Team Stoked goes heli dropping

Heli Drop Time.

When our saisonier bro Dimi San told us in December that there were some exclusive spots available in a helicopter for a freeride adventure in Les3Vallées at the end of January, we did what any normal boarder with common sense would do: not hesitate and commit. It wasn't hard to fill the front seat of the van: Nils, David and Kjeld would join us as the holy trinity.

The area where we would do our stuff was between 2800 and 1400m altitude, from the Pointe de la Masse in the direction of l'Auberge du Randonneur. Since the French law forbids helicopter drops above a certain altitude, the traditional role of the helicopter in freeride stories was reversed here: we would hike by ourselves to be picked up by a helicopter at the end of the descent.

At the meet up in the morning, the planning and condition of the snowpack was explained. No huge amounts of snow below 2300m and a chance of vent plaques above that and generally a very thin to absent underlayer, spontaneous shear on the southeast facing flanks and hidden depressions were the risk factors. Avalanche risk was at 3/5 above and 2/5 below 2300m. But we remember above all: it was bluebird sky and windless. In the backpack we put the normal ingredients for a successful freeride tour: avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel, with some power food and water. After a pager check and some freeride descents on the way to the hike, the stoke was all on - there was the ridge we would climb with virgin powder fields on the other side and no way back out by helicopter.

The hike was pretty tough: the (only?) advantage of being a skier became quickly apparent as the boarders sank to their knees with almost every step while they could continue with their lats and sticks. During the climb, David also helped Kjeld out of a hidden hole in the snow, or maybe he was still in it. Meanwhile, we could see the first glimpses of the flank where we would descend. The stoke was now unstoppable and once the boards were tied down, the game could begin.

Watching your buddies pop one by one and coming up with the most original lines yourself, keeping the guides' indications in mind. Anyone who knows this setting will know what we mean when we write that it was actually all indescribable. The total lack of action photos says it all: no time for that. But there were a lot of mind pictures, all senses on edge. The photo session did follow when the helicopter picked us up at the Auberge du Randoneur after a typical and satisfying Savoy meal (charcuterie, croziflette, cheese and apple pie accompanied by a local beer, wine and genepi). With a stoked tag on the shiny black helicopter that had taken off 50 minutes earlier in Nice, we flew back over the flank and saw our tracks - our victory - our creativity - our freedom.

As an ultimate ending we flew down the last ridge with in front of us the mightiest of the Alps: Mont Blanc, from a different perspective for once. The best things in life are free, but a helicopter is also well spent. Dimi, Alps, snowgods, nature: thank you for making this experience possible and for once again letting the STOKED stamp touch our souls. On to the next adventure!

Article & Pictures: Kjeld Vandeputte

Pieter-Willem Ots
Pieter-Willem Ots

Founder Stoked Boardshop • Loves Snowboarding, Skateboarding and always happy to help.

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