Social media can really suck… but sometimes it’s also kinda awesome. One of our favorite Swiss riders to follow is Frederik Kalbermatten. His posts are always unique, authentic and guaranteed to get you stoked to get out and explore the mountains. We caught up with him to see how the king of Saas-Fee was enjoying his season at home…
Hey Fredi, from the look of your feed, you’ve been having a pretty amazing winter. What’re some of your favorite things about riding in Saas-Fee?
It’s always good to go check other places, but Saas-Fee just has it all. So much different terrain, like pillow lines, tree runs, cliff drops, and off piste riding that’s like heli boarding without the heli. I think the fact that I have been shredding here my whole life is also a plus, I can always find something fun to ride. The lower section is fun earlier in winter with its tree runs and steep features, and that’s good till February or March. And when it gets warmer, we can move up higher to the Alpine / Glacier zone where the snow stays good till May. The lifts are open till April, but that’s where split boarding comes in.
Often you can get it all in 1 run, dropping in on top in the fluffiest powder and then moving into trees as you descend. Because the resort is north facing, we don’t get sun baked like other places, so the snow stays good longer and the winter season is also longer. I guess I’m just a Saasi for life and that’s my heart talking.
You’ve certainly found a way to make staying at home look good! How much did you have to travel back in the day when you were filming for a big American production, like Standard Films?
Saas-Fee definitely makes staying at home easy, it’s such a sick back yard. Filming for Standard, I used to be on the road for 6 months straight and then head to New Zealand in summer. So I actually didn’t get to shred here very much. Being at home was like a vacation for me. I used to enjoy it so much, coming home for vacation in May when the town is so sleepy and nothing is going on.
A lot of people have been asking why you weren’t at the Natural Selection this year. Seems like the sort of competition that’s really perfect for your style of riding. Can you tell us what you thought about the event in Jackson Hole and why you decided not to push for an invite this year?
This year when I realized it was happening it was just too late for me to get a submission together. Maybe I don’t follow enough snowboard media these days ; )
But it was totally entertaining to watch. The course looked like a lot of fun for sure, but tricky to ride, with lots of variables, like being the first to drop in and lay the first line, or the last, and then having to navigate a bunch of tracks in the landings. I found the variables to be cool in a way because it really brings out the different strengths in the riders, how flexible they are, how they can handle it when things aren’t perfect and the mental side of it all. The thing about a contest is that it becomes a community event. I think it’s rad to see the promotion of riding in the backcountry and have that be the thing that brings people together. I’m bummed there wasn’t such an event when I was 20 years old, but I think I could probably throw down a few tricks on that course today.
No doubt! I could’ve easily seen you in the top three. But it also seems like you’ve been taking your riding in a more freeride direction.
What’s the story behind that long couloir? I guess it’s a pretty big splitboard mission to get there?
That one’s pretty special to me because it’s right in my back yard. It takes me a little less than 2 hours to split board from my front door to the top of that couloir. I’ve ridden it in the past, and it’s a spot I always keep an eye on. The conditions really have to line up because it’s south facing, it’s got to have enough snow to be ridable, but if it’s too late in the winter season it just gets sun baked and the conditions are no good. This year the snow quality was really good, but it wasn’t quite as deep as I would have liked. I still managed to avoid most of the sharks. The cool thing about that section is that there are 3 couloirs in that zone right in a row. I’m thinking about going for a different one next year if the conditions line up.
There isn’t a splitboard version of your Swiss Knife just yet. What kind of gear do you recommend for accessing bigger lines like that?
I ride the Lib Tech split BRD, because I like camber. I think that for each person it’s about what they like and feel comfortable with, and the most important thing is to make sure you are being safe. Having the avy gear, and then if there’s glacier involved, the ropes, harnesses, ice screws, etc, and a crew that knows what they are doing and that you trust.
One of my favorite clips that you’ve posted recently is the one where you end up hugging a tree in the middle of your pillow line. Was that planned?
Haha! Definitely wasn’t planned, my tail was loaded up with a big amount of snow and it dragged me down and over, good thing the tree was there to help me out with a frontside-tree-sixty.
You’ve gotten really into landscape photography over the years and have even been selling some really nice prints. Are we gonna see more snowboard photos from you in the future, or do you prefer staying in front of the camera?
I’ve always enjoyed taking photos. I used to always travel with a small Leica. Now my life is such that I get a lot of time to adventure in the mountains in summer. I really like making a mission out of it, getting up super early to be on a peak or in the right spot at sunrise for the perfect light.
I got to take some photos for the stomping grounds this year in Saas-Fee, and it was such a great time. I really love taking snowboard action photos too and I think I have a good eye for it as I’ve been in front of the camera for more than 20 years.
Thanks for your time Fredi! We’re stoked to see what you get into next…