[Q&A] Catching up with Laurent De Martin – The Swiss freerider is breaking ground on the new challenge of starting a ski company

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[Q&A] Catching up with Laurent De Martin – The Swiss freerider is breaking ground on the new challenge of starting a ski company

INTERVIEW • Jordan Grant-Krenz | PHOTOS • Courtesy of Simply.RC

Like any art form, skiing is constantly evolving. The styles and preferences of riders, judges and fans alike shift with every passing year. It’s tough, I imagine, to build your life around such an endeavor; where what is sufficient is never defined, but expected. Like artists, some professional skiers fall in and out of favor with their audience. Others, however, through an indefinable timeless style, remain mesmerizing to watch long after they’ve exploded onto the scene. Laurent De Martin is one of those skiers. His name is likely not a new one to those who have been following freeskiing for the past few years. From the Newschoolers die hards to the casual ski movie enthusiast, chances are you’ve seen a project with LDM in it. He’s had standout segments in three Level1 films, been a SuperUnknown finalist, competed with the Switzerland Freeski team, and recently created two films of his own. His creative vision and technical knowledge produce a set of skills that make LDM as comfortable riding the park or streets as he is exploring the backcountry. You could easily call him the Swiss Army Knife of skiers (no pun intended).

His 2021 film, titled Simply, was a standout hit, being selected to numerous film festivals and receiving the award for ‘Best Film’ at the International Freeride Film Festival in Tarbes, France. But last year, hot off the heels of such success, LDM was no where to be seen when it came to the latest and greatest ski movie productions. When Laurent came back into the limelight this fall, it was with the announcement that along with a few good friends, he would be starting a new chapter creating a ski brand; one that would take inspiration from the community rather than the competition that skiing can foster. Thus, Simply. Recreation Club was born.

FREESKIER wanted to find out what pushed LDM, who had found such success in the film side of skiing, into the world of business. We were curious about the journey that led him to this decision, his plans for the newly founded company, and what he thought it would bring to the ski industry. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from our favorite skiers favorite skier. So we dialed up our Swiss companion to get the words straight from the source.

How has the 22/23 season been treating you so far?

It’s been good man. We got a lot of snow and it was really sick for one maybe two weeks at my home resort [Région Dents du Midi, Switzerland] . We don’t have much of a base but it was still great. Since then it’s been a freeze thaw cycle, so pretty sketchy. We’re hoping to get another round of good snow.

You’ve had a busy last three years; creating two incredible ski films, changing sponsors, and recently launching your new ski brand, Simply. Recreation Club. Walk us through what led you here.

It’s been a good grind, thanks! When Level1 said they were going to stop making their annual movie, for me it was the right time to do something locally. That was certainly the start of this recent period of change for me. I wanted to travel less, but more importantly I wanted to collaborate with people from home. We have such great support in our valley and I really felt that push to do something special and to give it back to the community. 

It seemed right to do a project that showed we have everything we need at home to do those movies. Maybe not this year [laughs], but certainly in a normal year. The two films, From Switzerland with Love and Simply, were very much inspired by that sentiment. The same goes for the new brand Simply. Recreation Club. We wanted to build a local brand that showcased our home, our style, and why we love it all so much. 

Speaking of Level1, most skiers might recognize your name from your many annual appearances. What was it like to change gears and take lead on two films, (From Switzerland with Love 2020 and Simply 2021), and what did you learn from those projects that you otherwise wouldn’t have?

That’s a good question. Doing those two [films] I learned much more than just skiing, you know? It’s a whole other job to produce a movie. I had the talented Titouan Bessire editing and directing, which was incredible, but just to get the money, manage a sponsor and all the little things that make it happen takes so much. I took in a lot about the outside world that surrounds skiing, and the experiences definitely prepared me in ways for this next chapter starting a new business.

