On Monday, September 29, 2014, the skiing community lost two of its great icons in JP Auclair and Andreas Fransson. The two were on location in the Patagonian Andes, producing content for Apogee Skiing, the web series the duo had launched five months prior with a goal of producing four episodes showcasing their global adventures.
While ascending a narrow, 50-degree, 3,000-foot couloir on the north side of Monte San Lorenzo—a 12,159- foot, pyramid-shaped peak situated on the border of Chile and Argentina in the Aysén region—an avalanche triggered above them. It caught and swept them more than 2,000 feet to the glacier below.
Along for the journey were photographer Daniel Rönnbäck and filmmaker Bjarne Salén, both of Sweden. They witnessed the incident from a ridge approximately four miles to the north and placed the first calls for help via satellite phone. The bodies of JP and Andreas were ultimately located via helicopter on the morning of September 30, but given the remote location and the extreme terrain, many hours elapsed before a search party recovered the bodies, confirming the worst.
For the Quebéc City-born JP Auclair (37), this outing to the Andes was the latest endeavor in a skiing career that spanned fifteen years—a career unparalleled in terms of scope and impact. He’s oft referred to as skiing’s Renaissance man, a nod to his incredible versatility. A competitive mogul skier in the mid-to-late 90s, JP and his counterparts on the Canadian National Development Team found themselves exploring “snowboard parks” in their free time, hitting jumps and pushing the limits of what was possible on skis. In 1998, JP placed an indelible mark on freeskiing history when he won the first-ever US Freeskiing Open big air contest in Vail, CO.
JP would go on to star in dozens of highly acclaimed ski films, innovating new tricks and carving his spot as a pioneer of the sport. He graced many a prestigious podium; he became equally adept in the big-mountain environment, tackling technical lines in Alaska and completing guide school on two separate occasions; he later shifted his focus to the realm of ski mountaineering and excelled quickly, earning the respect of the core community. Through the years, JP showcased an incredible progression and transformation as a skier, the likes of which are unmatched.
Away from the hill, JP also shone bright. He co-founded Armada Skis in 2002 and helped to grow the brand into a market leader, while contributing to tremendous product innovations along the way. He showed incredible skill as a director and editor. He co-founded the nonprofit Alpine Initiatives, demonstrating a strong philanthropic commitment.
He was an entrepreneur, a businessman, a jokester and as of May 2014—a father. Celebrated for his kind spirit and humble nature, JP was a man who wore many hats and whose impact on the sport of skiing and everybody around him simply cannot be overstated.
Thirty-one-year-old Andreas Fransson, of Sweden, was an undisputed leader among ski mountaineers, having claimed numerous first descents across multiple continents. In 2006, Andreas made his home in Chamonix, France, the ski-mountaineering capital of the world. Living in this environment helped him to hone the skills that would propel him to first-class achievements.
Some of Andreas’ career highlights include a solo first descent of Denali’s South Face in 2011; an ascent and descent of Ecuador’s highest peak, Chimborazo (20,564 feet); a solo descent of Peru’s highest peak, Huascarán (22, 205 feet); and a first descent of the 60-degree Whillans Ramp on Aguja Poincenot in the Argentinian Patagonia. Fueled by a desire to push the limits of his own potential—of human potential—Andreas was a bona fide adventure seeker. He was named Sweden’s Adventurer of the Year in 2012.
Andreas was a philosopher and writer, as well, penning profound thoughts about life, his purpose and the people around him. Through both conversation and the written word, Andreas shared his musings and zest for life, with a goal of uplifting those around him.[Today on freeskier.com], you’ll find a timeline that sheds light on these two individuals’ remarkable skiing careers. You’ll read remembrances by dear friends of JP and Andreas, and you’ll see captivating and historic imagery, showcasing these two men in their element.