I've known Laurent for a while. I've lived in Switzerland for many years now and he, of course, is a local. We run into each other now and again, randomly and intentionally, to ski and at industry events. I've even enjoyed a conversation in broken French with his mother at the dinner table at their home before, having exhausted my entire vocabulary, realizing that she is actually from the German part of Switzerland and that we could have been speaking German, which I do speak, the entire time. When Laurent told me at High Five Festival that he was starting a new brand, I was hyped. Laurent is a thoughtful skier, one of my favorite to watch. He designs his parts with a keen eye for detail, so doubtless, his take on a ski company would be the same. I also knew he hadn't been having the best time of things in recent months, so it was sick to see him taking on something new. I reached out to him a few weeks ago for an 'interview' and ultimately ended up helping him craft this letter about the brand. So instead of an interview, here it is in full. Simply Recreation Club in Laurent's own words:
I have spent my life on skis. I started at 3 years old and fell in love with freeskiing at the age of 12. My passion quickly led
to the world of competition, and then to the film production aspect of the sport. Along the way, I met some incredible people, from Swiss Freeski teammates to friends all over the world through Level 1. With these incredible people, I shared unforgettable moments and experienced absolute happiness on many occasions. On my journey, I crossed paths with Titouan Bessire, a hugely talented filmmaker and now a close friend. We had the same drive, passion & vision. We created two movies: “From Switzerland With Love” & “Simply”. Through those projects, I realized some of my biggest dreams. But after eight seasons of professional film skiing, during which I gave everything I had to stack clips, I had to take a step back. Not because of skiing itself but because of the mental energy & time I was putting into those projects. And so, I decided to take a year off creating film projects in 2022.
I just wanted to enjoy skiing, without any pressure. I wanted to reignite the same passion I had for the sport when I was a teenager. And I tried. I skied a lot this past winter with friends, taking it day by day, searching for good snow. But that feeling of pure enjoyment, the unadulterated love for skiing, wouldn’t reappear. I felt lost. My motivation was hit and miss. During a movie project, I simply don’t allow myself to feel jaded. It’s counterproductive: you are with a crew, on a mission. This year, I had too much time to think and one question was haunting me: Do I still feel the same love & passion for skiing?
Photo: Christophe Voisin
There were plenty of external factors in my frustrations too. I know a lot of cool stuff still happens in freeskiing right now. But, and I’m not afraid to say it anymore, skiing is globally not going in the direction I would like to see it. The passion of skiers is ever present, but they seem distracted by the number of views on Tiktok and Instagram. FIS competitions are everywhere, but there is a near-total lack of money for young riders. It’s almost impossible to make it without the support of a national team. Influencers promote sustainability, but their own footprint is beyond imagination. Naively, I thought that freeskiing was better than that. But it’s not and neither was I.
Ultimately, a single day changed everything. Yes, I’d had serious accidents before. The infamous head trauma from hitting my head on a rail in Moscow and witnessing Mathieu Schaer narrowly avoid an avalanche in the movie “From Switzerland With Love” are two examples that are always on my mind. But one day last spring surpassed them all. We were filming for a brand. It was way too warm & snow conditions were terrible. We were a big group of people who had never filmed together. There was no discussion, no communication, and no plan. It was the perfect recipe for a disaster. I wasn’t feeling it but I went anyway.
And a disaster it was. Along with Mathieu Maynadier, I triggered an Avalanche. He got caught and ended up with 4 broken ribs. The crew and guides had to dig him out. I tried to avoid the avalanche but I ended up skiing off a 20-meter cliff. The depth of the snow absorbed the impact. As soon as I “landed”, I had this sixth sense that I needed to move. I “ran” out of the avalanche debris abandoning my skis and gear. Later, watching the footage, I could see that a huge rock, dislodged by the slide had fallen & landed exactly where I had been moments before. Had I not instinctively moved, I would have been dead. That day, I did not listen to my intuition.
I was completely lost in the days after the incident. I had spent much of the past year questioning whether I should keep skiing, and the narrow escape felt like the final straw. I couldn’t see myself ever skiing again like before. I couldn’t bring myself to go back into the mountains. I was stuck at home, my mind clouded by the experience. I second-guessed myself in every way. All my youth, I had dreamed of the life I have today. And I couldn’t enjoy it. Thankfully, my friends, especially Sampo Vallotton, were close by. He forced me to ski one week later and we were blessed with some cruisy, slushy days in the park. And to my surprise, those days with Sampo gave me that feeling that I had been searching for all season: the same fulfillment that I had as a teenager. It’s hard to explain, but that experience reignited my love of skiing again. It was like a fog lifted. From then on, I resolved that every day spent in the mountains would be a day to remember.
P: Francois Marclay
It was time for a new chapter in my life, a new opportunity. I found myself discussing all of this with my good friend Selim Abdi, founder of the First Track Lab in Verbier. The idea was sparked: should I create my own brand? A new start, a blank slate to work on with friends. We would have to redefine everything from the beginning, but that’s what made it so exciting. Simply put, we could do anything we wanted.
After my last two movie projects, my vision turned to what I could do to help rebuild the passionate community that I felt was being lost in freeskiing. I wanted to gather motivated, inspiring skiers, who want to create something new on a local level. Something that fit my vision of skiing. The First Track Lab gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to create my own ski models in a lab located 30 minutes away from my home. They share my convictions too. They believe in a local, durable and sustainable vision of ski production.
For almost 20 years now, the freeskiing community has given me so much. It’s time for me to give something different back to the culture. I want to offer others the joyous feelings and incomparable sensations that freeskiing has brought me. Along with Sampo, Alice, and other friends, I spent a lot of time trying different prototypes. We were looking for the perfect shape to express ourselves on snow. Inspired by surfing & snowboarding, we think we have found the ideal shape to unleash our creativity on any terrain, from the slopes to the park, and in all types of snow. For me, the Recreation is the pair of skis that was missing to make my vision of skiing possible. We want to be more than a young brand bringing something fresh. We want to be a community. Simply. is a new way for me to live my passion to its fullest. Skiing is my biggest love and inspiration and I want to share it. That is why we created Simply. Recreation Club, to gather people with the same passion for skiing that we have.
Today, I’m starting a new chapter of my life. I managed to recover from the biggest doubts and worst experiences of my career. I’m ready for that new challenge. I’m about to start a new adventure where I can learn, evolve & put all my dedication toward something new. Today, I feel the same excitement I felt as a teenager 15 years ago when I discovered freeskiing. A new world opens its arms to me. Hopefully Simply. will impact the next generation in the way I was impacted by my predecessors. Above all, I can’t wait to see where this new path leads.
And remember: You’re shredding, smile! - LDM.