Winter is changing, for better or worse, and the obvious signs of strangely developing weather patterns string powder seekers along like puppets...
Text by: Chris Benchetler
Photos by: Oskar Enander
By virtue of winter’s decision to avoid the West Coast of the United States entirely, we set our sights on Europe instead. The southwestern corner of Switzerland and northern tip of Italy looked to be getting the most snow accumulation. Our primary goal was to find conducive terrain that would enable Eric and I to get creative on natural features while putting the final touches to the Nimbus movie After The Sky Falls. Unfortunately, just like the non-winter in California and the Pacific NorthwEST, Europe delivered temperamental climates, roadblocks and many unforeseeable variables.
Our European escapade was sparked by a phone call from Swedish photographer Oskar Enander, who spends his winters in Engelberg. He wanted us to come to Switzerland, and offered to show us around his adopted home resort. Upon arrival in Zurich I felt the familiar excitement I always get when I arrive in Europe. It’s like travelling back in time: rich in culture and history, refined architecture, and valleys of enormous mountains towering over small, ancient villages. The European Alps have been inhabited for over 5,000 years and if mountains could talk, the Alps would have plenty of stories to tell. Almost 900 years ago the Engelberg Abbey was built in the Obwalden canton of Switzerland—over 350 years before Christopher Columbus first sighted America—and the monastic community still has a large presence in Engelberg. Like a child in a museum, the sheer depth of history can be an overwhelming and eye-opening experience for any North American that has the chance to visit Europe.
The timing of our arrival seemed almost perfect. The Swiss Alps had just received a fresh coat of snow; sun and cool temperatures were in the forecast, and we had a knowledgeable local to show us the best nooks. Unfortunately our trusty guide and photographer Oskar had sent it a little too hard at ISPO, and looked more like the walking dead than a mountain guide. He was bedridden by a violent cold that kept him stuck in the foetal position for days after our arrival. So it was up to us to explore immense Engelberg with limited insider knowledge for the first week.
With almost 2,000 vertical meters of predominantly uncontrolled off-piste terrain underneath the 3,239m tall Titlis peak, the Engelberg resort is vast and a little intimidating. Our biggest priority was to avoid falling into a crevasse while trying to figure out where the most ideal terrain for filming would be. In contrast to most American ski areas, European resorts have a different…
Read the full article in the magazine, find it here: http://freeski.downdays.eu/magazine/