Rob Stewart catches up with freeride pioneer and legend Dominque Perret – founder of the International Snow Training Academy (ISTA), an organisation dedicated to training skiers and snowboarders in off-piste and mountain safety.
Dominique Perret has defined himself and his career by the passion to look beyond the norm, to travel a path where there are no pioneers and no finish lines. Press and media have lost little occasion to highlight Dominique’s multiple skiing achievements, films, expeditions, and events crowning him “Best Freeride Skier of the Century” as the most outstanding radical free-skier of his generation. Skiing runs thick in Dominique Perret’s blood. His first skiing experience took place at the age of two and, he spent the next 15 years building a formidable technical base excelling in the Swiss development system of slalom, giant slalom, and downhill competition. But, the boundaries set by traditional competition were too predetermined and, ultimately, too limiting. For Dominique, skiing was – and remains – not about winning or losing. It’s more. It’s an attitude, a lifestyle. Freeriding embraced that lifestyle and Dominique became a legend.
What’s your most memorable moment on skis?
That’s impossible to say! The best moments are when you are with the right person in the right place at the right moment – it can be extreme skiing in Alaska, or Verbier with your kids. So it’s impossible to say. I am still looking for the best moment, it’s an endless quest to find the best run and the best snow. I don’t like to categorise things – these moments, they could be anywhere, at any time.
What is your favourite resort?
As a ski resort, it’s Verbier – because it has steep off-piste slopes and really easy access terrain, plus there’s a lot of good skiers there. It’s a great ski town, I really love it. But of course I also love Alaska, Himalayas, The Andes and also small ski resorts with a very strong spirit. You could be in a big resort with rubbish snow and then a small place with perfect snow and that is a perfect day.
What advice would you give to young freeride skiers today?
I would tell them to take their time, the Mountains are not going to move. You can come back tomorrow, next week, next winter. Wait for good conditions, don’t rush things – the worst enemy is stress and this is when you make mistakes. You pay cash, not credit in the mountains! Don’t make mistakes, it could be fatal. Get educated to the right level, physically mentally and technically. It’s more fun when you are relaxed and safe and that comes with time and education.
How does freeride skiing now compare to the 1990’s?
The evolution in freeride skiing is amazing, young and talented people mixing freeride and freestyle skiing together, and lots of them. The big difference is with the conditions – it’s more difficult now with the global climate change and hard to predict in advance. Sometimes there’s lots of snow, then none, conditions change fast. So it’s harder to progress safely in the winter and therefore more risk. There’s more stress, after 2 or 3 hours everything is tracked out fast. People go to stupid places to make their own tracks. Big skis and snowboards allow access quickly to backcountry terrain but before you needed more technical skill, so people were more experienced. It was a long process before now it’s like beginner straight to freerider! People don’t understand the etiquette – 100,000 airbags sold but many of them have no idea what they are doing, we need to ensure people are educated.
Do you still do ‘crazy’ things on skis?
Yes! I still do some exposed skiing and I love it, but it’s different. Not so many big jumps, less physical but more mental. I can ski very exposed faces more than when I was 30 years old – my mental strength is stronger than my physical. It cleans my brain, it’s good for me! I don’t get scared, but there are things I would not do today that I used to, but it’s an evolution. You can still ski hard and push hard until 50 or 60 but you play on a different zone.
Why did you start ISTA?
Because I love skiing, it’s my passion and I see all these young people getting into trouble – if we let this happen without education then we will get problems, banning off-piste skiing and insurance issues. I was tired to hear about how people from outside the sport thought we were crazy guys with too much risk and that we don’t know what we’re doing – so I wanted to make a smart, fun way to educate skiers. We really need to go to the second step and that is education. It’s about respect, of friends, of nature – the more freedom you want, the more education you need! Freedom without education doesn’t work.
What are you looking forward to this winter?
…then it’s great.
This story was originally published in Snow Enthusiast Expert magazine. Read the full issue free at http://magazine.snow-forecast.com/snowenthusiastpro2018.