In late 2022 I received an email confirming my first trip of the winter: I would be heading to Les Diablerets for the Spy Optic Team Week.
I’m always excited to travel, but where I live in Chamonix, which isn't too far away from Les Diablerets, the ground was looking annoyingly green when I got the email. The calendar flipped over to 2023, and still there wasn’t exactly tons of snow. We’d had a few flurries, at least enough to ski. That’s all you need, right? I had arranged to meet Spy team rider Laurent De Martin at the train station in Martigny to complete the trip to Les Diablerets.
The day of my trip arrived, and just in time, it was positively puking the white stuff! I phoned the train station, as I had been caught out before with conditions trapping me in the Chamonix Valley. The call confirmed that I’d have to adjust my travel plans. I got to Geneva and took a train to Aigle, where I would be greeted by LDM to complete the journey. He doesn’t live far from our destination, so he knows the roads well, but to me, they looked decidedly sketchy. On the way, he told me about when he was younger, how hyped he’d get every fall when the new Level 1 movie would drop, and that’s why he’s so grateful to be on the Spy team.
I was a little confused, so he explained: “I was a big fan of Level 1. All their riders seemed to be on Spy, and they all inspired me: Ahmet [Dadali], Mike Hornbeck, B-Dog [Phil Casabon] and I think even [Tom] Wallisch back then. I feel like that really shaped my skiing.”
Spy Optic´s European headquarters for the week. Photo: Kevin Deschamps
We arrived at the chalet in one piece and met the rest of the Spy crew. I was expecting to be lumped with a bunch of snowboarders, but pretty much the whole Spy Europe team was represented: snowboarders, skateboarders, surfers, and Laurent as the solitary skier.
The chalet we had taken over, Budokan, became essentially a summer camp for the next few days. Boys and girls, skiers and snowboarders, you just found a bunk and got on with it. I shared a room with Laurent, snowboarder Celia Petrig, and Dutch street snowboarder Veroniqi Hanssen, who happens to be halfpipe skier Isabelle Hanssen’s sister. The snow that had delayed my journey was still falling outside the window as we got settled, with everyone excited about the pow day that awaited us the following morning.
British skateboarder George Poole doing what he does best on the Budokan´s mini ramp. Photo: Kevin Deschamps
Our products are made for creative people who want to explore everywhere.
Spy Brand Manager Alexis Ratajzcak told me that this is essentially the relaunch of Spy Europe, and that’s why the whole team was invited. No matter what sport you do, if you’re a Spy Europe athlete, you got the invite. It was a nice mix of sports and nationalities, and there were never any awkward silences.
Alexis went a bit deeper into Spy’s philosophy: “We started with a crew of snowboarders, creative people who use any terrain that they find. We have a similar idea for skiing. We want the same kind of people, [where] anywhere they go—resort, mountain, streets—they explore through their creativity. We promote that with the brand. Our products are made for creative people who want to explore everywhere.”
Our pow day in Les Diablerets offered plenty of snow for LDM to express his creativity. Photo: Thibault Montani
They have the same spirit, and that’s what’s important.
Laurent De Martin is undoubtedly a creative skier, and I was stoked to get a first-hand look at his fresh new Simply skis, fishtails and all. As for me, I strapped on my new Spy Raider goggles and headed out for a day with the crew. We essentially used the same chairlift all day, but the way Les Diablerets is set out, you rarely cover the same ground twice.
I had another chat with Alexis on the chairlift, and he said he was already seeing the benefits of this creative melting pot. “When I saw Laurent riding with Hugo [Serra] and all the other snowboarders, they were almost riding in the same way, but still different," he pointed out. "They have the same spirit, and that’s what’s important.”
Talking about creativity, Laurent´s Simply skis are one of a kind. Photo: Matt Masson
As the only skiers in the crew, Laurent and I were outnumbered at first. But this imbalance was at least partially addressed when we returned to the Budokan that evening. Spy’s flow team joined the party, and they included a couple more skiers. One of them was Alice Michel, a Swiss rider who’s tight with the Buldoz crew.
The Budokan chalet boasted a fully stocked bar, massive dining room, garden and indoor mini ramp. On Wednesday night the bar was taken full advantage of, which meant that on Thursday, most of the crew decided to stay close to home and enjoy a jib session on the features in the garden. I was handed next year’s Megalith goggles to review, and I’ll supply a full review later—but I can tell you right now that they’re the ideal goggle for sunny Swiss Alpine gardens!
David Bonneville jibbing the day away in the Budokan´s rail garden. Photo: Deschamps
Paul Roque and David Bonneville of Zooloo Nation also showed up, and the creativity started oozing in the garden. A couple of rails, a quarterpipe and a couple of benches was all anyone needed to stay entertained all afternoon. I was very comfortable in my garden chair. The Megalith goggles feature Spy’s Happy Lens technology, which filters out the "bad" rays and supposedly lifts your mood. My mood didn’t need much lifting—barbeque sausages and jibbing is all I really need. One of the highlights was watching young Dutch snowboarder Bart Poll absolutely huck his meat off a tiny jump in search of a double backflip. I’m glad to report that he’s the definition of perseverance—no idea how, but he got one around!
This little garden session is exactly what Alexis was talking about: No matter what sport they specialize in and no matter where they are, this crew will find a way to put their stamp on it. Whether that’s the Zooloo Nation’s textbook K-Feds or pro skateboarder George Poole throwing himself off absolutely anything on his snowboard, Alexis’ words rang truer and truer. These are creative people, wanting to explore everywhere.
Grill and chill in the backyard.
That evening we shared a quiet fondue and a few games of Uno Flip (I still have no idea what those rules are), not getting too rowdy because we had an early start to get to Leysin the next morning. I took the chance to catch up with Laurent and Alexis about the week.
Laurent said that he hadn’t met a lot of the team before this week, so it was nice to get together, have fun and shred together. "We had crazy good conditions, and just got inspired by all those sports that we like and we’re a fan of," he enthused.
LDM seeing happy. Photo: Montoni
I asked Alexis if the week had turned out how he had hoped it would. "Definitely," he responded. "When I see all the people, some knew each other, but there were people from the skateboard scene or even ski that didn’t know some of the snowboarders. There’s been plenty of good talks and shared experiences over a coffee or a beer."
That’s very true. All those sports and languages (French, English, Dutch) mixed together to make a pretty delightful cocktail. The next day we headed to Leysin for a park day, that is, after we finally got the cars out of all the new snow! Afterwards, I caught a ride to Laax with Celia and Niqi.
Spy Team week was not what I expected—it was so much more! Thanks Spy for the fun, the skiing, the creativity and the inspiration but mainly, thanks for bringing the snow back to Europe!