Banker during the week, passionate free-rider at the weekend. Oliver Dugan’s life is acted out between office and mountain. Approaching an extreme sportsman.
A snail was creeping up the Japanese cherry tree. It was February or March. The snail met an insect who asked: “Where do you want to go to? The time is not ripe yet. There are no cherries on the tree.” “When I arrive at the top, they will be there”, said the snail, without stopping to pause.
Only once Oliver Dugan was too hasty. He had the ticket to Salzburg in his pocket long ago, but the winter season was only due to start. No problem, he just moved on a few valleys further. Someone like Oliver knows all the snowy spots. He earns his salary as a managing director at an investment bank in London, was born in Munich, conducts business in New York and Tokyo, owns a house in the Canadian town of Whistler and lives in Zurich.
But his real home are the top ski areas of the world. Mountain climbers are drawn to the Himalayas, surfers to Hawaii. A free-rider like Oliver sets up base camp in Zurich. The mountains of the Engelberg, Andermatt, Chamonix or La Grave are around the corner; Kitzsteinhorn, Riksgränsen, Valle Nevado and Whistler in the orbit of the airports that one can head to from Zurich.
These are the constants in the life of Oliver Dugan: Sweden for Easter, Chile in the summer, Canada over christmas. Day tours to France, Switzerland and Austria in between. He has found the ideal sparring partner for his passion in Bründl. Because the requirements placed on the material are high, as are the demands. His collection of skiers encompasses way more than 100 pairs, filling in the meantime an entire room. The escapes from the daily grind are mapped into his memory. When the helicopter drops him in no man’s land between Norway and Sweden, in dizzying heights on a snow-covered ridge barely wider than the back of a pommel horse and he looks into a bottomless abyss to the left and the right, this is etched indelibly into memory. Or the story of the pilot heading for a plateau in the Andes, mighty fivethousand- meter summits within reach and almost rubbing shoulders with a swarm of condors, each one with a wingspan like that of a sailplane.
“Over Easter, Sweden is the place to go. The area around Riksgränsen close to Norway lies farther north than the large parts of Alaska. The mountains here may not be exceptional here but there are extensive parts. My friend Jonathan and I hire a helicopter, and then we are independent.”
Oliver has dedicated himself to the superlative. He is not a daredevil despite the fact that he loves the adventures away from the ski piste and ski lift. He rather wants to experience the primordial, to feel nature unscreened. In his job he evaluates each risk carefully. This also helps him to balance out the danger on the mountain. His words are well-chosen, like the steps that he takes in the terrain. Oliver knows that the way to the next couloir goes via glacial crevasses and treacherous cornices. One false move in this terrain seldom works out well. He has lost a friend, who messed up his last jump, and pulled out another one justin time from an avalanche. Would he therefore take things somewhat easier? Oliver answers with a counter-question: “Would you drive less, because driving cars is dangerous?”
“In France I have fallen for Chamonix. Extremely steep slopes can be expected here, but the view from the Mont Blanc on the French as well as on the Italian side is breathtaking. And the thrill of going down over 2400 metres on the north side, which at most used to be climbed by mountaineers, is indescribable.”
Okay, he has adopted rules. One of these: never go into the mountains alone. Another: keep to the locals that know their way around. some of the best extreme skiers and free-riders, ski developers and ski testers are amongst his companions. With them, he spends most of his weekends.
For Oliver this is all not a hobby, but a way of life. “Which mountain are you going up next, where do you go up, where did you not go down yet, what material do you need for this?” These are the questions occupying him. Ski mountaineering is his only luxury, he says. And his own fitness coach whom he meets several times a week after the office to work on balance and endurance.
“Snow at the Pacific is different. It is damp and really sticks to the rock face. In Alaska one can descend the steeper slopes without triggering an avalance. And because the snow is so sticky, one doesn’t sink in as much. Despite this, perfect turns are still possible; it simply has to do with the consistency.”
One of these days, not too far off in the future, he wants to give up his job in London and go to Canada, where somewhere up to 16 meters of snow falls in winter. And where the Rocky Mountains are not too far off, that Mecca of which Oliver says: “The one who has never been in Alaska does not know what it means to ski in deep snow.” Of course he wants to return. Kaprun is always a theme, at the latest when fresh stock arrives. Every year he equips himself at head office with approximately ten pairs of new skis, in addition a few sets of matching ski boots. The gear is used frequently immediately at the neighbouring Kitzsteinhorn. Whether he doesn’t already have enough skis? Again Oliver answers with a counter question: “Would Sebastian Vettel turn down a new car if it takes him further ?”