Damn, 20 years !

©René Robert

For many, he is an icon with blond or green hair, depending on the mood, an icy mint look and a smile whose scratched incisor reveals his temperament. “In the powder we are all world champions. There’s no one left as soon as it’s steep and a bit frozen, there’s no one left who makes a turn.” This punchline from Bertrand Delapierre’s film, Marco, étoile filante (Seven Doc, 2011), will complete Marco Siffredi’s place in the history of snowboarding and the steep slope in general.

On the 24th of May, 2001, Marco Siffredi set off from the 8 848m summit of Everest and descended the Norton Couloir on a snowboard. He traced the highest steep slope in the world, less than 200m at 50 degrees but on the roof of the world, with a changing snow that, more than anywhere else, does not allow any mistake.

More than a great name in a pantheon, Marco has become a symbol. There was certainly his to-do-list of steep slopes, Nant Blanc à la Verte in mind. But beyond his achievements, he was a free electron, elusive, rebellious and honest. He was the embodiment of the most exhilarating values of the mountain. In a way, he gave snowboarding its “alpine” credentials by taking his board to places where only mountaineers and a few rare skiers dared to venture. And on the other hand, he brought a dose of freshness and fun to this austere high mountain, difficult to make accessible or understandable to the general public and the youngest in particular.

On the 8th of September, 2002, Marco starts in the Hornbein couloir. But he will not come out of this one. He will never be found.

Twenty years to the day after his disappearance, the spirit of Siffredi continues to inspire all those who remain animated, either by the ardor of youth or the casualness allowed by age.

Marco will always be 20 years old 

But twenty years passing, it changes a woman or a man. Many of the former hairy men have cut their hair. Some turned right-wing anarchists, others left-wing anarchists, and still others settled down and walked straight. Some have gone into a tailspin too.

I wonder what Marco Siffredi would have been like at 40 years old? With ifs… I dare to believe that he would still have colored hair, a gap-tooth smile, and that he would continue to make fun of the freeriders, to send away the too pressing sponsors and to choose always more incredible slopes. Andrzej Bargiel would certainly have had the K2 descent stolen from him before he could even think about it. Pierre Tardivel would have swapped skis for snowboard much earlier, with a great teacher. And the Hornbein would be an old story…

It’s absurd, I grant you. Marco will always be 20 years old. Twenty-two years precisely, which he has filled with the ardor and eagerness of one who has understood that nothing lasts: “To live, you have to risk. It’s bad enough that we are nothing, that we have no control over anything, but if we let time go by.” Come on, it’s never too late to be 20.