Final Fantasy: Skiing Le Couloir Cosmique
By "Krazee" Chris Mansbridge
Published November 2006
I grew up counting the days until winter came. Each November I would sit in our cramped little town auditorium to watch my ski heroes on the tattered pull-down screen, who proceeded to blow my mind. The most memorable footage of all, was of my favorite skiers traveling to France to descend the Cosmique Couloir. I looked at the steep rocky image on that wrinkly screen and decided to one day join them.
Now thirteen years older, I have skied many of the places that were first seen in that little room. The Cosmique was next, and after a particularly dry spell in Whistler and rumors of heavy snow Europe, I packed my bags and jumped on the next flight to France.
A lifetime of ski bumming has taken its toll on my body. I have broken my back twice, had part of my left foot amputated, torn the ligaments in my knees several times, dislocated my shoulder repeatedly and had reconstructive surgery on my face. I was expiring. I had to make this trip; it would be one of my last.
I stuffed my creaking body into a plane to Switzerland, then drove a rental car to France. Delaney, my travel partner, and I had been talking and laughing with excitement for the whole trip until the morning of our big descent. We hardly spoke that morning, and when we did, it was short and sarcastic. We'd never admit it, but we were scared. We really didn't know much other than what we had seen on movie screens.
In the parking lot of the Aguille du Midi Tram, we used our broken French to ask every ski guide we saw, how to get to the top of the Cosmique. Each one replied in equally broken English:
"Ohh.... not much snow on the Cosmique this year. Very Dangerous. Why don't you do a glacier tour instead?"
Frustrated and still lost, we loaded the tram with every piece of mountaineering equipment we could conceive needing, strapped to our packs. As we ascended up in the ski lift, we asked every unshaven European with an ice axe, how to get to the entrance of the infamous couloir. We got the same response.
"I want the Cosmique, not some stupid glacier tour!" I shouted, my nervousness turning into anger.
We piled out of the tram at the top of the mountain. It was just like looking out onto that wrinkly screen. There was the peak that Glen Plake skied, there was the chute Dean Cummings rappelled into. It was just a matter of time before we could recognize the mighty Cosmique Couloir- the chute Trevor Peterson skied in the movie 'Cosmic Winter'.
As I was having my moments of nostalgia, Delaney came up to me like he had a juicy secret to tell.
"I heard two Americans talking about us. They said 'Those two over there want to ski the Cosmique Couloir. Let's beat them to it.'"
We had found some involuntary tour guides. We trailed them across the glacier to the chute I will never get out of my mind. We used our rope to rappel the first fifteen meters, then skied the eight hundred meter chute to the glacier below. Each turn was dedicated to one of my ski heroes.
"Thanks for showing us the way, Doug Coombs."
"This next one's for you, Trevor Peterson."
I fought back the tears. Delaney didn't know, but this was the end of my skiing days. This is the way I wanted to end it - doing something I had always dreamed of. All tension was gone. We made our way through the ice fields below and back to our car. The airport was calling us. Its floor was our bed for the night. After a much needed night of rest, I placed my weary bones into a cramped plane seat to watch a movie on its pull-down screen. I laughed. I had ended my ski career the day before and now I had come back to the beginning.
I wonder what the next movie will be. Let's hope it doesn't hurt as much.
Chris Mansbridge is a washed up ski bum whose hobbies include unsuccessfully performing stunts requiring no technical merit. Lifetime accomplishments include published photos of him skiing down concrete staircases in sneakers and stolen rental skis, and being filmed by Matchstick Productions snorting a condom up his nose and out his mouth.
He is currently residing in Vancouver, BC, where he works as a first aid attendant providing care to drunken Canadian construction workers. He is so washed up that he is even practicing yoga.