Does Style Matter? | “Big Mountain Ethics” by Andreas Fransson

SnowBrains |
Artesonraju, Cordillera Blanca, Peru.  photo:  andreas fransson
Artesonraju, Cordillera Blanca, Peru. photo: andreas fransson

Top notch big mountain extreme skier Andreas Fransson recently got back from skiing and climbing in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca.  He made some smart decisions about turning around in bad conditions and bad weather and feels like he got some flack about it.  It dawned on him that big mountain skiing needs an ethics change.  It’s not all about making the summit and skiing the big face – it’s about skiing a mountain with good style, good technique, and coming home in one piece.  After enough thinking, he got to writing and this is what he had to say:

Peru's cordillera blanca
Peru’s cordillera blanca

We started at midnight that following day for the summit bid, skipping the high camps but giving myself time to really walk slow if I would need to. I really downgraded myself with the timing. In the middle of the night we reached the bergschrund and before six o’clock I was at 5700m, high up on the face and maybe one or two hours from the top. Above the bergschrund my feelings for the conditions were not good, but I still reasoned I wanted to go as far as I could until I could see what the wind had done with our objective. Bjarne followed me up to the schrund, and waited there together with our newfound Ecuadorian guide friends who had abandoned their try already there.

It was a beautiful sunrise, and it was a devastating view to see the face: perfect steep skiing powder destroyed by warm winds and then refrozen through the cold night. The result: ice-topped sastrugi as far as the eye could see.

This is a face that has been skied quite a few times. Ever since Patrick Vallençant did the first descent more than 30 years ago people have come to ski this beauty. It’s arguable what skiing means, but I realized I could not do anything more than sideslip and hop turn this face at best. My dreams of steepness were set up on GS turns and smiles, not doing my best to kick in my edges into the ice.


Later, after I left the mountain, I was surprised to hear comments saying that I gave up too easily, that I should have finished the project no matter what. For me, though, that’s totally ignoring the process of why I do things. And skiing, I think, needs a bit more of ideology and style than we have right now. We’re where climbing was 30 or 40 years ago, when getting up by any means possible was the only thing that mattered. Success was counted by reaching the summit, and the means, whether they included using oxygen, aid, or drilling bolt ladders, was forgotten in the process.

Now we’re in the same situation in mountain skiing as climbing was back then: It’s all about just getting down things and no one usually ask how we did it. Any decent skier can technically get down any classic ski run. And that might be great for them, but no one usually asks how (style, technique, reading conditions, avoiding risk), and the mainstream focuses instead on what (the name of the run) we did.

Read the full article on Andreas’ blog here:


Related Articles

One thought on “Does Style Matter? | “Big Mountain Ethics” by Andreas Fransson

  1. Andreas is on the far end of the spectrum. But if you are that far over, you should do everything you can to get home alive and to make good decisions

Got an opinion? Let us know...