006: Xavier de le Rue/The Endless Quest For Innovation

Xavier at the top of the Mallory Couloir

“I’m finally accepting that I’m getting older and I don’t need to push things really hard any more.”

It’s episode 006 of the Looking Sideways podcast, where I was a lucky enough to pay a visit to legendary freerider Xavier de le Rue at his Verbier home.

Where to start with Xavier? Universally considered one of our greatest freeriders, he began his career racing boardercross, picking up four world titles. Then he switched his attention to freeriding, winning three Freeride World Tour titles. He followed this by embarking upon some of the greatest and most ambitious snowboarding expeditions ever, hitting up Antarctica and Svalbard, among others. And along the way, he found the time to create era-defining film parts, produce countless films and win endless plaudits from the snowboarding and adventure media.

Xavier in his element

The thing about Xavier though, as you’ll hear while listening to our conversation, is that there’s much more to him than one of the most storied CVs in the history of snowboarding. Here is a very intelligent, very focussed and insightful individual, who has constantly been driven by evolution and the need to progress, whether that’s through his various projects or his entrepreneurial involvement with at least five different companies.

Now, as he explained during our conversation, Xavier’s next evolution is about where he takes his snowboarding as he hits 40.

Highlights include:

  • How somebody like Xavier copes with his top-level pro career drawing to a close.
  • The enjoyment he takes from his various business ventures.
  • The early mentor that set him on the path he follows today.
  • The questing spirit that is behind each of his diverse projects.
  • His memories of the golden years of boardercross.

It’s an insightful, open, revealing chat from one of modern snowboarding’s true greats who got right into the spirit of the Looking Sideways podcast. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Xavier on accepting that he isn’t prepared to push it at the same level he always has.

Connect with Xavier

Show Notes

  • Working on the production of the Verbier Xtreme after so many years as a rider.
  • Enjoying working with Ed Leigh.
  • ‘I don’t miss riding the event. My head has shifted a lot over the last few years’.
  • The difficulty in accepting how age affects your ability as a pro rider, and the level you can operate at.
  • The dangers involved in continuing to push the sport – and the statistical inevitably of increasing risk.
  • The avalanche – Xavier’s closest call.
  • How it changed his approach to snowboarding.
  • Being driven by pushing himself.
  • The importance of excessive paranoia in the mountains to stay safe.
  • The different stages of Xavier’s career.
  • The stage he’s at now – sharing his knowledge and experiences.
  • ‘I need to feel evolution all the time – otherwise I get bored’.
  • Finding creativity in entrepreneurship.
  • The idea behind Resero and the Resero Whistle.
  • Xavier’s role in his various ventures.
  • Childhood in Saint Lary with four siblings
  • Ski racing from 6 to 13.
  • The importance of an early role model in teaching Xavier the importance of following his own path.
  • The competitive boardercross years
  • Xavier’s views on snowboarding’s loss of technique – and how it applies to his brother Victor.
  • Xavier’s memories of the golden era of Boardercross under the ISF
  • How freeriding was always the end goal – and the Verbier Xtreme was the entrance point.
  • The importance of working with photographers, and how filming initially seemed really inaccessible
  • Filming with La Glisse
  • Early mountaineering and riding years in Chamonix
  • First Alaska trip – and first scare.
  • The ‘business’ of Alaska.
  • Starting to look further afield
  • Using snowboarding to discover more experiences and skills.
  • The experience of getting to and snowboarding in Antarctica.
  • The theory behind filming with paramotors.
  • Pioneering a winch system to ‘crash’ into a line – and how it terrified one of the crew.
  • The difficulties and highlights of using this new technique in Svalbard.
  • BBC Ski Sunday piece on Xavier’s mission to Svalbard
  • The Timeline film on the Svalbard mission
  • Xavier’s next mission – the Kuril Islands.
  • Vanuatu volcano climb and ride.
  • Xavier’s usual travel schedule
  • His recent love for surfing
  • Xavier’s physical approach – and balancing the demands of business life with mountain life.
  • Chamonix DIY Mission
  • Xavier’s ambitions for the rest of his snowboarding career …
  • …and his choice for one last day snowboarding.
  • The pride Xavier took in following his own path and inspiring people throughout his career.

Places/events/programmes/media mentioned

People mentioned

  • Ed Leigh
  • Kelly Slater
  • Dimitry
  • Jean Michel LeFloc
  • Victor de la Rue
  • Jeremy Jones
  • Tom Burt
  • Shaun Palmer
  • Nicolas Roberti
  • Mitch Toelderer
  • Flo Orley
  • Adrian Coirier
  • Erwan Le Lann
  • Beanie de la Rue
  • Alex Pittin
  • Tony Lamiche