Euro-gapping in Les Crosets. Photo: Pat Vermeulen. The French rider from Grenoble talks exclusively to Onboardsnowboarding.com about, amongst other things, his eventful trip to the non-state of Abkhazia. "Where?" we hear you say. Read on...
Onboard: Bon matin, Rémi. Ca va?
Rémi Lamazouère: [Laughs at pathetic Franglais] Yes, perfect. But it’s raining here.
OB: Right then, where are you now? Grenoble?
RL: Yes. I came back to Europe at the beginning of March.
OB: And you've been in Grenoble ever since?
RL: I was in Switzerland with Pat Vermeulen for one week and then around my place, like in Les 7Laux, Chamrousse, 2Alpes....
RL: Yes, I was born here. We used to ride Les 7Laux [a lot] when we were here. I used to ride with Sylvain Bourbousson.
OB: Cool. 7Laux is where the ho5 guys take care of the park. How’s that been this winter?
RL: Yes, they shape it. They’re doing a good park, we like it to ride when we're at home. They also just shaped a "Benedek" kicker... it's good to have a park almost private like that at the end of the season.
OB: Wicked. When’s that session gonna go down?
RL: The good thing is that could be whenever we want. The park is always shaped, so if it's sunny it's a session.
OB: Right on! And you said it's raining in Grenoble now, does that mean it's dumping in the surrounding mountains?
RL: I don't know cause it's raining really high. I’ll check to some passes like Lauraret, close to Grenoble ... it's higher.
OB: Yeah, it seems the end of season is the new mid-season these days, in terms of snowfall
RL: Yes but we're lucky this year. We used to have some snowfall in the end of March, but like those we just had... we got a lot of powder. Yes, quite a lot.
OB: Anyway, rewinding a bit. How was the bulk of this winter for you? Did you travel around a bunch?
RL: I began the season in Chile in September with Caro Belliard, Bourbouss and Gary Zebrowsky, then went to the USA at the begining of December, and Canada with the same crew over Christmas and New Year. I tried to travel as much as possible to find good conditions. Grenoble is good but only for training. For example in Canada I didn't ask any questions about the snow... here in French Alps it's always dangerous; I mean the landings with some rocks, snow conditions are not really perfect.
OB: Right, let's cut to the chase. I know you went with Rip Curl on that Abkhazia trip. What was that all about? Who thought of doing a trip there? In fact, where the hell is Abkhazia!?
RL: [Laughs]. So first of all, the guy who wanted us to go there is my team manager Damien Giraud. Rip Curl wants every year to do a trip to a place where we haven’t been or where nobody’s went before. It was the case for Abkhazia. So this is not actually a country at the moment. It's south of Russia, just above Georgia. After a war against Georgia they had a piece of earth there but there is no state. It's Russia who helps them ‘cause without them they couldn’t do the war... they're quite poor.
OB: That must have been a pretty incredible place to visit, let alone go shredding in. How did you find the people, the culture there?
RL: It’s amazing for a lot of reasons. Compared to Russia they're really, really cool people. They want more tourism and they want us to say good things about their "country"; the landscape is beautiful…
RL: … you've mountains with tons of powder, palm trees and the Black Sea... all within 30km.
RL: But they don't have enough money to build, so every thing looks like the war was yesterday. Buildings with full of bullet holes, cows eating the trash… I felt like I was on a other planet.
OB: Crazy. And how was the riding itself? Was it all heli access?
RL: Yes, only heli. It was a really big one from the army so the pilots didn't do heli ski very well [laughs]. It was the first time that people were riding there. The snow conditions were pretty dangerous – we had 6 meters in 6 days – and that's why the first week we stayed in Krasnaya Polyana cause it's the only actual ski resort in this area. So we couldn’t go where we wanted to go in the heli. There are a lot of spots but most of the time it's was too dangerous, but riding there in the middle of nowhere... for the first time… it was just amazing.
RL: No problem. You’re right, and I think the other guys would agree.
OB: I mean, did they have qualified guides and stuff there too?
RL: Hmmmmmmmmm....."yes". Two guys. One from Russia – he was more a ski teacher – and a French guy with more experience but he didn't tell us why it was dangerous and was maybe too "timid". He didn't have the experience with a film crew like this one. I mean, we were 8 people + them.
So the avalanche happened on the first day. We were building a kicker at the top of the resort, above a "road", and after 1 hour shaping, the guides tell us that they go to the bar to have a coffee. It was not dangerous for us; we didn't see anything [to concern us].
OB: And it's not like you guys are new to the mountains...
RL: No, we’re not. [After the guides left] we shaped one more hour before the whole area fell down to the road. The most important thing is that we just arrived and didn't know how the last days were. It was snowing 1 meter a day... we didn’t have the knowledge of that and that's why we had an avalanche, I think. Because for everybody – the guides too – nothing indicated to us that it was dangerous there. I mean the area of the spot.
OB: That's heaps of snow.
OB: So how did it get set off. Did someone jump the kicker? Or did it just go?
RL: No, it was not finished. I was shaping the in-run with Per Løken and the rest of the crew were stood around the kicker. Then we heard a big "crack" and every thing went down.
