Alpine Extreme

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Extreme Ski Terrain, Mont Blanc, Chamonix, France

Extreme Ski Terrain, Mont Blanc, Chamonix, France

Skiing into the clouds.

Follow the tracks to the lip of the chute. Would you push off over the edge?  This is a testing ground for courage, skill, and route-selection. But you will need an experienced mountain guide.

The view is from Aiguille du Midi on the shoulder of Mont Blanc near Chamonix, France. The mountains surrounding Chamonix form a world famous extreme skiing and snowboarding destination. There are lift serviced ski areas but this photo is of the back country terrain. There are famous routes near here that decend into the Chamonix Valley or into Switzerland or Italy. This is the crest of the French Alps, the Haute-Savoie.

One of the most famous routes is the Vallée Blanche. It is about 22 km (13.5 miles) long and typically takes about 4-5 hours. An experienced mountain guide is strongly recommended. At the mountain guide service website there is a questionnaire to help you determine if you are capable and prepared for the route. The answer to the question, “What ski level is required?” is below:

“This high mountain itinerary is neither groomed, secured, marked, no is there any surveillance. The fact that you are a good skier on red or black runs will not necessarily make you a good skier on the Vallée Blanche. During the 22 km of downhill skiing, it is possible to run all different types of snow : power, crusty, heavy…plus the narrow passageways leading down through the crevasse field. The stress factor is not to be neglected : a tapered snow spur, ice crevasses, the wind factor, cold temperatures…all these elements can limit your technical capacities”. ( http://www.ohm-chamonix.com/fiche.php?id=00&ling=En ).

The danger is real. Many lives have been lost in these mountains. But the challenges still draw adventurers. The fulfillment and accomplishment provide rewards. I have skied many mountains in the USA, but I admit that these mountains are intimidating in the extreme. Just looking at the tracks in this photo makes me nervous. It is amazing that they were even able to build cable car lines up to the summits of some of the peaks. The construction also took courage and skill.

Chamonix is one of my favorite places. It is a beautiful, small alpine village and was the host of the first Winter Olympics in 1924. The town is busy in the winter and summer holiday seasons, but less so in May and September. Chamonix is served by trains and it is easy to drive to. To find out more about Chamonix (check out the animated panoramas): http://www.chamonix.com/page.php?page=0&r=welcome&ling=en

Photo: 1/2000 s at f/8. There are more French Alps photos in the Photo Gallery at my website: www.earthmapphoto.com

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