Nissan Team rider Xavier de Le Rue talks about his love of Freeriding

Posted on Wednesday 9th March, 2011 Times Viewed: 4223
GB had a chance to catch up with an epic freeride snowboarder Xavier de Le Rue and put some questions to him, to give us a insight into his world and his snowboarding so here goes!

Questions-
Kaz Willmer

Photos-
Freeride World Tour 2010 Verbier C Margot
Freeride World Tour 2011 Chamonix D Daher
Freeride World Tour 2011 St Moritz J Bernard
GB: How does it feel when you're standing on top of that mountain?

Xavier: When I'm on top of a mountain I'm focused on my line, I have in mind the features I'm planning on hitting, and I just keep on visualising my run down. When I drop in it's like I switched something on, I lose concept of time – I just get into my little bubble. I follow my plan and adjust the way I ride it as I go along, according to the mountain and snow conditions. It's a particular state of mind that comes after having spent many hours scoping the face – it feels a bit like being in auto drive.

GB: Before you ride a line, how do you go about checking the snow conditions?

Xavier: I always check the snow conditions in advance – either going up the face if I’m using my splitboard, or checking them on the way up to the top if I’m hiking up to the summit. When it comes to competitions, we have a couple days prior the comp to check the face from the bottom, talk to the guides and security people from the comp, and speak to the forerunners too who give us useful information on what the snow is like on a critical path or exposition in the face.

When I go heliboarding, I usually choose a spot where I have checked the snow layer over the past weeks, and gather information from local people and a local guide. Then of course before dropping in we always test the stability of the layer. If there is the slightest doubt we turn back.

GB: Do you know exactly where you're going to ride before you start, or do you play it as your ride along?

Xavier: I never choose my line on the spot – everything is checked in advance, either from pictures, from the hike up or from the helicopter. We always coordinate with the film and photography crew so everyone knows what the plans are.

GB: Where have you met your biggest challenges?

Xavier: Alaska is always where I find the biggest challenges because the quality of the snow allows it to stick to the steepest faces – it's always ‘freaky’ out there, freaky and good at the same time.

When it comes to competitions, Bec des Rosses has the most challenging faces – and what makes it really difficult is that because it’s a comp we have to find a way to ride – even when the snow conditions aren’t perfect.

Click to view full image

GB: Do you prefer exploring new terrain around the world, or finding better lines in the same locations?

Xavier: Both challenges are exciting; it's always useful to have local insight on where to go on trips to save time, and to make sure we’re riding the most interesting features; but then when you go somewhere new like Antarctica, it’s a big adventure – we were able to choose the mountain, the faces, and the lines knowing we would be the first people to ride them.

And when it comes to my local area, as the snow conditions are always changing, some of the lines from my local mountain are only ride-able for a one day every couple of seasons, so it's really exciting to see the mountain every day, and have such a small opportunity to ride the lines.

GB: We all watched your trip to Antarctica for Relentless Lives of the Artists – did that trip change anything for you?

Xavier: It was like being in a dream, with open spaces, ice and snow everywhere. I felt like an ant next to the size of the ice chunk and mountain rising right from the ocean. I hope we’ll be able fight to preserve this place and forbid any helicopter bases from opening there.

Not sure who said it but this phrase sums up the size and impression of Antarctica for me: “If Alaska is Alps on steroids, Antarctica is Alaska on steroids”.

GB: You've been most recently involved in Lives of the Artists and Deeper, have you any more filming trips lined up?

Xavier: I have been filming with Standard Films for the last four years now, I run now my own production company called TimeLine so people can follow me during the season on the web – www.timelinemissions.com.

GB: Do you think terrain is changing around the world, such as snow conditions etc?

Xavier: Snow is different depending on the humidity, sun exposure, wind etc – it's never the same, and always full of surprises.

GB: If someone wanted to get into big mountain freeriding, what would be your advice?

Xavier: Take your time, be patient, speak to the local guides, other freeriders, read and learn about snow and avalanches, and make sure you own and know how to use safety equipment.
The qualifier events for the FWT are a good way to learn more about the sport and meet up with other passionate riders.

Never go to the mountain alone

The best advice is that if you’re not sure you should turn back rather than take a chance.
If you reach a point where you aren’t scared of avalanches or the mountain, you should stop immediately! It’s better be too scared than not scared enough. Every year I doubt myself – thinking that I'm too careful – but then something will happen and I’ll realise that being careful is always a good thing.

GB: What is it for you that you prefer about big mountain freeriding over freestyle snowboarding?

Xavier: The thing I enjoy most about snowboarding is having a natural, mountain environment to explore. Freeriding is a natural choice as it gives me access to amazing landscapes to ride across.

GB: How do you train for a competition like the Nissan Xtreme Verbier?

Xavier: I don’t think of it as training. I make sure my lifestyle fits in with what’s required from the sport. I love being fit, I love doing sports and being outside. Throughout the year I’m either snowboarding, biking or climbing with the aim of having fun. This helps me stay motivated and I keep getting better so the formula works pretty well.

GB: Is it mental preparation as much as physical preparation?

Xavier: Freeriding is mostly a mental game. To have good runs, be safe and eventually win, the most important thing is all the work before the action. You do have to be fit and have the right muscles, but if you’re riding all the time there isn’t a huge amount of physical preparation that you can do to get to a higher level – the rest is in your head.

If you’re not fit or used to skiing and snow boarding you should take it slowly, warm up, do a few exercises and be sure about the conditions by taking it easy. Once you feel comfortable with the conditions you can build up slowly so that you don’t hurt yourself. You need to build up your muscles, those in your legs are the most important but people often forget their abs – strong abs are necessary to help you keep your balance.

You also need to watch your diet. Although fondue, cheese and white wine might be fun, a good healthy diet is important to maintain energy in the cold, rough environment so that you stay safe and have fun. You should avoid greasy, sugary or fried food. Just be reasonable and smart about what you’re eating.

GB: What has been your greatest freeriding moment?

Xavier: The Verbier Xtreme competition last year was the highlight of my career in Freeride competitions. I was in the lead for the world champion title, I could have done an easy run to get just enough points and become the champion, but instead I was really inspired by the one challenging run – it was risky, I could land it and win everything or make a small mistake and lose it all. It was all or nothing, but I made the bold decision and won. It was the best way to end the season as I won the tour with a run I was proud of. I felt like I brought something to the sport.

GB: As champion of the Nissan Freeride World Tour, do you think the competition is getting harder?

Xavier: The level of competition is getting higher, but that’s a good thing as it helps you push yourself and makes you better. When you see people improving every year it gives you inspiration. The better the competition is the better I become.

Click to view full image

You can keep up to date with whats going on with the following links at the Nissan website and click here for the youtube page and facebook page.
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