WeTalk with Loïc Burri: skiing off the beaten tracks

WeTalk. Pop culture. Swiss-Made is a Social Media campaign launched by the Embassy of Switzerland in the United States. WeTalk aims at promoting the diversity of Swiss culture and innovation by featuring prominent Swiss stakeholders. Sharing perspectives from artists, athletes and entrepreneurs, WeTalk provides its audience with fascinating insights into the diversity of contemporary Swiss culture. Watch Loïc’s video here!

Loïc Burri, 2017

Loïc Burri (pronounced “low-eek-boo-ree”) is a Swiss freeride skier. Often considered an extreme sport, freeride skiing is performed in a natural environment, without a set course, often involving acrobatic tricks on steep runs, vertical cliffs, and deep powder snow. Loïc was born in 1994 in Geneva, Switzerland, and grew up outside the city in the countryside, where he could devote his energy to outdoor sports. Most notably, at age 17, he participated in his first Freeride World Qualifier, with the aim of qualifying for the Freeride World Tour, where the best freeride skiers and snowboarders compete for the overall title of World Champion in their respective disciplines. He participated in his first Swiss championships in 2018, held in Engadin, Switzerland and reached notable podiums in 2019 including a 3rd place in the Nendaz Freeride and 2nd place in the Bruson No Limits Freeride, both in Switzerland. When Loïc is not competing or training for the next competition, he works as a ski instructor in Verbier, Switzerland and also shares his ski adventures and travels to faraway places, such as Japan and New Zealand, on social media. Besides skiing, Loïc also loves mountain biking, which also allows him to enjoy the beauty and thrills of nature during the summer months. In keeping with his love of sports, you can also find Loïc skateboarding in Geneva and surfing in the south-west of France, as he tries to train and maintain the feeling of skiing, even outside the winter season.

The Embassy of Switzerland recently sat down with the award-winning Swiss freeride skier Loïc Burri, who lives in Geneva, over video chat to talk about his passion for freeride skiing, his love of the mountains, his physical and mental preparation leading up to a competition, and his travels to find incredible skiing spots.

Japanisation is a ski movie starring four riders, Sebastien Varlet, Julien Colonge, Pierre Houillon and Loïc Burri, who took a two-week trip across Honshu Island in 2017. ©Ultimate Family

Embassy: What drew you to freeride after you learned how to ski?
Loïc: I learned to ski the traditional way, which means slope and slalom skiing. When I told my parents that I wanted to ski during the week, they enrolled me in a local ski club, where I used to go every Wednesday afternoon. We were supposed to work on our technique and performance. I didn’t really have friends in this group, so I wasn’t so motivated to train. At that moment, I realized I didn’t want to be the same as these kids. I didn’t have the same spirit and I didn’t want to stay on the slopes, so I went “off the beaten tracks,” and I loved it!

Embassy: How do you feel, and what do you tell yourself, when you are about to start a difficult ski ride down the mountain?
Loïc: When I’m about to start a difficult track or go through a technical run, I have to focus on trusting myself and relaxing, and I try to put myself in a kind of isolated bubble. I warm up my entire body to be prepared for any obstacle. Often, I feel a mix of strength, fear, confidence, stress and intense joy. I think that what makes these moments so intense is the wave of different feelings. Confidence tells me: “You can do it.” Fear tells me: “Oh, okay, calm down. It isn’t that easy.” Stress makes me feel awake and joy puts a smile on my face. I think everyone feels these emotions, but we all experience them in different ways.

Embassy: What is your biggest fear — if any — when you go freeride skiing?
Loïc: There are so many fears…and they are different depending on whether I’m training or competing. During a competition, my fear is falling in front of everyone without showing my skills or overestimating myself and losing it. On a normal day in the mountains, my fears are different. They’re more about the safety in general: avalanches, “no fall zones,” with very steep cliffs, or even getting lost. I’m afraid of all the things that could prevent me from coming back home…and I think about my family.

Embassy: And what is your biggest joy?
Loïc: My biggest joy is to ride with my friends, when we “fight” to know who will manage to make the first tracks on the slope, or when we hit some tricks on a jump and everyone is super stoked or laughs when you fall. I think my biggest joy is definitely to be in the mountains with people I love to spend time with and who have the same spirit and passion as I do.

Loïc Burri, Roldal Freeride Challenge, Norway, 2014 ©Kalvig Anderson

Embassy: How do you make a living as a professional skier?
Loïc: Becoming a pro skier, or a skier who can make a living from it, is really hard. There are so many competitors and so many really good skiers out there, and they start really young. Social media is also a big challenge because you have to show your image on these platforms to get sponsors or financial support. But social media is a big factory that never stops, it goes so fast with so many different feeds, which means we have to fight to stay visible, to post often and to be seen regularly in order to keep and grow our followers. You have to be able to show your real skills and talents on social media, which is hard. Some good skiers are bad with social media, video and all this stuff, whereas some less skilled skiers are good in communication and video editing. So, it’s difficult to stay visible in this “avalanche” of content. Besides, luck also plays a role. Sometimes you are lucky in a contest, and sometimes less so. It happens that you train very hard, you are mentally and physically ready, but, just that day, you have no luck, and something happens that stops you from shining.

Embassy: What are your skiing goals?
Loïc: My skiing goals are different than from a few years ago. Now, I just want to have fun and enjoy myself, and that’s visible. I don’t want people to see me and say: “Wow, he’s a good skier with good technique.” I want people to see me and say: “Wow, look at the smile! This guy is having fun!” I want to share the same passion I experience with my friends skiing in the mountains, with the audience watching me compete.

Loïc Burri, Bruson No Limits Freeride, Valais, Switzerland, 2019

Embassy: Where are the craziest spots you have skied outside of Switzerland?
Loïc: I have traveled a lot for skiing and visited a lot of incredibly beautiful places like New Zealand and Japan. And I’ve also been in some places where I probably would never have been otherwise, like Romania or Slovakia. Romania was one of the craziest experiences I had: the country, the culture, and the journey to the mountains were really intense and unique. Japan was also incredible with its snow conditions…I don’t have just ONE crazy experience. Every trip is another unique crazy adventure depending on who I am with, conditions, and the mood.

Embassy: Have you ever been skiing in the United States?
Loïc: I still have never been to the Americas. And there are lots of mountains that I want to go to, including in Canada, British Columbia, or in South America, Argentina, Chile…I don’t know yet where the winds will take me next!

Find out about Loïc’s amazing ski adventures on his Facebook page and Instagram.

Loïc Burri, Bourg Saint Maurice, France, 2021 ©Paul Viard Gaudin

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