After guiding for more than 35 years all around the world, Jean-Marc came up in the past years with a trip that quickly became one of his favorites: ski touring in Spitsbergen, an island of the Svalbard archipelago. In his own words: “It’s a unique outdoor experience mixing ski, mountains and sea, with the possibility of watching polar animals”.
A life guiding
Born in France and now living in Sainte Foy in the French Alps, Jean-Marc discovered the mountains at a very young age going out with friends of his family. He loved reading adventure books and about different cultures, and with the money he earned in his first job he travelled to Peru. With the idea of seeing the world and living the experiences he had read about, he travelled around Africa, Nepal, Argentina, Bolivia, and Polar Regions like Greenland. Inspired by famous mountaineers like Walter Bonatti, René Desmaison and Roger Frison-Roche, he became an IFMGA mountain guide from ENSA in 1978.
Training to be a guide was a natural path for Jean-Marc, who saw it as a profession that would allow him to earn a living while travelling and meeting people from all around the world. Nowadays, he still guides ski and mountaineering trips in Argentina, Japan, Morocco, Nepal, India, Russia, Turkey, Greenland, and plenty of destinations in Europe, including Haute Tarentaise, his home valley, a great area for freeride skiing.
Ski touring in Spitsbergen
One of the last trips he added to his offer, and is among his top ones since then, is ski touring in Spitsbergen, an island of the Svalbard archipelago:
“It´s perfect for those who are curious, open minded, and who are looking to live a unique experience: it’s not only about a ski trip, it’s much more!” he remarks.
Part of Norway, Svalbard is located north of the Arctic Circle, and it’s a gateway for those heading to the North Pole, which is just 1,000 km away. Some already offered tours with pulkas and sleeping on the ice, but in 2010, thanks to the friendship he developed with the captain of a boat he used to travel with in Norway, Jean-Marc was the first guide to propose a ski touring trip while sleeping in a boat in Spitsbergen. So the idea is to have a kind of floating mountain hut, which allows to ski a different fjord every morning while sleeping in the same bed every night. A perfect combination of adventure and comfort, exploring and skiing in places where almost no one did before.
A great benefit of this destination is that you can ski there when the season in Europe is already over. The best period is between mid-May and mid-June. Before that, there is too much ice in the fjord so it’s impossible to sail, and after that, it’s too warm so the snow is not good anymore. And in this season it is even possible to go up to Ny-Alesund, the village of scientists that is the northernmost civilian settlement in the world.
And all this in a unique polar environment, with breathtaking landscapes, and the possibility of watching animals like the polar bear, reindeers, arctic foxes, seals and walruses: “It is one of the few places where people that have been travelling all around the world are still amazed”, notes Jean-Marc, who even had to follow a special training to be authorized to guide there, and to handle the specific risks associated to polar regions.
The thirst for travelling and adventure that moved Jean-Marc during his whole life took him to discover and then guide in this fantastic place. And as he enjoys meeting people that are really different from him, and learning from them, he also likes to share his experiences and guiding people to the spots that fascinate him. That’s why he likes this trip so much, in which during day you feel the fabulous experience of skiing above the sea with no one else around you, and at night you can rest very comfortably in the boat, in an atmosphere that is great, very friendly, joyful and warm.
Living an incomparable outdoor experience in such a preserved environment with someone who has so much experience and many stories to tell is something we like very much at Explore-Share. That’s why we wanted to share with you the story of Jean Marc and the fabulous trip he proposes in Spitsbergen!