Why go elsewhere and see if the snow is more white, when the French offer, all massive combined, alpine head, the largest ski area (120 000 ha) and among the most beautiful off pistes of the world, the Grands Montets and all of the descents from the aiguille du Midi in the Chamonix valley, the area of Val-d’isère-Tignes, or even the freeride spot of La Grave-La Meije in the Hautes-Alpes? The adept cross-country skiing will reply that the appeal, it is precisely this distance, this also, and gliding, the key of his discovery.
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In Georgia, the cultural discovery is part of the adventure. Press Service
This is the credo of Jean Annequin, organizer of raids to ski for the association Mountains of the World. From the moroccan Atlas mountains up to the peaks of the most remote of Georgia, caucasus, high mountain guide grows spatulas for over twenty years, passes in tops, always in search of alternative routes where the pleasures of the slides will lead to what, to him, gives meaning to the journey: the meeting and the sharing. An experience of which he is a witness in a beautiful book co-written with his friend Michel Zalio, To ski around the world, the 24 most beautiful trips (2016, editions Guérin).
In the Zagros in Iran, the skiers progress from village to village. Press Service
To discover its biggest blow of heart, aim for the ancient Persian, point Isfahan and then to the west, over the desert, riding on Iraq of which they constitute the largest massif, the Zagros mountains. There you are. “Iran is a destination that has touched me the most, tells the story of this adventurer of the snow. I went there for the first time in 2004, won by a photo that I had shown a friend guide that came back. We saw in Isfahan and its domes, coloured under the snow, the mountains in the background… Magical.” The shock to the senses, add to the immersion at the heart of the great white iranian… But away from the tracks, in this country, which has 19 stations.
The valleys forgotten are linked to loss of sight in the Zagros. Every climb with seal skins rewarded with a nice slope and, at the end of the descent, a village where you can go. After several sightings, Jean Annequin eventually find the access from one valley to the other. What design a raid from village to village. “We lodge at the inhabitant, of the shepherds Bakhtiaris and their family that winter nails in them and, therefore, have all their time to welcome us, what they do with a lot of warmth and curiosity.” Eyes wide, the shared desire to know more about the other comes to the end of language barriers. Moments of complicity, create build wonderful memories sweeping passage a few received ideas. Las, the Iran that we rediscovered it yesterday closes again under the spotlight.
in The southern reaches of the Taiga
boreal forest in the massif of the Altai mountains. Press Service
other horizons promise similar alchemy between passion for sport and emotions cultural. A group that will fly these days, to the Siberia, where the association offers an immersion in the massif of the Altai, in the south of the Russian provinces, not far from Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Guaranteed departure also, in January 2019, for this exclusive program of 15 days (count 3 950 € flight included departing from Paris on the slope of chinese of the same massif, in Xinjiang, in the southern reaches of the taiga that Jean Annequin was one of the first to travel around twelve years ago. The climax of the experience, the exploration of the reliefs bordering the great lake Kanas from the village of Hemu, where lives a people of herders of Mongolian origin, some of whom claim that they are the descendants of soldiers of the great Genghis Khan. Their address horse could attest. Their frames will, in any case, the group of Mountains in the World have easy access to the foot of the slopes. In the evening, after a day of skiing alone in the world in the vastness of the steppes, the discovery of traditions, tuwa, between shamanism and lamaism, added to the escape is a supplement of soul…
For the High-Savoyard-Jean Collinet, co-founder in 2004 of the association franco-swiss Melting Spot: “We’ll also find at the end of the world of the qualities of the snow that there was not among us, or rarely.” Thus, as the surfer for its legendary waves, the lover of powder passes through the earth, to ride the legend. His destinations of choice? Japan and Alaska are renowned for their snow “dry”, with humidity sometimes less than 5 %. A powder so light that the country of the Rising Sun, there is even talk of “Champaign Powder”.
schuss on the mountains of Hokkaido, japan. Press Service
In the region of Hokkaido, Melting Spot offers several programs for the feel of this material gossamer, in particular on Rishiri, an island volcano in the cone perfect, whose slopes offer an abundance of large combes, corridors, spines and forests. The sea view as a bonus. In Alaska, Jean Collinet, will accompany them for the sixth time a group in 2020, in the heart of the massif of the Chugach, which is renowned for its snowfall and stable snowpack. “This is one of the only places in the world where you can ski on slopes to 55° in 50 cm of powder snow attached to the wall… thrill-a-minute, when the conditions allow!” In this american State that receives the most rainfall, it is better to allow two weeks of stay to optimize its chances. All the that the program lives in heli-skiing…
Canada, home of the heli-skiing
In Canada, the magic of the aurora borealis rounds off a beautiful day of skiing. Press Service
Banned in France since 1977 (but permitted in Switzerland, Italy, Austria or Spain), heli-skiing was invented fifty years ago by the company Canadian Mountain Heli-Skiing (CMH). Destination Powder, a tour operator that specializes based in Annecy, is the representative in France for more than twenty years. Its director, Thomas Leufen, explains: “To the western national parks of Banff and Jasper, MHC operates four huge concessions of at least 300 km long each. They occupy the best sites of the chain of mountains inland, located between 600 and 1,200 kilometers from the Pacific coast.” These areas, Cariboos, Monashees, Selkirks and Purcells, range between 500 and 2 000 metres altitude and have serious advantages: sumptuous forests, a glacial coverage exceptional, combes alpine galore and 1 000 to 1 500 meters of height differences ski in all weather and in all exclusivity. “On these concessions, it is housed in large chalets to top of the range which can accommodate a maximum of 30 to 40 people per week.” A must see and price at the height of the dream. “In a general waye, it takes 1 000 € per day all inclusive, excluding international flights, for the practice of heli-skiing, says the specialist, with variations from one destination to the other: Sweden, for example, destination short stay par excellence where we offer heli-skiing from the resort of Riksgränsen not far from the polar circle, offers the best quality/price ratio. While Iceland where we will ski from April to may, always at the edge of the water, remains the most expensive in the world. We spent 4 224 € to the formula 4 days in Sweden to 7 400 € in Iceland.”
The helicopter allows you to access the best spots, and to appreciate the full majesty of Kamchatka. The press-Service of Greenland, a small season (April to early may), but strong sensations in landscapes out of time. Press Service
other spots are the victims of their own success, as the peninsula of Kamchatka, which is not renowned for the quality of its snow, but where it operates in a grand setting, in the middle of the active volcanoes. “The problem is the capacity on the sites of heli-skiing: it remains the same while the global demand explodes.” In Destination for Powder, is there are still a few places in 2019 on certain programs, in Greenland, in particular, (“a destination to discover in case of emergency”), the bookings for 2020 are, therefore, already started. Opinion with the amateurs.
A traditional house in the depths of Siberia. Press Service
To the other, there is the option SnowCat:”It is the poor parent of the heli-skiing, summarizes Jean Collinet in Melting Spot. It offers in Siberia or even in British Columbia, where our partner, Skeena, organizes camps, roaming: one part in a big groomer to 12 or 14 in the large rear cabin. It is not in luxury, but we sleep in large tents heated in which it is standing. It is good, the atmosphere is friendly, and the advantage compared to heli-skiing, even if it happens less quickly at the top, is that one can ski all the time!”
Mountains of the World, www.montagnesdumonde.fr
Melting Spot, www.meltingspot.ch
Destination for Powder, destination-poudreuse.com