Gnarly skiing with Freeride World Tour champion Drew Tabke

20th January 2014, by Abi Butcher

Abi and Drew Tabke after surviging the Dolone Couloir

Abi and Drew Tabke after surviging the Dolone Couloir

“I’m recovering from an ACL reconstruction, so please go easy with me,” was the first thing I said to the Italian ski instructor, Tex, who was accompanying our group in Courmayeur. It was Saturday morning and we were there to ski with Drew Tabke, 2013 Freeride World Tour Champion.

I actually dread to think where Tex would have taken us if I hadn’t asked him to take it easy, because after kitting everyone up with transceivers, shovels and probes, we whizzed up the Checrout gondola, ducked under a rope and popped down into the Couloir de Dolone.

The Couloir de Dolone. Why don’t pictures ever do steeps justice?

Halfway down, about an hour later, it did cross my mind that I was doing something I really shouldn’t be, and if my physio or surgeon could see me now they would go nuts. But it’s not often you get the chance to ski with Drew Tabke, on a powder day.

I had expected him to be quite a forceful, fast and (if I’m honest) a bit of a show-off skier, but Drew hid his skills at the back of our group of four journalists, only once taking the lead down some untracked powder that he skied gently, slowly and oh, so gracefully.

Drew explains how he assesses a line without having skied it before

The American pro, who turns 30 in May this year, skis for 10 months of the year, competing on the Freeride World Tour between January and March, then heading to Chile for the summer to guide and instruct — with the occasional heli-skiing jaunt to Alaska, and the like. Softly spoken and self-assured, he told me he is waiting for the day that he gets bored with skiing “but it never comes — which I’m glad about!”

He admits to getting a little nervous on the tour, waiting for his run — they only get one run per competition — but not too bad. The day before our ski had been a bad one; second to go Drew had waited at the top of the mountain in freezing conditions from 9am until 2pm primed and ready to go.

Courmayeur was full of freeriders last weekend. These are no ordinary skiers, they are the type of guys who wander into the bar at 11.30pm having just skied a couloir for the first time, in the dark, with a head torch. And the conditions were perfect, it is snowing and snowing and snowing there right now.

Great conditions for a morning off-piste in Courmayeur in the Aosta Valley

I have since moved on to Châtel, via a small row with the hire company firm in Geneva airport over winter tyres (about which I write, soon), where the slopes are a little less snowy. But as I type it is starting to snow. The Zag skis are edged and waxed and it’s time to go up the mountain.

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