Once upon a time, there was Verbier and skiing. Let’s go back in time to the 70s. It’s the ski boom revolution in the resorts. Verbier is fertile ground for sowing the seeds of champions and young people’s idols, such as Roland Collombin or Philippe Roux. A team that changed the perception of skiing in...

Once upon a time, there was Verbier and skiing.

Let’s go back in time to the 70s. It’s the ski boom revolution in the resorts. Verbier is fertile ground for sowing the seeds of champions and young people’s idols, such as Roland Collombin or Philippe Roux.

A team that changed the perception of skiing in our resort.

It is at  the same time that 3 young people, with a hippy outlook, land in our resort to indulge in their passion: skiing. Mark Shapiro from Canada, John Falkiner from Australia, and Ace Kvale from the USA did not yet know it, but Verbier was to change their lives forever. And if today, Verbier has become the European capital of off-piste skiing, it is undeniably partly thanks to these 3 ski enthusiasts who met here and  have come a long way together.

Team Clambin

Off-piste pioneers in Verbier

These ski aficionados stood out here with their style. Of course, they had not learned skiing like the local kids, in a very academic way, slaloming between poles. They  had instead a taste for adrenaline, freedom and wide open spaces, an insatiable thirst for skiing… They practiced freestyle skiing and constantly defied the laws of gravity by riding the first steep slopes in the region. The names of the most popular off-piste tracks in Verbier, such as “Stairway”, “Barry’s Bowl” and “Hidden Valley” originated with them….

photo © Mark Shapiro

The Clambin team

The team spent time with the locals, who at first were a little wary, then embraced them. John really loved the isolated little hamlet of Clambin above Verbier, with its old little wooden barns. One of them was being  repaired by an old gentleman, Marcel Michellod, the founder of the resort’s first ski school. John used to share moments of friendship with this pioneer of skiing. In the course of one of their aperitifs, the latter agreed with a handshake to rent him his “Chalet Bellaiuva” for the modest sum of CHF 300 per month. Today  Bellaiuva chalet has been renovated and is rented out as a chalet of high standing.

This magical place was to become, thanks to these 3 ski mates, the cradle of freeride skiing for more than 15 years. During their early years, they did a series of odd jobs, in the vineyards, washing dishes, in the hotels… in order to survive and above all to satisfy their primary passion for skiing. Then quickly, they  learned to turn this passion for skiing to their advantage.

The art of making skiing so special

Mark Shapiro had long aspired to photography. He carried his film cameras everywhere and took pictures of his freerider friends. He knew how to  master the mountain light. He was at the origin of a new photography style within a rather  upmarket and  traditional industry. Thanks to his friends John, Ace and many other followers, he brought nerve and action  to his art!

photo ©Mark Shapiro

Little by little, the sports shops, the ski schools of the region and Téléverbier began to place orders to illustrate brochures. Mark knew how to combine skiing with the raw beauty and intimidating nature of the mountain scenery. These 3  components became inseparable from the success of Team Clambin: Verbier, an exceptional ski area, Mark, an unequalled photographer and the  numbers of young and beautiful, freeride skiers! What an excellent recipe for propelling the image of Verbier out into the world.

Photo © Mark Shapiro


Original photos in Verbier

Mark’s photos were starting to get noticed in his field and orders were coming from further away too. Advertising agencies, travel agencies, clothing brands and magazines called on the team and their friends to carry out  photo-shoots. Renowned freeriders came to have their picture taken in order to obtain sponsors. Many skiers  also made the pilgrimage to Verbier to find out the truth  behind the mythical photos of Mark and his friends. High adventure skiing, incredible scenery and ridiculously deep, powder snow were the hallmark of Team Clambin, the cream of the international ski fraternity.

photo team Clambin Verbier

All these skiers arrived from all over the world to spend a few days at Clambin’s HQ. The atmosphere there was amazing! The Bellaiuvia chalet had thus become the incredible meeting point between  Team Clambin  and celebrities, always in a very “cool” atmosphere.

Powder snow, the unifier

Powder snow was the soul that brought this little community together. The famous cover of Powder magazine in 1984 with Ace and John racing down the powder snow around Clambin was photographed by Mark. It was a glimpse of their way of life at the time and it turned them into legends, not only here in Verbier but also elsewhere.

the 70's in Verbier
photo © Mark Shapiro

John has also worked in the film industry. He has appeared in more than 80 films, the most famous of which are two James Bond films, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Touching the Void as a skier and stuntman,  and also as a coordinator or security manager on documentaries and feature films.

Today, John and Mark are Swiss citizens and still live near Verbier. Mark is retired but continues to move  in the mountains with his cameras. John has been a mountain guide for many years; he travels the world with his clients. Ace  left Switzerland for the United States in the 90s, for family obligations and work opportunities. He has become a famous adventure photographer whose vast portfolio of work spans many continents. His photos can be found in magazines such as National Geographic, Powder Magazine, Climbing, Rock and Ice…

The 3 friends have remained united forever. Although a bit nostalgic for those crazy years, today they are low profile and have a different way of approaching skiing, the mountains and Verbier.

Team Clambin

At Besson Immobilier, we love to tell you stories about life and short trips in our region! Discover even more articles, hiking ideas, new and unusual insights and information on the Verbier and Val de Bagnes region in our Besson mag. That way, you can plan your trip to our beautiful region with greater peace of mind.