aspens and ominous grey clouds. I’m glad to slow things down, return to the desert and rope up for a little while, this year has been a fast ride with speedy ascents and a lot of great downhill filled with giggles and whoops.
This time last year, I was gearing up for a trip with friends that challenged me in many ways but brought the team a rewarding lesson that I wanted to share. One that gave me the best winter of my life after that expedition and a lesson that I hope inspires others in how we approach back country avalanche terrain. Leading into ski season, I hope you’ll view the Ski the Himalayas Season 3 episodes here over the next 13 weeks and learn a little bit about the culture, terrain and risks that make ski mountaineering so important to us. A trailer is below, I’ll be posting each week and I look forward to sharing the adventure!
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Ski the Himalayas is now in it’s third season of online “making of” podcast episodes born out of Ski the Himalayas first two feature length documentary films available this year on Dish Network and Comcast Xfinity VOD and Pay Per View. Look for Ski the Himalayas 2 on Dish and Comcast Xfinity on May 1st. We climbed a peak and survived an avalanche, those were just two instances along the way…
We made it, we skied it, we are done in under two weeks with one ascent and one amazing descent. Our goal, to follow our noses to some of the best snow in Nepal has been a success. Our summit day on Thorung peak occurred four days ago and we now sit in the comfort of Pokhara Nepal, 19,000’ lower.
When I broke my ankle on May 1st last spring, I was at 17,600’ on 23,390 Baruntse, also known as my own personal Moby Dick for reasons you can research at www.skithehimalayas.com. Unlike Ahab, I was rescued by a vessel rather than doomed to one. Lifted into the skies, wrapped in bandages, worked over through weeks of PT and now here I am again today, returning to wrestle with ambition and not the ankle. Hopefully stronger, admittedly risk averse and yet still with an appetite for the unknown. The whale is gone though, off my range for a spell.