OB: How many people were caught in it?
RL: Just two. I have to say that we were super lucky, ‘cause I was above the avalanche with Per and we had our shovels. It was also lucky that just 2 of the guys were caught in it and not all the crew. I don’t know what would have happened if just Per and me stayed out.
OB: Were the two guys buried?
RL: They were taken down to the road and all the snow fell down on them. The problem at that moment was that few of the others knew how the use a beeper - you know, two of them were from the TV and two others won the trip... for us it was the first time riding in an new country. Fortunately Per and me have a little experience at avalanche rescue.
OB: Did you panic at all?
RL: To be honest, I was really. Sorry for my English, I was more than not happy. But even though the others didn't know how to search, they all helped: shovel the snow, going to the bar to find the guides... It was not really the panic ‘cause at the beginning most of them didn't realise what was happening and I think they were more waiting for us to tell them what to do.
OB: How long did it take you and Per to find the two guys?
RL: I don't remember exactly. I guess 5 or 6 minutes. I don't remember... I was on another planet. I have some flashes, that's all, and when I spoke with the others it was the same for them. But I’d really like to say that all of the crew was really brave, ‘cause even if they didn't know what to do, nobody panicked too much.
OB: Must have been intense. And the guys that got buried were OK?
RL: Yes. When I saw their faces I thought it was too late ‘cause they were really white and the second really blue, but we spoke to them and they spoke back pretty quickly.
RL: The first guy said, “You saved my life". Those were his first words. It was really intense, I was so scared.
OB: What did you learn from the whole experience?
RL: I think we realised how it was in the next days. The spot where we were wasn't really dangerous. The dangerous thing was the 6 meters of fresh snow and we went directly – I mean the first day – to the spots. We didn't realise that this snow could move so quickly. It was much too heavy, even if it was a perfect light powder. But the guides didn't stay with us at the spot when we shaped it, so that's another reason why we thought this spot wasn't dangerous. However it’s true what everybody says about avalanches: They can happen anywhere, anytime.
RL: Yeah. Really happy about what we did even if it was not easy. I was a little bit frustrated. So yes, after, when we went to Abkhazia, the snow was better (I mean more stable) and we could ride ¬– not everywhere we wanted but enough to have so much fun. Riding without tracks, going up again and once more, no tracks… [laughs] and it was my first time in a heli so...
OB: They're great eh. And how was the terrain there? Steeps? Kicker spots? Cliffs?
RL: There was a really big windlip at the top, but not possible to jump it cause it was too fragile. I think we could have had some kicker sessions but it was too dangerous to stay in one spot too long. And the top was steep, yes, but not like in AK I think [laughs]. But it was enough to have my first real freeride experience
OB: Sick. So, despite the avalanche experience, the trip was a good one?
RL: Yes, a perfect one. Heli, powder, a good crew and a new country... it's the perfect mix. And the avalanche "helped" us to become very close.
OB: Has it inspired you to get more into the freeride side of snowboarding as you get older?
RL: Yes... I think that after that I understand more guys who are just riding freeride, and for sure I understand more how difficult it is... really difficult. It’s not a park or even a backcountry kicker where you can check the landing and all that.
OB: For sure. So can we check out footage of the trip anywhere?
RL: Yes, on the Rip Curl web site. There’s a report of each day... I mean not the best of what we did but more how everything happened, and also on Sprite.fr and the Eurosport website. It was a lot of work for those TV guys, ‘cause they had to do one episode a day and send it to Paris for Eurosport.
RL: The season was really expensive, yeah [laughs], so I’m going to ride Les 7Laux till the end of their season…
OB: Chill in the hood…
RL: I've a plan to go to Riksgränsen, so maybe 2 weeks with Bergeri there. I've one week in Les 2Alpes with Rip Curl to coach a summer camp and I’m planning to go to Mt Hood with my Psykopit friends. We hope it's gonna be possible cause now it's not easy to ride all together. Oh yeah, and Bergeri told me to come to Chile in August… but for sure I've to decide [laughs].
OB: The Psykopit got any future plans to make another movie? Or is everyone filming with bunch of different crews now? I ask not only to see them all together in a film again, but I want to hear another song from 'Barney' too...
RL: [Laughs] Yes, he's very good. For ‘Barney’ you'd have to ask Julien Joud , he is a very good friend of him and I think he should have an album now. He does some live show sometimes in Grenoble, they’re always great. As for another Psykopit film there are no plans for the moment cause, yes, everybody is doing other stuff now.
OB: OK cool. I’ll look into Barney’s album though! Well, thanks heaps for your time Remi. Hope you have a killer end of season and that the summer rocks too.
RL: Thank you too.
OB: Got any shout outs you want to give?
RL: So first of all Rip Curl for helping to realise one of my dream (heliskiing), all the crew (Per, Darius, Viktor, Romain, Jim, Damien, Olivier, Eric, Brice, Fab), all the military guys, who helped us for the heli and at the boarding, and thanks to our "lucky stars"
OB: Cool man. Thanks again for your time
RL: No problem, it was a pleasure.