Made it to Tignes

NYC from 40,000 ft

Flying out of Anchorage Alaska (Mikey), two consecutive red-eye flights, a day of walking around Washington DC, meeting up with Gabe Rogel and the Chickering-Ayers bros at Dulles International Airport, a 4 hour bus ride through the Alps, and 36 hours of travel time later, Gabe and I finally made it to Tignes.  The bus ride from Geneva to Tignes, France really dropped us into the vibe of the Alps with small old villages, the French countryside, and finally the accent into the South Western Alps.  Oh, and the bus driving really fast through all of the villages and curvey alpine roads.

Once in Tignes 1800 (just below Tignes’ Les Boisses) we surprisingly found our hostel right around the corner from the bus stop and waiting for us there was my good buddy Stellan Fries.  Also, Frederick and Cecelia who stayed with me a few years ago at my house in Driggs.  It was really exciting to see them!  After an apre beer or two with Stellan, Gabe and I got settled into our sewage-scented room in the basement of the hostel, which is ideal because we have it to our selves.

Raclette….cheeeeeeese

The Sweds are staying in the town about 300 meters (vert) down valley from Tignes 1800.  Naturally, Gabe and I put on our ski boots (with our street cloths), grabbed our skis, and skied down in the dark to meet the Sweds for dinner in Tignes’ Les Brevieres.  I knew a few of the other’s in Stellan’s crew and we was introduced to a few more… what a crew.  The restaurant was your quintessential French alpine setting.  It was in a old stone building that smelled like the slinkiest cheese you can imagine.  Honestly, it was one of the greatest meals I have ever eaten and if I don’t gain 5 lbs on this trip then I will have not taken full advantage of the cuisine.  I mean they served a block of cheese (Raclette), the size of a basketball cut in half, on a stand with a headed coil slowly melting the cheese onto a plate.  Great eats and great company!

Imagining the view from the top of Grande Motte

The next morning Gabe and I met Stellan in the main village (Tignes’ Le Lac) about 300 meters (vert) above Tignes 1800.  From there Stellan showed us around Tignes and Val di Sere for the morning, until he had to head out to Chamonix.  It is too bad we didn’t get to spend more time with him, but it was awesome to get to hang out for the time we had!  Until next time buddy.  It was way nice to have Stellan to show us around a bit because this place is unimaginably big, to the point where you do not know where to begin upon showing up for the first time.   I mean, there are ski lifts, gondolas, trams and trains (yes underground trains) to the top of nearly every peak in sight.  When you leave the piste (designated runs) it is hard to tell if you’re still near the area or off into the side country.  It is quite easy to ski very far from civilization in little time.

Unfortunately the weather has been really warm and has consolidated the snow and then even gone isothermic in places with quite a lot of wet-slide and glide activity.  Yesterday, however, it was over cast most the day with the sun coming out for the late afternoon and evening.  We were able to fire off a couple shots, but it was a bit late.

It cleared up last night…..

We also shot a bit last night with a strobe, but the feature we were gunning for ended up being off-limits.  There is this really old stone hut just up from our hostel in the woods, and you can ski right onto the roof.  It is tiered with a couple levels of roof to ski like a pillow line.  As it turns out, someone actually still lives there (only in the alps) and they preferred we did not ski on their 200 year-old roof.  We will check again tonight and see if they are, by chance, not home (damn Americans).

Now, Friday morning, we are getting ready to head out again, but it is pretty gray out and hopefully snowing a bit.  We have time and shall see what Mother Nature give us to work with.  Either way, we are in the Alps and it will happen!  We will report again shortly, so keep check into tetonfreeride.com.

Mikey and Gabe

Posted in Winter 2012/13 | Leave a comment

Tetons…..mixing business w/ Pleasure

On January 25th I flew down to the Tetons with Michelle to spend a few days with the family, shoot for the Library Project, and judge a couple freeride events. I’d say we had pretty good timing. A storm front carrying over 50 inches of light and fluffy Teton POW arrived right behind us. It was nice to be home in the Tetons with Michelle and my family, and I think they would agree. During Michelle’s long weekend in the Tetons we got in a ski day with the fam, a super fun tour on the pass and, to top things off, it absolutely dumped the night before Michelle had to fly out.  So like any true “powderwhores” we figured we had better ski that morning as long as possible before driving her to the airport.

Once Michelle left, the pace changed from family/vacation time, to game time, as it was time to get ‘er done. I had two weeks to lock down as much quality footage as possible for The Library Project, while judging both the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort IFSA Jr Regional Freeride Competitions. The first few days we were still in the 50+ inch storm cycle and to say the least, we landed some pre sick storm POW footie. We also did a pretty sick night jib sesh at the Ghee in a secret lil zone. The features were quite unique, but were not what I would call gimmies. Especially for someone who has not sessioned man made features in almost 2 years. However, I think we snuck away with a few shots. Its always a good sign when midnight rolls around and everyone with a camera is asking for more!

