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Playing a bird’s way: Speed flying off the Jumeaux Serac in Chamonix

It was June 1, 2019, on the Aiguille du Midi. No one up there but tourists by the bus load. No other skiers, but why? There was powder to be had, and just off the lift.

I had been dreaming of skiing a new close-out line on the north face of the Aiguille du Midi. The massive Jumeaux Serac in all its exposed beauty had been calling me. Though the actual ski part of the descent would be relatively short, it would be powerful and good training.

The beginning of May in Chamonix, France, was unseasonably cold, with storms as frigid as in mid-winter, the snow covering but not bonding well to the ice lurking below. Tof Henry had made this evident a few weeks before, while heading for another legendary line on the Col du Plan, he cut a huge slab that cleaned out the right side of the face.

A few days later the weather was stable and we could test the slopes by speed riding with wing overhead, knowing if it rips, we could simply fly away. The snow was stable, powdery and still cold. Now, without a doubt it was good. The only question remained… Was I ready to go?

Yes! It was time to add a little creativity to the north face. Ski the top pow-filled face of Jumeaux and exit at the terminus of the serac by speed wing. 

A closer look at Bird’s flight. PHOTO: Cedric Bernardini

Over the past few years I had been training with this technique, ski close-out north face lines and use my wing to exit. The purpose to me is obvious: access the best part of the descent—steep pow right from the lift—and skip the slow, often dangerous rappels; land at mid-station where I could have a cold bevy at The Plan Cafe and enjoy looking back at my tracks that no one would follow.

To drop into this powerzone with perfect, steep pow and everything falling away to town for 9000 feet, where there is no one, and no known run—it’s a mind-expander, to say the least. I feel like a pioneer, doing something new and innovative, exploring ways to combine skiing with flying, making our steep ski world and the runs we can access a broader, more creative and exciting place. 

It’s pretty dang special to bring a new approach to skiing steeps in the famed alpine coliseum of Chamonix. The added beauty of this exploration is that I’m no longer risking the slow, death-defying rappels under hanging ice and rock fall. Using a speed wing, I skip the slow rappels and inherent hazards of crossing underneath hanging seracs and moraines, free riding all the way down, keeping the flow alive.

This video was shot on Rylo.

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