Snowboard in Morzine Swiss Cross
The team looked over the
top at the 45' slope which was situated 2m below, the first
turn hiding under the cornice. Throwing a snowball was the only
test to see if the snow was stable, the face did not move.
Over I went. An excited cry as
the tail of the board released from the top of the cornice,
airborne, I reached for the front side edge and straightened
out my legs.
Releasing the edge, I straightened
out readying myself for the impact. The board sunk into the
fresh, I powered onto my backside, stabilising the board and
myself. A jet of snow, feeding from the back edge was thrown
into the air.
Portes de Soliel Ski Area
The angle of the slope was optimal for my snowboard, unweighting the back, I extended and the board followed, throwing me into the air as I changed onto the front side edge.
I was losing height at a rapid rate, each turn dropping me deeper into the gully, the snow flying past my feet as I set up for a front side power turn, the board flexing with the pressure which was being pushed through my toe side. The rocks came close as I finished the turn off, the end result a new layer of snow across the rock face.
Deciding when to stop can be as difficult as the start. The rhythm of the fast turns now generating more speed as the gully opened up, the angle decreasing, it was time to look for a safe resting spot and wait for the rest of the team to follow.
To my right was a large outcrop of rock, the ideal haven from the rogue stone or snow avalanche. Out of the natural line, I dropped the speed and stopped under the protection of the limestone buttress.
The rest of the team now had their chance. One at a time, I could see them dropping the cornice 300 metres above my head. The plumes of powder floating off into the air with the light wind as each turn was instrumented. The cries of enjoyment muffled by the tightness of the gully. The stoked eyes invisible behind the masked faces. The team were back together again, huddled under the outcrop. The first steep section had been completed.
The object of the day was
the North face of the Croix de Culet. This mountain to the right
(as you look from the top) of the famous "Swiss Wall"
is an ideal back country run. Seeing the possible lines for
the first time will make you smile as you take the Ripaille
drag lift. The trek to the top of the Croix de Culet may not.
Over 1km of 30' plus will get to your heart and lungs.
I could hear the deep breathing of Archie above my own fast
beating heart, the kick of each step covering the noise for
an instant as I tried to find the hard base through the covering
of fresh powder. I had been moving upwards for 30 minutes
and the "Swiss cross" was at last in view The team
regrouped at the top, everybody deep in thought, the views
more important than conversation, each individual taking in
the beauty and splendour of the moment.
The drop off the summit after a short break is the way out.
Using the back side edge, I followed the cornice which had
been formed by the prevailing winds of the last few days,
my snowboard gliding with frictionless ease over the fresh
Below I spotted the landing zone as I launched off the wind
lip, gravity taking over as the board left the security of
the snow, reaching for my backside edge, I found the bottom
of the board and pulled up. Extending my right arm after the
grab straightened out my back, the landing zone was now in
I hit the snow hard, the air time was bigger than I thought.
Keeping my weight on the back foot to keep the nose of the
board up, I let the friction of the snow do is work, my speed
dropped off as the board settled into its natural groove.
Floating just above the surface, I dropped my weight onto
the toe edge, the board reacted, turning with an ease normally
found on the waves..
Linking turns I dropped into the trees, the branches reaching
out to take a hold of my clothing, my goggles saving my vision
as I cut through a tightening section, the force of the branch
cutting into the plastic of the lens was enough to pump adrenaline
through my tiring muscles.
With my legs burning from the 500 metre vertical decent,
it was time to find a place to rest...