After the night shoot, and with just a few hours of sleep, we were right back at it again the next morning………dropping sleds in the canyon, shredding POW and pillows.  That evening the shooting marathon came to an intermission and it was time to head over to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for a few days to head judge the IFSA Jr Regional Freeride Competition. This could not have come at a better time because I was a bit sore from the jib sesh. What a show in JH, those groms continue to impress me event after event. In the pit with me were Don Watkins (for the second year in a row) and Hadley Hammer (fellow Marmot Team member). A great crew to say the least and a fun couple of days hangin with them. It was also super nice to see my good buddies Ryan Elvis Dunham, Brenton Reagan, and Rob LaPier. Thanks again JHMR!!!

That Saturday (Feb 2nd) my buddy John from AK flew down to take advantage of my pad in the Tetons while I was there. After I wrapped things up in JH we headed over to my folks house for their annual super bowl party (damn Ravens). Of course, bright and early the next morning, it was time to get back to work shooting for TLP. We had some fog, but with it coming and going I was able to stomp a line down Sunny Side and a few other hits in the GTR sidecountry. Good thing we got what we did, because in true Teton fasion, some weather rolled in and provided us with a couple of down days (no shooting). This actually worked out well because I was able to get out and make some turns with John. The forecast began to shape back up and a couple days later we were back at it. Finally, it was a beautiful blue bird day. I was fired up and knew exactly what I wanted to hit right off the bat……an area off of Peaked Mtn called The Condos, down through the skiers left (sign line) of the A, to a steep and spiney air out of the bottom. I had skied this line before, but never quite how I’ve always envisioned it. This time it was on! I told Jake that I saw a sneak through the tight trees to my air and that I was feeling it. Jake could not see the sneak I was talking about but said that if I saw it to go for it……..I finally nailed it!!! That was pretty much my final day of shooting for TLP in the Tetons this year, and it was one pretty amazing day.

Once again, it was time to put my shooting hat away, and the judging cap back on. Now I had the Chickering-Ayers brothers in the judges pit with me for Grand Targhee Resort’s IFSA Jr Regional Freeride Competition. The conditions were very soft and really punchy. This stood out with the smart skiers toning it back a notch in line choice and focusing more on skiing. I was just as impressed as always with these youngsters, but for a different reason than the norm…….using their brains as much as their talent!!! Thank you IFSA and GTR for another amazing event!

What an amazing whirlwind of a trip to the homeland. Though I did not get to spend time with everyone I would have liked to……..Who ever said “mixing business with pleasure is a bad thing” is full of sh%t. Thank you Mom & Dad, Austin & Christina, Elvis, Jake Hawkes, Alex Gilbert, Gabe Rogel, Eric Daft, Eric & Sarah Anderson, Kevin Cass, Gary Mackenzie, Max Mackenzie, Amber Nelson, Dorian Densmore, Ken Rider, Andy Williams, Margaret, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee Resort and GTR Ski Patrol! It was awesome to see & ski with you all!!!!!!!!

Now, I am back home in AK for a bit to get some work done, and most importantly, be with my amazing fiancée! She is so amazing that in 3 weeks, she is allowing me to disappear on another shoot. It’s almost time to head to Europe with Gabe Rogel and Jess McMillan so stay tuned!

Here is an edit from my trip home to the Tetons:

130125-130211 TLP preview from Teton FreeRide on Vimeo.

Gear Highlights:

The Marmot Silverton Jacket is absolutely impervious to wind and moisture, light weight and perfect for layering. This 3-layer fabric system by GORE-TEX is unstoppable!

The Smith I/OX Goggle offers the biggest peropheral view, best helmet fit, and quickest interchangable lens swap-out of any google on the market.  I am diggin it!

 

Posted in Winter 2012/13 | Leave a comment

Training @ Alyeska

Over the past month or so I have become more and more familiar with Alyeska Resort.  Now that mother nature has begun to allow ski patrol to gradually open more terrain, it has become very apparent why skiers and riders from this area are so good.  Alyeska basically has what I have called “The Jackson Hole Effect”, meaning by skiing there on a regular basis, you have no choice but to grow in strength and technique.  Alyeska has a vast variety of terrain allowing skiers and riders to addapt to all sorts of situations.  Loads of vertical, steeps, pillow zones, chutes, couloirs, spines, a variety of airs and unique terrain features, and more.  The place is literally a skills and strength training mecca, and I feel that I have just begun to scratch the surface.

On Thursday, January 24th, I fly down to the Tetons to shoot and though the Teton Region has been my stomping grounds for most of my life, I am quite excited to see how putting my self through the early season “Chugach Ringer” measures up.  To say the least, I am optimistic, and always have high expectations!

