We’ve all seen the Warren Miller films where freeriders fly down the mountain defying gravity as they cut through rough terrain and jump off cliffs, but without pioneers like Seb Michaud, those films might not exist. Freeride skiing didn’t truly become a recognized sport until sometime in the late 1990s, and as the popularity of the sport rose, Seb Michaud saw it as an opportunity for him to make a name for himself. But there was just one problem—the International Ski Federation rules that inhibited freeskiers from doing the very tricks that would soon make them popular. The old guards of skiing looked at freeride skiing as an unruly sport that would tarnish the reputation of established skiers. Seb didn’t see it that way. Born May 4, 1973 in Geneva, he stood on his first pair of skis at the age of three. It wasn’t long before his parents took him on off-piste runs where he first got a taste for the backcountry at places like Chamonix, Zermatt, Bansko, and Tignes.
Oppressed, but Not Distressed
Most resorts had banned inverted tricks during mogul runs and they limited flips during aerial competitions, leaving freeskiers limited places to express themselves. At the same time, freeskiers like Mike Douglas, Mark Abma, and JP Auclair were riding on snowboard-only terrain parks to practice their stunts. And then, when they were ready, they hit the backcountry to put those stunts to the test. The adversity pushed the freeskiing community to find new outlets and it wasn’t long before their underground movement grew through movies, websites, and publications that wanted to showcase their sport.
Making a Name for Himself
When Seb landed his first backflip, his legend started to grow. Motivated by both veterans and newcomers who wanted to push the limits of what was possible with every run, Seb eventually ended up on the podium at Red Bull Snowthrill. He also became one of 12 riders invited on the Freeride World Tour. The Freeride World Tour was exclusively held for snowboarders with its inception, but in 2004, skiing was finally added to the mix. Seb Michaud was one of the first riders to come onto the scene, placing second at the Xtreme Verbier in 2004, then claiming first at the same event the following year. And with the “Seb Michaud Invitational,” skiers get to ride with Seb unlike any other event: a return to the basics of skiing. No competition. No stressing the night before about the run. Skiers from all calibers follow Seb to ski destinations across the globe for one purpose: ride. His influence spread both competitively and non-competitively, with riders both new and familiar with the freeride skiing scene seeing Seb as a sagacious symbol for the sport.
Taking it Slow
Although the 42 year-old has taken a step back from the limelight of competitive freeride skiing after an ankle injury sustained in 2012, he still finds time for runs when he feels the thirst. He spends most of his time with his family in La Clusaz, a small commune in the Haute-Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region and a near endless amount of skiing destinations.
My mentality is still the same: I like to compete, but the rest of my body tells me [to] stop or go easy,” Seb said.
“Go[ing] easy” for Seb Michaud looks like this: Back in 2013, we partnered with Seb to find “THE spot”. In episode 4 of “One Day, one line”, Bixente Lizarazu and Seb glide down the alps in La Clusaz sporting GORE-TEX PRO PRODUCTS.
He’s shy, but when on a run Seb somehow becomes one with the mountain. Seb reminds us to have fun when we’re on the slopes, that riding isn’t all about the fame or glory, and that our connection to the mountain brings about a most gratifying experience indeed. Want to dress like Seb when he’s on the slopes? Here’s a list of gear with our GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY® promise, no matter the climate or mountain.
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