“Wait...is this going to work?” for a moment I question my belay device and harness as I stare down the rope of my very first ski rappel. I raise my head to see one of the most beautiful sights, Mt. Blanc, towering over the small ski town of Chamonix. It only seemed like yesterday I was enjoying the apre’s ski with close friends in my hometown of Salt Lake City. Now I find myself standing on top of a 9,000ft decent in the French Alps with a backpack full of camera equipment and a major case of cold feet.
Traveling through the mountains in this part of the world requires years of experience in skiing and a solid understanding of rope, knots and anchors. I knew that I could ski and that I could rappel; but the combination of the two I was unsure of. Fortunately I was accompanied by professional skiers and all around badasses: Sam Cohen, Zach Halverson, Jacqui Edgerly, and Ian Borgeson, friends that have years of skiing and climbing experience, so this stuff is nothing new to them.
I double check my harness, take one deep breath, lean back, and begin rappelling down the rock peppered couloir.
“How did I get here?” the thought sparked a montage of memories traveling solo half way across the globe in hopes of meeting up with friends at the finish line. Somehow, we managed to line up all of our itineraries’ to arrive in Chamonix on the same day. As I traveled from Salt Lake City, Sam and Ian were on their way to Chamonix from Verbier, Zach from Alaska, and Jacqui from Colorado. A hostel named “Ski Station” served as a refuge for our aching bodies in between skiing mid-station powder laps on the Aiguille Du Midi and dancing at various nightclubs with curious French women. On down days, we walked across the narrow street from the hostel to the cafe for a breakfast of espresso, chocolate croissant, eggs, ham, and baguette.
Inside the café Zach recalled a moment saying, “I glanced up at the mountains and had to keep leaning my head back to see the summits! Some raise 8,000ft or 9,000ft, and are shadowed by Mt Blanc rising 12,385ft from the valley floor. Those huge mountains re-centered me almost instantly. I wasn't even that tired from my travels anymore.” Being from Alaska, Zach felt at home with the overpowering sense of scale the mountains provided each and every day. The rest of us continued to walk around town wide-eyed with heads tilted back.
We came to Chamonix not really knowing what to expect to ski or what kind of footage we would be able to walk away with. Instead, the trip turned out to be a way to prove to ourselves that we had the ability to learn about a new style of skiing in one of the most prolific ski destinations of the world.
Words: Nate Cahoon
Cinematography: Nate Cahoon
Editing: Nate Cahoon