Born and bred in the Alps, belonging to a Chamoniard family, whose roots date back to 1596, Vivian Bruchez welcomes you with a smile. A former racer, he now divides his time between being a mountain guide and a ski instructor.
I was lucky enough to spend a day in the mountains with him (stay tuned for the details in the next post) and could see him in action.
Unpretentious and modest, Vivian can ski down seemingly impossible routes and has charmed people with his superb line choices. He took part in various films, primarily working with Seb Montaz-Rosset.
Brief encounter with a top class athlete.
T’es pas bien là (Downside Up) is an excellent film. We see you skiing down challenging routes (Migot Spur, Aiguille de Chardonnet, Kuffner Ridge, Frigor Couloir, among others), but also your role as an alpine ski instructor. Do you still work as such?
Yes, I still am one. I am primarily a mountain guide, but also work as a ski instructor. I could not survive with sponsors alone. They give me access to superb equipment, but they do not feed me, as it were. So when people ask me what my profession is, I say that I am a ski instructor and mountain guide, not an extreme skier.
That’s interesting, Would you not consider yourself as a professional extreme skier? After all, you have accomplished exceptional feats.
No, not really. That definition applies to those who ski day in and day out. I do other things, as well. Skiing is my passion, something that falls quite naturally into my life. I keep on being an instructor, as I see that as a way of sharing this passion. I love skiing, but I also think it’s important to convey this enthusiasm to others. My job allows me to achieve this and, as far my personal projects are concerned, I try and capture good images and films. My sphere pretty much evolves around this, i.e. sharing my experiences.
Alpine skiing is not, however, mountaineering. Would you agree?
Yes, I think we should separate the two. If you win a ski race, for instance, and you become world champion, that’s that. In the mountains, snow can sometimes dictate the outcome of your descent. If the snow is good, the conditions may be defined as “easy”. If they are challenging, the adventure becomes “extreme”. You have to be modest vis-à-vis the mountains because, up there, are no world champions.
You take many risks in the descents you carry out. Is each risk really calculated?
There are clearly some objective risks in the mountains, and it is difficult to foresee them, such as the seracs, the crevasses, going over a bergschrund. anything you have no control over. In such cases, you are aware of these risks and try and do your best to control them, using ropes, or making sure your rope-partners are professionals. Quite clearly, taking control of these risks is not something you can learn quickly, neither improvise. Each steep descent has a story of its own and is part of a long process where you observe the line, think about it, and imagine each and every turn. You need to make sure you are physically and mentally fit to face these challenges.
Something we can clearly observe in Downside Up.
Exactly. In this film, there are a few first descents (details), and none of them happened quickly. I had been thinking about some of them for as long as five years and had never fully explored the terrain.
When you observe a line, do you keep this project for yourself?
Well, I do not talk too much about it, not because I am afraid of somebody stealing my idea. These are not mainstream projects, in any case. Rather, I do not want to feel obliged to accomplish these projects. My aim is certainly not that of looking for some first descents, quite the opposite. If I succeed in doing them, it means that I had the chance to spot them before others, but it is not an aim in itself.
You started skiing aged 3. Will you keep on doing so for the rest of your life?
I really hope so. Skiing is my life indeed.
You used to compete at ski races. Will you do that again?
No, I don’t think so. That lasted for five years. I was in the selection for the European Cup, in the Espoirs Francais group, so it was high level skiing. Everything was geared for this, from my education to training. I reached my top level and then stopped because I was really keen on mountaineering, and wanted to become a guide, focus on climbing and the mountains in general. I started doing this and, little by little, I realised I could also bring my ski experience to the mountains.
What is your relationship with other skiers and snowboarders?
I get on really well with Jonathan “Douds” Charlet, he’s one of my best friends. With Kilian [Jornet], the relationship started as a working one, as I had to film him. I still do that, but he has now become a friend. We learn from each other and I enjoy that. I have been skiing together with Seb Montaz (the director of Downside Up), for the past four years and have worked on several projects, such as those related to highliners (I believe I can fly, and Petit Bus Rouge
You were a guest at the Kendal Film Festival last year. How did that go?
I had a lot of fun. I felt a warm welcome and that was fun. Steep skiing as a discipline is not so well known and so I was not sure about what type of welcoming I would have received. I was pleasantly surprised. I think Downside Up reaches a big audience, because it touches upon values one can easily identify with.
Yes, Seb Montaz is an excellent film director.
Also because he always keeps authenticity at its best, with regards to the people he films. I had not seen the film before its screening in Paris, but I was really happy, as I knew that he would portray me as I really am.
As he has done for One Step Beyond, the film retracing the life of Geraldine Fasnacht.
Exactly. In that film, you see the true Geraldine. And the same happens for Déjame Vivir, the film on Kilian Jornet.
You have been to the Himalayas (TilichoPeak 7134 m, Nepal). Are you planning to go there again in the future?
With regards to my job, I will work primarily in the Alps. I enjoy being here. I was in the Himalayas in 2009 and it was a good experience, but right now I am focusing on Kilian’s projects. We have been to Denali and have skied all the “classic” lines there. We will go to Aconcagua in December and Mount Everest next year. These are Kilian’s ideas, and I take part in the project, but these are not my own personal choices. I think there is still so much to do in the Alps, before going to the Himalayas. There are still ways to evolve in the realm of steep skiing, but of course you need to think hard about these ideas, observe the lines that others fail to notice, and venture there only when you know the conditions are spot on.
Please visit Vivian’s blog
Vivian Bruchez is sponsored by Dynastar, Mountain Hardware, Julbo, Scarpa, Cilao, Plum Bindings.