The funny thing about Chamonix isn’t that it’s home to some of the most extreme sh** you’ll ever see in the action sports world. It’s that the vast majority of the visitors to this tiny French mountain town are actually international tourists intent on taking the famous tram up the Aiguille du Midi to take a photo of Mont Blanc – and eat some crepes and croissants. Hop on the Telepherique with your skis any day in May, and you’ll likely be surrounded by a mass of tourists speaking in a dozen languages. A strange contrast exists between those tourist masses and the other type of person you’ll see on the tram that day – athletes like Michael “Bird” Shaffer that are up there to search for a unique freedom, like that found when launching himself off a massive serac while attached to nothing but his speed wing.
While Bird is also just a visitor, he’s been spending his spring season pushing the limits of his skiing and flying in the mountains above town. For the past 20 years, Bird has been exploring the icy heights of the Mont Blanc massif, but recently has been noticing that many of his favorite lines are becoming much more difficult to access and safely descend on skis. Luckily, he has a trick up his sleeve: flying.
Forget the nasty rappels at the exit of classic lines like the Col du Plan, Bird just sets up his wing and flies off the edge. It’s a tool he has been refining for years and is finally using to its fullest potential. Bird says, "It's not just a tool to skip the nasty exits, but it really keeps the freeride spirit alive. Flying the wing gives me the same feeling of freedom as ripping big turns down an exposed face."
This season, Bird spent several weeks waiting for conditions to line up for a series of flights starting at the top of the Aiguille du Midi. Check out his POV from launching the massive and solitary Jumeaux serac, and flying all the way back to the Tram just to re-join the tourists for another lap.