Europe Winter 2018
In 2016, I first heard the news that Vail Resorts had purchased my home mountain Whistler
Blackcomb for $1.4b. Like most of the other people in Whistler, I was bummed to hear that “The Empire” had captured our beloved mountain.
Having lived and worked at Vail’s neighbor Copper Mountain many years prior, I had come to occasionally hate on Vail (even though the skiing is great there). In recent years, they have been on a rampage acquiring other resorts outside of Colorado. Now they would add Whistler to their trophy case. But what I failed to realize at the time was that with Vail as the owner, the Whistler season pass for the 2018 season would be part of the Vail Epic Pass. This meant it would both be cheaper and valid for the entire catalog of Vail Resorts. And more excitingly, 18 free days at some of the biggest and best resorts in the world in Europe!
After I squandered a fantastic 2017 season at Whistler with 2 substantial injuries, I wanted to make the most out of the 2018 season. It had been several years since I had skied in Europe and had never been there with my skiing partner Max, who is from Germany. So even before the first snow of the season, we began planning a trip to utilize the free tickets with the Vail Epic Pass. Since Europe is generally fickler than North America in terms of snow amount and consistency, we planned to use the trip as an exploration of the resorts but with a focus on backcountry touring and general adventuring. It would also be great to check off a few classics that I had wanted to visit since my first-time skiing in Europe at Chamonix in 2000.
As the season got underway, reports of massive storms continued to pour in from Europe. Chamonix received more snow in December than the entire 2017 season. Engelberg in Switzerland had a base of over 4 meters while most places in North America were still struggling to reach the 1-meter mark. Resorts like Zermatt and Val Thorens were forced to close down for multiple days due to record snowfall and extreme avalanche danger. After many previous trips that were without snow, it seemed that we might finally hit it right.
With the date of departure approaches, we began to finalize our itinerary in Europe. We would start in the Eastern Alps in Austrian at St. Anton. From there, we would head into the high alpine region of Switzerland to ski some of the mountains around the Alpine Trinity, the Eiger, the Matterhorn, and Mont Blanc. We would then spend a week in the free-ride capital of Verbier. For the final leg, we would loop through France to ski Chamonix, Les Trois Vallee (3 Valleys), and Espace de Killy (Val d'isere and Tignes). While there were a few days of free tickets in the Italian Dolomites, we could only fit so much into a month. If we were able to accomplish half of this schedule, it would be a huge success. But there would be much potential for injury, whether, on our bodies or our wallets, that could alter the trip!
The following entries will take you through our adventures. I hope you enjoy the images, videos and stories of what would become a legendary ski trip!