Another iteration of The Nines—now known as Swatch Nines—went down last month at the amazingly beautiful spot of Mürren, Switzerland. As usual, a fantastic example of futuristic snowpark design attracted a host of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world to throw down together. What more could we possibly tell you? Read on to find out the perspective of a veteran Nines photographer, Klaus pOlzer.
Fabi Bösch rides off into the sunrise.
It’s hard to imagine that you haven’t got at least some idea of what happened last month on the slopes of the Schilthorn—also known as Piz Gloria due to a James Bond movie from the 1960s—if you follow the social stream of skiing in one way or another. For a fast review of all the ski action, I’d suggest you watch the recap edit, which is undoubtedly more efficient than reading through a list of tricks—most of which would be hard to describe in words anyway. So what am I going to write here?
Nico Vuignier enjoys the view.
That’s actually a pertinent question that came up among the media people whose job it is to transport the substance of Swatch Nines to the general public. Yes, there was a contest on Saturday (Max Moffatt won the ski men’s and Johanne Killi the ski women’s categories), but is a contest really what The Nines is about? In years before, there had always been some world’s first tricks happening during the week, which the mainstream media always reliably laps up (and core media like us reliably lampoons). But we didn’t see any headline-making never-been-dones this year. So what can I tell you about Swatch Nines in 2023?
Max Moffatt on his way to the win during the contest day.
Johanne Killi's buttery style helped her win the women's Big Air.
Well, I don’t have to tell you that The Nines was a hell of an event once again. In the long history of the event, beginning with Nine Knights fifteen years ago, there have been many different variations even as the basic concept stayed the same. The Nines remains unique—but then again, it’s not all that different from other highly regarded events that go down once all the medals and trophies of the winter are distributed at the more standardized contests. The idea is to get some of the best skiers together, let them have fun and be creative on a great setup—and this never gets boring. Simply because skiing hasn’t become boring yet. Thankfully!
Alex Hackel gets flushed.
Close encounters with The Bunch.
You can’t compare the vibe at Swatch Nines to anything else. It’s not about performing in bad weather for a contest. It’s about creating great content that showcases the sport, showing off stylish and creative skiing and snowboarding. It’s simply something different. It’s awesome to win Best Trick, because it’s different from a normal contest where you’re getting judged by judges who say who’s first, second and third. It’s way cooler when it’s a bunch of your homies voting for you. That’s much more meaningful. – Lukas Müllauer
Max Moffatt brought his skateboard to the session.
Once again the park setup was amazingly diverse, with a rather classic big air jump up top modified with takeoffs at different levels, a decidedly non-classic jib feature at the bottom including a skate bowl, and a pretty mellow-looking lump of snow in the middle which seemed to be the most fun of all of the features for the riders. There was a great display of world-class tricks at the top jump, at times in amazing light. But it was more inspiring to watch how often the cast of riders devoted time to the more unconventional obstacles at the bottom. At first they seemed not quite sure what to do with it, but of course, they quickly came up with some mind-bending moves. I’m not sure how much any of the skiers and snowboarders were actually skateboarding on the mountain—there was another mini-ramp set up down in the village which saw quite a bit of action in the evenings—but it’s great that an event like The Nines brings in athletes from other disciplines like BMX and skateboarding so that the athletes meet and have the chance to share their experiences.
Patrick Schuchter won his ticket to Swatch Nines at the Legs of Steel Sketchfest, and promptly stamped his style on the event.
The slopes of the Schilthorn was an unexpected location for pro skaters like Madars Apse to find themselves.
It’s all about the vibe. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re trying to show to people. It was great to see different crews at the Nines like The Bunch and the Simpson brothers with the free vision to create their videos. They can showcase another side of this event. -Edouard Therriault
Chef Edjoy adds some seasoning.
Pär Hägglund brought along the butter.
In a nutshell, that’s what The Nines is all about: bringing together different kinds of athletes. Not only skiers and snowboarders, but also and foremost, different kinds of skiers and snowboarders who otherwise won’t likely ride together all that much. You get the technical skiers like Birk Ruud and Andri Ragettli who usually focus on the big contests. Then there were the guys from The Bunch who follow a totally different approach—watch out for their Nines edit dropping next week—along with many other riders of different types and generations.
That included guys like Kai Mahler, who proved he is still up there with the best of them, to young guns like Edouard Therriault, or even Finn Bilous, whose main stage this season has been the Freeride World Tour. Of course, let’s not forget the amazing cast of women including Mathilde Gremaud, Tess Ledeux, Johanne Killi, Kirsty Muir and others who once again demonstrated that female freeskiing has come a long way, and that women can easily hold it up with the men both in terms of style and trick difficulty.
Megan Oldham, Kirsty Muir and Rell Harwood enjoy some early morning light.
My week at Swatch Nines was incredible. The course this year was absolutely mind-blowing. The jump was so smooth, which allowed me to learn a new trick that I’m thrilled about. I feel very honored to receive the Best Trick award this year for the women’s ski category and can’t wait to see what next year’s setup brings. -Megan Oldham
Jay Rawe soars into the Nines history books.
The star of the show, however, was someone unexpected. Sit skier Jay Rawe inspired everyone with his unbelievable riding and fearless approach. He sent the big kicker up top deeper than anyone, and landed several tricks on the feature at the bottom. His effort earned him the well-deserved title of MVP, voted by the athletes themselves—a huge accomplishment for any skier, and a landmark moment for adaptive skiing in the park scene.
Jay tricking the lower feature.
Swatch Nines is a magical place. You see these videos that look like they’re from another world, with features shaped in ways that you didn’t even know were possible. It’s not a competition. It’s about doing something bigger, adding an extra spin or an extra grab, being creative in your lines, finding a place that other people have never been to. There’s hardly anyone in the ski and snowboard world who is interested in jumps that doesn’t look at this event. This is the pinnacle of awesomeness. -Jay Rawe
Sarah Hoefflin and Jay Rawe.
What made Swatch Nines 2023 stick out compared to the last few years was the cosy little mountain village of Mürren. Nestled on the mountainside above a huge cliff with relatively few houses and no traffic (the village is car-free), everything was pretty close together. That hasn’t been the norm in the recent past for an event that has grown to include over 60 athletes, about as many media people including all filmers, photographers, drone operators and follow-cam riders, not to mention a big crew of shapers, organizers and helpers of all kinds to keep the wheels of the machine well-oiled. It’s part of the identity of The Nines to bring together not only the athletes but also everyone else who contributes to the public appearance of our sport, and that worked particularly well in Mürren. And the shapers are more than due for a special shoutout. They not only provided another stunning playground for the athletes, but also had to battle with the elements on multiple fronts: first with too little snow during the build-up, then with too much snow as a late-spring storm blasted the Schilthorn with more snow than it saw over the whole winter.
Granér. Magnus Granér.
The Nines isn’t just about ski action, and that’s what makes it special. It’s about snowpark design, it’s about creating great content, it’s about bringing people together. And on all those fronts, it certainly succeeded in 2023.
Don't ask why, but drinking out of shoes has become The Nine's most reliable tradition.