While French crews dream of urban in the streets of Stockholm, the Swedish skiers of The Bunch came to France this winter to ride backcountry for the first time. I was their guide.
What do you think when you think about France? I’m not talking about Paris’s super-expensive restaurants, fancy people, tourist distractions and medieval castles. I’m talking about the Alps’ super-expensive restaurants, fancy people on snow, tourist distractions and ancient houses. Putain, it’s the same shit everywhere!
But when I think about the Alps, I think about fondue, tartiflette and powder runs through the trees and on huge faces, and that’s exactly what Linus Tornberg & Lucas Stal Madison came in search of in February 2015.
Those guys live basically in hell: a flat land devoid of good cheese, powder runs, or a French sense of humor. They needed to come to France to discover how cool it is over here. Lucas contacted me one day, asking me to help him for three weeks of shooting around here, and in two days I found a cheap filmer (a guy who was sick all week and has asthma), a place to stay (my super-small apartment) and some places to shoot (including the smallest ski resorts in the Alps). I’m proud to be such a bad tourist agent.
We started with the legendary ski resort of La Clusaz. At the first lift we ran into Candide and Catane (Candide’s coach back in the day) with some kids. Yes, we were definitely in La Clusaz. Lucas played in the tracked snow next to the lift, and it looked like Linus was discovering both this strange white thing called powder and how to use large skis for the first time.—looking like a fish out of water. One run to play, one to have fun, one to see how huge a Swedish smile can get, and one how small a Swedish brain can be (Lucas forgot his jacket at home).
We shot photos on small things, hand drags and a few other shots before we got lost in the forest and find a pillow that allowed me to say my favorite photographer’s sentence: “Oh, come on, it’s not that big or dangerous, and the photo will be sick. Are you a freeskier or what?” I got a good shot, and if the photo editor of this magazine is good, you should see it around. I hope you like it as well. If not, what a shame.
We continued to ride, even without the camera bag or the desire to shoot. I wanted to ski as well, and I have to admit that those shredders are inspiring for me. They developed such a surprising ability! They followed the safety rules and bought transceivers, learning how to use them quickly.
After a first day of getting to know each other crammed into in a 20 square-meter apartment, I moved for the night to my girlfriend’s place, and when I came back the next morning I had to open the windows to air the place out immediately. Then we drove to La Sambuy, 40 minutes from Annecy, little-known and welcoming with one main lift, a great freeriding area.
We took our skis on our shoulders and set our own track, but ended up losing our momentum halfway to our destination. Ramoul the filmer was dying because of his asthma, but we thought we’d found some options, and set them up. The first one was a fail, the second one too, and we gave up the third one. A day for nothing—well almost, because on the way down we found the spot that saved the day, a beautiful step-down over a sea of clouds.
The second day at La Sambuy was simply a fail: a thick fog rolled in right after we finished building a huge kicker—a bit like when your girlfriend’s dad walks into the room right when you’re trying to lay her down for the first time. Once again, only our fitness coach could be satisfied with the situation, but we weren’t—fuck it. One more wasted day, thankfully the ski pass only cost 15 euros. The cars were overloaded with skis and luggages when we headed next to Praz sur Arly, my home ski resort. A new place, a large apartment kindly offered by my uncle, the manager of Chantalouette rental, and finally one room each, to allow us to, well, you know…
First day at Praz sur Arly. While Ramoul the filmer was sick, we headed out and I was proud to show these two Swedish riders an area almost empty of freeskiers and twintips. We hiked to the top summit, about 2000 meters high, and enjoyed a 100-meter powder run to get to my dream kicker spot—the one my friends and I always dreamt of, but never built. After a day of building, we left the shovels at the spot and headed down, and despite my advice, the boys chose to ski down underneath the lift despite the poor snow quality, and I had to wait for them for 20 minutes at the bottom. Those Swedish guys can find a way to make skiing even the worst snow fun.
At home we ate good French food and drank the local super-strong and disgusting liquor like the other tourists do. The Swedish guys got to discover some of our classics, just like the kicker that we hit the day after. The guys killed it, even though 30 more centimeters would have been sick on top of the booter. “I couldn’t sleep properly because I was thinking too much about it,” said Linus. “It’s basically my first real backcountry kicker.”
Exhausted after this one, we took the next day off from shooting to just enjoy some powder shred, finding some stuff that I’d never ridden before in this area that I call my home mountain. The last night at home is a blast. My family brought a huge amount of cheese and the fondue feast was on. Plus, we had some electric issues and it became a family fondue candle session that no one expected, ending with too much alcohol in the pot—and in our heads.
On Sunday evening, with almost one week already behind us, it was time for me to go back to work full time on Downdays, and time for them to chill at my apartment, rent a car, welcome two more guys into the team and head up to Beaufort for one more week of fun in the powder.
Two weeks later they were back to Praz sur Arly for the ID (Independent Directions), where they spent a weekend riding slopes and freestyle features as an re-acclimation to Sweden before my car, a bus and then a flight sent them back home for their next adventures.
It was a good time welcoming people to my home, organizing a trip and having the feeling of offering them their first real backcountry experience. They have a lot to learn, but with that creativity in their pocket, there’s no doubt that they are about to kill every kind of terrain in the future. Thanks guys!