The fall can be a very frustrating time of the year; the desire to get back on snow after a long summer is high, but finding decent riding conditions can be difficult. Thus, we’ve interviewed and collected some of the best tips for preseason riding from our team riders. First up is Davide Capozzi providing some tips about where to go in the Western Alps.

What’s your favorite resort for pre-season riding?

The obvious place to start the season in Valle d’Aosta is Breuil – Cervinia as the high altitude allows for early fall riding. However, I personally prefer to start the season with the first snowfalls at Punta Helbronner, on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Good conditions are likely to be found there thanks to the cable car that brings you up to an altitude of 3466 m.

What makes Helbronner so special?

The environment is always special at Punta Helbronner because you are in the very high mountains. It is more challenging to ride in fall because the snowpack on the glaciers is still thin and there are a lot of crevasses. Therefore, you have to be very careful about where you go. However, you can often take advantage of good conditions for riding short steep faces. Especially in recent years we have seen amazing conditions in the fall, similar to those you would usually find in the spring, allowing for steep descents.


Daniel Furberg and Davide Capozzi riding at Helbronner on February 2. 2016

What time of fall would you recommend to go to Breuil-Cervinia, and why?

For those who want to do the first freeriding of the season I’d say that Breuil-Cervinia is a must-go! In November it is already possible most of the time to make long runs and there are days with less people during the week. The winds in the fall are also not too strong, which means you can often find good snow.

Any special runs you could recommend?

All descents that start from the top station of the Plateau Rosa are interesting and the cable car from Cime Bianche allows you to do a lot of laps in one day.

Breuil-Cervinia

Cime Bianche and Plateau Rosa marked in red. Map from www.cervinia.it

Do you have any favorite place for splitboarding in fall?

After the first snowfall, I love the area of the Gran San Bernardo, along the border between the Italian Valle d’Aosta and the Swiss Valais. The cold currents here often provide a lot of heavy snow early in the season that allows for some early splitboard tours. You can choose to either go to the Italian or the Swiss side depending on whether it is a northern or southern cold current.

Backcountry snowboarding can be a dangerous activity. You should always read the local avalanche report, bring the necessary safety equipment, and have the required safety knowledge before heading into the backcountry.

Looking for a mountain guide in Valle d’Aosta? Then you should get in contact with snowhow.it


Why do (almost) all snowboards have 8 meter sidecut radius?

It took the skiing industry decades to figure out that sidecut used on snowboards would work on skis as well. But the skiing industry took it further. They realized that different types of skis called for different sidecut radius. Makes pretty good sense, doesn’t it? Slalom carvers have short sidecut radius and downhill skis and big mountain skis have long sidecut radius. But the snowboarding industry have still not understood this.

Back in 2009 I thought that some snowboard brand must have tried longer radius and found out it didn’t work. But I couldn’t stop thinking about this. The snowboard sponsor I had at the time, wanted to keep using the same old molds they had been using for ever. So I started Furberg Snowboards as a little side project. And it turned out that a longer sidecut radius, combined with rocker and reversed sidecut, was a success on freeride snowboards as well. Suddenly the catchy and nervous behaviour of the short radius boards were gone. You could now edge the board as hard as you wanted, without having the tips getting caught. And seamlessly go from carving to sliding turns. Freeride snowboarding just became an easier sport. And why all other brands stick to nervous, catchy and difficult short radius boards is still a mystery to me.

//Daniel Furberg


As so often happens, it all began with a photo. A year ago my friend Diego Fiorito (a highly experienced skier and mountaineer with numerous first descents to his name) showed me a photo of the East Face of Grand Combin de Grafenière (4314m.) and I immediately realized that it wouldn’t be simple. Accessing the face is difficult due to the tormented Glacier du Croissant that guards the flank, the approach is long and since checking conditions is difficult, the whole thing seemed like a rather daunting enterprise. I decided to scrap the idea of skiing this mountain and opted for other goals that were easier to achieve.

I showed the photo to Julien “Pica” Herry and he was clearly interested. We decided to reccie the Glacier du Mont Durand area at the foot of the Gr. Combin to work out what to do. During this exploration, of an area that neither I nor Julien knew before, we realized that the Grand Combin de Grafenière also had two other striking lines: the South East ridge (the Italian route) and the South West Face (skied for the first time, as it happens, on 18 May 2015 by Edmond Joyeusaz). At this point we decided we’d try and ski both lines and hope to also make our other little dream come true, namely to snowboard down the East Face.

This year, however, conditions haven’t been too great in the Mont Blanc massif and as a result my friends and I have often been on the lookout for other things to do. Skiing the East Face of Grand Combin suddenly came back to mind, thanks once again to a photo, taken by another keen skier and friend of mine. Conditions seemed excellent, all that remained was understand how to reach the face.

At 4:30 am on 31 May Julien and I set off from the By valley, above the village of Ollomont, at 2100m above sea level; in 6 hours we reached the shoulder below the summit of Grand Combin de Grafenière, at 4200m. Conditions were great and we rapidly snowboarded down the 600m crest.

Davide half way down the SE ridge

Davide on the SE ridge

We strapped on our crampons again and followed our trail to reach the shoulder for a second time. Fatigue began to set in but after hesitating for few moments we then launched down the immense SW Face; the spring snow was perfect and in no time at all we skied past the Bergschrund. All we had to do now was reach Col Sonadon and then descend to the Amianthe winter refuge. We’d had a long day out in the mountains and our splitboards began to weigh us down.

The following day we decided we’d try to reach the East Face via the SE ridge, traversing up high and ascending only the final section of the slope. Fortunately we were joined by our friend Denis Trento (a champion ski mountaineer) with whom we’ve shared many beautiful descents this year. Denis reached us that evening at the Amianthe hut.

The night was very short (the second for Julien and myself), the alarm clock rang at midnight and we set off at 01:00 am. At about 5:00 we reached the summit shoulder of Grand Combin de Grafenière once again; we entered the East Face at the crack of dawn on skis and snowboards, on marble-like snow. We strapped on our crampons and climbed up the final section of the East Face. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough snow in the narrowest section and we were forced to make a rappel, as a result we decided that the integral descent from the summit would have to wait for another occasion. We decided to ride the Ease Face from the summit shoulder.

After having waited for over an hour for the snow to soften we finally stepped into our snowboards and skis and dove into the void. The snow was good and the 600m descent passed by quickly. The slopes were far more sustained than on the two routes the previous day, the steepness was ever-present making it much more interesting.

Capozzi-Splitboard-Combin-Grafeniere

East Face of Grand Combin de Grafenière

On reaching the end of the descent we quickly crossed below and the enormous seracs that dominate Glacier du Croissant and retuned to Tour de Boussine (3826 m.); from this summit we descended towards Glacier du Durand and finally reached the Amianthe hut.

A special thanks goes to my partner Michèle which lightened the weight of our backpacks on the first day, transporting the rest of the gear and food we needed for the following day.

Grand Combin de Grafenière
SW Face: 700m, 45°/50° (1st snowboard descent)
SE Ridge: 600m, 45°/50° (1st snowboard descent)
East Face: 600m, 50° (1st ski and snowboard descent)

– Davide Capozzi