If you’ve seen Candide Thovex’s lateset video, you might be interested to know that he started out training in the bumps. Competitive mogul skiing was new and popular when he was a kid, and he strayed from traditional downhill racing to explore freestyle skiing.
Freestyle skiing started with aerial skiing — similar to gymnastics in the air, followed soon after by mogul skiing. Today’s freestyle standards, such as the half-pipe and ski cross were borne out of these earlier styles. Living in Australia in the nineties, I stayed up in the early hours of the morning to watch then World Champion Kirstie Marshall, from Australia, perform her aerial jumps in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville (I never imagined I’d be celebrating the games’ anniversary in Méribel ten years later!). It was the first of many late nights watching these rarely-televised skiing events, with local summer sports hogging all the daytime slots.
Meanwhile, La Clusaz mogul skier Edgar Grospiron won gold in the mogul event at the Albertville Olympics. He also won his third World Cup gold right here in La Clusaz in 1995. To congratulate him, La Clusaz named one of their black mogul runs “Mur Edgar” (“Edgar Wall”). Situated above the snow park, the run is like the daddy of freestyle skiing, looking down on his kid, the snow park below. In good conditions, Mur Edgar is a lot of fun. In anything else, it’s a real challenge… but still lots of fun. Candide blunted his ski edges on that run many times as a kid, and Edgar was one of the local champions who motivated him to learn the freestyle skiing techniques.
Commemorating freestyle skiing
To celebrate twenty years since Edgar’s World Cup victory in his hometown, La Clusaz held an event called “Freestyle is not Dead”. Edgar was there in ski clothes from the nineties, including the iconic eyes on his kneecaps. He kicked off the fun with lots of freestyle fans who skied down with him together on the mogul course. Some threw in the signature jumps of the time, such as ‘daffies’ and ‘spread eagles’.
I was lucky enough to corner Edgar on the chairlift between runs, where I told him tales of icy moguls in Australia and showed him my K2 CaBrawler mogul skis dangling from my feet, which he kindly approved of (even if I couldn’t remember their size). He told my friend on the chairlift about how those eyes on his knees were hand-painted onto his kneepads, and how other competitors had other paintings, but none copied his eyes. Down to earth and in great spirits, Edgar whizzed ahead down the moguls while my friend and I discussed the highlights of his conversation.
Skiing with Edgar
A few runs later and by complete coincidence, I was at the top of the mogul course ‘taking photos’ when Edgar appeared with a few others. “Who wants to race down with me?” He asked. “You, the Australian.” I declined with a smile, then promptly changed my mind and joined him on the course. Twenty years of watching the champions’ knees bouncing from side to side, and here I was, on the course with a three-time World Cup champion!
Of course, Edgar still won, but I didn’t finish too far behind. It set me buzzing for hours after. Who am I kidding: I’m still buzzing! If the teenage me in Australia had heard that she’d be racing down a mogul field with a French champion as an adult, she would have scoffed that it was impossible. France is on the other side of the world, and skiing was no more than a holiday from school.
At the end of the day, Edgar thanked everyone for coming. He told the kids in the snow park that he hoped they would inspire the next generation of freestyle skiers in the way that the previous generation had inspired them. Little does he realise that the previous generation is still inspiring…