Extreme skier Jérémie Heitz tackles death-defying Alpine bucket list

Story highlights

  • Heitz attempts to ski 15 steep Alpine mountain faces
  • His quest is being turned into a movie

(CNN)As bucket lists go, Jérémie Heitz's was extreme.

The 27-year-old Swiss skier decided to tackle 15 of the Alps' steepest mountain faces, where one wrong move could prove fatal.
His alpine dramas, played on 50 degree slopes down mountains all above the magic 4000-meter mark (13,123ft,) have been turned into a film, "La Liste.
"I have some friends from skiing who are not here anymore so I'm aware of the risks," he tells CNN via a telephone interview from his alpine home.
"Of course, the sport isn't without risk but you have people saying 'you're crazy to go in the mountains like this' but that's not the case. It's just as dangerous as people going in cars every day.
"Sure, there are dangers but it wasn't like I was looking for an avalanche each day. But this was a long time process, checking the forecast every day, flying over the mountain in a plane to check the condition of the snowfall. You try to reduce the risk."

'Euphoria'

Heitz flirted with danger right from the start of his endeavor. He was forced to out run an avalanche on the first of the 15 slopes.
"I had a decision either to ski slower or faster than the snow, I decided to go faster," he says nonchalantly.
On another descent, he lost a ski and had to clamber roughly 50 feet up the mountain to retrieve it, an episode he calls "one of the worst moments of my life."
Heitz managed 11 of the 15 faces attempted -- adverse conditions scuppered the others.
His eye-catching finale on the spectacular Ober Gabelhorn above Zermatt in Switzerland seems to defy gravity.
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In the footage, he looks like a powdery dot as he goes over what appears to be a sheer cliff face onto an agonizingly narrow ridge of snow, avoiding the icy conditions covering the rest of the face.
Heitz had twice climbed to the summit only to abandon his descent due to adverse conditions. He and his crew had been contemplating the feat for seven years.
His reaction on the film after successfully tackling it is understandably euphoric.

'The King'

Heitz's extreme skiing quest is a throwback to the pioneers of the sport, who risked life and limb to ski such descents with relatively rudimentary equipment.
Sylvain Saudan is often called the "the father of extreme skiing," and it is clear from the film that Heitz has huge admiration for his fellow Swiss.
"We're linked in a way because we were born in the same hospital," says Heitz. "To my grandfather he was the king, the first to ski down so many mountains in the Alps. He was the one to show the way to a younger generation of extreme skiers.
"He did this with skis with not such good edges, basic boots, he climbed up there to these mountains by himself, places where no one had been before.
"Because of him and others, I knew these were doable as they'd done them before. He's a real star to me and he's still teaching skiing at 80."
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Heitz knows he has some way to go to emulate Saudan, also known as "the skier of the impossible," who boasts descents from 8,000m (26,250ft) giants in the Himalayas.
The young protege, whose philosophy is "never saying 'no' to new adventures," has already scoped out the world's tallest mountain range for a potential project. However, he insists there will not be a La Liste 2.

'Faster'

Heitz has been skiing virtually all of his life. His mother first put him on skis at the age of two -- "here it's just a way of life to get around, so it's just like walking."
He refers to skiing as "a religion in my village," but for him the competitive landscape has changed. He did alpine racing until he was 16 when, on a whim, he agreed to do some filming with some extreme skiers visiting the area. From then on, he was hooked.
His family are right behind him -- his stepfather works as part of the Swiss mountain rescue and is well aware of the risks faced by Heitz.
According to his peers, Heitz is changing the face of extreme skiing with a faster and more aggressive approach to his treacherous descents.
"I just like to go that little bit faster," he says when the description is put to him.
"And why not, if the conditions are perfect?
"On a basic level, skiing is the best way for me to get around so it's not every day that I push myself like this. But La Liste was my baby, my first little project. Now it's on to the next one."