It’s past one in the morning when I pull up at the riders’ houses at Kimbo Sessions. It’s late, but not by Kimbo standards. Here, the riding doesn’t start until around noon, and sessions often last until ten in the evening. So it’s no surprise to find more than a few skiers still awake, hanging out on the couch amid an aural backdrop of beer cans cracking and a Spotify mix heavily featuring Gang Starr.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know something about Kimbo Sessions: an exclusive gathering of individuals from across the spectrum of skiing, from top contest skiers to underground street crews. They gather here in Kläppen, Sweden at the beginning of May each year, heralding the siren call of slushy shredding in the endless Swedish afternoon light, beckoned to this remote corner of Sweden by one Kim Boberg. I have come to ask them: What makes Kimbo Sessions so special?
Interview: Ethan Stone
All of the photos in this article come from disposable cameras that were given to the riders. It's impossible to say which photos come from whom, but the principal photographers were Edouard Therriault, Rell Harwood, Tall T Dan, Harald Hellström and Finn Bilous.
Ethan Stone: What makes Kimbo Sessions so special?
Pär “Peyben” Hägglund: Kimbo Sessions is the only true vacation that a lot of skiers have. A lot of skiers don’t really have vacations while they’re skiing. Everyone started skiing because they love it, but then it turns into a job. You go competing or filming, and there’s a lot of stress. I mean, it’s still fun, but it’s also a lot of stress to do all that. And then you come here, and there’s absolutely zero stress. There’s no need to get shots, there’s no competition, it’s just skiing for the fun of it, 100 percent. I think that’s the biggest thing for me.
Finn Bilous: Also, not having much contact with the outside world when you’re here. We’re very much living in our own little Kimbo bubble. That makes you so absorbed within the scene, and it makes it even more of a contagious breeding ground for creativity.
Magnus Granér: The fact that you’re sleeping in every single day. I don’t set an alarm to wake up like I usually do, and I’m still skiing and hanging all day. I’m not missing anything.
Finn: Coming to Kimbo Sessions reminds me of going camping. Who you’re surrounded by is the most important thing, and that kind of makes you realize how distracted we are in our day-to-day lives with all the extra things that we need to do. Here, you’re so present all the time with the people you’re around, and the skiing that’s right in front of you. You don’t check your phone, you don’t have an alarm. Time is irrelevant here. Having fun with your friends is the most important thing. It’s wild to realize how rare that’s become in society today. These events are so integral to the culture and the community; for skiing as a whole, but park skiing in particular. There are so many different facets of skiing that people put time and energy into throughout the season, and this is such a melting pot, an intersection for all those different areas of skiing to come together and express different styles and creativity on the same features. It’s super contagious.
You don’t check your phone, you don’t have an alarm. Time is irrelevant here.
Magnus: It’s a well-rounded skiing crowd. A couple street skiers, big mountain skiers even, park skiers… there’s diversity in the field.
Finn: Not to mention the lap time. You see something, and you can be doing it within three seconds from sitting in your chair, drinking a beer. And then next thing you know, you’re back up at the top within a minute and a half. Things just get done so quickly here. When you watch the recap videos, that’s when things start to sit in and you’re like, “Whoa.” You don’t process it at the time because everything is happening so quickly. There’s so much that you miss—really incredible skiing that doesn’t get filmed. This being my first Kimbo Sessions, that’s what I didn’t realize. The highlight video is so impressive, but being here is a whole ’nother league. The amount of quality riding that you see throughout the day is so constant.
Ethan: I mean, probably about 90 percent of the bangers that go down don’t even get filmed.
Finn: And usually that would be a thing, but here it doesn’t even feel like it matters. You’re just so present with who’s around, and you’re like, “Wow, that was a crazy trick. I might never see that again.” That makes it more special somehow. It’s such a fleeting moment.
Everyone is skiing exactly what they want at all times.
Peyben: It’s so fun to see what type of skiing people do when there’s no pressure. Everyone is skiing exactly what they want at all times, which is really sick.
Finn: It’s been crazy watching what people gravitate towards throughout the week. There’s mini-sessions happening all the time, and it’s shifting every day. Like today, there was that step-up hit on the first feature that was getting so much action. We’ve had pretty consistent weather, so when you’ve got that much repetition riding the park, you have so many options to explore. Like you were saying, Peyben, when there’s no pressure to ride or conform to some certain way, there’s endless opportunities, which is super cool.
Ethan: One thing I’ve been thinking about is whether any of this would be possible without Kim. You could have this park, this session, these people. But the fact that he is the guy behind it, who brings it all together… it seems like his vibe and his personality flavor the whole session.
Magnus: The amount of work and effort that he puts into it is insane, and everyone can see it when they’re here. He’s the last one to leave the park and the first one to get there. He does everything pretty much. And he is never delegating tasks or anything. He just sets an example.
Finn: It’s so wild. We’re in a small little town, and it’s crazy to think how international the crowd is that’s here. We’ve all come at the end of the season, after whatever people have been doing for the last six months, and this is the meeting point before people kind of sprawl back around the world. It must be crazy for Kim, growing up around this area and then seeing all of his friends, and I’m sure some of his favorite riders, all coming to connect here because of what he’s created. Can’t thank the man enough.
Magnus: I couldn’t picture it being the same without Kim. When you have an event organization like every other event, there’s more rules, more boundaries. It’s more of a strict vibe, or more formal. And here it’s just family. Everyone is family.
[Harald Hellström walks in and sits down on the couch]
Finn: What do you reckon, Harald?
