A Perfect Day Skiing The Marinelli Couloir

Once in a while—maybe once a season or two—you have a day so special you know it will stay in your memory for a long, long while and keep you motivated keep you out there getting after it. A great day in the outdoors can be had when you’re with the right person or the right team. Other days, the camaraderie may lack, but conditions are so good it doesn’t matter. And then there’s the weather, which can make or break any day in the mountains. I spend a lot of days in the mountains for myself and for my job, and if I can manage one or two of the aforementioned conditions I’m usually content. If I can nail all three, then I’m really ecstatic.

Last April, I was suffering from a shoulder injury. And despite the epic conditions in the Alps, all I wanted to do was rock climb. The winter was just lasting too long, so I thought, why not embrace the never-ending snow and the great conditions in the mountains? I sprung the idea to a couple of my good friends, Bertrand and Francois, that we should go ski one of Europe’s most famous and most sought-after lines, the Marinelli Couloir on the east face of the Monte Rosa. This line starts at around 15,000 feet and descends continuously for about 10,000 feet. The skiing is exposed, technical—normally requiring a rappel through a serac—and is sustained at 40-45 degrees. Needless to say, there’s a reason the descent has such an allure, and it took no persuasion to get my friends on board.  

We opted to do the descent with a heli bump—I know, I know, cheating, lazy… slander all you want—which allowed us to do the descent in a day and also go with a bigger group. In the end, we were a team of five, all good friends and all doing the descent for the first time.

The weather was flawless, snow conditions were as good as we could have ever expected for such a long, high-mountain descent, but the group dynamics far and away made the day one of the most memorable skiing days of my life. For myself, someone who makes my living in the mountains going out with all types of people, this is what makes the experience last.