This week in Tignes, France, in conjunction with Giro Snow, Rockstar Energy and Rossignol, 23-year-old Joffrey Pollet-Villard—well known as “Joff” or JPV—set a new world record for highest air in a superpipe on skis, launching 8.04 meters (26 ft, 3 in) above the deck of a pristinely cut, 22-foot superpipe. The world record was previously held by Peter Olenick of Carbondale, CO; Olenick set a record of 7.58 meters (24 ft, 11 in) on January 31, 2010, during the first-ever X Games High Air contest in Aspen, CO.
Hailing from La Clusaz, France, JPV got his start on skis at the age of 3. At 11, he began freeskiing; it was the hometown hero Candide Thovex who turned him onto the idea of getting into the air. In 2013, JPV made his X Games debut, securing a fifth place finish at X Games Aspen, and a 7th place finish at X Games Tignes. While the Frenchman didn’t snag a medal in his X debut, he benefited from the Games’ wide distribution and viewership, propelling himself into the hearts of skiing fans across the globe with 23+ ft airs and a fast, aggressive approach to the halfpipe.
Not likely a first-pick for a podium spot on the top-tier freeskiing circuit, in part due to the fact that the man does not include a double flip in his run, JPV is not the type to beat himself up over rankings—the short-statured man with a calm demeanor is more interested in catching as much air as possible. He’s focused on style, performing smooth, fluid tricks and tweaking grabs. Boosting the style points even further, JPV is almost always adorned in a jean jacket. He’ll enjoy a cigarette (or 12) and he’d rather ski for fun among friends than chase gold medals. He’s got “The Antichrist” by Slayer in his headphones. He’s a man who would tell you he doesn’t really look up to an inspirational figure in skiing, that he’d rather “try to do things different.” Point a camera his way, and he might just flip you the bird. All in good fun, of course. The high-flying skier certainly airs on the dark side, and he’s been blazing his own trail from the get-go. It’s fitting, then, that JPV set out to surpass Olenick’s record on Friday the 13th.
Todd Kupke, Global Marketing Manager for Giro Snow said of the record attempt, “[Our team at Giro] thought this could be a great way to show that JPV is a different kind of pipe skier; [a new world record] would represent that in a perfect way, showcasing how big he really goes, and demonstrating that on a grand scale. That’s what planted the seed, and we talked to all of these guys [JPV, his sports agent, Aïssam “The Magnificent” Dabbaoui, and his other sponsors, Rossignol and Rockstar Energy] and everyone was hyped on the idea. It took some last minute planning but [the shoot] came together, and we’re excited to be here in Tignes with a crew of some of the best halfpipe skiers in the world.”
Joining JPV for the special photoshoot were Giro Snow athletes Torin Yater-Wallace, Mike Riddle, Justin Dorey and, newcomer to the Giro squad, Simon D’Artois. And while the superpipe in Tignes was bustling on the eve of the 13th, as it hosted the SFR Tour finals—which drew the biggest names in the sport along with a throng of spectators—the setting for the record breaking experience was tranquil; no more than 20 individuals had gathered to soak in the spectacle. Some sipped beers in the comfort of beach chairs, others manned cameras and a few more provided quick transportation from the pipe’s base to its summit via snowmobile. Dabbaoui ran to and fro, ensuring things went to plan; he proved to be instrumental in the success of the shoot. I myself was excited to join the motley crew on-site, as well.
And then there was Joffrey.
“I wanted to make [the record] official,” he tells me in broken English, at he base of the halfpipe in Tignes. “I didn’t go as big as I wanted this year, so we just decided to take a day and go huge, and I’m so stoked [to have achieved this feat].”
“I didn’t care too much about feeling the pressure of the build up and all of the cameras around,” JPV continued. “I was like, fuck it, I just wanted to go huge. I’m stoked. The time in the air was long, it was a really good feeling. After some air time you feel more alive than anytime.”
The record didn’t come easily, though.
