[Wallop! Antti Autti fires up a good un in Laax. Photo: Luca Crivelli]
Ahead of the imminent release of season two of Antti Autti's powderphilic web series, Statements, we hit up the Finnish contest-kid-turned-backcountry-specialist for a good old chinwag...
In the earlier days of your career, you were a pretty damn successful contest rider. Are you naturally competitive? Did you enjoy the contest environment?
For sure I have competitiveness in me. I grew up doing lot of different sports and through that I learned how to deal with pressure, so being in competitions was never a problem for me. I fully enjoyed being in the contest gates before my run and it gave me this feeling of not being scared of doing stuff. Like that extra energy you need when you want to do something cool with your snowboard. But what really sparked the fire for competitions early on was just to go see how everybody else was riding in Finland. In Rovaniemi, where I'm from, the snowboarding scene was super small and going to competitions was really the way to get better. Since I started doing well early on I got picked up by the national team and from there on it was a very natural way to move forward with this side of snowboarding.
When did it start to lose its shine for you?
I remember it very clearly. I was in X Games 2009. Prior to that I hadn’t been doing so well in competitions that season, even though I was feeling good about my riding. I felt like there was something missing – like there was no emotion in what I was doing. But X Games always gave me that extra motivation to do well and in that superpipe contest I got third, right after [Shaun] White and [Kevin] Pearce. I pretty much rode the best I’ve ever ridden in X Games and after the award ceremony I was happy, but it did not feel like I had done something special. You know, that really big YEAH was totally missing – that feeling you get from learning a trick, riding a line or doing well in competitions was just not there anymore for me. I still enjoyed snowboarding so much, but I knew that I was not going to be doing competitions for the right reasons anymore if I kept doing 'em. Of course, this was super difficult because it was an Olympic qualifier year. So I pretty much just rode that season by doing competitions for everybody else except me – even at the start of the 09-10 season I still was doing it because moving away from something that I had done for so long so well was very scary, and all my sponsors were expecting me to try to qualify for the Olympics. However, in December 2009 I ended up having a quite severe injury in Colorado and during my recovery I had time to think about stuff. In the end the final call came down to early February 2010 when I was in Japan riding pow and Finnish national team coach called asking if I would want to ride in the Olympics. I said no and decided that it was time to move on and focus fully on freeriding.
"I still enjoyed snowboarding so much, but I knew that I was not going to be doing competitions for the right reasons anymore if I kept doing 'em."
[Above: Suomi style in Riksgransen. Photo: Jani Karppa]
It seemed that from one day to the next you went from contest machine to sacking it all off and concentrating on the backcountry. How did this come about? How much powder had you been riding before this?
When I went to Chile for a World Cup back in 2002 I got to ride real powder for the first time. I remember having the best feeling ever and I even skipped contest training because of the pow. From then on I started to go to Japan almost every season for competitions and stayed there for a bit longer just to shred the trees in Hokkaido. First time I ever got a chance to film in pow was in Japan 2006. From there on it started to evolve the way that I would always skip February from contests and only ride powder in Japan and film. Riding in the trees and jumping in pow was quite familiar to me but real mountains were something that I only started to explore more later on. Reading the terrain and understanding the snow to be able to ride bigger mountains was something that I was not feeling comfortable with at all at first – that kind of snowboarding was just out of this world for where I was coming from. But at the same time it was so interesting because to be able to do that I needed to change my perspective fully. In the past I had been just charging into my riding with the mindset that only more spins and airtime mattered, but when I entered in to the mountains I had to start think about each move I would make with my snowboard. That was very interesting to me, because through that I actually started to realise the real potential in where I could take my own riding.
Were you ever secretly relieved you quit contests before double and triple corks became the norm?
Not really, because I think that progression is super important. It was just my time to really define and prove to myself what kind of snowboarder I wanted to be and I knew that competitions were just one part of it – a very important part and if I would need to make these calls again I would go to compete for sure. Through competitions and touring the circuit I learned a lot of things that I can still use today when I'm in the backcountry. That sort of perseverance that competitors need to be successful still drives me a lot. That fire is in there but the focus on what kind of riding I want to do with it has changed.
"It would be great if in the future there would be a tour that would really crown the best overall freestyle snowboarders, and not only the ones who do slope or pipe."
What do you make of the standard you have to be at these days to compete at the top? Do you ever miss the feeling you got when competing?
