As the Sukuzi Nine Queens freeski comp presented by Baby G gets ready for contest day, we chat to the freeskier and organiser Virginie Faivre, who sadly won’t be competing this year due to injury, about powder, girls only comps and the loss of her good friend Sarah Burke
Interview by Sophie Everard
Hey Virginie, how’s it going!?
I’m doing well despite the circumstances, thank you! Unfortunately I injured myself mid-January while I was filming in Châtel with the PVS Company. I was trying to bring my new tricks into the backcountry, doing a Lincoln out of a step down. I tumbled down in the landing and my ski didn’t release. I hurt my knee and have a big bone bruise on my tibia, a small crack. I will adjust my bindings properly next time!
Have you been enjoying the crazy amounts of powder that have blessed Europe?
For sure, before I hurt myself I got the chance to enjoy some great powder days at home! I also had an incredible week in Chamonix with my Völkl teammates for our annual photo shoot. The conditions were unreal, it kept snowing all week long! We had tons of fun and it felt really good to shred all this snow! The conditions this year in Europe are epic, if only every winter could be like that, those powder days are definitely my favourite ones. All this snow brings a big smile on everybody’s face, this is how magic powder can be!
We’re super amped on the upcoming Nine Queens freeski contest you host. How did you get involved with this?
I got involved with the Nine Queens last summer. Nico Zacek (founder of the original Nine Knights), my good friend and teammate, had been planning to create an event for the ladies for a long time. One afternoon, I got a phone call and Nico asked me if I wanted to host the first ever Nine Queens. I can’t even describe to you how excited I was, it was a huge honour and the dream finally came true. Women had been fighting for a while, the level was getting better and better, women’s freeskiing deserved it and it was the right timing to show the world what the ladies could do! I am really thankful to Nico and my ski sponsor Völkl for getting me involved with this amazing event!
The event looked rad last year! What can we expect this year?
The second edition is gonna be even better! We changed the location and the new spot is beautiful. I am also really glad to announce that my personal sponsor O’Neill has jumped on board to support the Nine Queens this year. All the queens have already confirmed their presence. The best slopestyle skier girls in the world will come again to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis to push women freeskiing to another level. Last year all the queens progressed and took the opportunity to learn something new. They will take the advantage of the good spring conditions to go bigger, so you can expect a great show!!!
Is the set up the same (jumps and obstacles in the shape of a giant ice chateau = GNARLY)?
The idea of a giant ice castle will remain the same as it is the main theme of the Nine Queens. The jump will be different and a little bit bigger. We will also add another feature… we need to keep a little mystery there, but you can expect some nice surprises for the 2nd edition!
How important is it to have girls-only “competitions”?
It is really important for us to have a girls-only event, as we are doing a sport dominated by the men. This is why the Nine Queens was created, to give the ladies a chance to get the exposure that we deserve. During one week, the main goal is to produce quality footage, video and pictures, to promote women’s freeskiing in the different media around the world, so it can appeal to younger women to start doing this sport. Girls progress differently to men, we need more time and good conditions. When everything is gathered, the girls are not afraid to push their limits further and they can progress safely. There is also a different atmosphere when we are only between girls and we can feel that special spirit, there is no judgment on the level and everyone is cheering for each other, which gives an extra motivation.
We were devastated with the recent passing of Sarah Burke, which has really put a spotlight on the dangers of freestyle skiing. In the wake of this, if we can learn something from this tragedy, what is that?
These last weeks have been really hard emotionally. I have been devastated like everyone in the industry and in the world, especially as Sarah was a close friend and such an incredible person. It is still too early for me to learn from that tragedy. But I keep asking myself, why do we need those tragic accidents to realise how life only hangs by a thread… Everyday I try not to forget how lucky I am to live this life, to have an amazing family and friends that I love around me, to do what I like to do and live out of my passion. We really need to appreciate more what we have and enjoy every single day has it could be the last. This is how Sarah was living and partly why she touched so many lives. I will miss her forever, nothing will ever be the same without her… But I will keep smiling for Sarah!
Do you think that with ever increasing sizes of booters and half pipes that the dangers are much greater for the riders now?
Our sport can be dangerous and we are all aware of the risks we are taking. But we know what we are doing, we don’t take those risks unconsciously and we are training hard to get where we are. With the increasing sizes of kickers and half pipes, the riders carry more speed to go higher and bigger, and the tricks executed reached another level of difficulty. All this craziness leads to a bigger risk-taking. The consequences of a mistake are definitely a lot heavier and more significant.
Does it make you nervous when you ski bigger kickers and features?
Yes it always makes me nervous when I hit a big feature for the first time. I don’t know exactly how the kicker will feel and what the exact speed will be. After a few jumps, I finally get to know those different parameters and my fear goes slowly away, because I know what to expect. Then the adrenaline rush takes over!
Are you looking to compete in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi?
Yes, this is my big goal. We have been working hard to bring our sport to the Olympics, and I will do everything to be at the top of that Olympic half pipe in Sochi! This is a life dream, getting more real and closer everyday. I am really excited about it and I can’t wait for 2014!!!