Steep skiing is a variant of skiing that combines mountaineering and skiing and is practised in a couloir or on a slope, generally at the start of a summit that is reached after an ascent on foot and/or skis.
WE TALK ABOUTMaster of the steep stuff
Inspire by Les Portes du Soleil
Basile Marclay, Champérolin and steep skier. The story of a young man born under the Dents du Midi and passionate about steep skiing. He has skied everything that is skiable in his mountains, and even a little more.
He was 12 when he tackled his first major couloir, the Dent Jaune, and since then, he’s not stopped pushing the bar higher. His tireless drive for finding new lines never fails to impress, as will his skill and inner strength.
For this young Valais skier, however, skiing at top speed down near-vertical lines or performing aerial jump turns over rocky outcrops are not his only qualities. This extreme discipline requires more than just being an excellent skier, it also calls for masses of experience in climbing and mountaineering. Because when you’re skiing down a steep line, making a bad turn is not an option; you’d better be sure that you are mentally bullet-proof if you want to head down a more than 40° or 45° slope, where the only things that are going to help you are your physical and technical skill.
Les Dents du Midi a paradise for couloir skiers, with 7 summits at more than 3 000 m. East to west, their names are:
- East summit (3 178 metres)
- Fortress (3 164 m)
- Cathedral (3 160 m)
- Spur (3 114 m)
- Yellow tooth (3 186 m)
- Fingers (3 205 et 3 210 m) or “Doigts de Salanfe”
- High peak (3 257 m).
Also, even if the sport has opened up more and more in recent years, it’s worth remembering that it requires a perfect reading of the mountain to understand the risks involved and the ability to weigh up the snow conditions too. Before heading out, you need to be prepared. Being patient is essential too, and sometimes, that means waiting weeks before finding the perfect weather window, one that will ensure the best atmospheric and snow conditions. Being in the right place at the right time, that’s the motto of extreme steep skiers!
Les Dents du Midi
Le couloir de la dent jaune
The Dent Jaune couloir is a favourite classic in the Portes du Soleil for those who want to ski a “tough, but do-able” couloir that’s in the high mountains. Some 600m long (including the bottom cone), it’s quite wide and straight. Beware rockfalls, which are more likely when the sun hits the slope.
Orientation: NW.Starting altitude: 1190 m to 1570 m (according to snow conditions).
Altitude drop: 1440 m to 1815 m.
Time required: 5 to 8 hrs, depending on starting altitude.
Grade: climb: PD (not difficult) / ski: 4.2 / moderately exposed: E2.
Slope: 40°/600m, short 45° section.
Equipment: an ice axe, crampons and helmet are indispensable.
“Today, Basile is a good representative of this new generation of steep skiers, inspired by alpinism on the one hand and freeride on the other. Sharp, fast and fluid on his skis, he likes to open up new routes, explore new passages… He is satisfied with each accomplished outing which always gives him a good dose of adrenaline. And when he’s not exploring his mountains on skis, he’s flying over them in a paraglider. In short, Basile exudes the simplicity of a passionate young mountaineer, always ready to make a few sharp turns, “dré dans l’pentu”!”