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Sämi Ortlieb shares the inspiration behind Water World segment featured in Level 1’s “Zig Zag”

Upon the release of Level 1 Productions’ 19th annual ski movie, Zig Zag, the ski community seemed to be buzzing about one segment in particular: Sämi Ortlieb’s Water World. In awe-inspiring fashion, Ortlieb assembled a proper crew of athletes and shapers to construct a set of park jumps and other features that incorporated small (and large) pools of water for a bit of added flare. The creative, experienced team of videographers at Level 1 took advantage of every moment of the outrageous park shoot featuring Ortlieb, Laurent De Martin, Andrin Tgetgel and Marcel Brünisholz, capturing some of the most unique, eye-catching clips we’ve ever seen.

Curious how it all came together? Level 1 recently sat down with Ortlieb for an interview about the segment, which we’ve published in its entirety, below. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on one of skiing’s most creative movie segments and be sure to stay tuned right here for updates on Level 1’s 20th annual movie, hitting theaters this fall.

Where did the original inspiration for this shoot come from?

Over the past few seasons, I’ve been scouting some urban and backcountry features that included water, so the idea to think of some park features with pond skim seemed pretty obvious.

You ran some “proof of concept” tests during the Spring/Summer of 2017- what did you learn from those tests about how the shoot could work?

My goal with those tests was to figure out what materials work best, are easy available and would look good [when filming]. I tested different tarp materials, different colors and also different sizes. Another thing I wanted to figure out was how hard/easy was it going to be to get the water for the ponds. I did the test right next to a creek and I had to get the water with buckets… that kinda sucked. Obviously, the main part of these tests were to find creative angles to film the skiing.

You partnered up with Gran Masta Park in Switzerland. Why did you chose that location and how did partnering with them work out?

I reached out to Marcel Brünisholz, the mastermind behind the Gran Masta Park in Adelboden. He is probably the most passionate shaper/parkbuilder I know. He can work for 72 hours straight without sleep, if he wants to build something. He’s just an overall mad man when it comes to moving snow for skiing. I’ve been working with Marcel for the last six years or so in the summer in Zermatt, so it was awesome to [partner] with him. After we got the “OK” from the resort, I met with Marcel in Adelboden to see which features we could build and where we could build them; a couple weeks later, after the ski resort was closed, I returned together with a crew and we started to build.

What was the building process like?

The building process was insanely intense. We didn’t have a very big crew and Marcel was the only one left from the park crew. So everybody had to shovel, shape and dig pits for the pond skims. We had pretty long days on the mountain. One thing that worked better than expected was filling up the pools—the resort let us use the water and hoses they would usually use for snowmaking.

How was the shooting?

For most of the shoot, we only had Robin [Lee] there as a filmer, and it’s pretty tough to film a park shoot with only one filmer. What ended up happening was that I just tried to get my shots right off the bat, so I could go and shoot second angles. Then, I would ski again once everybody else was done or too wet. Lucky for us we had Clemens Jezler come out for two days and help us film.

Tell us about who was in the crew and what roles they played… on both sides of the camera.

Marcel Brünisholz was obviously a key figure. He was driving the cat, shaping, doing snowmobile laps and also skiing! To document everything we had Robin Lee filimg the segment. Also Ruedi Flück showed up for a few days to take photos as well as Clemens Jezler who helped with filming for two days. For building and skiing, we had Till Matti, Laurent de Martin, as well as Andrin Tgetgel and Christian Moser who both came out to help and ski for a few days. And not to forget Laurents buddy Numa, who helped with the shaping, too.

Who got the wettest?

I wanna say I did! [Laughs]

What were the biggest challenges that you faced?

We had tarps that leaked or ripped, extremely wet clothes and sleds breaking down right at sunset… Also, even though the days were extremely warm, the temps would still go below freezing during the night, so in the mornings we would have a layer of ice on the ponds. But the biggest challenge was time: We just didn’t have enough time to bring the idea to its full potential, so we had focus on the features and ideas that made the most sense to do with the snow and terrain we had. So many fun ideas we couldn’t build. Another big challenge were the underwater shots. it was hard to get the cameras in the right position, have the water be still and the skier jump in the right spot. Just a lot of factors coming together, which made those shots pretty hard.

What do you have in store for this year?

For this year, I’ll be shoveling even more snow around. Instead of only moving the snow once, we’ll be moving the snow multiple times… [Laughs]


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