For the past several years, Tof Henry has slowly and steadily been making a name for himself on the hallowed lines around his hometown of Chamonix. Now with the release of his new film “Born In Chamonix,” presented by Armada Skis, Tof looks to cement his legacy as one of the new greats of the world’s greatest ski town, while making more or less a declaration of war on contemporary big-line riding in the process.
For Tof and his crew, the argument goes as follows: you ski for the passion and the flow, not simply for the achievement of having claimed a classic line. The goal is to not just descend, but to actually rip the hell out of some of the Valley’s most daunting lines, continuously and with as little rope assistance as possible. Since rope-laden ski mountaineers can be found daily picking their way down mountains around Chamonix in less-than-optimal conditions, Tof’s more freeride-flow mindset can be seen as a breath of fresh air in a competitive environment. From a wider perspective however, it might be read as yet another form of one-upsmanship in a town where showing off is part of the game.
On the one hand, Tof’s singular style of attacking Chamonix’s most storied descents is without question a game-changer, and a full frontal assault on what’s now arguably the “old fashioned way” of tackling huge descents: slowly, cautiously and carefully. If you’re never going to ski the Mallory yourself, doing it vicariously via Tof’s mindblowing descent in prime conditions in this film is probably the best way you’ll get to experience it, as well as most of the other classic Chamonix lines that he takes on.
On the other hand, “Born in Chamonix” shows that the new assault of high-speed freeriding in the steep-skiing realm has a few obvious limits. Tof’s run on the Gervasutti Couloir makes clear that the conditions are always paramount; maybe once or twice a year, or not at all, will a certain slope be ready for a rapid descent, the way our protagonist would like to see it done. And as numerous spicy seat-of-the-pants moments throughout the film demonstrate, only a skier with the innate mountain sense and born-in-Chamonix control of Tof Henry can ski like this for any extended period of time and be able to talk about it afterwards in his film.
That’s probably an important thing to remember while watching “Born in Chamonix.” Although this trailblazing accomplishment on Chamonix’s biggest lines will change the way these descents are looked at for generations to come, this way of riding will only ever be achievable for a very select group of people. Those looking to join this group should be well aware of the consequences involved. That said, bravo to Tof and to film producer Daniel Rönnback for opening up these new worlds of possibility for us to ponder in amazement.