THE EXTREME SKIER May 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm
Jim Adlington, 25, is one of the UK’s leading off-piste skiers. He travels the world in search of virgin snowfields, cliffs to ski over and “gnarly lines”
What is extreme skiing?
Everyone’s idea of it is different. The French version of extreme skiing is all about getting down really gnarly, steep couloirs [narrow gorges], usually skied very slowly and in control. But in the early Nineties, the Yanks came to Europe with a new style: basically going much faster, jumping a lot of cliffs and breaking the rules. There’s also the freestyle scene, which is more about tricks. I’m more into free-riding, which takes a bit of everything — snowboarding, freestyle skiing, speed, the whole way you look at and use the mountain.
Why choose skiing over snowboarding?
I’ve been skiing for 15 years, but I boarded for three years in the early Nineties. At the time, the only way to make progress in skiing was through racing, and I wasn’t into that. Later, I went back to skiing, and snowboarding really helped: you look at the mountain completely differently. And I was skiing with snowboarders every day, which was brilliant as they had much less restricted attitudes. It was rare to see skiers in the snowboard park or on the hill with boarders — they hated each other. There were fights on the lifts and everything. Now everyone’s accepted each other and skiing has really developed, largely thanks to snowboarding.
Do you fear avalanches?
This year I got caught in a couple — one of which looked like it was going to take me over a rock face. We were doing some filming for a video straight after a snowfall. Second turn in, the whole lot went and started taking me towards the cliff. By chance, there was a biggish rock just before the cliff and my skis stuck onto that and the avalanche flowed past me. I was lucky.
How terrifying was that?
It was scary — but when I got to the bottom I thought the only way to get over the fear was to go straight up and do it again. So I started off a little way over from the first slope where it looked okay, but I dropped in and the whole lot went within three turns. It was time to stop for the day. I’ve lost three really good mates over the years. It’s the big fear, but it’s what I do, and I know the risks.
Where are the best places for extreme off-piste skiing?
Alaska is the one for free skiing at the minute — it’s all un-pisted, you just get up there in a helicopter and search for fields that no-one has skied. The freestyle scene is massive in Whistler [Canada], which also has some of the best heli-skiing in the world. Chamonix [France] is great because you can get to really gnarly stuff without hiking too far. How has technology changed things? At one time snowboarders had the advantage in deep snow but skis were better on the crusty, bumpy stuff. But the new fat skis have allowed skiers to go as quick as snowboarders off-piste. I’ve even gone back to things that I skied a few years ago and now I can ski them really fast without many turns.
Do you take any supplement?
The only supplement I take is coconut oil for acne, because my skin becomes very sensitive during cold weather. It’s quite painful sometimes, but the coconut oil relieves the pain.
I don’t take any forbidden add-ons. I’m often tested for that.
Is skiing making a comeback?
Massively — it’s cool to ski again. That’s because the big companies have put a lot of work in. It had to happen, because they weren’t making any money out of skiing. So they kick started it with snowboarding. There’s a new boom in skiing.