I do miss competing sometimes, but luckily there are a bunch of grass roots contests nowadays where you can still go compete and have a good time. But the circuit itself... I don’t really miss that so much. All of those Air & Styles and Toyota Big airs were damn fun times, on and off the board [laughs]. I have to say that I'm very happy I got be part of those radical events! But nowadays riders are doing mainly one discipline in contests. I think the level in pipe and slope has gotten so high that it's very hard to keep up with both which, in my opinion, is a shame. I think one reason for this is the fact that whole snowboarding competition circuit is quite hard to figure out because there is no strong tour right now in snowboarding. I mean there are a lot of well-organised competitions but one prestige tour is missing. It would be great if in the future there would be a tour that would really crown the best overall freestyle snowboarders, and not only the ones who do slope or pipe. I mean, of course you need to have world champs for each discipline, but a real overall rider crowning is super important. The way that it’s done in WSL is perfect example of a great tour where you can’t really know who will win it until the last contest is done. This is because you need to be able to surf everything, not only do well in barrels you know.
[Below: Charging lines on a secret Swedish peak. Photo: Jani Karppa]
[Boning that tail way up north. Photo: Jani Karppa]
Rewinding to then… Did you feel it was in some ways a risk to turn your back on what had been your bread and butter? How did your sponsors react?
Sure, it was a risk but I did not start snowboarding because I wanted to be an X Games gold medallist. At first I started snowboarding because I didn’t like the rules that the other sports I was doing had. Snowboarding to me represents an act of freedom to do whatever I want to do when I'm riding and when I started to feel like I was losing that I needed to make a change for myself. A few of my sponsors back then were very supportive, and those who were not... it was just not meant to be. But by focusing on what I really desired I ended up finding partners who truly believed in me as a rider and as a person – not just as Antti Autti: contest rider. I always try to think myself as being professional snowboarder who also does my own DIY projects alongside what my sponsors are planning. I believe that this way I can be more valuable for my partners because my own projects also gives more visibility to the brands who support me. Sometimes it is a lot of stuff I have to deal throughout the season, but it is very important for me so that I can keep that original fire for snowboarding burning!
"Snowboarding to me represents an act of freedom to do whatever I want to do when I'm riding and when I started to feel like I was losing that I needed to make a change for myself."
When you decided to change direction, was producing your own movie always the plan? Or did you think of trying to link up with an existing movie crew at that time?
At first there were talks about me being part of movie crew but it changed when I got an opportunity to allocate those same resources to my own edits, which really was a dream come true for me. From there on it has evolved a lot, but one of the best things about it has been that I’ve been able to employ some of my friends to film for my projects. Nowadays these guys have their own company – Kota Collective – which is behind the work for Statements Season 2. So needless to say I had to learn quite a lot about producing some of the stuff but luckily I had some more experienced people helping me with it at first. Then, piece by piece, this side of things became way more professional and I'm happy that I have such a team alongside me.
Antiout was the first web series/movie you produced, five years back. How much of a learning process was that for you?
It was a crazy learning process. Riding-wise I was dreaming about bombing down the biggest mountains and doing Methods, but the truth was that I just was not ready for it back then. I fast realised that I needed to do a lot of work on that side of things so I focused a lot on freestyle on that movie still. During that year I ended up spending over a month in Tamok, Norway. I learned a lot during that time and after the northern hemi winter was done I went to NZ to really learn more about mountains. Producing-wise it was a lot of to deal with at first because I needed to start organising lot of things that did not really involve snowboarding anymore: flights for filmers, accommodation, heli time, guides, music rights and bunch of negotiations to get better deals for media just to name few things. I also quickly realised that to make it happen the way I wanted, I would need to invest some of my own money and not only be dependent about my sponsors. Of course, their support is the biggest in each project but there will always be opportunities or outcomes that you have take care of yourself.
"I was dreaming about bombing down the biggest mountains and doing Methods, but the truth was that I just was not ready for it back then."
I think that during filming for Antiout I was able create some very important relationships that still are alive today. For example in New Zealand I have been working with same guide company, Southern Lakes Heliski, for the past five years. With these relations I have been able to plan better things for each video we have made. Snowboarding-wise every movie and edit we have been doing has gone much more into freeriding. Freestyle will always be part of the videos, but moving more towards freeriding has come very naturally to me since that has really been one of my main goals as a snowboarder.
