interview by Sam Katzman | photos by Tyler Roemer
SPORT B.A.S.E. ski jumping/big mountain skiing
HOMETOWN Evreux, France
CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENTS First ski B.A.S.E. jump off Mississippi Head on Mt. Hood | First ski B.A.S.E. jump off Matterhorn in the Alps | First wingsuit flight from Washington to Oregon
You’re considered a pioneer in your sport. How did you get into jumping off cliffs on skis?
We were at the ski area [in Durango, Colorado] in the car with some friends, and we’re looking at this cliff in the distance, and I was telling them, ‘This is it. We have to go ski this.’ They said, ‘Are you out of your mind? The cliff is 300 feet—you can’t survive that.’ I thought that there had to be a way to do it.’ I thought, ‘What if I put a parachute on my back?’
At what point did this go from an adrenaline rush to a career?
I did my first ski B.A.S.E. jump in 2008. It was the first on Mt. Hood, and I had a mini HD camera strapped on my head. I had a couple camera guys, and my buddy had a contact with the local news in Portland. He called them, they showed up for an interview and got the footage. The next morning, I woke up to calls from Good Morning America.
What’s it like to outrace an avalanche?
I made my last turn and was so focused on the jump. I was going at least 45 miles per hour, and right when I turned around the whole thing released and was probably 150 feet wide and 100 feet from the edge. It was the perfect storm. When I landed, I lost control and started screaming. I remember telling Stefan [friend and cameraman] that this is the kind of stuff we’re going to remember on our deathbed. My grandkids will probably say, ‘Oh great, here goes grandpa with his avalanche story again.’
How quickly did you want to make the footage public?
I sent an email to my manager at GoPro and said, ‘We got the shot.’ He said, ‘What are you talking about? You’ve only been there for two days.’ That was supposed to be my warm-up run. The Matterhorn was supposed to be the highlight of the trip, but this ended up being the highlight of a lifetime. That was the first GoPro video to go viral.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Moving to Durango, Colorado without knowing anything about the place. I packed up two pairs of skis, my life in two bags and headed to the U.S. I didn’t even know what Durango looked like, aside from a couple of images on the internet. It was also the best thing I’ve ever done. There’s something to be said about taking a leap of faith.