This Is My Winter - A Review
The other day saw the general release of Timeline Missions' This Is My Winter - their 2010/2011 film featuring Xavier De La Rue. Whilst not even 30 minutes, it is one of the best snowboarding films I have ever seen. Why? Because the crew that made it, and the rider it features, are pushing the limits of snowboarding and snowsport films in a way that no-one else is. There are no hip-hop tracks with hundreds of jumps in the back-country, nor characters in bandannas iterating hackneyed phrases about "doing what they love and riding with their bros." This film is an adventure like no other. It is as much about the love of the mountains as it is about snowboarding: Xavier doesn't just ride powder lines from a helicopter - he hikes, rappels, abseils, ice-axes and walks his way into lines more technical than anything I've seen since Steep; he regularly rides carrying ice axes. At one point he rides over a pure ice sheet and stacks it. Two days later he tries it again. The opening scene on the Aletschhorn captures Xavier slowly edging his way down an ice-face; helmet-cam shots that made me queasy; only the howl of the wind, scrape of the ice and the beep of the radio; an aerial shot that shows how insignificant humans are on the mountain.
The production, edit and photography are top quality - the product of Xavier working with Director/Cameraman Guido Perrini, Producer Matthieu Giraud and Photographer Tero Repo - but the heart of what makes this film so good is that it tells a story: it's an ob-doc, not just ski-porn. Guido, Matthieu and Tero are as important to the end product as Xavier, and they feature in the talking heads and cut-aways in a way that contributes to the narrative: Tero talks us through the background to the Couloir Copt ice run; John Shaw provides context for the Anthamatten section.
Xavier's talking-head pieces are eloquent and charming; likeable and honest. He admits that he is terrified. The way he rides is, "directly linked to that fear [of the snowpack]... it's just coz I'm freaking scared!" It is insights like this, into the mind of the world's most lauded and celebrated rider, that makes this film unique, and you feel that this is down to the relationship that Xavier has with the film team.
His descent of Aiguille Du Plan with Andreas Fransson is "snowboard-mountaineering at its fullest,": fascinating in its concentration and technicality. Whilst Xavier admits that "it's not his cup of tea [because] you are under the goodwill of the mountain whether you make it down or not," Fransson revels in "walking from home and you don't know how this is going to go.... that little glimpse of sartori." High-risk philosophy, Andreas! Xavier looks more comfortable with Samuel Anthamatten who, at 24, was runner-up in the Men's Skiing category of the Freeride World Tour 2011 - Anthamatten "always likes to have that Alpinism background to give that confidence" which results in the best images of the winter: big European lines in super-exposed no-fall zones whilst carrying an ice-axe; fast, fluid riding with big mountaineering descents - something only a few people in the world are doing right now.
Xavier is not just a fearless rider that will go places that others fear to tread (or carve). He is a phenomenally smooth and talented rider too. His open-armed, straight-lining style is immediately identifiable; he's won everything he possibly could and he is utterly peerless in the world of freeride snowboarding. On the FWT he is admired above all others, and this film gives a glimpse into just why that is. The Timeline team have put together a great product and I can't wait for their next film.
Find out more about Timeline Film.
Visit Xavier's Facebook fan page.
Check out Tero Repo's webpage.