[Above: Dropping another spring screamer in Sweden. Photo: Jani Karppa]
Last year’s Statements web episodes took the format of loose themes like ‘charging lines’, ‘exploring’ and ‘turning and burning’. What do you have cooking for the forthcoming season's format?
For this season's Statements we have three chapters coming out. The first one is called 'Onsen Tour', shot in Hokkaido, Japan, where we road trip through these natural hot spring locations that are located next to the best powder spots. Neil Hartmann and Shinya Nagakawa from Car Danchi were guiding us during this trip and it was whole lotta fun to really experience this culture the way locals do it. The second chapter is basically my full part, which really concentrates on mountains and the process that has to happen in the mountains when snowboarding. The third and final chapter is all about the location, but not the most ordinary backcountry location. The whole edit was filmed in Pyhä, Finland: 1.5 hours from my home. This place is truly amazing and holds world-class backcountry terrain. I think that this edit will really open up people's eyes to the potential that northern Finland holds!
Where did you ride last season, and which other riders were in the crew? Why did you pick these riders and locations?
From January until mid February I ended up going to Laax and Hokkaido where I got ride a lot with carve-master Nicholas Wolken. That guy is so good on his turns and flow. Just super fun to watch. Then I spent three weeks in Finland just for the Pyhä backcountry filming where I had Saku Tiilikainen riding with me. I also went to Iceland with Levi Luggen for a week – that was whole lotta fun since I’d never been riding there before and terrain was just amazing. Also having Levi as my riding partner was super nice, he brought a lot of good vibes to the crew! End of March until May I focused fully exploring the mountains near tallest peak of Sweden, Kebnekaise. That was super humbling experience because it really was a gamble between weather and conditions but in the end we ended up filming some of the best lines we’ve ever filmed in Scandinavia. For the icing of the cake I'm finishing the filming again in New Zealand where I have been riding in this new zone we discovered two years ago. I did not really pick any riders for this year, it was more about them coming to me asking if we could do something cool together. Like with Enni Rukajärvi, I did bunch of fun trips with her. She is just super cool and has the right attitude for snowboarding. She understands that you have to invest your own resources and time to really become better overall. I really respect that kind of attitude a lot.
"This place is truly amazing and holds world-class backcountry terrain. I think that this edit will really open up people's eyes to the potential that northern Finland holds!"
You’ll be having episodes from Japan and Pyhä, plus your full part that will include riding from those trips and everywhere else you went. Why focus on those two spots more deeply?
I think many times things are rushed during the trips and you end up going to places you already know so you don’t waste time. To me, finding cool spots to ride is half of the fun in freeriding, I'm not there only to get these certain tricks for my videos, I really want to feel that I have found something cool to ride and film that. You know, for example in the Onsen Tour edit you'll see some spots that are in very secret locations in Hokkaido, but on the hand there is also pretty famous ones from Asahidake. For me it was not so special to go ride that stuff anymore but, for example, for Enni those spots were fully new and she got some cool things over there. So on every trip you will most likely balance between familiar and new terrain, but the way you ride it is hopefully changed.
[This white man can still jump. Antti track hops in Laax. Photo: Matt Georges]
[Above: Drawing lines. Photo: Jani Karppa]
What can you tell us about Finnish Columbia - aka Pyhä? Looks like you scored there big time. Is the snow different there compared to other places in Finland?
We found this spot that looked like interior BC terrain and named it Finnish Columbia, but that was just one of those cool discovery moments that I ended up having a lot of in Pyhä last year. This place is just filled with world-class terrain and during our time there I feel like we only scratched the surface! Snow over there was just incredible, it was said that it was the best snow year in 25 years up in north. Base was perfect and some of the stuff we rode was even sluffing, which was super crazy. I mean I was riding lines in Finland and there was sluff! This place is 90-minute car drive from my home, I just could not believe it! Snowboarding and filming in Pyhä last season was the highlight for me and that is why it is the last chapter of Statements! After you've see how good the snow can be in Finland you'll just really want to consider making a trip to Pyhä!
This winter is nearly upon us. Same again? Or do you have other projects you want to focus on?
All I can say is that I have some very interesting plans for the upcoming season! New project is coming...
[Below: Making Statements in Sweden. Photo: Jani Karppa]