My Mountain – La Clusaz
The Freeride World Tour champion takes us on a tour of his home turf, where the locals’ mantra is ‘go big or go home’…
How many years have you been skiing?
I’ve been skiing since I was two years old, so that means I have been skiing for 33 years on the slopes of La Clusaz in the Aravis Mountains.
Why base yourself in La Clusaz?
I was born in La Clusaz – I have my whole family here. There are beautiful mountains with beautiful snow… there is no reason to go anywhere else! It was a great place to grow up – the ski club is an awesome place to learn as a kid, it’s super cool – I was with guys like Laurent Thévenet and Lolo Favre, guys not necessarily so well known [but still on the pro ski circuit today]. Between school and skiing we were together all the time, it was like having another little family.
Tell us about your first skiing experience here…
I remember when I was a kid, five years old in kindergarten, my mother would take me skiing in the afternoons after school. One time she wanted to ski the black Fernuy run, but I didn’t want to do it. But then, three days later, I went there and skied it behind an instructor. I wasn’t actually that steep, and I had fun sticking my ski pole in the hole the instructor had made with his pole… it was great and I was like, why did the slope scare me before?!
How many days have you skied La Clusaz over the years?
A lot! To give you a bit of an idea, back in 2013 I skied 34 days here in a row. Rain, snow, wind, sun… I went skiing.
Tell us about your best day ever skiing La Clusaz…
There have been so many. When I was just getting into freestyle I had some great days skiing the Lanas couloir and Bellachat [an off-piste area beyond La Balme] with the freestyle club – such great memories. These days I love heading into the mountains with no agenda, perhaps to ride the Claudius or the Clocher face (where the Freeride World Qualifiers have been held). There have been good times in every day I’ve skied here!
Favourite funny crash story from La Clusaz?
Once I had a big crash in the pipe, a real ‘tarte en pipe’. I passed out. I remember falling and then nothing. My coach came to inspect me and he told me to go home. But 10 minutes later I was back on the run! I had a cracked chin from the fall, and it was really swollen, and my coach called me Joe Dalton [a big-chinned character from the old-school Lucky Luke comics].
Have you ever been banned or chased by patrol?
Not in La Clusaz but in the US, in Alta in Utah, we had a chase with the ski patrol. They eventually caught up with us because the sheriff was waiting for us at the top of the chairlift. We gave them a false name and we skied off as quickly as we could!
Which is your favourite La Clusaz ski lift and why?
Col de Balme, because it is like a playground. A short walk from here also gives you access to some other beautiful slopes.
Tell us something we don’t know about La Clusaz…
There are some awesome little-known off-piste areas, which are not in the ‘ski area’ as such. For example the Tête du Danay via Le Grand Bornand – you have to organise to leave the car or take the shuttle bus between Le Grand Bornand and La Clusaz [free with a lift pass]. It’s an area nobody knows about and with good snow at 1000m, you can ski a great couloir en route.
What’s good to eat in La Clusaz?
Tartiflette with the famous Reblechon cheese, of course!
Favourite après bar in La Clusaz?
It is not a bar, but some friends and I have a small spot in La Balme where we wait for slopes to close and we make a last sunset descent, when everyone has gone home…
Best local superstition?
‘Go big or go home’!
Is there anywhere we should avoid?
There are slopes with safe exits from avalanches everywhere in La Clusaz – that’s the advantage of freeriding here – but beware of the slides on Fernuy, there is a big slab on the right on the way down that often releases.