This winter I've teamed up with my Blizzard/Tecnica team mate Eva Walkner for our film project Evolution of Dreams. We've talked in the past about what we wanted to show with this project and of course strong skiing was on the top of the list. This winter however has made it a little difficult to get into some of those bigger lines we originally planned to ski. Early season snow followed by a long dry period is one of the worst ways to start off the winter. Sure enough throughout the Alps that was the story.
This poor start to the winter left some areas to thin to ski the way we wanted to ski. So we really had to be smart when choosing lines. We had to make sure there was enough snow in the take offs and landings to be safe. Many areas where fine for cruising but not ideal for sending cliffs or skiing fast.
When the snow did start falling again we had another problem to worry about. Avalanches, snow stability was not great on many aspects. You had that early season snow followed by a long dry period that was causing problems when buried. In some areas you could anticipate not just avalanches but large ones if it was going to slide.
Below you can see footage from the FWQ 4* in Nendaz. Prior to the competition they bombed the venue and as you can see it all went. Controlled and natural avalanches like this one have been happening all over the Alps this winter and in particular right after the most recent storm cycle.
So what do you do when you are trying to film and mother nature is not cooperating?
First, have a good team. Even on low risk days there is never a guarantee that everything will be safe. Having a team that is knowledgeable and respectful in the mountains is key. Especially when the pressure to produce is high. It's important to have team members that can catch you if you make a mistake and vice versa.
Second, reach out to local guides and patrol to get more information on how things are shaping up. You can never have too much information when it comes to staying smart and safe.
Third, have good communication with your team. If one member feels unsure about decisions being made talk it out. Everyone's opinion counts, and no one should be put in a situation they don't feel good about.
Fourth, don't get fooled by what you see or don't see. If you head out in the morning knowing that you need to take special care in certain areas only to find that conditions "seem" more stable than you expected don't get ahead of yourself. Chances are you had those initial concerns for a good reason and just because you may not of whiteness a bunch of activity doesn't mean it still can't happen. It's easy to start out with caution and as the day progresses get more and more comfortable with the conditions. If you find that happening stop, take a moment and reevaluate the situation. Is it really safer than what you initially thought would be the case? Or is that just because you've been lucky so far? If your answer is the later you might want to slow down a bit.
Of course there are more items to think about when you are tackling these conditions in the winter but these are just a few I wanted to highlight. Remember, in the end it's all about making it home at the end of the day so that you can do it again tomorrow!