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The Need to Ski
April 3, 2013Written by Vapur Pro Team member, Chris Davenport. I love to travel. In fact, as a professional skier I often times feel like I’m really a professional traveler. Skiing has been my vehicle to see the world and it’s great mountain ranges, to meet all sorts of amazing people, and to gain perspective on the array of cultures and languages that make this Earth so amazing. If it wasn’t for skiing I’m not sure I would have been able to visit all seven continents and stand on the roof of the world (although I guess I would have figured out how to make that happen). Skiing has been my ticket to hundreds of amazing journeys, and it’s a ticket that I continue to punch season after season. People often ask me the toughest question: “Chris, what’s your favorite place to ski?” My answer is usually, “Wherever the snow is great and the terrain inspiring!” But the real answer is I have a few mountain ranges that always inspire me and I travel to almost every year - the Chugach and Alaska Ranges in AK, the Antarctic Peninsula, the Andes, and of course the Alps of Europe. My infatuation with the Alps started when I was in college and spent 8 months going to school in Austria and traveling all over the continent. Of course my main motivation for this semester abroad was to ski as many places as I could, and I discovered that the resorts of the Alps suited my skiing style perfectly. You see, back then, I loved to jump off stuff - cliffs mainly, but catching air was what I loved! And the terrain in the Alps was perfect for this. I loved the fact that most skiers back then stuck to the well-groomed piste, while the off-piste areas were basically untouched. So my friends and I spent dozens of days exploring the Austrian resorts, both big and small, in search of cool cliffs, steep terrain, and wild places. Over twenty years later not much has changed. I’ve lived in the Alps for two full seasons, been to almost a hundred different resorts, and climbed and skied some of Europe’s biggest and most famous peaks. I’ve competed in freeskiing contests in Austria, Switzerland, and France, and made ski films in all of those countries as well. The Alps are huge and expansive, big on vertical, and so much of the terrain lies above tree line due to the northerly latitude. At this point, with almost thirty trips under my belt, I feel like I’ve still only scratched the surface of what is possible in this incredible mountain range. And my problem with the Alps, if you can call it a problem, is that every time I go there, especially if I visit a new location, is I discover terrain that I never knew existed and fall in love with some new valley or mountain sub-range. This happened to me just two weeks ago, when I was skiing in the Italian Dolomites with a crew from Scarpa Boots and had the chance to visit two areas which had eluded me for all those years, the Passo San Pellegrino and the Passo Pordoi. The Italian Dolomites are generally made of limestone, and limestone lends itself perfectly to the skiing of couloirs- steep, narrow passages through the cliffs that are some of Mother Nature’s most beautiful works of ski terrain art. When I found out I’d be visiting this region for only my second time, all I could think about was couloirs. I ran into Powder Magazine editor, John Clary Davies, who I knew would be on this trip with me, back in February, and told him, “John, you are going to ski some of the coolest lines you have ever been down.” He emailed me after the trip basically thanking me for taking him down some of the “coolest lines he had ever been down.”
It’s this stoke and passion that the mountains can deliver to us as skiers that make my job and the travel that goes with it so amazing. Sharing incredible ski experiences in mountain ranges like the Dolomites with good friends cements those bonds, and, as I said, always leaved you wanting to come back for more. I’m already planning a return trip to the Dolomites next season, and organizing a ski camp with the sole mission if trying to ski as many mind-blowing couloirs as we can in a week.
It seems appropriate to end this blog by saying skiing the Alps has come full circle for me, since those college days of pure fun and discovery. But the fact is, I keep enjoying the same experiences, just in new locations. That’s what makes the Alps so special. I’ll just keep searching for more new spots and following the cycle of ski travel that has been such a huge part of my life. As long as my ticket is still valid I’ll be out there, skiing.