Thibault Magnin is one of those dual-nationality guys who’s a bit hard to pin down. He’s from Switzerland but lives in Andorra, skis for Spain and spends summer in the Dominican Republic? If that’s got you confused, you’re not alone. But one thing is clear: the kid’s got moves on skis, and is one of the more unconventional talents coming up in the contest scene today. We caught up with Thibault at the Audi Nines last spring to try to untangle the knot.
Born: 12 October 2000 in Fribourg, Switzerland
Sponsors: Quiksilver, Movement Skis, Buff, Giro, Roxa, Ardentis Clinique Dentaires, RFEDI, Becas Podium
Interview: Ethan Stone
Photo: Ruedi Flück
Hey Thib! So you’re Swiss-Spanish?
Yeah. I grew up in Fribourg, my dad is Swiss and my mom is Spanish. I lived in Switzerland until I was twelve and started skiing there. Then we moved to Mallorca, where there was definitely no snow. My dad wanted me to keep skiing, so he said I could go for three months to Colorado and see what it takes. I went there and progressed a lot, and the team there asked me if I wanted to come back and do a sports study program at the high school. I was fifteen, so that was a hard decision—I was pretty young to go to the U.S. for a year alone. But I progressed so much that year in Colorado. When I came back, I went to Andorra, and have been living there for the past two years.
How’d you get into skiing?
My dad had a ski shop and we skied a lot in Switzerland. We raced and I was also doing gymnastics. Me and my brother always loved flipping around, surfing, skating, all those sports. I was always way more into freestyle than racing, and doing gymnastics helped me with getting confidence in the air. I was on the original freeski team in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. I was skiing but I was just a casual, normal freestyle skier. Then we moved to Mallorca and I had the opportunity to go to the U.S., and everything pretty much started there.
Photo: Ruedi Flück
Your parents must have thought you had potential to send you out to Breck.
Yeah. I lost my mom when I was eight, and it was a family dream for us—my brother, who’s fourteen, and my dad—to just travel and live life. So we went to Mallorca to live for two years, and I went to Colorado. At first my dad said, “You get three months of skiing, and that’s it.” But I got pretty good those three months, and better the next year. I kept loving skiing and progressing every day.
Photo: Carlitos Aguareles
Where do you live now?
In Andorra, I’ve been there for two years and I love it. The vibe is so nice being with my coach and the Spanish team, Henrik (Harlaut), Noah (Albaladejo), all the boys. It’s helped me progress a lot, especially being with Henrik and Noah pretty much all season. We have a facility, 360 Extreme, with a ramp where we can practice tricks, and there’s Sunset Park. Andorra is a special place for freeskiing. My dad and brother are living in the Dominican Republic, they’ve been there for a year now. My dad loves traveling and he always wanted to go to the Caribbean. It’s the best balance between winter and summer, them being there and me being in Andorra.
Would you rather be in the water or on snow?
Definitely on snow. But snow leads to the water, so it’s always a mix. I wouldn’t want to just be in the snow, because the water is just another side of it. I like the contrast of the mountain and the wave, the water and the snow. Skiing and kitesurfing are the best balance. They’re different, but I love them both.
Do you feel more Swiss or more Spanish?
A lot of people ask that question. I grew up in Switzerland and feel like I’m Swiss and Spanish, Spanish and Swiss… it’s whatever, I’m both. Skiing for Spain is an honor and I’m proud of it. My family always had a different path. We never really followed the normal Swiss life, we were always traveling and trying new things. It doesn’t mean I’m not Swiss anymore, I have family in Switzerland and family in Spain too. Skiing for Spain is different, because there aren’t as many Spanish riders. It’s another vision.
How was your season last year?
It was my first season on the World Cup. At the start of the season I went to New Zealand for Junior Worlds, where I got third in big air and qualified for finals in slopestyle. On the last run of the finals, I went too big on a double bio and ruptured my meniscus. That took me out for four months. I got a surgery to keep the full meniscus, which took longer to heal than just removing it. It was better at my age to keep the whole thing. I started skiing again at the end of January. It hurt a lot the first months, but now I’m feeling even better than before.
Did you have a favorite skier growing up?
Tom Wallisch when I was young. One of my favorite skiers of all time is Jossi Wells. I remember watching all his videos, his style. Also Henrik and Candide (Thovex). When I moved to Andorra it was crazy because I’d looked up to Henrik so much, and when I got there it was like, “Are we really going to hang out?” Now he’s like a big brother, him and Noah. It’s so nice to ski with them and be influenced by them. They’re always so motivated, and being with people like that helps a lot.
Photo: Ruedi Flück
What do you want from skiing?
I’m feel like I’m just starting. It’s my first year in the freeskiing world, so I’m so thankful to be here with all the people I looked up to. Skiing is my passion. For the years coming up, I want to compete. I think it’s part of the job, but I would not only compete. I love filming and freeriding too, so for me competing is not why I ski. I think it’s the homework you have to do if you want to go this path. After my freeski career, I definitely want to ski powder and put all my park skills into the big mountain. That’s my biggest dream in skiing. Maybe the Freeride World Tour? Who knows. For now it’s definitely freeskiing, competing and filming.
Describe your style of skiing.
I’m always trying to find something creative to do. Right now pretzels are the thing. Switch cork 3s, rodeo 1s, rodeo 2s out. I think skiing could go that way, and not quads and quints. That’s my main goal, trying to help evolve the sport in another way than just hucking for quads. I mean, quads are good, I want to try one. But maybe putting some style into it and finding some other things, pretzels and different rotations, could be another path for the competitive side of skiing.
Which do you prefer, mountain girls or beach girls?
Both! No, I think the beach is good. At the mountain too. But they’re usually more tan at the beach. No goggle tans.
Thibault has a new short movie project dropping this fall called “Tropical Winter.” It’s premiering at the High Five Festival in Annecy this weekend and will be released online at the end of October.