Header image credit: Xavier Mayrand
What does a Québécois skier look like? I’ll forward a semi-educated guess: an obsession with downrails, a willingness to schlep out street parts during frigid winter conditions, and a propensity towards loudly exclaiming “tabarnak!” when shit hits the fan and face meets concrete. If any of this rings true, then Isabelle Lacour and Frédéric Ferland (who goes by @fredyferl / Fredy) not only meet these parameters but exceed them, committing themselves wholeheartedly to the painstaking process of getting the shot. This fall, their labors bring us “Couples Retreat,” a short street film.
Technically, the story of “Couples Retreat” started eight years ago at Mont Saint-Saveur, where Isabelle and Fredy met during a PVC rail session and eventually started dating. “Skiing takes a big place in our relationship,” says Isabelle, “but before we met, we both have been skiing since we were kids, so it’s more like we just kept doing what we were already doing, but together.”
Fredy first got on snow when he was 11 and a half months old (one of his dad’s greatest claims to fame). Quebec’s Laurentian mountains and Level 1 films were the backdrops for his formative years, supplying both terrain and inspiration -- a boon to an aspiring street skier.
Fredy, who freely admits he’s not a “naturally talented” skier, focused on upping his rail skills with a homemade setup in the summer months. Humbleness aside, Fredy’s dedication to mastery is evident in his skiing. Over the years, he’s quietly uploaded several sleeper hits to Newschoolers, featuring a dizzying array of swaps on consequential rails and street features.
Suggesting that Fredy’s skiing is underrated wouldn’t be fair. For one, he might disagree, saying he’s only good at skiing street and not deserving of broader acclaim. Secondarily, Fredy did nab a deserved sponsorship with Line, indicating a degree of recognition. However, it remains difficult to square his relatively unknown status with his ability to shred rails with surgical precision.
Isabelle, like Fredy, is a talented yet lesser-known rail skier (check out her 2019 part). When you watch her ski, it’s apparent that she’s put in long hours honing swaps and other technical skills, making her uniquely prepared to jump into street. However, trepidations initially relegated her to helping out as a filmer and digger, “I was looking at girls hitting street in movies, like Kaya Turski in Level 1, but always thought that it was not really accessible for me,” she says.
While shooting for “Out of Ideas” in 2018, a film project Fredy was working on, Isabelle realized that the streets were less intimidating than she previously thought, “I remember telling myself that I could also do it.” She started slowly, hitting a few spots a season before completely committing to street skiing at the start of the 2020-21 winter.
As far as I know, “Couples Retreat” is the only ski film produced exclusively by a couple. The decision to forgo a bigger crew wasn’t a gimmick appeal. Instead, Fredy and Isabelle wanted to film a part, and the rest of their friends had moved on -- teaming up just made sense.
Mixing the stress of creating a joint street part into a relationship may sound like a recipe for disaster. After all, many couples can’t make it through their yearly vacation to Hawaii without a screaming match, let alone withstanding a two-year video project set in the bitterly cold streets of eastern Canada.
Fredy and Isabelle admit that creating “Couples Retreat” had stressful moments. “The hardest part was to bring back home the defeat of not getting the shot or having a shitty day in the streets,” says Isabelle. Fredy shared a similar sentiment: "when you're two, there's a lot of stress going on because, like, you got to shovel, and one’s got to film, and the other one's got to ski.”
However, Isabelle noted that working with your partner on a film project also has its perks, “we were on the same page and had similar objectives. It was easier to plan our days and our trips because we were always together and had the same schedule. Also, we’ve known each other for a long time, so it’s easier to deal with each other’s personalities at the street spot.” Ultimately, eight years of shared passion for skiing overshadowed any difficulties.
Filming street isn’t just about overcoming challenges, though. It’s about enjoying ecstatic peaks, too, like when Fredy stacked three clips in three days. “That’s like the best run I had in the whole movie,” he says.
Isabelle's highs centered on applying her skills to a new discipline, street skiing. A shot she struggled with involved multiple rails in one line. Initially, she couldn’t commit to the first rail, but eventually overcame her nervousness and stuck the line, giving her the confidence to take on challenging rails while seeking a spot for an ender.
The result of Fredy and Isabelle’s two-year project is a succinct bite of street skiing, clocking in at nine minutes and 32 seconds. While small, this window of time is plenty for the couple to make their case -- technical rail tricks and precise spot selection abound, making the film an excellent addition to Montreal’s street-skiing legacy.
Amidst a b-roll montage in “Couples Retreat,” the camera centers on Fredy, who exclaims with a smile, “I’m still stuck in 2008; I only hit the down rails in the street.” In a way, he’s right. His approach to skiing, combined with his affinity for old Yoke Collection hoodies and slim-fit pants, makes him an apparition of bygone years. And if you squint just so while watching him ski in “Couples Retreat,” you might forget Epic passes and global warming, settling into a mirage of different, perhaps better times for us skiers -- by saying this, I mean considerable praise.
For those who haven’t caught a live showing, “Couples Retreat” will drop online on November 20th.
Header image credit: Xavier Mayrand
Screen grab credits: Isabelle Lacour and Frédéric Ferland