All in all it was really fun, but after we filmed Simply I needed a season off. It had been about 10 years of doing my movies or Level1 movies, so I wanted to step back from the large projects and ski with my friends without any pressure. Of course I still did the little things you have to do as a professional skier, but it felt like a needed mental break, so to speak.

The Recreation is Simply.RC’s answer to the age-old question, “how do I make the mountain my playground?”

Was taking the season off from big projects fairly productive?

Honestly, no. It was definitely not the year I had anticipated, but it taught me lessons that led me to this great new project, so I don’t think it was a waste even though I’d consider it unproductive. There’s a lot of writing detailing how I felt during that year on the [Simply.] website for those who are more interested, but essentially it was not what I had imagined at all. I was looking for something new in skiing… and I didn’t know where to look or what to do. I’m sure people can relate to that. Towards the end of the season I had a very sketchy incident with an avalanche which led to some really tough times, but it also brought me close with some of my best friends.

When I got back on my skis in the late spring we had some killer days in the park, and it made me realize how valuable skiing with people you love is. I think that was the turning point that put me in a new direction; to do something local, to do something different with great people and create a brand, create skis, and put my vision of skiing into something real. That idea molded into our new company, Simply. Recreation Club.

*Note – LDM’s writings give the full insight into his story from the past year. We highly recommend giving them a read.

Let’s talk about Simply. Give us a quick synopsis on the mission of the brand. How does it stand apart from others in the industry?

As a brand, Simply. is going to be focused on the fun of the sport. I’m talking about encouraging the next generation, the art, the events; all these pieces of skiing that don’t always get as much attention. This is what will make us stand out. Beyond that, we really want to foster a community, and to be smart with what we have to work with. I think the word I’m looking for is sustainability. We strive to work sustainably, locally, and to do a good job while also taking after the great role models that are out there. Overall it’s about bringing those two parts together; building skis that let you enjoy the experience, and doing so right here in Switzerland.

Where are the skis made and how did that connection come about?

The skis are made at First Track Lab, which is about 35 minutes from my home. I met a few people from First Track through some friends and we hit it off. They were working on their own projects but it was evident that we had similar values, which was a huge motivator for us to create the brand in the first place. We were both really motivated and wanted to make it happen. After the turning point in my life that I mentioned earlier, it really seemed like the right thing to do. 

The skis I got to try were such a big reason [we collaborated] too. We worked on what my friend Sampo Vallotton and I wanted in a ski, and when we tried them it just made me sure about doing it. I enjoyed the skis they made, the people there, and of course the fact that it’s a local Swiss company. Not only was the location preferable, but it was the main reason that we were able to build a brand in just a few months. It all made a lot of sense.

LDM proudly hoists the Recreation, hot off the press at Verbiers’ own First Track Lab

The ski you’re currently making is (fittingly) called the Recreation. It has a very unique butterknife nose and fish tail shape. Why did you choose that?

The aesthetic shape of the ski is inspired by snowboarding and surfing. So is the fish tail. We really wanted to do something different and pretty atypic and the ski outline was the first way to express this difference. The fish tail stands as the main feature. We did the first prototypes with it and I was seriously loving it. Having less surface area in the back can be wonderful and it seemed to help the ski as a whole find what we were looking for, which was something that could slash and snap quickly and playfully.

The final goal was to design the entire ski to be something really light, playful, flexy, with a short turning radius. We wanted to have everybody, whatever level they are, do a few runs and be having fun on it. It was meant to be easy to ski, to feel good on any terrain, and still be able to hold up for more aggressive or active skiers.

But to me, the best way to pitch the ski is to let the people try it. They’ve always come back with a big smile which says more than a thousand words.

How does it hold up when you’re skiing more aggressively outside of the park?

Oh yeah it certainly is firm enough under foot to charge, and you can lay a nice turn on it. European skiers can be more old school carving style, so we were thinking about that when we made it. It has a 15m radius, and if you wanted to power through it you can tighten that up further from what we saw. It’s pretty crazy to see that from a ski that’s 100mm under foot. Eventually we’ll be working on a wider ski for deeper snow, too.

