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On Hangover Sunday at High Five, I found seven minutes to talk with Sämi about his big last season, and what’s to come.


Sämi Ortlieb is a highly original shredder from Switzerland. In contrast to the technical masters and park rats of the Swiss Freeski Team, Sämi charts his own course between the park and the backcountry. This season he is the breakout star of Level 1 Productions’ Small World, so we snagged him for a quick chat at the High Five Festival.

sami ortlieb-downdays freeskiHey Sämi, what are you doing at High Five?
I’m trying to get rid of my hangover and watch some movies, and will present the Level 1 movie tonight.

Is this the first time you’ve filmed with Level 1?
Yes, it’s my first time. I’ve skied with Will [Wesson] a lot, and at some point we were thinking I should join him for a Level 1 trip. I was supposed to go to Japan but that didn’t happen, and then Freedle, one of the filmers, came to Switzerland, and that was fucking amazing. Freedle is the man. He is the most fun guy to film with, maybe not the most productive guy because he’s kind of slow sometimes.

Was it a goal for you to shoot with Level 1?
Definitely, it’s a dream come true because I grew up watching Level 1 movies. It was weird to be with Freedle, who kind of built my skiing in some way.

You’ve also got some other projects in your pocket, what do you want to share with these projects?
I don’t know, just something different. I try to do what’s natural, and with me that’s having some fun little project. I like it when there’s no money in it, like for the “Birds Project.”

Why ?
Just like, no stress, you don’t owe anything to someone. It’s more natural. I’m not really a money guy anyway. It just makes sense.

Talking about the Birds Project, what about the graphics side?
I did that together with a friend. It’s a classic animation, frame by frame. It’s all drawn – we do everything on paper, then take a picture of it, and set it together with the computer. I started by myself, then realized if you draw three or four pictures, you can kind of make a movie with it. My friend who studied that at school is helping me.

Is that something you’ll keep up alongside skiing?
For the next two years I’m just thinking about skiing and doing some work in the summer, and doing some graphic work like I do now for Swiss Freeski and Line.

What kind of job do you have in the summer?
This summer turned out really well, because I worked on a short animated movie that I should have done two months ago. It’s my friend’s project and I’m helping him. Otherwise, I worked as a park shaper and filmer in Zermatt.

So you’re involved in almost every aspect of the industry.
Yes, and I like it that way.

Will all those skills, what’s the next project?
I’m going to do another Birds movie, I just have to organize it with the homies. No pressure. I will also shoot with Level 1 again this winter, I talked with Freedle and we’re going to schedule more trips this year. I will be focused this year between Level 1, Line Traveling Circus, and The Birds.

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level 1, Sämi Ortlieb