By Dominic Ebenbichler
The tragedy of Dutch Prince Johan Friso, who was buried in an avalanche while skiing in Austria last February and who has since been in a coma, generated the idea to shoot a story about freeride skiing and how ski professionals are trying to minimize any possible risks.
I’m lucky to have easy access to some of the best European freeride skiers as they are either part of my family or good friends with whom I go skiing with. I asked one of my cousins, Christoph Ebenbichler, who is a professional skier, if he would like to be part of this story. We discussed the riders who we wanted to work with on the story and the basic topics we wanted to cover, and decided to focus on showing the beauty of skiing in the back country combined with showing the professional approach everybody should have when skiing off piste. I contacted the skiers and they were all happy to work with me on the project.
Shooting freeride skiing requires a lot of preparation, organization and flexibility, especially in terms of getting up really early. We had to decide what time, which day and where we would go and of course we had to check the snow conditions and look at all possible avalanche risk reports.
Risk management is a term that becomes very familiar when going to ski or to shoot with these professionals. Although what they are doing seems quite insane at some points, they are always aware of any possible risks. I remember a sentence my cousin Christoph once said to me, “You never can be 100% sure that there won’t be an avalanche, but you have to reach at least 95%, otherwise you are dead”. And being dead is definitely not an option.
Initially, I was lucky and had a couple of great days shooting at Sonnenkopf mountain. Then, unfortunately, during December the weather in Austria changed completely. Unusually high temperatures and lots of rain made it impossible to continue with the story. The day before New Year’s Eve conditions changed again so Christoph and I decided to give it a go and went to Seegrube mountain which is part of the famous Nordkette mountains.