Swiss freeskier Laurent De Martin spent years on the road, traveling the globe to film segments in exotic locations. Last season he teamed up with filmmaker Titouan Bessire to create From Switzerland With Love, a full-length ski movie focused exclusively on Laurent’s home region—a cluster of mountain villages southeast of Lake Geneva called the Region Dents du Midi.
The new Downdays book Ski Stories 2020 contains a full behind-the-scenes look at the From Switzerland With Love project. Read on for a few outtakes from the print article and memories from the crew behind the movie.
At the age of 28, Laurent De Martin has earned a reputation as one of Switzerland’s top freeskiers. A reliable workhorse both in the backcountry and in the streets, he’s thrown down for the camera everywhere from the glaciers of the Whistler backcountry to the handrails of Moscow. But after years spent jetting off to the world’s exotic ski locales, Laurent found himself growing a greater appreciation for his home turf, and the possibility of pursuing the same ambitious skiing goals closer to home.
“How’s the saying go? The grass is always greener on the other side,” Laurent says. “But at some point you realize, maybe it’s not.”
In 2018, Laurent began filming webisodes with local filmer Titouan Bessire under the moniker “From Switzerland With Love.” After a successful warm-up run with webisodes, the following year Laurent and Titouan set their sights on a bigger goal: a full ski movie filmed 100% in their local region.
“It’s sick to travel and film, but at some point, most of my sponsors and most of the people following me are from this valley,” explains Laurent. “So I wanted to give them something back. I’ve been traveling a lot, but I wanted to show that it’s sick where we live too. We can do all of this stuff, invite international riders, and do cool stuff right here.”
Filming for From Switzerland With Love kicked off with the street segment in early January. Laurent had invited his friend Remco Kayser to join the squad, as well as American skier Will Berman. With no snow in the cities, the crew retreated to the back valleys of the surrounding mountains, where dams and other infrastructure provide a unique setting for street skiing.
In hindsight, Remco says the setting gives the movie more character. “Wallrides, long rails lost in the middle of some small town—it feels more like Switzerland,” he explains. “It’s the kind of spots that we grew up hitting.”
With the urban segment in the bag, the project moved the next phase: a backcountry jump segment with the next guest, Lucas Wachs. The winter hadn’t brought much snow so far, but the crew managed to time Lucas’ visit perfectly with the one big storm of the season in mid-February.
For the next two weeks, Lucas was treated to the best that Swiss hospitality could offer: home-cooked meals, local beer and cheese, and a guided tour of the freeride terrain and jump zones in the region. Even though he hadn’t met anyone in the crew before, Lucas quickly felt at home in his new surroundings. “I was kind of nervous at first, because you don’t know how the crew dynamic is,” he says. “But it was a great environment to film with those guys. It was one of the more motivating crews I’ve filmed with.”
Lucas bid farewell to the crew in early March, just as the news of the growing virus outbreak in Italy was reaching a feverous pitch. With the prospect of a general shutdown looming, Laurent and crew hustled to stack shots in the few days remaining. On Friday, March 13, the ski resorts of the region shut down for the season. The crew spent the next three days hiking in the closed resort, reconvening in the eerily empty parking lot on Monday afternoon to listen to the Swiss government’s declaration of an extraordinary situation.
“It was a weird three days. Like, should we keep skiing? Should we stop?” says Laurent. “When we heard all this stuff, we were like, no way. We’re not going to take the risk of ending up in the hospital. We have to respect the people, even though we’re a small group and we’ve been together all winter.”
“I didn’t want to end the movie with corona,” Laurent says. “So after six weeks when it was more chill, I told the guys we should go have fun, ski on the grass and camp for a few days. The riding wasn’t crazy, but it was all about getting back to friends and skiing, ending the season with good vibes.” Remco, Laurent’s longtime friend Alex Chabod, Valentin Morel and Sampo Valloton came out to pitch their tents under the spires of the Seven Peaks, and make the most out of the sticky patches of snow left on the slopes.
“We were like kids who couldn’t play for a month and half because we couldn’t go out,” says Remco. “You could give us whatever and we were fine with it, because we just wanted to play again. A little jump, doing a flip—it was so nice just to be outside on skis again, burning in the sun.”
So ends Laurent’s first personal foray into ski filmmaking: a challenging snow year, capped off by an unprecedented crisis. Still, Laurent is proud of what his crew has achieved, and eager to show it to audiences this fall. “We wanted to be able to say that we did the most we could,” he says. “Maybe it won’t be perfect, but the goal is to do the best you can, with no regrets. Try, try, try, even when it’s a bad winter. No regrets: that was the goal.”
To read the full From Switzerland With Love article, preorder your copy of Ski Stories 2020 today!