Though spontaneous, it seemed like the right thing to do. Catching a ride with from my friend Wills place in South Lake Tahoe to Seattle. Since there was absolutely no snow in the Sierra Nevadas in California this January, it was either up north in search of snow or trying to make it in East Hollywood L.A. But I’m happy I did take the ride and it gave me a chance to see a bit of the West Coast USA. We drove through three states, California, Oregon and Washington. And had the chance to visit Portland on the drive up. A cosy place to spend your time. It kind of reminded me of a town on the west coast of Finland. The big river, parks around, nice small cafes, food carts, best donuts I ever had and of course burnside skatepark.
Some say all the big cities are the same: In Paris you’re not in France, it’s all its own world, London is not the real UK. it’s an international blend of places etc. Landing in the New world and in New York, I realize something. The first morning I had a cup of coffee from the local cafeteria, enjoying it standing by and looking out at the Hudson river. The distances and size with its icy streaming water felt really rough and raw. There, although being in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world, the great Atlantic to the East and large forests in the north felt very tangible.
After Christmas we went up state to go riding at Hunter mountain, skiing in a rain-turning-into-snow storm. It was wet but beautiful, and from leaving a +15 degrees New York, where I went skateboarding at Chelsea by the river the day before, we came back in the night just before the winter storm hit the next day. Bringing in 20 cm of fresh snow on to the city streets, slowing everything down and forcing people to adapt. Feeling that although surrounded by loads of people, all the great architecture and technology in the world, nature still had command on it all. It makes you small and even makes the city feel small, which is somehow a great feeling.
Freesriding is often directly compared to powder skiing. It is about finding untouched snow, the dryest powder; speculating snow quality, amount and so forth. But for me – mostly riding in what I’ll get – I’m more interested in the terrain I ride. When the snow is soft, you can go fast and high, but when it’s hard or firm, it’s nice to ride something more exposed. That is when you can trust your edges to grip and you kindof know-what-you’re-gona-get underneath your skis.
A shorter season, unpredictable snow and the occasional heat makes the Pyrenees an unattractive spot compared to the Alps. Some of it is true. Unlike the prejudice thought there’s usually a lot of snowfall, especially on the north sides (14 m at some spots this season) but(!) it can change fast, with strong winds and variable temperature.
A couple of days ago I took part in a freeride competition in Tavascan here in the Pyrenees. My friends’ brother was organizing. The venue looked good. Not so long, but quite steep, some big no-go cliff zones and a line through a challenging looking terrace rock band that looked to suit my kind of riding. The snow was literally dust on crust with all the dust already gone, when it was my turn to ride. The previous rider before me actually fell quite badly, on the same line I was going to ski, and was flown to the hospital with the hely (puh). He’s okay now, but I thought to take it a bit easy, focus on where to make my turns and make it down safe. And when I dropped in I felt right at place, steady skiing all the way down, it felt good. Moving down through various terrain in the mountains. (With a little route finding in the middle). The conditions were quite hard, and I made first place, hahaa. Here’s the clip from the ride.
I like to do more of this. Travelling small places in the Alps and visiting friends. I missed the first months of winter because of my broken hand, I have to admit it’s nearly been frustrating seeing all the postings and info about the epic conditions all over Europe on various social media. But I’ve learned to put more value on the things I have, to accept things as they come and see the bigger purpose in them. So thanks guys for making my trip. Pier, Nicke and Nives, Jaakko and Petter.
I’ve only been able to ride for a couple of weeks, but I’ve tried to get the most out of it. Been riding in variable terrain and snow, with friends a bit all over the Alps. From flying around steep trees in Bad Hofgestein, competition in the FWQ event in Goldeck, climbing ridges in the Dolomites to trying something in foggy weather and shitty snow here in Verbier, I feel I’ve seen a lot in a short time. But now it’s time to leave, recoop, plan and get back on it when the conditions are right again.
This summer and autumn I’ve spent a whole deal learning. Another winter season has begun and I’m doing something completely different. I broke my hand skateboarding the inside pool here in Helsinki just before the ski season kicked in properly. I’m not a great skater but I feel more eager to learn. Sitting by the wooden pool waiting for my turn, awing and admiring others who really have talent. All with their own distinct style, which is what makes skateboarding so true and raw. I feel like a beginner again, another sport which I suck at and that I guess is why I enjoy it so much. To be able to learn and feel myself develop every time I go and to look up and learn from others. It’s for sure been fun to find out something new again, haven’t had that feeling for awhile.
