Simon “Cookie” Cook | Alpe d’Huez ESF Ski & Snowboard Instructor and off-piste guide
I am based in Alpe d’Huez in the south of the French Alpes. As a full time ski and snowboard instructor for the French Ski School, I teach everything on and off piste, from beginners to advanced. He has been with Whitedot since 2013 and have had the great opportunity to test out most of the range of skis available, and help as we’ve grown and developed the products over the years.
What skis do you use?
This year I am on the Altum 94 & 104 for my day-2-day ski. The tip and tail rocker gives me the versatility to ski in all conditions and all over the mountain without the need for extra waist width. Wider skis can (not always) have the worry of feeling cumbersome or awkward when skiing in shallow or hard packed snow. The extra rocker offered with the Altum range allows you to drop the waist size and keep the control, without compromising on the float when we make it to some deeper snow. Couple that with a relatively small radius it keeps the skis playful and lively under your feet. Because of the rocker Simon tends to ride the longer models, despite not being so tall (1.75m tall), adds with everything mentioned already to give me the lift I need but doesn’t affect and manoeuvrability as the tip and tail are raised when not in the softer snow.
I think is the best way I think to describe these skis is playful and fun, a great all round-single quiver ski.
I’ve also been lucky enough to hook up the new Ronde 110 CarbonLite, a light-weight all mountain ski with the rigidity to tackle everything a day in the back country can throw at us. The slight cabler under foot and extra toe lift gives great edge control to charge high speeds in fresh snow, as well as locking into hard pack on routes in and out of the descents.
Simon is based in Alpe d’Huez where the off-piste skiing is amazing; a huge variety of easy-access power fields, steep famous faces that can be seen from miles around, hidden gems that don’t need a whole day touring to get to/from, as well as plenty of touring spots to get away from the main routes.
Favourite areas to ski
Pic Blanc, the highest pic in the area at 3330m there are plenty of routes giving around 2000m vertical drops before the short walks or lifts straight out of the valleys below. It offers decent on different faces too depending on conditions- southwest/west towards the Serene valley, or Northwest towards the areas of Oz and Poutran.
Villard Reculas, lower than other options in the domain the west facing slopes from 2100- 1500m offers a great mix of open faces for intermediates to learn and develop the skills of powder, as well as some nice tree-lined routes that can be accessed in the poor visibility days. The area is not without its dangers of course; but it’s an ideal playground to learn the skills needed to take your skiing adventures to the next levels, or for an experienced rider just to enjoy some great conditions.
Crowd favourite is always the Chimneys of Marmots. Directly under the cabins of the Marmots 3 lift at 3000m are two steep narrow chutes dropping you 300m vertically. First impressions of the rock-lined descents are intimidating, but they are actually wider that they appear from a distance with a number of safe stopping points on the route down. There's also a few small & less scary looking chimneys in the area that we can use to build up to and train to get ready for the main two under the lift.
Alpe d’Huez is also only on a short drive from the infamous La Grave, under the specular mountain La Meije towering up to 3982m. The off-piste skiing and mountaineering here is some of the best in the world. The area has only one rickety old lift reaching from the village to near the top- from there you’re on your own to navigate you way through mazes of couloir, crevasses, cliffs, trees and open fields.
Les Deux Alpes is another of my favourite places, only a short drive from my home in Alpe d’Huez too- and soon to be a connected ski area with a new lift in the pipe-line. I’ve spent years skiing over there and learning all the hidden back-country routes.