We’ve mentioned before about our instructor David Gladwin passing his UIAGM exams which means he is a fully qualified Mountain Guide who can take anyone anywhere in the world. We put David’s qualification to full effect last week when we sent him off along with three of our clients, Sophie, Peter and Sylvain to the Italian side of Mont Blanc for an epic day of off piste riding on the glacier de Toule.
An early start was needed for the drive to Chamonix to pass through the Mont Blanc tunnel into Italy and then onto Courmeyer in the Valle d’Aosta, where the very shiny new ‘SkyWay’ lift takes you up to the Punta Helbronner lift station at 3400mtrs.
Sophie, Peter and Sylvain are all experienced off piste snowboarders but none of them had ever climbed or abseiled before so it was down to our guide David to teach them everything the needed to know and to keep them safe in the mountains.
After a mountain safety brief from David the team stepped into climbing harnesses, strapped on their crampons, tied into the rope and made their way across the snow to the Col du Flambeau and then on towards the Col Oriental de Toule.
The team then hiked from the col Du Flambeau to the top of the Col de Toule. From this point a number of abseils, a bit of down climbing and some steep ladders were needed to access the top of the Glacier de Toule where the fun snowboarding could start.
Safely at the top of the glacier everyone could take off the mountaineering equipment and strap on their boards. With open views of Mont Blanc and the Grand jorasses and no one else to be seen on the mountain it was time to do what everyone came here for.
The snow conditions were perfect with plenty of bowls full of wind transported snow the team had a great afternoon of riding, with this epic glacier descent all to themselves.
As the team descended further down the glacier the snow softened up nicely and the group was riding well so we decided to spice things up and tackle some steeper descents. The team were briefed on safe travel techniques and snow and terrain analysis and everyone discussed the best line of descent and entry and exit points before they set off.
The steep terrain was definitely the highlight of the trip, everyone held their own, carving their way down the rest of the glacier to the Sky Way midpoint station at the Pavillon du Mont Fret
At the midway station with everyone pretty tired and having had an epic day out in the mountains the team made their way back down to the cars to head home for a well-deserved beer (or three).
Despite there being tons of snow on the slopes still, the lifts have now shut in the Portes du Soleil. So we just have to head elsewhere to carry on the shred!
A few days ago we headed over to Chamonix to do a nice day tour over the Col du Passon. To reach the Col du Passon it’s a great route down from the top of Grands Montets and then over the Argentiere glacier, followed by a 700m vert skin/bootpack. The last section to the col is up a steep couloir where crampons & an ice axe were definitely of help. Awaiting us on the other side was the 1500m descent to Le Tour in perfect spring snow conditions and without a sole in sight. There had been fresh snow a few days before followed by poor weather so there were only a couple of tracks before ours and a huge expanse of space to lay out some big turns. All in all a perfect day of springtime snowboarding!
We are now just waiting for the weather to clear to bring on some more splitboarding fun…
We have had a fun few weeks with some great mini-shredders out in resort. It is great to be getting kids into the sport at a younger age and proving that the old wives tales, preaching that you must be 8 years or older to snowboard, are nothing but false! We have a full fleet of mini kids Burton snowboard equipment, with snowboards starting at 80 cm, and recently we have been making the most of it!
Daisy, age 8, and Mila, age 6, Blackwell spent a week having lessons with Mint instructor Dave Gladwin (aka Mr Mint), forming the new snowboard posse ‘Team Snowflake‘. This is what their dad David had to say: ‘Amazing job by Dave, the girls had a great time, improved faster than we could have ever imagined (thanks to all Dave’s ingenious tips) and just loved the whole experience. I can’t recommend you guys highly enough, we are very proud and happy parents.’
The next new snowboard team to be formed was ‘Team Shred‘, when Mint instructor Tammy headed over to Chamonix to teach the McNab girls, Manon, age 7, & Loren, age 4, and their friends Izzie, age 9, & Maddy, age 6. The Les Houches ski area is perfect for mini-shredders and a great place to introduce the littler ones to snowboarding! Big smiles all round!
Check out some very cute pictures of mini-shred as well as a funny video clip of 4 year old Loren’s first go on a snowboard!
For more info on children’s snowboard lessons follow this link.
Big mountain legend and Quiksilver snowboarder James Stentiford killed it on the Freeride World Tour last year, with podium finishes and a 6th place overall. This year Stentiford is back and stronger than ever, with hopes of glory and a hunger for the title:
‘I know I can win one if I get a good line and with a bit of luck on the day.’
The iconic 40-year old, a legend on the U.K. scene, finds his place amongst the top freerider’s in the world and is the only Brit to qualify. He faces tough competition from other international big mountain legends, such as Xavier de la Rue, but with experience rivalling the best of them and the support of the British crowd, James is definitely ready for the challenge:
‘Hopefully I can surprise a few people, I don’t really feel under pressure like some of the younger riders so hopefully that will be an advantage.’
As good friends and snowboard buddies of Stenti’s, here at Mint we will be supporting him all the way when things kick off on the 21st of January in Chamonix. It’s the first stop of the Swatch Freeride World Tour and what better way to start than on his training ground!
You can follow James’ progress on the Quiksilver blog: www.quiksilver.co.uk/england/news with up to date news on all the team. For more information and details on all the tour stops check out: www.freerideworldtour.com.