One of my biggest dreams was to ski the mythical Couturier Couloir off the mighty 4122 m Aiguille Verte…in powder. From one of the wildest summits in the Mont Blanc Massif a 1000 m of sustained 50/55 degrees. I went up to the refuge prepared for a solo adventure. I knew Gabriel Rivas was heading up with some other friends though he was wanting to ski Col de la Verte. In the end Gabriel teamed up with me and yesterday that dream became reality. Twenty years in the waiting, lots of sacrifices to obtain this one including many jobs, and it lived up to all expectations. What a mind blowing adventure. Great snow, amazing company, intimidating situations with the smattering of snow and the ever present death ice out right acting as a constant reminder to go canny. The line went clean using the lower traverse into the Washburn variation. SUPER STOKED.
After we chatted on the rognan col for a long time and said our goodbyes, I wanted to drink beer and Gabriel was gonna straight line across to the Argie hut to stay another day.
Down on the flat glacier below, a moments lapse of concentration and Gabriel hit a block of ice at speed and tomahawked hard into other blocks of ice. Would you believe it – we’ve just skied the Couturier??! When I got to him I could see the impact on his helmet had probably broken his nose. Struggling to breath and with lots of internal pain, it was an easy decision for me to call a rescue chopper. 3 years ago I javelined head first into the ground out riding and the damage to my back almost prevented me breathing so I could imagine where he was at – its pretty scary when your ribs cage locks out, completely different to being winded which is bad enough, more like drowning – when I flew to the Netherlands the next day for work I had to get Alan White to carry my bags!
Fortunately the rescue was quick, unfortunately Gabriel suffered 3 broken vertabrae, 2 broken ribs and contusion to a lung. Get well soon Gabriel and thanks for an all time day. I drank your share of the beer last night too!
Black Crows launched the Atris back in 2015 and with all the associated hype I had to give them a try. The cool graphics and colours were easy to fall in love and with double rockered, full under foot camber design, I expected these to be a high performance all mountain ski that would speed scrubs and be equally happy floating over pillows as landing fakey. Now with a lower spine that barely rotates, landing faley isn’t in my list requirements for a ski unless I start planning on skiing backwards while looking through my legs. But the soft tail that allowed this ski to ride fakey also ate into my confidence that it would lose its edge on the steeps and high side me down the slope. Try as I might, this ski just didn’t do it for me and I reverted to Navis FB for big mountain touring and steeps.
Fast forwarding to the 2018 season and the new redesigned Atris arrived with everyone saying I had to try it. To be honest I was pretty skeptical but I did have an ulterior motive. I needed a ski to guide clients on, one with smaller radius and very quick pivot, even at lower client speed. So I decided to give the Atris another go.
The new Atris has the same turning characteristics as the old one but it was immediately evident that the ski had a more homogeneous stiffness from tip to tail tailoring it for the big mountain environment. Very quickly I was using this ski up the Argentiere basin on Col des Courtes, Couturier or Col de la Verte. Whether powder or chalk, charging hard or going slow, this ski worked and it felt lush. For me its easily the best and most polyvalent ski in Black Crows line up and this season I’ll have one pair with PLUMs and one with a harder charging free ride binding in my quiver.
At 108 under foot its fast edge to edge and while it weighs more that the dedicated freebird touring skis, the extra dampening material in the ski is what makes it perform so well without being prohibitive for tours up to 1000 m. For sure if you are touring every day then you’ll want something lighter but if you want to maintain the performance for the downs this is a great choice.