In early March 2015 we flew to Geneva in Switzerland and caught the train to Sierre and from there a funicular railway took us in about 15 minutes up to the village of Montana.
We had 4 days of skiing planned and collected our skis from the shop close to our hotel that Jan had booked them through. The main lift to the ski areas was a few minutes steep walk from the hotel. The village and the slopes above were all very quiet and the snow was pretty good. What a contrast to the rain and snow that we arrived in yesterday. We had a lot of sunshine for our first day skiing at Crans Montana.
It was actually my second time skiing the Crans Montana area as I had a 5 day ski mountaineering trip starting above Sion in 2000. We were blown off Arpelistock, then skied the Wildhorn, Wildstrubel and Schwarzhorn, all 3000m peaks in the Western Bernese Oberland north of Crans and Montana. Our descent from the Schwarzhorn took us down to Aminona, part of the Crans Montana ski area.
We started skiing above the village of Crans and worked our way over towards Aminona. The skies were a little cloudy at times but continually changing. I took a couple of rolls of Ilford FP4 120, that’s 20 shots, during the day, including one of the Violettes Hut on my Mamiya 7 camera and red filter as the light and clouds changed.
Our second day was dull with lots of low clouds and flat light so no pictures and the third day was bright but windy. Just 5 lifts were running in the Crans-Montana ski area and by 1pm it was down to 3. Wind speeds of 115 km/hour were measured at the Violettes mid-station at 2200m. At times it felt like we were back skiing in Scotland with the icy blasts of spindrift, then I noticed there was snow under both skis and knew it couldn’t be Scotland! We finished skiing by 2pm in Aminona, caught a bus back to our hotel in Montana, dropped off the skis and went for a 4 mile walk around Crans-Montana. The GPS said we had travelled 17 miles while skiing, including lifts.
Our last day was true to the forecast and was a fantastic day, albeit with no clouds at all. We started skiing at the crack of 10am! I was carrying a Mamiya 7 camera, 43mm and 65mm lenses, 8 filters (just in case!), Gitzo Mountaineer 1028 tripod with Manfrotto quick release head, 7 rolls of 120 FP4 and 1 roll of 400 Delta 120 film. I used all but 2 rolls of FP4. Because it was blue sky and mostly above the tree line I used B+W light red filters all day.
I had just one shot on my list, Wildstrubel from the highest lift station of Plaine Morte. I skied to the summit of Wildstrubel in 2000 but in complete whiteout so I didn’t see anything from the top. Unfortunately, the lift was shut because of strong winds, same as yesterday. Everything else was working though so we went off for a few hours finding a few photos along the way. By early afternoon we returned to the lift to the top just as they were starting to run it. What luck! It was jolly windy and very cold at the top, at just under 3000m. The view across the glacier to Wildstrubel was clear as a bell. A bit further down I could see a different angle on the shot so I skied a few hundred yards off-piste until I had a clearer view with some good wind blown snow shapes in the foreground.
Another objective was to test Ilford 400 Delta for handheld shots. I took a few handheld and some using my tripod. I also took similar photos on Ilford FP4, my usual film for the last 20 years or so. This would give me 2 stops extra speed = 2 stops faster shutter speed, 1/60 instead of 1/15, for example. This should be enough to ditch the tripod if my back was painful. At least I could then continue taking photos instead of leaving the camera at home. Now I just have to work out how to process it within my exposing and processing system.