After numerous attempts on the afternoon of Friday, March 13, the record eluded him. Just barely. JPV wanted another stab at it, so we all planned to shoot again on Saturday morning, with fingers crossed that an incoming storm system would hold off.
Come Saturday, alongside the Giro squad, JPV arrived to the pipe once again: Denim, cigarettes and his favorite “robber mask.” JPV sported a black eye on one side thanks to a crash he suffered in the halfpipe days earlier, and a puffy cheek on the other—he’d been punched in the face a few nights prior. Late night (early morning) fisticuffs are an apparent regularity in Tignes, as rowdy partygoers spill out of the various discothèques.
“After some air time you feel more alive than anytime.” – JPV
The sun was shining, and the pipe was freshly cut. JPV and the boys began to session. At one point, Joff attempted a number of “over-unders” with Riddle. “Ridds” would take a straight line up the wall, performing a hand plant at the lip, while JPV would soar above him, traveling a great distance down the length of the pipe. JPV couldn’t rely on the fuel of adrenaline that lifts him to great heights during contests; on this Saturday, the support of his friends sessioning alongside him helped to push Joff into a proper mindset for launching into proverbial orbit.
“It’s so sick that all the guys came here and that I wasn’t alone riding,” Joff said. “All of the guys have been ripping. Simon [D’Artois] just did some massive alley-oop dub flat 7s. [All the guys were] slaying the pipe, I’m so stoked. The Canadians are fucking crazy. It’s so sick.”
Then, feeling good n’ ready, JPV proceeded to drop over and over. Snowmobile-tows ensured ultra fast laps. After dropping from the left wall, he’d perform one set-up air, and then he’d send an alley-oop flat 5 next to the rocket. Slightly higher each time. Absolutely massive.
On perhaps his fifth attempt, he seemed to feel he’d maxed out. Reviewing the footage, he was satisfied. He’d cleared the height of the rocket—8 meters. (The group couldn’t help but make comments regarding the “red rocket.”) Analysis would later show he beat Olenick’s previous record by .46 meters (one-and-a-half-feet). The record wasn’t smashed, per se, but when you’re dealing with halfpipe airs of this magnitude, the margin for error is small.
“I sent it in the pipe and I’m not gonna lie, a couple close calls scared the hell out of me,” JPV said later.
And Mr. Olenick, the former record holder himself, tells me, “I knew this day was coming, and I am so glad JPV was the one to take it. He is an animal and far from a pipe jock. I love his style and the size of his cahones. It takes a lot to go that big, with extremely high consequences.”
“We all know that he’s clinically insane,” joked Olympic gold medalist in ski halfpipe, David Wise—who was on-site in Tignes. “I’d say that [this] was just more of the same from JPV. The guy can really go big and I’m glad to see him put the record on the script. We all know he’s had [the record unofficially] for a long time, but now it’s going to be official, it’s sick.”
Simon D’Artois, the 2015 X Games gold medalist in halfpipe commented, “That was insane, I don’t know what else to say. To watch it live and to see the photos and the video clips right afterwards, it’s really just next level.”
And Mike Riddle told me, “That was pretty wild. Anytime someone is going that big it’s really exciting to watch. I’m glad it wasn’t me. [Laughs] It was insane.”
“I sent it in the pipe and I’m not gonna lie, a couple close calls scared the hell out of me.” – JPV
Standing at the base of the pipe on Saturday afternoon, Joff said to the group, “Let’s see how many cigarette [sic] I smoke today.” He reaches into each of his pockets and pulls out what I estimate to be 12 butts. He cradles them in two cupped hands. When asked why he was holding onto the remnants of his “darts,” JPV responds, “Because I don’t want to destroy the nature.”
Despite having broken a new world record, Joff was his same ol’ self. Sure, he’d just put his stamp on freeskiing history, but he was more interested in his ciggs, his Denim and the afterparty.
“I’ll break the record if you promise to buy all the beer tonight,” said JPV to Kupke early on Saturday morning, prior to skiing. And sure enough, bottle service it would be…