Team Clambin – John Falkiner and friends changing perceptions of skiing and Verbier
Where do you start telling a story like this? The honest truth is that we are only be able to give you the slightest glimpse of the incredibly action-packed existence that John has carved out for himself over the last 50 years of mountain activity.
John Falkiner moved here from Australia following the call of the mountains. He, like almost everybody else at the time, was in the most traditional and unadulterated sense a ski bum. Working as a pot washer in various bars and restaurants, until one day John was out skiing bumps in the fog on his own, apart from one other person. It was another young gun just like himself, keen to make the most of every hour spent on the hill. They eventually got chatting on a T bar lift and spent the rest of the day skiing the bumps together. It was the beginning of something truly remarkable and a friendship that would cement Verbier as one of the Alps premier extreme skiing destination and begin a revolution in the way skiing was viewed for ever more.
That other guy was Ace Kvale, now a famous adventure photographer and author of the super cool Desert Dawg Blog. This chance meeting would spark a long relationship that would, as we alluded to earlier, change the way we think about the ski industry and Verbier as an extreme ski destination.
The two soon realised that they loved to ski together and wanted to push in the same direction. At the same time, another friend of John’s was fast becoming something of a legend in the ski industry. Verbier resident Marco Shapiro was making waves by taking action shots for various ski teams and publications, but in an entirely new way. Known as the godfather of light, he pioneered a new style of photography not seen before in what was a fairly upper class and staid industry. He brought energy and action and needed willing subjects to develop his style.
Team Clambin was formed. The aura surrounding this place and these people who built it began to take shape. John rented the chalet Bellaluiva up in Clambin, just above Verbier next to the famous Chez Dany, for just 300chf for the entire season. A price that seems a million miles away from what you might pay for a place up there today. Through the variety of people John has met on his way around the globe he got sponsored by Powder Horn helping him survive without earning any real money. John had also previously been training and working at a freestyle camp in Tignes, his talent had been spotted by Salomon who wanted to promote him and their brand. So, in return for the association, gave him a load of gear to take back to Clambin. Before they knew it, various professional teams were coming to Verbier chasing the powder and steep terrain that these mountains were starting to be known for. More fuel for Marco and his camera and riding pals to push John and Ace to new heights.
John’s philosophy at Team Clambin HQ was chip in for food, let us show you around and in return teach us all the new styles of skiing. Like this John and Ace were able to accelerate their skiing ability all the while being photographed by Marco which fuelled the fire of their fame into a new dimension.
This famous shot promoting K2 skis made it onto the cover of powder magazine 1984. Ace and John smashing the powder around Clambin taken by Marco. It was a glimpse into their lives at the time and turned them all into legends not just here in Verbier but further afield as well. Team Clambin and the chalet became a super cool hang out for years and the guys had a star-studded line up of guests come to stay and become honorary members of the team.
With all these pro teams and sponsored athletes, John started to know a lot of people in the industry, so at the same time as being in Verbier working with Marco for shots like the this;
It seemed like a logical progression to move into the TV and film world. John started to get work as a stuntman from his time spent working on the K2 demo team. He appeared in over 80 films all told the most famous of which were two Bond movies, Bridget Jones Diary, Touching the Void and Alien 4.
The filming jobs started out as stuntman and then as John got a little “wiser” shall we say he moved away from being in front of the camera to a more behind the scenes role. Helping out with safety and using his skills as a guide for location expertise. The same is true of his changing attitude to skiing and risk taking, he now prefers a cultural journey rather than skiing the steepest line as fast as possible. John does most of his guiding in remote and interesting locations. He travels each year to some of the world’s most interesting areas with select groups, in order to experience a journey through a culture with some nice skiing thrown in along the way. John has travelled through Lebanon, Iran, Japan, Kashmir, Russia & Norway to name but a few. Constantly he is looking for new adventures and travel experiences so if you have a trip in mind get in touch.
The adventure continues for John and Marco here in Verbier, Ace now lives in Utah in the states with Gengis his Dawg! The three friends still see each other and chat about the good old times but now focus on the changing planet and how we interact with it.
When we see these photos of Team Clambin we can’t help but be inspired to get out into the mountains and do what we all love most, which is what these guys have all in one way or other made a life and career out of. So chappo to you guys for turning a passion into reality. Long may it continue.