Who is Gilles Sierro?
Gilles Sierro is, first and foremost, an extreme skier - this Marmot athlete has specialised in skiing down very steep slopes. He grew up in Hérémence, southern Switzerland.
His village is halfway between the legendary ski regions of Chamonix and Zermatt, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Gilles has been skiing since pre-school, and could probably ski before he could walk.
Under his dad’s wing, Gilles Sierro took part in alpine ski races until he was 16. After that, he switched to freestyle skiing and competed in the Half Pipe World Cup events. Then he began working as a mountain and ski touring guide - a skier through and through. Today, Gilles enjoys guiding his clients around his home mountains in Chamonix and up the Matterhorn, but his heart still belongs to steep skiing, which is why he takes some of his clients down routes steeper than they previously thought skiable.
Last year, he became one of only three skiers ever to successfully complete two of the most difficult descents in the area: the north face of Mont Blanc de Cheilon and the north face of the Pigne d’Arolla.
His next goal is to link up 3 radical steep descents: the east face of the Matterhorn, the northeast face of the Liskam and the Marinelli Couloir (the longest couloir in Europe with a vertical descent of 3,000 metres). We’re excited to see how it goes!
What is steep skiing?
Although the term “steep skiing” may seem self-explanatory, it’s actually a bit of an understatement. Involving slopes with inclinations of up to 60°, steep skiing requires concentration, preparation, careful observation of the environment, good risk assessment skills, the best equipment available and, of course, excellent skiing ability. Steep skiing is not just an art, it’s a way of life.
When asked what steep skiing means for him, Gilles said that “steep skiing can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people. For me, it’s like doing solo alpinism on skis. Skiing where other people dream to climb. It often means a lot of technical preparation, no fall zone, exposed skiing”.
He continues: “The risks are very high, but so are the rewards. When skiing in this area, feeling tiny and fragile, you’re connected with the real you. Life is very simple up there, all that matters is the next turn, and then the next turn and so on. There’s no room for distraction and the endless questioning of daily life.” We went on to ask him a series of questions:
What are your top 5 steep ski descents?
► Dt Blanche W/SW couloir CH
► Blanche de Perroc N face CH
► Mt Blanc de Cheilon N face CH
► Holzer Couloir IT
► Torre Independenza couloir IT
► Valscura couloir IT
► Dragon Spine Couloir Alaska USA
► La Brenva IT
What are the 5 most important safety rules when steep skiing?
► Be patient
► Ski in good conditions only
► Be fit (mind and body)
► Ski one by one
► Know when to pull the plug
What 5 pieces are always are in your backpack when steep skiing?
► Avalanche gear
► 5mm 40m rope
► Crampons & axe
► Extra layers
► Coca Cola
What were the 3 best moments in your steep skiing career?
► 1st descent of the Dt Blanche W/SW couloir - shared with 2 friends
► Meeting likeminded people
► The fact that wherever you go, you see ski lines. It becomes second nature
And the 3 worst?
► Losing friends and likeminded people
► When you have to turn around half way up after all the hard work
► The fact that wherever you go, you see ski lines. It becomes second nature - yes! It’s both good and bad!