Andreas Fransson
Dec 10

Wrote some of this when Fransson died. But these last few months have been chaos filled with endings and new beginnings for me, all capped off by an unplanned, life-sucking house reno. Lately I haven’t even been able to contemplate skiing, let alone finding the motivation to search for the next beautiful ski line.  Doesn’t help that Squamish broke a December 9th temp record of 8.9C from 1991, with a staggering 15C.

But that’s where guys like Fransson come in. Fallen comrades who lived such amazing lives, with a seemingly endless thirst for skiing. Inspiration that helps you reset your course, get your priorities right, and reignite your love for the mountains regardless of whether you’re skiing something steep or just going on a walkabout.

fransson

Andreas made it easy for guys like me to remain humble.  For some strange reason, it is comforting to know that there are guys out there who are on another level. Somehow takes the pressure off, and allows you not take any accomplishments that seriously. But now he’s gone. Although I never met him, his death has affected me. Maybe because there’s not too many of us who write about our on-the-edge experiences in blog format. Since I didn’t know him, it sort of feels pointless writing this. But he defined commitment for our current generation of steep skiers. So I feel the need to honour him, since honour and respect is really the only worthy thing you get out of this game externally (internally the worth is endless).

In life, especially his later years, Fransson certainly got lots of hype. But of the current generation of high profile steep skiers, he’s really the only one that consistently lived up to the hype. He wasn’t famous from social media, magazines, or because of the films he was in or who he was sponsored by. He was old school badass, because he had a legit resume. Vallencent, Boivin, Fransson. Does he belong on this list of fallen grandmasters? Or among the living ones such as Tardivel? Fransson’s career is now painfully short. I admit to jealousy when he’d succeed, but also marvelled at his appetite for the world’s scariest lines. Even 5 more years of success would’ve created an astonishing resume. But no Himalayas. Like many high-end alpinists, was he was progressing on a slow build-up to tackle the world’s greatest range? I will forever ponder the possibilities of a healthy Andreas on a rampage in Pakistan or Nepal. How would he have done at altitude? Would he have skied K2? Among many scenarios playing in my mind. But maybe he was too much of a skiers skier to be scratching down icy, contrived bullshit at 8000meters. He was obviously a great skier, and you could tell he enjoyed the art and technique of it, and not just out there collecting steep objectives.

But does his relatively short resume take away from his legacy? Several of the greats had short careers. Not necessarily because it is a deadly sport, but more because it takes a heavy toll mentally. But if you read his writing, you could tell he was in it for the long haul. Philosophically hardwired to dance on the fine line between life and death. His writings certainly set him apart from other skiers. He wasn’t afraid to delve deep and expose himself. I liked that his thoughts seemed mostly on the positive side. Constantly changing and adjusting after coping with each new scenario. The writings should definitely be compiled into a book of some sort. I’m currently making an effort to go through his website and read every post.

Back to his short yet very committed ski legacy. Obviously he had a bunch of significant Chamonix descents, but I don’t know much about Cham so I’ll keep it international. He had only a few significant descents internationally, but they truly displayed his world class abilities and mindset. Probably the most committing solo descent in North American ski mountaineering, took place during his Denali south face expedition. Some criticized all the rappels. But realistically the line is very contrived, and was probably over-hyped by American media / skiers.  So it’s hard to fault Fransson for being attracted to probably the most hyped line at the time, and then skiing as much of it as possible in its current state.

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Denali South Face

His descent of the Whillan’s ramp on Aguja Poincenot, will go down as his hardest descent for sure. I sort of liken it to Jeremy Jones’s Shangri-la spine line in Nepal, which will go down as the steepest terrain at altitude navigated by a rider thus far. I have incredible respect for both lines, but both seem to ride the fine line between mere stunt and  legitimate ski descent. At least Fransson made a bunch of turns on the line. And the Whillan’s ramp line will certainly go down as the most exposed line on the planet. It must be mind-blowing to contemplate that much open space below you. Basically nothing could test the human mind more.

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Whillan’s Ramp is the diagonal piece if snow crossing the main spire, with the main cliff continuing well below the bottom of the pic

 

4 Responses to “Andreas Fransson”

  1. Hi Trevor,
    please contact me on my email adress. I wanna discuss with you the best period for steep skiing in Caucasus!!!

    Thanks a lot!

  2. A OK says:

    ‘Only those in the select group know that.’ – Maybe so. But you may suspect that you know the truth. And you may believe what you suspect is true. If it’s not, well, we can both be wrong in believing what you suspect.

    After all, what’s the point of having grandmasters if they’re only allowed to have skied on long skinnies?

  3. Trevor Hunt says:

    A OK . . . I certainly respect your opinion, and thanks for giving me a headache and a chuckle.

    Ski mountaineering has changed in that many areas (especially the Alps) have few first descents left. Compound this with receding glaciers and disappearing ski lines, and it is impossible to have another Tardivel. So a modern skier shouldn’t and couldn’t be compared in terms of a resume. I guess it comes down to skills then, or repeats. But repeats are never as sexy. So comparison becomes pointless essentially.

    I skied a lot of stuff in the early 2000′s, which could almost be considered the Dark Ages, when ski mountaineering wasn’t sexy, and all anyone talked about was the old masters, to the detriment of the current generation. Greatness can’t be limited to those on skinnies for sure.

    So the history of the old guard of steep skiing probably consists of a lot of smoke and mirrors. And the current generation is being debased by a self feeding cycle of social media / movies / magazines of athletes who ski for corporations (like RedBull) that support each aspect of that cycle. So if I really think about it (and to answer your question), I have no serious opinion on who belongs in the select group, or whether a group should even exist. I honestly don’t care. With my last few sentences in the article, I was just being a cheeky bastard, and probably just baiting a response :). But I would be interested to know what Tardivel thinks of Fransson’s descent of the Whillans Ramp, or Jones’s Nepal line. That’d be cool.

  4. Trevor Hunt says:

    Jiri,

    Please look at the my comment on a previous post:

    http://www.coaststeepskier.com/wphome/?p=28332

    I’m no expert, but mid winter in Georgia seems to have a fairly sketchy snowpack. So spring seems best. Peter Schon has lots of experience as well.

    cheers.

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