Published in Onboard Magazine Issue 120, February 2011
Words: ULI KÖHLER
With his versatile and creative riding style, Simon Gruber’s already conquered the Italian snowboard scene and with his part in the latest Isenseven movie the 23-year-old’s now set out to make it on a European level. Onboard looks at what makes the South Tyrolean tick...
Simon Gruber isn’t good at skiing. Or at least this is what he realised ten years ago after coming in second to last at a local ski race in his home of South Tyrol. That day he picked up snowboarding, and immediately fell in love with it. The 23-year-old has since become one of the best Italian riders in recent history, and has won three out of the four last “Italian Rider of the Year" awards. After only two years of riding he got his first sponsor deals through Santa Cruz and Body Glove. Then he switched to the European Forum team, where he carries the Italian flag to this day.
The Italian flag? “Simon changes his opinion of him being Italian about four times a day. He is only sure about his nationality when it comes to football and food," explains Forum team manager Chris Patsch. This is mainly down to him being from South Tyrol, the German-speaking region in Northern Italy, that is all too often neglected when planning a snowboard trip. “South Tyrol is home for me.... good food, great people. Seiser Alm and Kronplatz are great for park riding, as they are constantly shaped by [local shaping crew] F-Tech. When it comes to backcountry riding I like Val Gardena the most, or else we usually leave the beautiful South Tyrol and drive to ‘Italy’."
Wherever his heart really is, it is Simon’s riding that definitely stands out from the crowd. Having filmed for various regional productions he made it into the Isenseven roster at the beginning of last season and delivered a versatile part in ‘Don’t Panic’, consisting not only of front and back 10s
over park kickers, but also pillow line bashing and a solid array of urban trickery.
To be honest, though, prior to his Isenseven appearance his name hadn’t gone ‘household’ outside Italy. Whenever you get your hands on an Italian snowboard magazine, chances are high that it features a couple of bangers from Simon, which he believes comes down to him being part of the Italian scene. “For Italian riders it is fairly easy to get coverage in a local magazine. It is all too tempting to stay ‘at home’ all the time." This
mentality is fuelled further by the Italian infrastructure: “We have excellent resorts, parks, everything really... why go travel somewhere else? To me, however, it is very important to follow a different route."
Giacomo Margutti, editor in chief of Snowboard Mag Italy, has spent a lot of time with Simon, and knows his riding and potential better than most. He outlines Simon’s ‘route’ for us: “He’s of course one of the best [riders] our country has to offer in the snowboarding fi eld. His future looks great, if only he will fi nd the courage to challenge new experiences and ride a bit more abroad with international riders - rather than just staying in Italy." His former TM Jon Weaver, who has since joined the Nike 6.0 train, described him as being “one of the most naturally talented riders around. He has an amazing ability, which is so good to watch!"
Being rather modest about his own achievements Simon turns to irony when it comes to talk about his time with Isenseven: “Everyone is taking the piss as I’m the only Italian. No one is taking me serious. It beats me why I’ll be filming with them again this season!" Apart from fi lming for Isen he will enter a couple of contests, the highlight being the Nanshan Open in China, and of course fi lm the odd web clip with the infamous GMR crew, the Gentleman Riders from Val Senales.
In whatever he does, Simon’s most striking ability is his creativity. He is already a part-time park shaper for F-Tech, and knows what can be done on any given obstacle. It is Giacomo Margutti, who sums up Simon’s talent best: “I remember once riding down a slope with him. The slope was just a regular one, without any particular features, but he rode down jibbing so many things he found here and there. This way he created his own world. I think people who don’t know what snowboarding is about should once ride down with Simon, and they surely would fall in love with riding sideways!"
Another striking thing about this kid from Ora (Auer) close to Bolzano is his soft spot for double grabs. Simon: “If I had three hands I would even go
for triple grabs!" But even without a third grab we look forward to seeing more of this gifted half-Italian, half-European ripper. Simon would like to thank Alex Berger from F-Tech and Fakie Shop, his friends and family, all the brands that keep sending him parcels: Forum Foursquare, Smith, Nike 6.0, Monster, Skull Candy, Elm & once again F-Tech and the Fakie Shop.