Enki Hediard and his friends are out for a day of skiing and it should be a good one. Fifteen centimeters of snow have fallen, maybe more... But do they jump off the lift and start skiing? Not so fast. As responsible skiers, they want to assess the safety and conditions of the mountain before deciding where to ski. And so their first stop is with ski patrol.
It’s not every day you get a chance to go out with ski patrol and observe how they control avalanche conditions. But that’s exactly what Enki Hediard and his friends did last winter on a foggy powder day in Chamonix, France. For the young resident doing his school work placement at the Peak Performance store in town, seeing firsthand how patrol does its job on Les Grands Montets was just another in a series of learning experiences in the mountains.
Enki started skiing at two years old in La Vallée Verte, south of Lake Geneva. He loved it from the start. The sport quickly became his passion and it didn’t take long before he was in the local racing club—though it was clear his interests lay elsewhere. “As a child I was a bit crazy on skis, always attracted by jumps and the tracks outside the slopes,” he recalls. “And I was also a freestyle lover—though I wasn’t very good at it.”
After nice years of racing, Enki decided that the discipline didn’t quite fit with his spirit. When he moved to Chamonix for high school to partake in a mountain curriculum, he was quickly exposed to something different. There he met a coach, who taught him about freeriding and the rules of big-mountain competition. “I immediately loved the feeling of freedom, the risks, and the rapport you develop with the mountain. I learned fast, and when we had our first small competition between the students, I finished first. After that, I knew I wanted to keep going.”.
His love of freeriding and competition has taken him to the Freeride World Tour junior circuit. But after living in Chamonix for four years and getting to know the famous ski destination, it remains his favorite place to ride—“a giant playground full of great skiers”, as he sees it. As for Enki’s style, his racing background has delivered a clean skier who also likes to go fast—and big. “I’m not heavy so I can be light and flexible on my skis. I like to go like a chamois between the rocks, in little couloirs, in the forest, and I love to jump and throw tricks.”
The day out with friends on Les Grands Montets was different: a powder day, but also a whiteout with low visibility. So though he’d already learned much of mountain environments in his school years, he took the opportunity to learn what he could from ski patrol with a mind to be able to share with other freeskiers what to do when skiing off piste in such conditions.
“It was impressive to see how they bomb an avalanche—and to feel the explosion. But the most important takeaway was that mountains are by nature dangerous places”, he sums up. “It’s important to pay attention to all the posted information and signs regarding avalanche risk. It also means carrying the right equipment, understanding the snowpack, the causes of avalanches, and what to do if one happens.”
As Enki learned in school, knowledge is power. And as the mountains are now teaching him, knowledge is also safety.