I’ve just spent a few days in Chamonix, meeting up with friends and taking care of some stuff, like getting my new skiboots fitted at the SOLE shop. (Without skiing because of my still healing hand). Being injured and focusing on other stuff like work, school and riding my boat, I’ve learned to enjoy other stuff in life. For me it’s about finding a balance. And now after a quick visit down, I feel the itch again to get back on the shredd. Another few weeks, a bit later than usual, I hope to be back in my kind of winter. Patience is my lesson right now…
Also I like to mention a new sponsor, which I am real proud of: FIM investment banking. They support athletes in different disciplines, like alpine skiing etc. and now freeskiing. I think it shows how our sport’s become more and more recognized in the world. Which is kind of a natural progress, since well, skiing’s so much fun…
So here I am in Laax, Graubunden eating an “Appfel” cake on the terrace, in my t-shirt. It’s warm today, super warm. The cake actually doesn’t taste of that much, sure it’s big and looks nice, but no taste…
Anyhow, a few years ago I had some real cool days in Disentis and Lenzerheide, and since then I wanted to come back and explore the mountains here in the eastern part of Switzerland. And a couple of days ago we set of eastward from Verbier with Raphaël. We’ve been looking at maps, trying to find pictures and planning some tours we wanted to do here before we came. Our plans have been so far to stay away from the resorts and go exploring the mountains by ourselves. But it’s been quite hard, since it got warm then cold then warm again. From scary wet snow to cardboard hell. Yesterday we finally got up to some really nice terrain. We drove our car as far as we could up this valley and left it in the small mountain village of St-Giusep (Sounds Italian but it’s not) from where we continued by foot. As we got up we were amazed with the scenery, it was stunning. We spotted some north facing couloirs, which looked quite awesome. But once we got up we found the snow not to be that good as expected. – Looks nice but doesn’t taste that good, a little bit like my apple cake here. But in the end it was for sure a nice day up the mountains, we got to explore, had the sun and skiing nice new terrain is always a joy, no matter what the snow quality. But that’s how freeriding in the mountain is, you never know what you gona get. And a long day it was, returning to the car at sundown. Pictures courtesy of Raphaël Bullet (except the self shots).
One of the great things about spending the winter here in Valais, Switzerland is the easy access I have to some of the small cozy ski resorts. The ones with only a few old lifts. The ones with a kind of home made feel about them, like the small resorts we have up in southern Finland, with these small wooden old-school cafeterias. The lift systems are maybe not the most advanced or comprehensive, but you still get a good deal of vertical, with interesting terrain and mostly no crowds.
So yesterday me and my friend Lauri thought to give Ovrannaz a try, a small resort close to Sion on the north side of the Rhone valley. We were hoping that they got more snow than us here in Verbier during the last little snow fall. So we drove over, Lauri arriving from Chamonix, first thing in the morning and headed up. It looked brown down in Sion but it got more snowy once we arrived higher up. When we got up we found most places to be really wind blown, but got to some good snow on the east faces. It was fun to explore a new place. Spotting lines from the lifts, hiking up and getting a few good soft flowy turns in.
It has been a quite rough start of the winter season. Snow came with a boom. My knee was slow in recovering from an injury I suffered in a crash riding the park in Saas-Fee early this season. And more serious: the recent passing away of our dear friend Felix has been quite a shock to us. I hope for strength to his family, loved ones and friends. Since the accident I’ve tried to spend a lot of time up in the mountains, and want to remind myself the joy I get from being up there and most of all sharing the fun of riding with friends. Verbier with Raph, Antti, Arska, Hannu, Matty and Ally. Thanks.
I was somewhere in Munich on a busstop, heading out for dinner after a day at the ISPO, when I got the phone call. My friend Felix had passed away in an avalanche skiing at home in Chamonix. It didn’t feel real at first, like the present got sucked into this weird dream world in between fiction and reality. Now I’m on my way back to Chamonix, to share our thoughts and remember our great friend.
It is difficult to say in words how much I will miss him, the great moments in life we had together and the adventures we planned. The ideas we shared, the respect and support we had for each other. I’m glad we had it.
We planned and did a lot together and I always felt that we shared a lot of similar values, not only in the mountains but in my every day life as well. I love how we had common ideas about the trips we planned together, thinking how we could make it more interesting and which way to make them happen. Also how we could share ideas about skiing, gear designs, filming, whatever, or how we could sit for dinner and talk about anything, anything that came to mind. If it was sharing personal problems, a new skiable line on a mountain, criticizing a movie we saw or a journey to a different country far away. Felix was always interested in more than the riding and the mountains, which always made things so much more real, interesting and fun. It was never about letting anyone tell us where to go or what to do, but to find out our own way and do everything ourselves. He always had a plan and solution for everything. Nothing was a setback or a problem, rather a small obstacle that was interesting, challenging and fun. Even now I think he is watching on us, smiling like this is all part of his great big plan. Working out his next move.
Felix was always the one bringing people together, if it was a dinner party, an opening night or a new adventure somewhere, he was the one that saw that everyone was invited and felt at home. I met so many great people thanks to him, and that I can be more than thankful about.
He left us too early, but that was not for us to decide. Now I would like him to know that I spend some of my truly happy moments of my life with him, and those moments are what counts. We always felt it’s not the quantity of years that matters but the quality of them and how you pursue happiness during them. And Felix, as I know, died a happy man. Living exactly in the place he wanted, pursuing his passion, his girl, house, lifework and that is what matters and more than many others ever will have. And he always said, that if we go, at least we know we have lived a good life. In his own Felix tone: “ah you know… at least we had a good one…”.
These few sentences can not describe how grateful I am to have Felix as a friend. But he will always have a place in our hearts and live on in our memories, and that – I believe – is what heaven is truly about.