Throughout Winter, we will be showcasing a collection of commissioned portraits by Lukasz Warzecha, as part of our Mountain Portraits series, an attempt to highlight some of the key characters who give meaning to our work. This week, we focus on Ben Briggs, a Ski Mountaineer at the forefront of his field.
Words by Ben Briggs
Ben is at the forefront of a new generation of ski mountaineers chasing bigger and steeper lines in the best possible style. Growing up far from the mountains before moving to Chamonix in the French Alps, it’s been a steep learning curve:
Twelve years ago I would have had no idea where Chamonix was, let alone its history, but sitting here today, writing this, I find that I have spent over ten years of my life dedicated to skiing the nearby mountains and making it my home.
I grew up just south of London, a long way from the world of skiing and mountaineering, but was lucky enough to go on a ski trip with my school at a young age. I was instantly hooked by the mountains and their possibilities. I made it my mission to get out of the city, so after leaving school deciding to do a ski season was the only sensible thing I could think of doing.
I already fancied myself as a handy skier by this time and so started looking for a place with a big reputation. This was when I first stumbled upon Chamonix… Arriving there I soon realised I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought.
Instantly the scale of the surrounding peaks, and the stories of the pioneers who skied them, inspired me. As time went on I became focused on pushing myself, each descent more difficult than the last. Momentum and motivation built rapidly and I quickly descended some of the most coveted lines in the Alps, some that had never been repeated; Mont Blanc’s Sentinel Rouge couloir, the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey, the Aiguille Verte amongst many others.
Over time it became clear to me that just getting down something to tick it off a list wasn’t the skiing that I loved. My focus has increasingly shifted towards style, skiing these mountains fast and in powder conditions, blurring the line between freeride and ski alpinism.
There is no greater sensation than making powder turns down a huge face, and that is what skiing should always be about, having fun. Having lost many friends in the mountains, as well as learning that I will soon become a father, has changed the level of risk I am willing to take, but that enjoyment will always keep me going back for more. I’ll always be searching for the next big experience and beautiful mountain to ski.
‘These are the best thing I’ve used for the sort of skiing I do. The fit, particularly around the knee and lower leg, means they work for the technical climbing that’s often a much bigger part of my day than the descent and they’re totally unrestrictive on the way down. Despite being a super hard wearing ski-mountaineering pant I still think they look great and I’m just as likely to wear them for lift served powder days….Perfect.” Ben Briggs