After the Chamonix event that resulted in no competition,
I traveled home to spend a week with my handsome husband Ryan and pup Lana, I worked a couple of days and rode some epic Utah powder. The trip home was short, and I was quite busy, but it was also very relaxing. Since there was no event in Chamonix, the plan was to have two competitions in Andorra to make up for the missed event. We were asked to arrive a day early in order to allow the best chance to have two events. I arrived in Barcelona on Tuesday afternoon, caught a ride with Anne-Flore to Ordino in Andorra, arriving at about 11:00 pm to the Hotel Coma. The next morning was inspection day with the first possible contest day Thursday. Up at Vallnord-Arcalis, the mountain hosting the events, it had rained near the bottom the day before and now it was stormy with incredibly high winds, closing most of the mountain and making venue inspection impossible. A few of us braved the only lift, a t-bar, to ride wind scoured ice with the occasional pocket of powder in extremely flat light. Despite the conditions we managed to find some fun. That evening we learned that the next day was confirmed for competition and we would inspect in the morning, with the venue still to be determined, and 3 possible choices, depending on snow conditions. We awoke to a beautiful, clear morning and headed to the mountain before sunrise, I was lucky to catch a ride with Jackie and Reine. We all waited in the lodge for the first riders meeting of the day and were told that the venue is still to be decided, with option one being Baser Negre, one of the faces ridden in 2015. Shortly after the meeting, we all geared up and headed to the chair. Luckily the winds had settled and it had snowed about 10 inches the night before, all of the athletes were treated to pre-public pow laps! The riding was incredible and I was happy to ride pow with Tom Burt while waiting for a venue decision. After a couple of runs we were informed that the Baser Negre was too wind scoured and sharky for a safe event and the venue from 2016 next to it was logistically too difficult. The venue decided upon was Smoothy's Garden, named after Sam Smoothy who had a mind boggling run there in 2015. The athletes gathered to inspect at the judges tent and we were informed the contest would start at noonish. Ski men were to start, followed by ski women, snowboard men and finishing with snowboard women. I was 3rd to the last to go and still had plenty of waiting for game time. I had difficulty deciding my line, for this event, I wanted good snow, but was also concerned about ice and sharks. I looked at line that I was excited about, but talked myself out of it due to it sitting in the sun all day, turns it out was the winning run by Anne-Flore and she rode it beautifully. I picked a line that I thought would be fun with good snow. I was able to watch the men skiers, and then headed to the start gate. It was a gorgeous day in the Pyrenees mountains and I didn't feel overly nervous. I rode the line that I chose and managed to "white room" myself above two of my airs, hurting my fluidity. I ended up in 5th place with a clean, but not very aggressive or technical run. I am not unhappy with my run, but feel that I sold myself short on my abilities and was determined to shake off the rust and ride stronger in the next event. After the awards ceremony at the finish line, it was announced that there was the possibility of holding a competition in the morning and that we should go to inspect the venue that was used in 2016 before the sun sets. I was exhausted and it was getting cold with the sun dipping behind the mountains. I went to the next possible venue to have a look with Reine and Jackie, but I was having a hard time focusing on inspection, being so tired and cold. I decided to wait and see what morning would bring.
I was reluctant to leave Salt Lake City and the fresh Utah powder knowing that there had been little snow in the Alps. Chamonix is a breathtakingly beautiful place even without snow and I arrived to the open arms of the many friends that I hadn't seen for quite some time! It felt great to be back and my excitement for the event started to build! We spent most of our time playing the waiting game while the organizers tried to find a competition face that had good snow, would be able to provide enough lines and that would be safe to ride. Our first day on the mountain started early with all of the riders meeting to have a memorial for Estelle and Matilda, it was beautiful to see this community bond and share their feelings for the loss of these amazing women. A flock of Alpine Chough made an appearance during the memorial, and local legend is that these magnificent birds are the spirits of mountaineers, I imagined Estelle and Matilda flying high amidst the flock. Afterwards I was honored to join Jackie Paaso, Reine Barkered, Hazel Birnbaum and Eva Walkner for some riding! I am lucky to have such awesome friends and they were patient to wait for the "Snowboarder". We had a lot of fun exploring the mountain, but we mostly found variable snow peppered with sharks. That evening we were informed that a potential face was found and that we would be doing a three hour tour into French national forest for face inspection. I was looking forward to this adventure, even though the snowboarders that didn't have splitboards had to rely on some pretty low end snowshoes to get us there. We started early near Le Morzay and Vallorcine north of Chamonix near the Swiss border. I caught a ride with Jackie, Reine and Eva and we were one of the first groups to arrive. We started our adventure by piling a large group of us into a shuttle van to get us a bit closer (a half mile maybe). I started the tour with the group, but was quickly left behind, since the skiers were much quicker on their touring gear. I enjoyed my solo walk in the woods, and appreciated the time for reflection, but had intermittent company as others caught up. The views on this tour were stunning, about 2 hours in we came upon the Chalet de Loriaz, and were welcomed by a lovely St. Bernard. This was a nice little oasis and one could stop for a coffee and lunch before continuing on. From the Chalet there was still quite the climb to be had, so I pressed on, excited to see that my group was just in front of me, since they had stopped for a break, but I had no hope of catching them of course, being on snowshoes. This section of the climb had a very long side hill approach and I started to develop "hot spots." This was concerning, I didn't want blisters. Luckily Lorraine Huber was worried for me and asked one of our guides if he could help. He had blister pads that saved the day! After my feet were all sorted I continued on and now had Christopher Galvin as a touring partner, we made it about halfway up the to the face viewpoint when we were stopped by one of the guides. Turns out it took the guides sent to ride the face 6 hours to get there and it was decided that it wasn't logistically possible to have a competition on this venue. Galvin and I happily walked over to a nice little line and rode a handful of powder turns before meeting everyone back at the chalet for lunch. I had a great day! Now we were in waiting mode again and the hope of having a contest in Chamonix was looking grim. Time was spent doing an avalanche safety workshop with ISTA (International Snow Training Academy), eating fabulous food, enjoying the parties provided by the tour, and seeing the sites. We were waiting for the final decision to be made and everyone was a bit hungover from the previous nights festivities and I was invited to join Jackie, Reine, Eva and Turtle to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, I felt fortunate to spend my last day in Chamonix with these wonderful people! That night the call was made to not compete in Chamonix due to lack of snow and no safe venue. The goal is to have two competitions in Andorra. The first stop of the tour was a bit anticlimactic without a contest, but I have to say I had a great time!
Thank you Chamonix!