If you want proof that snowboarding is beginning to grow up, look no further than this thoughtful mini-documentary by film-maker Gray Thompson, who joined Fredi Kalbermatten (the proverbial “Swiss Knife”) to explore his career twilight in the sleepy resort of Saas Fee.
In the early years of the millenium, Fredi was one of snowboarding’s rising stars – bursting onto the scene with a Gang Starr-scored part in Standard Film’s Notice To Appear. Along with fellow Swiss shredder and (then) Burton teammate Nicolas Müller, he was at the cutting edge of backcountry freestyle, combining edge control honed in the pipe with creative powder lines and burly cheese wedges.
But while this vinyl-spinning stoner was a fixture in the annual movies, travelling the world and rubbing shoulders with the best riders in the business, he was always a laid-back village boy at heart – and when his main sponsor finally pulled the plug, he found himself cast back into the relative wilderness.
“Today, Fredi is ploughing a more soulful path in the valley where it all began”
Today, with support from Holden Outerwear and Lib Tech, Fredi is ploughing a more soulful path in the valley where it all began. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather – both of them mountain guides – he has begun venturing further from the beaten path to satisfy a lust for deep snow that still burns bright. No one knows Saas Fee’s hazardous glacial terrain better than Fredi, allowing him to build some unique features and thread some dramatic lines amongst the ice. The film captures these humble local adventures in an honest style, while its suitably relaxed soundtrack comes largely from the guitar of Minnesota jibber Zac Marben.
To cap it all, Fredi has become a father himself, and The Swiss Knife covers his desire to pass on the flame to the next generation. “I can’t wait for him to be old enough to actually shred,” he says in that familiar chilled drawl, “Then we can rip powder together.”
With elder statesemen like this, it appears snowboarding is in safe hands.