It has been noted in the forums countless times that over the last couple of years that Faction are steadily building the most stacked team in skiing. But despite the super team reputation, it's a far cry from what brands like Coreupt have done in the past to earn the same moniker. In general, Faction have been giving underground killers who've struggled to find a home at mainstream brands the support to grow. Sure Candide is the biggest name in skiing, but new stars like Daniel Hanka, Cody Cirillo and Alex Hall were found in relative obscurity, and guys like Antti, Delorme and even Duncan Adams have been given support that had clearly been missing prior to their addition to the squad.
Etienne Merel somehow keeping up with Delorme
And my experience is that the support the riders are being given is paid back double. I spent a few days of team week with the squad while they filmed for S03E03, the final We Are The Faction Collective webisode and everyone got along, everyone worked hard to get the shots and the team felt like a group of friends not a collection of athletes. It seems to me that work ethic, camaraderie and fun times are the secrets which the success of the webisodes is built upon. When I arrived for my three day visit, the riders had already put countless hours in to shaping features all over Verbier and were on a mission to stack shots.
Duncan SENDING a line
My first day got off to an early and typically chaotic start. In now trademark NS fashion I immediately broke an important key, the staff apartment key I'd found on the dresser. From then on though things improved fast, I got up the hill, was delivered a delicious panini and watched Will Berman and Cody Cirillo go to work on switch dubs on one of the multitude of sidecountry features that had been built. The whole day was a whirlwind of tricks rounded out by an insane gap that only Arnaud Rougier stepped up to. You'll see the highlights on Thursday but for the squad it was without question the on hill fondue dinner and raucous drinking which followed.
To set the scene we sat down at maybe 6.30 in the evening after what for everyone other than myself was a hard day shredding. The restaurant was pretty fancy, certainly not used to the level of bedraggled and stinking the crew had achieved. Drinks were presented much more rapidly and readily than food so things got out of hand pretty fast. Everyone ate more or less their own bodyweight in meat and cheese but drank twice that. Flaming Sambuca/unidentified swiss liquor shots and increasingly questionable fire related drinking tricks became the order of the evening and the battle of one ups was eventually won when Etienne managed to somehow light and suction a shot to his stomach. To round off one hell of an evening, we had to ski home in the pitch dark on icy rutted trails, in some rider's cases while carrying newly met female friends. It was a carnage full of sketchy turns, collisions and longest manual battles.
Unsurprisingly, especially given the less than ideal weather, the next day was a write off for quite a lot of the squad. Suffice to say, not everyone slept in their own beds that night and you can be sure they had a good time. But eventually, a reduced crew made it up the hill, sessioned one spot and then spent a good 3 hours building the final spot for the trip, a big stepover jump. The amount of work the crew put in to make the final spot work, with less than ideal snow and in pretty unpleasant weather was impressive to witness and goes to show how dedicated everyone is. Alex Hall guinea pigged it just before we left and it was clear at that point the next day was going to go off.
A Hall Just Warming Up...
The following morning it was Alex himself who took the lead, stomping a flat 3 off a cliff to tranny gap, landed a bunch of tricks switch on the big gap jump we built including a perfect dub wobble 12 and ended the day with biggest straight air of the week. The last point is no mean feat given who else was on the trip and he did the whole lot on a pair of 1.0s. You've no doubt seen him killing it in SLVSH and other editorials, but having seen him ski live he's the real deal all over the mountain and he's only 17. I reckon he might be the next BIG name in skiing. To cap off the week, Candide showed up by heli from Balme like a fucking rockstar for a few hours shredding with the team while the cameras were down. It was unbelievable to see him ski in person, his comfort on skis beggars belief. We all hung out on the mountain until sunset watching him throw down, and then the entire crew got a sunset cat tow home and headed for the bars of Verbier.
As I sat on the train from Verbier to home in Saas Fee, I mulled over my lasting impressions of the trip. It almost goes without saying that the new episode is going to blow minds on Thursday. There was so much of the variety in skiing and style on show in the few days I was out that the edit is guaranteed to be all time. I've never seen an out-of-the-park show of skills quite like what I saw during my time in Verbier. But for me the overriding thing I took away from Verbier is that supporting creative and varied (relatively) underground skiers pays off. It gives the skiers a platform to grow and builds the brand a dedicated fanbase. So many stoked skiers in Verbier had their photos taken with the riders, so many more were stunned to see their exploits in person from the lift or the trail that there is no doubt a whole host of new Faction devotees were born. And so in a sense it was mission accomplished from a branding perspective. The new webisode will doubtless multiply the effects of the shoot many times over because Faction are doing it and doing it right.