There are people who live at the edge of what we think possible. Andreas Fransson is one such skier -- he did a successful solo descent of the south face of Alaska's Denali in 2011 and more recently, a descent of the Whillans Ramp on Patagonia's Point Poincenot. Fransson is the star of a 25-minute documentary called "Tempting Fear," which was edited by Mike Douglas, filmed by Bjarne Sahlén, and narrated by Fransson himself and released earlier this year on Salomon Freeski TV. The film is a tale of redemption, following the life-threatening avalanche that broke Fransson's neck and set him on the road to recovery. We spoke to the Swedish-born, Chamonix, France-based skier about fear, risk, creativity, and more.
Someone said fear is the dragon safeguarding our inner treasures, and I think that's true. If you have become friends with fear, it can be your greatest guardian in the mountains, helping us stay alive. If we don't learn to lean into fear, we will always be running away from our dreams and our purpose in life.
On the other hand, if we have dived into fear enough times I believe it will dissolve and let us see life as it is: beautiful and magical.
Filming "Tempting Fear" became a way of processing two hard but very mentally and spiritually productive years in my life. Coming back from a serious injury only to see one of the people who helped lift me out from the depths die was a really difficult passage to go through. Working with the film and later sharing it has become a way of letting the past go.
Real strength isn't being strong, but quite the opposite -- having enough courage to dare to stay weak. I think in the mountains I try to take in every sensation that comes to me: being out there with the cold, the fear, the doubt, the cravings, often with pain or tiredness.
I started my skiing career doing freeskiing competitions and I have plenty of friends on the world tour. I think it's a good way of pushing the sport of freeride skiing, but it is very different from mountain skiing. In freeskiing competitions, you need to be an athletic skier and have a strong competition mind. In the mountains, it's strategy and philosophy that play a very important role.
In Chamonix, you have some of the biggest and wildest mountains in the world at your doorstep and you can take a gondola into the midst of adventure, do world class skiing or climbing and then be back home for dinner. Also, it attracts a crowd from all over the world who are extreme in their own ways and are on the search for something. I'd say Chamonix is for the mountain world what Paris, Berlin and New York are for artists.
I used to pursue endless winter in the north of Sweden and Norway, the glaciers of the Alps and in the Australian Alps. On my biggest seasons I used to log around 340 skiing days per year. But I have come to both accept and love the cyclic way of the world. The body needs cycles to rest and the mind needs cycles to stay in line with dreams and passions.
The mountains are demanding the best out of us. In that way we really get to know who we are in a very short amount of time.
Fear and darkness are more powerful when alone compared to being shared and it's usually easier to gain understanding from things powerful than things subtle. When solo I get to fight and yield in my internal reality -- when sharing the mountains with others I get to dance with the subtleties in relationships.
Creativity is the opposite of boredom. If we believe in this fact we need to make our lives a dance with creation. For me, creativity is the basic concept for happiness, whether it's on skis, in the mountains, in relationships, or playing with words like we are doing right now.