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Thursday, April 28, 2011
Getting to know "Avalanche Cliff Jump" guy

Matthias Giraud has invaded your YouTube account. No, he's not a hacker, he's a French ex-pat skier and BASE jumper that recently posted the appropriately keyword titled video "Avalanche Cliff Jumping." Within three days his video garnered a quarter-million views and legions of awe-struck fans. Time to get to know the man under the parachute.

So Matthias, how's it feel to be famous on the internet?
Well, I think it's pretty cool to be able to give ski BASE jumping the exposure it deserves. I am really happy to be able to share my passion and view of the mountains with the rest of the world. It feels good to see all the positive responses and that most people were excited about it.

Can you tell me where this madman line is?
It's off the Aiguille Croche in Megeve, France. It is a special place for me since that's where I grew up skiing. It is one of those peaks that people have looked at forever and always wanted to ski but couldn't because it's a dead end. Some guys tried to ski it about four years ago but I heard they had to be flown out of there because they couldn't find a way out.

What was the plan on that day? Just another day skiing or was that cliff and that speed-flying angle a long time goal for you?
This descent was technically a warm up run since the goal of my trip back home was to ski BASE the Matterhorn. I told my friend Stefan Laude about it, a local paraglider and speedflyer, and he wanted to come along for the ride. We thought it would be fun to get an aerial shot of the jump from his perspective.

Meet Matthias Giraud of YouTube fame.

You were born in France but live in Salt Lake City, Utah. What made you pack up and leave France for the US of A?
That's a long story. But to try to keep it short, I was attending business school in Lyon, France, but I couldn't ski as much as I wanted. Luckily, I had the opportunity to transfer to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., in 2004. I didn't even know what Durango looked like but knowing that I could go to school in the Rockies and ski epic pow 20 minutes away sounded like a dream. So, I packed up my stuff and left. After graduating in 2006, I wanted to stay in the U.S. I started BASE jumping right around then and realized I needed to go to a place where I could jump off stuff easily and also ski. Salt Lake seemed to be a great place for that.

What got you into BASE jumping?
I always thought BASE jumping was the coolest thing to do. But what triggered the interest was a movie I saw when I was nine years old called "Pushing the Limits." I idolized the characters so much that in my mind, they became the definition of what a man is. When I moved to the U.S, my friend Sven Brunso introduced me to Shane McConkey. Shane gave some pointers on how to get started. I picked up skydiving and then my friend Jesse Hall taught me the basics of BASE jumping in 2007 off the Perrine Bridge in Idaho.

How did Shane's death affect you and your BASE jumping?
Shane's death affected everybody inside and outside the skiing and BASE jumping community in my opinion. On a personal level, it was one of the hardest hits to take. Shane gave me a lot of advice for my first BASE jumps and ski BASE jumps but he also became a friend. When I got the call the day Shane passed away, I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. I didn't even have a hundred jumps by then and I remember telling myself, "Man, if Shane went in, you can go in." But, instead of letting it affect my BASE jumping in a bad way, I figured the best way to honor Shane was to keep jumping hard and discovering new aspects of the sport. So, the day after his memorial, I did the first BASE jump off Ajax Peak in Telluride and dedicated it to Shane.

What do you see for the future of parachute-assisted skiing?
I like the expression "parachute-assisted skiing." The way I see it, the future of it is actually by going back to the roots of skiing and adding a parachute to it. I really consider it as a tool to ski exposed lines or closed-out lines. Some people use a rope to rappel down a cliff at the bottom of a ski run, climb back up or get picked up by a helicopter. I use a parachute.