Winterstick Owner / Board Designer / Legend
Born in 64
North Lake Tahoe
What has kept you snowboarding all these years?
Have you ever considered quitting snowboarding?
Only when there is not snow
– Gigi Rüf
What is your most challenging line of all time? Watch the Video
Well, Cordova Peak was a good day. I mean kind of. It started OFF with a mishap on a run, which was the big huge bowling ball rollover run called “Holy Shit”.
I was filming up in the Valdez, AK are. Our group for the day was Doug Coombs (guide), Mike Hatchett (filmer), Victoria Jealouse (rider), Mike “Tex” Devenport (rider), and Aaron Chang (photographer). Texan aired off this cliff and went a little bigger then he though. It was 80 foot plus and he landed right on this bergschrund, jacked his back. We pretty much should have flown him out, but Tex is a tough mother so he sat in the helicopter and we did 6 runs on different slopes while he was sitting in the heli flying with the pilot or hanging with Mike at the barbecue angles.
After those 6 runs we decided to fly by Cordova Peak because we were right in the zone and had looked at it about 4 days earlier. We flew over there and sat down and looked at it, and still didn’t like it. It was sketchy. There was blue and black ice over this cliff band, hanging glaciers, and the upper snowfield looked like it was going to pull out.
So Doug Coombs and I were sitting there and thought , We can land on the shoulder and ski this other face of Cordova, so we flew over there, landed and skied the face and the snow was good, much better than we expected. The refrigerator effect of all the glacier was keeping the snow cold and stable. We also had a look from a different angle at the whole face. When we got to the bottom, Doug and I looked at each other and he said What do you think? I said, I think we can do it, Doug felt the same way, so right there we called in the heli and said we’re going to do it. Mike Hatchett was a bit perplexed and just said Are you sure? We radioed back Yes.
The heli came and dropped us off and we rode it. It just happened though even moments earlier we weren’t going to do it. Doug and I just felt it was possible at that moment, so it went down.
The first section was this triangle face where there was this big gaping crevasse that could swallow you. It was open the wrong way. Often with bergschrunds the lower lip will be lower so if you fall you go over it, but this one was the opposite – the lower lip was higher, it stuck up like a catcher’s mitt so if you fell, you’d go into the hole.
I skied towards the catcher’s mitt. If you went the other way, you’d be really exposed over the cliff band with all the blue and black ice above; and if that face broke out you’d be done. We were also afraid of the face heating up, so I chose the turns towards the mitt which was really sketchy because you’re looking straight into jaws, like a big shark with its mouth wide open. My slough got really big really fast and I wasn’t going as wide open as I normally ride because of the cliff band and the ice. I thought, screw this, the slough is mocking already, so once I passed the catchers mitt, I pulled up and stopped to let it go. There was no other noise than the snow juts pummeling over the cliff. After the slough cleared, I rode the main spine over the cliffs and again the slough is going now on both sides. Coming down the spine there was ice on both sides, black on my right, blue on my left. I had to hesitate for the slough to clear and then ride across the snow runnels with ice in between them going across what I called the ice shelf, which was right above the cliff band. So it was black ice, snow runnel, black ice, snow runnel, etc., until I ended up under this huge hanging glacier, which was sketchy because if anything broke off I was done.
This put me into a chute with glacier to the left with ice holes and catcher mitts that could eat you alive – the hanging glacier above, and a huge bergschrund below. I did not really want to be there so I put on the afterburners and rode the chute fast with just slough management, moving right whenever I could. The bergschrund at the bottom I didn’t feel like dealing with so much, so I went for a smaller spot going out skiers’ right.
In the meanwhile the slough was so big it came pummeling down the hill with lots of noise off to my left. I landed the bergschrund jump and rode out into the flat glacier stoked to be down and stoked to watch Doug ski the line.
– Nicolas Müller