Last weekend, Gore-Tex treated a few lucky winners to the experience of a lifetime: an all-expenses-paid weekend in La Grave, France where they would learn the finer points of ski mountaineering from world class athletes Seb Michaud, Bruno Compagnet and Christophe Dumarest. The Freeski Mountaineering camp was part of the Gore-Tex #ExperienceTour, which hosts a number of different events in various locations and invites people to partake in experiences that range from shooting an outdoor film to designing and manufacturing their own Gore-Tex apparel. The payoff is two-fold, with attendees getting to sharpen their skills, while also learning more about Gore-Tex products and performance.
Winners were invited from a number of European countries, as well as the US, and Gore-Tex chose Freeskier as a partner in finding the sole US winner. After pouring over entries that ranged from “well thought out” to “not a chance,” Sarah Wilson, of Evergreen, CO, was chosen as the most worthy candidate, for her commitment to the sport, an obvious love for the mountains and dreams of taking her ski mountaineering skills to all seven continents.
On day one of the camp, guests were bequeathed Norrona Trollvegen jackets featuring the Gore-Tex Pro membrane, and Level gloves with Gore-Tex “X-trafit” technology. A short presentation followed, outlining the product technology as well as the processes and relationships that Gore-Tex has built with its partners to ensure quality in all products that the company lends its technology to.
While most people recognize and look for the Gore-Tex label, I’d venture to guess that few know what really stands behind it. What those people are investing in is the waterproof and breathable membrane that lies between two layers of fabric which make up the visible part of the jacket. The presentation explained that, along with how Gore works with its manufacturing partners to select the proper fabrics and then laminate the membrane to the fabric for them. The rest of the construction process is closely monitored to see that the membrane won’t be compromised at any point and this level of commitment is what produces a product worthy of the coveted Gore-Tex hang tag.
Once the presentation was completed, everybody got a chance to become better acquainted and avalanche rescue training drills rounded out day one. On days two and three, the “campers,” along with the guest athletes, got a real taste for the mountains in La Grave. A mecca for ski mountaineers for its high-alpine terrain, this town is one of a few classic ski destinations that remains unspoiled by over-commercialization.
At the top of the hill, Compagnet was quick to assemble eager ski-touring groups and head off in search of powder on the north facing slopes. Michaud took those who were in search of couloirs, handing out tips for kick turns on steep approaches along the way. And Dumarest, along with a few of the guides, set up a repelling and ice climbing workshop on a serac, where skiers got to try their hand at gaining and losing elevation in a more vertical manner than they might be used to. All the while, getting a feel for how their new jackets and gloves worked in an environment where performance is paramount.
The three-layer shell jackets performed well in all conditions, allowing mobility and breathability that kept the active skiers comfortable. And gloves were in the spotlight at the climbing workshop where grip and dexterity were highly valuable. The “X-trafit” technology in the Level gloves, means the membrane and inner layer of the glove are bonded together to reduce slippage between layers and ensure a better grip when you need it most. And one of those times is most definitely when you’re 30 feet off the ground, swinging an ice axe.
As the sun shined down at the base of the serac (or at the top of the skin track), a lunch of meat, cheese and baguettes was indulged in. If you were lucky enough to be at the ice climbing workshop, you were with lead guide Regis, who was popping wine bottles with his utility knife and handing out cups of Bordeaux to anybody who was thirsty. Could this be any more French?
Every person in attendance agreed that it was a weekend well spent in the mountains and many were excited to return to (or stay in) La Grave at some point in the near future in order to put their new skills and gear to use. With the success of this year’s program, Gore will continue to run its Experience Tour in order to give consumers a first hand experience at what the products are meant for. The Freeski Mountaineering camp will most likely return to La Grave in 2015, so start preparing your entries. Why should you be chosen for this trip of a lifetime?