Finn: What do you think about Kimbo Sessions?
Ethan: This must be a unique experience for you. You’re usually skiing street in Finland and you don’t see any of these people all winter long.
Harald: For me the nicest part is that, even though there’s a bunch of big name comp skiers, and then there’s people like me—if it would happen in any other way, I would feel like an outsider. But everybody has the same invite. Nobody has worked more than anyone else to get here. Even though they might have huge careers and I’m just a street skier from Finland, we all get the same invite, and I feel as important here as everyone else. You realize that you’re a part of something way bigger than just your own small bubble. Everyone here is in some kind of bubble: the comp skiing bubble, or then the Swedish guys like the Suede crew, who are always filming together. I live in Finland, so I never see pretty much anybody. But here, everyone creates one big bubble. You get to know new people that you either would never meet, or that you would never be interested in. If I would see a bunch of comp skiers anywhere else, we might just do our own thing. But here, we are all doing the same thing. So it’s easier to connect in that way.
everybody has the same invite. Nobody has worked more than anyone else to get here.
finn, peyben, harald
Ethan: It’s cool that everyone stays together in the same houses, too. That really adds to the vibe.
Finn: That’s super important.
Magnus: And we have huge cabins. Usually, maybe you get a hotel room or something. But now we have family dinners. Everyone is waking up in the morning, slurping their coffee.
Harald: Yeah. Then you see even more the flavor of different people. We’re used to seeing everyone in ski gear, skiing and talking about skiing, but then you get here and it’s like, “What’s he doing? I didn’t know that this guy is like this.” You see someone who maybe looks super proper on skis, but then maybe they’re eating chips and candy and drinking beer.
Finn: You see how people live and operate, and that adds a whole ’nother dimension to them as a character.
You see how people live and operate, and that adds a whole ’nother dimension to them as a character.
Harald: I think that’s more interesting than seeing people on the hill. You don’t know how they dress. It’s like when I was in the army in Finland. Everybody is in army clothes the whole time, and then you see them on the last day, and it’s like, “What? These people are insane. I had no idea.” That’s when you realize that you judge so much by what a person looks like. You might meet somebody who you’ve only seen on Instagram and thought, “I would probably never get along with that guy.” And then you’re like, “This guy is so sick.”
Finn: It’s funny too, because everyone is so familiar with everyone else in the ski industry. So often you’re seeing people’s clips on Instagram and whatnot, but then you add that other dimension of learning about their personality. There are so many subgroups and personalities banding together and bonding throughout the week. And some of them are so unlikely that you’d never expect it.
Peyben: Even just waking up in the morning—because we’re making our own breakfast and our own dinners—waking up and being like, “What’s your type of breakfast?” It’s such a nice thing to actually live together.
Harald: It’s the super small things that are so interesting.
Finn: Even the sauna. I’ve learned so much about the sauna practice. These guys are savage! They will crank that shit up to like, 120 degrees Celcius.
Finn, to Magnus: Nice shorts!
Magnus: I’ve been maybe two days without them so far this season. I wear them almost every single day.
Finn: Damn! You’ve been wearing those this whole week? They must be warm!
[I stop recording. After a few minutes, the conversation turns back to Kim Boberg and I start recording again.]
Peyben: I’m pretty close friends with Kim, and I don’t think people realize how much work he puts in to this. Like honestly, I think 90 percent of the people here have no idea how much he works. It’s absurd. He’s literally hit the wall a couple of times during Kimbo Sessions. There was one year that he didn’t sleep for three weeks after—like, literally couldn’t sleep a single night for three weeks—because he was so worked up. I think that passion definitely puts a flavor to the whole thing. Because he really, really cares. He does it on his own because he wants it the way he wants it, and he knows what we want.
Finn: I feel like so often when a rider runs an event, partners will come in and try to change things, and their vision gets diluted throughout that process. Whereas this session feels so true to Kim and his vision. And that also adds to the camaraderie. Everyone wants to help. It’s like, “You’ve done so much, the least we can do is stay up late and shape a few features.”
this session feels so true to Kim and his vision.
Ethan: Anything else you guys want to add?
Peyben: I just hope—Kim deserves so much. But it’s hard to give him the appreciation he deserves.
Magnus: It’s hard for him to receive it as well. Being under this much stress, it’s hard to stay 100 percent aligned and receive love. I am that way, at least when I work really hard—when you’re kind of exhausted and you have a lot in your head, which he does.
Peyben: Here, but also overall, through his life, I hope he gets the appreciation he deserves. Because it’s huge. But it’s also like, this guy puts on this event for 60 people on his own. It’s like, what are we going to do for him to top that?
Ethan: The whole “anti-stress” theme of Kimbo Sessions, maybe it’s also subliminal messaging for Kim himself during the week. Like, the sign says, “Anti stress, anti stress, anti stress”… and I bet he’s probably feeling some. But it’s amazing how he doesn’t let it show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kim crack.
Harald: I was thinking about it today when I was shaping—the first guy I saw shaping was Kim. I was thinking how easy it would be for him to be like, “Yo guys, grab some shape tools and let’s shape the park.” And everyone would be like, “Of course,” because he’s the boss. But he just goes by himself and starts shaping, and that’s what makes the whole event. Everyone can do what they want to. Nobody has to do anything. But you want to help, because you want to be a part of making it work. Kim just goes there and starts doing it, and then some homies join. And a a bunch of people keep skiing, which is also a good thing. That made me realize how everyone can do what they want to. You can leave if you want, you can stay and not shape, or ski or whatever. You have no obligations.