Winding up the highway from Geneva, Switzerland to France’s Chamonix valley, the sheer size of the surrounding mountains becomes immediately apparent. The granite peaks jut up in a kind of recklessness unmatched by any mountains found in the States. Staring down at the village below, these glaciated walls hold many stories.
This was no more apparent than during the Freeride Days Festival taking place May 11-12 at Les Grands Montets in Argentiere. In spite of the nasty cloud cover hanging over the resort during the weekend, revelers were busy taking in the many festivities held throughout the event.
Sponsored by Dynastar, Lange, Look, Kerma, and O’Sin, the Freeride Days celebration marks the closing of the Les Grands Montets resort. In its fifth year, the event offers the mountain’s incredible freeriding, along with a festival area at the Lognan midpoint station. Here attendees could eat in a large tented barbeque area, or make a run through a short spring-style freestyle course. It was complete with two tabletops leading into a shortened halfpipe. From there contestants could choose between riding through a lengthy water pond flanked by fake palm trees or a 50-foot-long rail.
It seemed a bit chaotic both days, as contestants cruised through the makeshift park. While the event was supposed to include a speed freeriding contest, it was cancelled because of the snow conditions and flat light. This lack of snow, a slight mist, and low visibility made for a largely disinterested crowd, and most were seen in the lodge either drinking coffee or biting the hair of the dog that bit them the previous night.
Along with the many Europeans in attendance, Dynastar brought in around 40 U.S. and Canadian retailers and press people to experience the spirit of the event. Lucky for this contingent, in spite of the crappy on-snow conditions, Chamonix never disappoints the late-night crowd. Many of the bars were filled with young riders from across the globe, sharing stories, swapping spit, smoking cigarettes, and taking shots. The line outside of the L’Arbate bar on Saturday night looked like a morning lift line on a powder day, with people backed up about 25 deep waiting to get inside.
Eventually, the night would end and many stumbled on home only to get up early for the following day’s events. In a way, the less-than-good snow conditions promoted an exuberance at the above average parties. Either way, as the many who’ve attended the event in previous seasons can attest-there’s always next year.