Friday Apr 11, 2014

Extreme Sports Channel: Travellers With Skis explore new world of freeskiing

New series Travellers with Skis takes us to the world's most unique skiing destinations. After riding everywhere from Lebanon to Morocco, the show’s fearless guide, Jan-Erik Blomberg told what inspired the epic adventure.

If you went on a ski holiday this winter you probably found yourself cruising the slopes of France, Switzerland or Austria. But what if you had known you could ski in The Canary Islands, Turkey, Iceland or Greece – would you have changed your plans?

That is exactly what Jan-Erik Blomberg, Jani Nygård and Arto Majava have done for Travellers with Skis, an epic new 18-part adventure on the Extreme Sports Channel.

Every Saturday night at 8pm, the trio will take viewers on a trip that spans the entire globe as they seek out truly unique and inspiring spots to ski. From Lebanon to Dubai, Travellers with Skis showcases a completely different side to freeskiing, in locations where few people realise there is even snow, let alone skiers.

We caught up with Jan-Erik to find out what inspired their unique expedition….

Travellers With Skis - Teaser

When did you first learn to ski?

"In Finland it’s a custom that youngsters are introduced in primary school to cross-country skiing, but in my case it was my father that taught me downhill skiing. My father used to ski a lot and he probably thought it would be a good sport for me. He got me my first skis and ski boots when I was six years old. I did my first turns in my parent’s backyard, where there were three apple trees in a row, and that made a perfect run for me."

What is it about the sport that gripped you?

"Have you ever seen a bear or an otter glide down a mountainside? Even animals have fun on snow! There is just something magical in the combination of a sense of gravity and the fact that you have to control your speed and direction. I like to keep absolute focus on what I'm doing. I just don't get that sensation by doing anything else."

Did it take you long to master skiing?

"I don't think I will ever master skiing. Every time I go up to the mountains or to my local hill I try to learn something new. Whether it's something in the actual turns I try to do better, or a new trick in the park or trying to learn how to read the line that I am trying to ski. There is also the whole concept of mastering, or trying to master, the snow conditions. It is a road you can walk for the rest of your life."

Where did the idea for Travellers With Skis come from?

"'Travellers With Skis' is called 'Hiutale' in Finland, which means snowflake in Finnish. From the very beginning my show was more like a magazine style TV-program and it was in Finnish. It was a combination of interviews, competition reports, travel stories, trick tips etc. One show had four or five different elements put together. After many seasons I got bored with this concept.

"After one season ended I went up north to do some hiking and riding. I wanted to hike by myself and I even turned down a request to go heli-skiing nearby. What reasonable guy turns down that kind of an offer?! Hiking for three or four hours worked as meditation for me. After hiking up the mountain and riding it down I realized I wanted to keep on doing the show and I had a clear vision of how to develop it. After this specific trip I started to work with the new format; three guys traveling after snow in weird places and after the best snow possible, combined with culture. I think that traveling is more about people than it is about the skiing. A journey starts at the very point when you start dreaming about it."

How did you pick your team?

"I have travelled with my team mates for ages, roughly about ten years. We have usually travelled mainly because of skiing, for instance to the Alps, Norway, Japan and the USA. During those years I realised that these two fellows had what it takes to go on a longer trip. I also realised that my mates know how to film, how to ski and how to be in front of the camera. I also wanted all of us to come home safely and not in a body bag. I knew that Arto and Jani would be able to tolerate harsh conditions and sometimes hunger."

Did you find that skiers around the globe speak the same skier’s language and have the same zest for the sport?

"Skiing happens all around the globe. For instance in Turkey they developed snowboarding long before it was invented in the US. In Turkey it is called lazboarding and the board looks like a door. You stand on the board and hold on to a rope that is tied to the front of the board. Everyone can understand the concept of pure joy. That is basically what gliding down on snow is."

Were there any places where you had second thoughts and considered it to be too dangerous?

"What first comes to mind are polar bears in Spitsberg. We were only four guys camping on a glacier about an hour and a half snowmobile drive from the nearest city. There are basically no roads in Spitsberg therefore snowmobile is the only way of transportation on the island. We knew that there had been some sightings of polar bears nearby. They were hunting seals about 15-20 km from where we were camping. That is no distance for a polar bear, which can easily run 400 km in a day. We had to have a night patrol out in the cold and watch out for the bears. It was really exhausting. We had to stand on guard for an hour and a half, and we slept only four and a half hours. I felt very alone out in the cold. What made it even harder was that sometimes the visibility was only about ten meters.

"Another trip that comes to mind is the trip to Colorado. During that winter snow conditions were just lethal. The mountains were very beautiful and the surroundings were spectacular, but we had no chance to get out there - there were a lot of massive avalanches. In two weeks we managed to build a few back country jumps and ski some small stuff but nothing else. It was frustrating.

"In Morocco, we had a hectic time when Arab-Spring started to spread from Tunisia. Arab-Spring is the pro-democracy movement in Arab countries. After that we were supposed to travel to Lebanon but we heard some rumours that Hezbollah had plans on seizing the airport in Beirut."

Which location has been your favourite so far?

"To be honest, I enjoyed every one of them because they all have their own fun twists. For example, Iceland was really unique with all its beauty in such a compact form. The country is like somewhere out of another dimension. The USA has its massive landscape and Japan has its extraordinarily good snow conditions.

"There was the spiciness of Morocco, the remoteness of Vancouver Island and the quietness of the Himalayas. There are just so many places to mention. I can’t say what my favourite place is, somehow I can still relate to these “end of the world places”. But when I come to Europe I do enjoy the culture and I feel at home in Europe, due to the fact that there are not that much cultural differences than for instance in the USA."

Is there one location you couldn’t get to film but would like to?

"We were planning to go to Iran but just as we were supposed to go there were some incidents with people being sued for espionage. Additionally, it is difficult to get a permit to do documentaries in those countries. And with all of our camera equipment and hard drives etc. we thought it would not be the best place to go. But mainly we get to film wherever we want to."

So what’s next for you and the team?

"At the moment I'm planning another season of this show. It has a different approach, which I find very interesting. It is sort of Travellers With Skis 2.0. After we are done with the third season there is an idea for a fourth one - but let’s see what happens!"

Travellers With Skis is only on the Extreme Sports Channel. Virgin 527, Sky 419. Check our TV Guide for more information.

Channels: Freeski