Zeppelin Skiing

Europe’s largest outdoor film festival takes in 500 venues in 20 countries and when it arrives in our little corner of the Alps for the second year in a row, we’re expecting another full house. Our assembled crowd of 250 people will enjoy ten short films showcasing the world’s most extraordinary adventurers. In advance of the Montriond & Morzine screening of the European Outdoor Film Tour hosted by Morzine Source Magazine at the Domaine du Baron on Lake Montriond on Tuesday 7th April 2020, we’ve spoken with personalities from three of the movies on this year’s programme.

In February 2019 skiers Stefan Ager and Andreas Gumpenberger, accompanied by snowboarder Fabian Lentsch, achieved a world first. Hanging beneath a 75-metre long Zeppelin, they abseiled 50 metres to the summit of Kleiner Valkastiel at 7326-feet in the Austrian Alps. According to their research, these slopes had never been skied before but the challenge wasn’t as you might expect.

The trio had previously attempted something similar in a hot air balloon in Pakinstan, “but we missed the summit every time” Andreas tells us. “This time we wanted a unique possibility; to fly to the mountains but also be able to land directly on a summit.” Typically, the ride down from a summit is the toughest aspect; not so when you incorporate a Zeppelin. “Most people don’t even know that they still exist,” says Stefan of the early 20th century floating aircraft that once traversed the world’s oceans. They’re designed to fly up to 1000m in altitude, but the team needed theirs to go higher

“The biggest challenge was the planning, regulation and bureaucracy,” explains Andreas. “It took us more than two years and the Zeppelin was customised just for this project. We needed a lot of permits, and then we had to wait for the right snow, the right weather, the right temperature. Everything had to be perfect.”

When the perfect day arrived, the Zeppelin departed from its base in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The team of three plus a photographer huddled in a small cabin while the pilots pushed the limits of altitude and range. “The moment we climbed out of the doors was the most exciting one,” explains Andreas. “We looked down 50 metres and you could see the excitement in everyone’s eyes.” “It was like abseiling down from a big cloud,” describes Stefan. When they reached the snow, they clicked out of their carabineers and felt an overwhelming relief that the hardest part of the challenge was over. “Now we can concentrate on the things we like the most: skiing and snowboarding.”

With the huge airship still above them, Stefan, Andreas and Fabian made their descent on snow that was “not the best, a little bit crusty at the top” and began to think of their next project. “We’ll go inside a mountain. We’ll make the first ski tour in a cave.” We’re certainly looking forward to that one!

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