Behind Real Snow with Nicolas Müller

Absinthe's Justin Hostynek and Swiss native Nicolas Müller are potentially the nastiest lensman and bladerunner team of the modern age. Known more for their subtleties in style over blatant in-your-face shred, it's no wonder Absinthe regularly gets the "If I only could watch one video" nod and Müller is generally agreed to be "the pro's favorite pro" by the snowboard community at large.

Between Müller and Hostynek we have more than twelve years of documentation of some of the best snowboarding ever witnessed by man. I imagine the game plan over at Absinthe when they're filming a movie goes something like this: "Nico, you go ride. I will film it. Together we will make everybody else look silly."

Müller is in Tignes, France, right now, taking hot laps through the public boardercross course, characteristically finding jumps where other snowboarders might only see a starting race gate, or two very small patches of snow separated by an extremely large swath of rock-filled dirt. For example.

The winners of the judged portion of Real Snow Backcountry were announced at Winter X Tignes Thursday night, and Müller won the judges vote and gold medal. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the contest, through the eyes of Müller and Hostynek.

Let me start by asking if you guys had a plan for this, or did you just do your normal snap, snap, wink, wink, here's another mind-bending snowboard part?
There was no plan, really -- only to be at home and go out snowboarding every day. We filmed everything in the backcountry of Laax, where I live in Switzerland, and to tell you the truth, the snow conditions were as good as I have ever seen them. It snowed more in those few weeks than it usually does all year in the Alps.

I know that "contest" is a pretty foreign term to both of you these days. What do you think of the Real Snow concept?
I think it's rad, but for me it is a blessing and a curse. It's cool that we will get to show this side of snowboarding to a large audience and it's a curse in that it will undoubtedly show some of our best footage before the Absinthe movie comes out.

It has also made what is normally a family scenario into a competition. Gigi was just across the border in Austria doing his thing and we were here in Laax doing ours. Normally we would be teamed up working and playing together. That is weird for sure.

Müller: I don't think it's weird. I think its cool. We have been working together forever, so to not hear anything from Gigi for all that time when normally we would be in contact because of how good it's been... that's been kind of funny. Sneaky style.

Real Snow is different for us because we just ride and film. There is no arena, just the mountains and the birds.

But as to Real Snow, I didn't really pay attention to it last year because I just didn't know what it was. But now that I have learned a bit more I think it is cool. It is a new way of looking at a competition. It's different for us because we just ride and film. There is no arena, just the mountains and the birds. Now we can bring that to an arena of sorts and see who is cheering.

I think as riders we all do that after watching the videos. We all have our favorite video part and our favorite rider of the past year. This is kind of the same thing -- just a lot of people will come to a decision collectively.

How do you feel about how the voting community perceives each edit, though?
Here's one thing I noticed a little bit. Looking at Pat Moore's last trick in the Real Snow Street, the way it was edited it brings up the question of production. If you watch it you see this big set up shot of these giant bleachers, which at first makes you trip a little thinking it had something to do with the trick, but it doesn't. All he does is a jump next to them. Tricky. So what is supposed to win, a clip with high production value or great riding?

Müller: I agree. I always enjoy an entertaining edit, but as a rider you have to give props to the guys who are doing the gnarliest stuff. Whether online votes will reflect that, I don't know.

Would you guys have jumped into filming/riding the way that you did early season like this normally?
It seems like with most competitions, the riders might feel some pressure. For instance, things that they might not step to in a normal filming situation kind of get a higher priority because of the limited time frame. It's kind of like progression on steroids and I'm afraid, like any other competition, it could make for some unneeded injuries. Usually, in January we are all just warming up for the season and there is no rush, but just because the very nature of it being a contest, I could see riders just sending it right off the bat.

Müller: For me I wouldn't have done anything different, but that has a lot to do with how good it was. Sometimes you need to ease into the season for whatever reason and sometimes it's just on. It wasn't like I was out there thinking that I had to do anything crazy because it was for this Real Snow contest. It was like a normal filming experience for me. You get to a spot and you try and challenge yourself.

Challenge yourself? I've seen you ride. It doesn't look like you try at all. Seriousy... is there some kind of secret you are holding?
When I am riding, I first imagine something, then go through with it. I find that if something feels right, then it probably is. But there is no secret. I just really love snowboarding! I will be riding if there is very little snow or lots of it -- if there is a camera out or not!