What makes French snowboarder Xavier de Le Rue tick? The big-mountain feats he pulls off are nothing short of incredible as he mixes skills from different sports. The new film This Is My Winter, now available in full on Vimeo, looks at Xavier, his friends, and their film crew as they took on Europe's terrible snow conditions last season. You'll see some of the most jaw-dropping snowboarding captured on film and get a candid look this intrepid, skillful rider. The movie is a must-watch and was one of our favorite films at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
We asked Xavier to answer a few questions about his daring, progressive snowboarding style and his plans for the next winter season. —Mary Anne Potts
Adventure: How do you decide which lines to ride?
Xavier de Le Rue: If a line fits my riding style, which means if it is aesthetic, can be ridden fast, has some escape options, and possibly some features to hit on the way, and a clean outrun, then it has every chance to catch my eye.
A: What do you say to people think you too many risks in your riding?
Xavier: If I judge a line as being dangerous, I won't consider riding it. If I judge a line interesting and difficult, I give it some thought to see what are the consequences if I do a mistake.
In any case, if I feel the snow layer is tricky I back off. I'm concerned about the stuff I don't control, such as stability of the snow, hidden crevasses, etc. I don't argue with people judging my riding as risky—I'm not them and they are not me. Every one can say what they want. I put enough thought to my riding to avoid considering random people opinions. I'm scared enough when I ride to not listen to others being scared for me. I appreciate their concern though. I get these comments every now and then.
A: You are basically combining snowboarding, ice climbing, and mountaineering. Is this the future of snowboarding?
Xavier: I have no clue of what the future of snowboarding will be. I hope it'll go in the big-mountain direction. Future means progression to me, so it could be combining different techniques.
I don't see myself going into steeper, more exposed terrains. The ice chute ride [in the film] is something that opened new horizons, just like a freestyler doing a wall ride on rocks. The exploration part is something I want to get into, and combining different techniques, which can open up new terrain. There are still a lot of faces, lines, and couloirs to be discovered. I'm working on a project to access new terrain. I hope that'll be possible with the support of my partners. Let's wait, time will tell.
A: It's incredible how quickly you make decisions and your body responds to them. In a flash while going down an ice chute, you pulled out your ice axe and stopped movement. How do you do that?
Xavier: If you speak about the opening segment of the movie, I was going slow and easy on my edges as I could feel the snow was kind of weird and couldn't feel totally confident. I got very lucky—lucky it happened as I was ready with the ice axe and lucky the ice axe didn't bounce on the ice. I should have hiked up that line; it was a mistake not to. Already during a the season we found a similar case, only that time we climbed up and saw right away there were no chances to ride. It is showed in one of the webisode that came out during the season: https://vimeo.com/21382093
A: How do you handle fear when you are out there?
Xavier: I'm shit scared most of the time. I don't handle fear. I discuss the situation with the TimeLine Film crew, Tero and Guido. I choose from there. I decide what to do.
A: Where next?
Xavier: Next week, I'm in Mexico surfing and working on product development with The North Face crew. Then the week after I'll do a snowboard cross comp in Telluride—funny, but I'm looking forward to that. My brother Polo is on the team. It gave me a goal to focus on for last few weeks—and there are no avalanches in a snowboard cross course. Then I'm back to Europe, filming for TimeLine Film, Christmas with the family and my daughter. In early January I'll go to Baldface for a The North Face trip. Then back to Chamonix for the Freeride World Tour. After that I'll go where the snow is to film with TimeLine Film project. Mount Baker's legendary slalom is on my list this year, also. I'd love to see the scene over there, ride with Lucas Debari in his home spot. And why not try to win the comp for a second time?
A: Are you shooting more with Jeremy Jones for Further?
Xavier: It's planned. There are two missions Jeremy asked me to join, I will try my best to join in. We tried try Grand Teton last year but had to "pull the plug" as Jeremy likes to say. Hopefully we'll have more chances next time with the snow conditions.