The North Face Ski Challenge 08/09 Presented by Gore-Tex FINAL CONTEST Safety days in Val Thorens

The North Face Ski Challenge 08/09 Presented by Gore-Tex FINAL CONTEST Safety days in Val Thorens

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Publiée le le 31 mars 2009

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THE NORTH FACE SKI CHALLENGE PRESENTED BY GORE-TEX INTRODUCES SUCCESSFUL MOUNTAIN SAFETY DAY
BY: MICHEL BEAUDRY

Val Thorens: They came. They saw. They listened. In an innovative twist to the conventional ski event format, the organizers of The North Face Ski Challenge took time out today to introduce their invited athletes to some of the ski industry?s most experienced mountain professionals.

And the theme was all about respect. Respect for yourself. Respect for others. And above all, respect for the mountains. ?This was an opportunity to sensitize a new generation of young riders to mountain safety,? said event director Romain Raisson. ?I mean, hanging out in the terrain park is one thing, but venturing out into the high country means taking on a whole new level of responsibility. We wanted to make sure these kids understood that. And I think it really worked well. It seemed to me the kids learned some important lessons today.?

No question. Slovak riders Richard Jurecka and Pavol Kuric both said they got a lot out of the day?s proceedings. ?This is all new stuff to us,? said Richard in halting English. ?But it was very interesting. I didn?t know there was so much to learn about travelling and skiing in the backcountry??

It was the same thing for teenage Finnish rider Anttijussi Heikkinen. ?Our hills are too small for avalanches,? he explained. ?So I?ve never worked with things like avalanche transceivers and shovels and probes. It was fun to actually get outside and learn about how to use them.?

As for those providing the lessons, the athletes were extremely well served. Whether it was famed mountain emergency physician Dr Bernard Fontanille of Chamonix giving the riders a glimpse into the world of backcountry medicine (and some much-appreciated practice in emergency first aid) or Val Thorens? Chef des Pisteur Jean-Marc Chabert showing them how to negotiate a high-mountain line safely -- or even Recco president Sven Sandahl offering them a hands-on demonstration of the company?s avalanche retrieval system -- the day?s events provided the multi-lingual, multi-national gathering with a rare chance to learn more than just how to complete a new park trick.

?This was a great day,? said Sandahl. ?To get the chance to talk to a young group of athletes like this is priceless. We know from our research that more and more riders are heading out into the backcountry ? to build kickers or to shoot riding sequences or just to hit some deep powder. But it?s a dangerous place to play if you don?t know what you?re doing. It?s important for everyone to learn how to stay safe when they head off the beaten path.?

Sandhal was also excited about the level of enthusiasm he encountered on the part of the athletes. ?It was cold. It was snowing. And the kids had to work hard during the outdoor retrieval exercises. But I didn?t see many of them sitting on the sidelines or trying to get out of the exercises. In fact, I was totally impressed by the level of interest they all showed. As I said, this was a great day.?

For the founder of The North Face Ski Challenge, Jean-Pierre Baralo, the event?s new mountain safety day was all he could have hoped for. ?For a few years now, we?ve seen a growing need for a program like this. And I think the kids? positive response today showed just how keen they are to learn about this kind of stuff. We?re just fortunate to have event sponsors who think that this kind of interaction is important too.?




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