Nicolas Müller is only 30 years old and already an all-time snowboarding legend. He’s an Absinthe Films regular, co-founder of his own clothing line Atreebutes, he’s featured in countless other snowboard films, and he’s also really hard to catch up with. He doesn’t have a mobile phone, he rarely checks his emails, travels from one premier to another and from one award ceremony to the next. We caught him chilling in his house in Laax, watching the first snowflakes fall, and asked him about his thoughts on the latest Absinthe Film Resonance, and what’s beyond everyday life and business.
“I love snowboarding so much and I always produce my parts every winter…” He has been in all 13 of the movies that Absinthe Films has ever produced and remembers the beginnings with a smile. “It’s not even that long ago, but oh man, things have changed! The stuff we were wearing, the lines and the tricks. The level is just so much better today. But still the movies are pretty cool. In a little bar in Canada we watched all the old Absinthe movies and I think it was Futureproof, filmed in 2005 that impressed me most. In terms of snowboarding, you could still show it today.”
A personal resonance to creativity
“The evolution can only go forward, it expands in all directions, but yes, maybe on a trick level it will slow down a little. The human being is reaching his physical limits in fat jumps and rotations… But riders do find new stuff. For me it’s always new. Last winter was a blessed season. So much snow! A big part of Resonance was filmed in Switzerland for a change, and my part was filmed directly behind my house.”
He scored the cover shot on a snowy, magic day with a stalefish from another planet over a huge pillow.
“It’s just such a creative culture and there is always something to play with. There were so many unexpected opportunities, thanks to the masses of powder. Every place I filmed that season was new. This is the magic of Resonance. It’s not really the new tricks. It’s nature.”
Which of the younger riders should we be watching?
“Mathieu Schär from Geneva! He is so impressive.”
(Un) natural image
Nicolas has an exceptional status in the snowboarding world; his credentials are based on style and personality rather than wins and podiums.
“I feel like anyone. It’s certainly an honor and a sign of success to be part of Absinthe but I don’t like the distance it creates or the unnatural image it gives. I mean, I’m not a superstar, but still people get all excited and I don’t like to feel inaccessible. I had that awe when I met Terje [Haakonsen] for the first time. Now I know him better and he is just a man. We are all special and I feel uncomfortable with the artificial image that fans often have.”
No mobile, no worries
The Absinthe crew spend all winter together – watching over each other, learning about each other – and they’re able to handle the tension that comes on a great powder day when things just need to get done.
“I now know what Justin [Hostynek, Absinthe Films director] is like when it’s a great day, for example. Brusti [Patrick Armbruster, Absinthe Films director] is different. Everyone is just how they are and over the years we’ve come to know each other so well. Of course we develop in different directions. I decided to not have a mobile phone anymore and when I see Brusti completely dependent on it and loving it, I can accept that we want different things in life. Not having a mobile phone means more engagement. Today, most of the time, you can’t take anyone’s word. Everyone is reachable at anytime so people just change plans, double book and do whatever! If you don’t have a mobile, the people you deal with have to go about it differently. I mean I’m prepared to wait if someone is late, that’s totally cool. But I felt like I didn’t want to be part anymore of all the SMS craziness. I always felt like the mobile was an additional strain and I think it’s surprising how many people talk without hesitation all day on their phone without ever thinking of the consequences on their health. I always felt nervous, wanting people to get to the point as fast as possible.”
The ability to say ‘no’
“Everything is so much faster nowadays. Of course you always have to think about what you say – your words get out there, make the rounds and then remain in cyberspace. My career started before Facebook so it’s not very important for me how many fans I have. But I can see how much pressure the young riders have to communicate on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc! I feel sorry for them, even though pity is not helping anyone.”
Clearly, Nicolas Müller doesn’t need Facebook fans to convince anyone. He is such a sought after rider that he has the freedom to say no to any sponsor. “I think its super important to be able to say no. It’s hard for so many but if you always say yes, you are just like another sheep in the flock. As soon as you give yourself permission to say no, you can define yourself, and show some character. It’s a statement that shows you respect yourself.”
Snowboarder with a conscience
As a vegetarian Nicolas has offset some of his travel and helicopter time with the Atlantic Rain Forest Foundation by Sudden Rush. “The damage is done though. It doesn’t help much, but it feels better, and I’m not doing it too often either. I’m glad to ride for Nike, though. They are pretty amazing when it comes to sustainability and the riders and our opinions have an important place in their company.”
Pushing things further, Nico also placed third at Travis Rice’s Supernatural Contest, sponsored by Red Bull, where obstacles are built into the side of the mountain, mimicking nature in its most perfect conditions. “Something like that can only happen in Canada where there is still the space to do it. It took place at Baldface Lodge which is a tucked away mountain lodge with only 40 beds. There’s proper terrain, no ski station, no lifts and no people.”
“It was just amazing. It was the most ideal conditions possible, where all the best elements are thrown into one ultimate contest. The helicopter filmed every run live and we were able to watch each rider from top to bottom, cheering big tricks and screaming when someone fell. The atmosphere was intense. It was too cool to be part of that.”
Snowboarder vs. businessman
Four years ago, Nico and Fredi Kalbermatten founded Atreebutes, a stylish, eco-conscious clothing line. However, the snowboard industry is going through a rough time as there has never been as much restructuring and downsizing. After putting a lot of effort into something that is not pure snowboarding, they are now looking for an investor so that Nicolas can just do what he does best: riding. “Whenever a door closes another one opens.”
“The industry in general is facing challenges. And it’s a healing, cleansing change. It’s probably better this way. Products that have been superfluous and not sustainable will have a hard time surviving. It might be difficult for the people involved, but where a door closes another one opens. It’s about making space. Sometimes it has to be too much so that we can understand the need to slow down. I feel it on a personal level. I have been to all the Absinthe Films premiers and it was a great time partying but it was definitely too much and I kind of needed things to slow down after all the late nights. It puts things in perspective and opens your eyes to the small pleasures in life.”