Overall the ski is very intuitive and adaptive. It’s made to feel playful and surfy everywhere you go. Like I mentioned, the goal is to create a community and ski that emphasizes fun, and we think the Recreation does that.

For people wanting a reference, how would you describe your style and how does the Recreation cater to that?

I’m not sure how to describe my style exactly. Flowy, maybe? There’s plenty of videos if people want to decide for themselves. But I really love to ski everything, and we made this first ski just for that; to ski everything. Some airs, some speed, a few enjoyable turns. I think this ski and my style really compliment each other well.

Dancing on the Recreation, LDM style

What are you most excited about when it comes to the construction of the ski?

I’m so stoked on the overall look of the skis. The asymmetric shape brings something fresh. As for the components, we use something called Next Core© Technology. It’s one of the cooler things about the ski in my opinion. It’s a combination of oriented bamboo fiber and poplar which makes the ski really light but really reactive and poppy. It’s just so much fun to cruise around everywhere and nice to tour with. We haven’t talked about it, but it’s worth noting that we sell world class POMOCA skins pre-cut to the Recreation as well, because we really think this ski is a perfect fit for backcountry travel given its weight and how it skis.

Next Core© Technology, in all its glory

What tangible or intangible benefits do you see Simply. bringing to the world of freeskiing?

I think the best thing we can do is to stay true to ourselves. We know how we want to do things and why we want to do them, and if we follow that course I think we benefit the ski world by being a sustainable, motivated, and fun community. We see ourselves as being very close to our community too, and this lets us create products that truly meet their needs, rather than the other way around. A tangible benefit would certainly be the Recreation itself. It’s such a versatile ski for many different skiers, and I think it’ll help people progress and love the sport even more.

If you had to choose anywhere in the world to ski on the Recreation, where would it be?

Honestly it would be my home resort of Région Dents du Midi in springtime conditions. There are these huge canyons to shred around in, perfect for the Recreation, and I’m really looking forward to more days with my friends out there with our own ski that we created. It’s a very special feeling.

Sampo Vallotton, Alice Michel, and LDM scoping their line

Are there any future projects related to Simply. or outside of the brand that we should be keeping our eyes peeled for?

I want to do a movie again, and we’re planning to do one in the future so people will have to stay tuned for that!

There’s certainly still a lot of work to be done to grow the company more, so that will be a priority. Honestly though we hope people see Simply. Recreation Club as its name implies; as a club! We want to bring people together and give them the tools and connections they need for fun in the mountains. That’s what we want to grow it into, so that’s the main project right now.

Whether buying a pair of skis, going to a pop up event, or just checking out the website, what do you hope people walk away from the brand with?

I’ve said it a million times, but I hope people leave just wanting to have more fun and go out there excited to do what they want to do and to ski how they want to ski. That’s what the ski and the company are built around. If we can help make that happen, then we’ve done a great job. 

Thank you for the time, Laurent! And thank you for continuing to make the ski industry a better place year after year. Can you leave us with three songs to get people stoked up for their next day on the hill? 

Absolutely! Music is always a big part of how I get in the zone. I actually have a Recreation playlist people can listen to if they need some tunes for their time on the mountain. (Click here for LDM’s Recreation playlist on Spotify)

Simply.RC is currently only shipping within the EU. If you are an international skier and want to be the first to know when the Recreation (and future models) become available, click here to register.

LDM’s personal website

Simply.RC website

Photo Gallery

Images courtesy of Simply.RC

Photography – François Marclay, Ruedi Flueck, Christophe Voisin

The Recreation makes a simple slash more fun – don’t over complicate it
Up & over
LDM with a cheeky nose grab on the Recreation
The Swiss handplant – just like anywhere else, but somehow more stylish
The lightweight Recreation makes it easy to grab safety, tweak, shifty… or whatever your creative heart desires
Alice Michel, Sampo Vallotton, & LDM