“The passion comes back. But with more wisdom, with more patience.”
With “Invisible Ground”, Xavier De Le Rue and Elias Elhardt work through their feelings of irresponsibility after tragic avalanche accidents. In Part 1 of our interview series, French snowboarder Xavier De Le Rue talks about how painful it was to speak so openly in front of the camera, how double-edged the job of a role model is and why the next generation can better evolve into the world of risk.
You and Elias Elhardt have known each other for a long time – how important was the mutual trust to be able to produce such a personal film?
Xavier De Le Rue: We crossed paths for many years since the early 2000’s mainly on events, on a few shoots from having common sponsors but we never have done a proper trip together.
How did you approach the project? Did you exchange your thoughts intensively before you started shooting or did you actually open up during the filming of “Invisible Ground” up in front of the camera and the microphone?
The whole idea about the film came from some discussions when we were in Iceland on a brand shoot and we both shared those two tragic experiences which lead us to discuss the risks of freeriding in a general manner. We felt quite aligned on the topic and it became obvious that we needed to share these discussions out and Elias thought about doing a movie. So we had already discussed the topic but we did get deeper into it through all the different interviews.
How much of an effort did it take to talk about such sensitive issues in such a blunt way?
It is really painful to get these tragic accidents back out and alive in our consciousnesses but at the same time it is important for us to talk about it not only for the mourning side of the accident but also to give these accidents a meaning and a purpose in the way of educating riders about the reality of consequences of freeriding.
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“Invisible Ground” deals – among other things – with the responsibility you have as a role model. Were you already aware of the extent of this responsibility before the start of the production or did the film make you think about it?
One of the clear ambiguities of our careers which pulled out from those discussions was clearly about the fact that we have gotten people to dream about all those insane lines. And regarding that, the responsibility we have to really share as much as possible the reality of what happens when things go wrong in the mountains and how suddenly it does.
Who do you want to reach with “Invisible Ground”? The professionals who are role models (or at least could be), or rather the next generation who emulates you?
I guess that my goal is to touch younger freeriders that want to go fully into it and need to really take into consideration how much there is a dark side to this sport which requires a proper approach.
Have your tragic experiences changed anything about the basic joy of being out there?
For a while it has taken a lot of the passion away but in the long term, I guess that passion has always come back but with a bit more wisdom, a bit more patience. But it always leaves a stain that is quite uncomfortable and that stays with you and taints your passion for ever.
What does it take in our minds to make freeriding safer? Or can this sport per se not be safe? How should we best deal with the remaining risks? And: Are we allowed to enjoy the risk?
I truly believe that freeriding is a great school of life, but it really requires more learning and getting mentored than what it seems at the beginning. I think there is a bit of a gap between the easiness of access to skiing powder without the right experience and the actual possibilities of getting properly taught. When I see my older girl Mila (16 years old) who has got a really strong structure around her with the Freeride World Tour Club, I feel pretty comfortable about her knowledge, her understanding off the risks and the fact that she will evolve into that world.
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