In 1995, the North Face of Canada’s Mount Robson had a reputation amongst ski mountaineers as being a cannibalistic peak. Legendary mountaineers had been rebuffed by the mountain on multiple attempts, star-studded helicopter-aided summit bids ended when a team member lost his arm “to a helicopter rotor” and “rumors swirled of top Euros failing in covert attempts.”
Despite the daunting oral history, enormous exposed ice climb ascent, and sustained 57-degree pitch over 3,300 feet, two relative unknowns in the ski mountaineering world stood atop the summit of Mount Robson in the fall of 1995, about to ski their way into the history books with a first descent of Mount Robson’s North Face. Ptor Spricenieks and his partner, Troy Jungen, arced the first turns on what was “considered one of North America’s last great unsolved ski-mountaineering problems.”
The first descent on one of the world’s most elusive and intimidating lines should have catapulted Spricenieks and Jungen into the pantheon of North America’s ski mountaineering gods—alongside Andrew McLean, Lou Dawson, Chris Davenport, and Trevor Peterson. Instead, Spricenieks “stubbornly turned down the dream of making a living from skiing to ski on his own terms, racking up enormously risky descents each season for little more than undiluted joy.”
This fall, however, Ptor will step out of the shadows after 25-plus years with his performance in the new, dark Sweetgrass Productions film, Solitaire.
We talked to Ptor a few days before the premier of Solitaire. While whispering in his one-bedroom La Grave flat to not wake his 22-month-old son, Spricenieks shared stories about the Solitaire project, the "theoretical lines" that he scoped for the film, the actual lines he ended up skiing in front of the camera, and why he didn’t ski his dream lines, but opted instead “for stuff a bit safer.”