Thank you Alyeska for being such an amazing training grounds!  Now its time to go put the skills to the test.

Mikey

PS: Here is a quick vid from skiing hard and fast around Alyeska Resort this past Sunday, January 20th, 2013.  It was SO good!

130121_Training @ Alyeska from Teton FreeRide on Vimeo.

Posted in Winter 2012/13 | Leave a comment

AK Holidays

Happy holidays! It has been a bit of a slow start, snow pack wise, here in the Chugach. However, Santa sure did what he could to help us with that! Alyeska has seen over 100 inches of snow in the past week. Though this obviously launched the avalanche danger to high, Alyeska has taken a large step toward looking like its usual self. Patrol and the rest of mountain ops have been working their butts off for over to not only keep up with the falling snow, but try and open up as much terrain as safely possible. With their hard work, some luck, and a little more snow, we might be accessing more goods at Alyeska soon. With the tram and Teds Express running, it has been awesome to get out there and find the burn in the legs. I have always viewed early season (pre new years) as a time to get strong and on your skis so you can ski hard and stay healthy the rest of the season.   It’s a good time to be stoked on what is open and thank the crew at Alyeksa for working so hard to provide it! So…..thank a patroller…..or even hug a patroller when you see them!!! Just know that with out them, we wouldn’t be skiing anything.  I hope everyone had a great Xmas and I bid you a happy new year!!!

Here is a short vid from a day this past week lapping the Alyeska Tram.

121230 AlyeXmas from Teton FreeRide on Vimeo.

Mikey

Posted in Winter 2012/13 | Leave a comment

The Roots

On November 24th, I arrived in Teton Valley after being away for 6 months.  Doesn’t sound like that long, but I honesty think it might have been the longest single period of time I have spent away from the Tetons.  Depending on how you look at it, that either says something pretty neat or pathetic.  I’m sticking with neat!  Living most of the time in Alaska these days is great and AK is definitely starting to feel like home.  However, there is something to be said about the roots of the home land and that will never change.  It has been amazing to get some much needed time at the Ghee.  For the first day and a half it just kept on snowing, and then the sun broke out for a couple days.  I was fortunate enough to catch up with Kevin Cass (powderdayphotography.com) for a few snaps.  Then with the newly formed, bomber base and some fresh on top of that; Paul Kimbrough, Eric “EA” Anderson and I headed out to roll on some early season footie with the sharp eye of Jake Hawkes behind the camera.  Check out the POV vid/sneak peak below and the new snowcat adventure commercial showing on the ski network in Jackson Hole.

AK has had a bit of a slower start to the ski season than normal, meaning they are on track with most of the rest of the world, but not a month ahead of the rest of the world, ha ha.  It has been nice to be able to get my legs under me with all of the snow in the Tetons.  Not to mentioned being able to spend some quality time with family and friends.  Dinners and hot tub at the folks house, beers and turns with good friends, already shooting, meetings to dial in projects for the winter…..it doesn’t get much better.  I just wish the better half could have come along, but she’ll get her Teton time next month!   Now, its time to head back to AK for the next month or so and I couldn’t be more amped!!!  Chugach and Alyeska……..its game time.

Check out this edit of the past few weeks “Ghee Style”…………………..

121124-121208_Ghee Style from Teton FreeRide on Vimeo.

 

Gear Highlights:

The Marker Tour F12 combined with the Volkl Shiro 183 might be the most under-rated touring set up out there.  The Volkl Shiro 183 is light enough to make for a practical backcountry ski, while being wide and stiff enough to still handle high level of aggressive skiing.  Now add the Marker Tour F12 to the mix, and you have one versatile backcountry set up!

The Scarpa Maestrale RS is a giant step forward in the backcountry freeride market.  This boot is incredibly light weight, but at the same time is stiff enough to handle the drive and power of an aggressive skier on an aggressive ski.

The Marmot Armageddon Undercuff Glove is sick, I don’t know what else to say.  Style, comfort, fit, protection, warmth.

Posted in Fall 2012 | Leave a comment
  • About Teton FreeRide

    Teton FreeRide is a content based blog founded and operated by Mike "Mikey" Leake. Mikey has lived in the Teton Valley region of southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming most of my life. He has also had the opportunity to live and play in the Lake Tahoe area, and now, Alaska too!

    After competing on the Freeskiing World Tour on-and-off for 10 years Mikey has transitioned to judging various events and become an advisory board member with the International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association (IFSA). Over the past 13 years he has worked in the ski industry through skiing as an athlete, coach, guide, ski patrol, event coordinator, event judge, marketing consultant, team manager, videographer, and as an associate producer. Mikey has a true passion for the outdoor industry and tries to be involved in every aspect possible.