A Few Minutes With Crystal Awards Founder Dani Meier

The second annual Crystal Awards, held March 25¿31 in St. Moritz-Graubünden, Switzerland brought together eleven of the best snowboard photographers in the business to document the snowboarder of their choice for six days and nights. The award features eight categories, including: air, jib, sequence, landscape, lifestyle, resort, Agfa black & white, and turn. The result was some of the most mind-blowing imagery to date.

SNOWboarding Business asked Dani Meier — founder of the Crystal Awards — for an inside line on what it takes to put together an event like this. If you haven’t met this quasi snowboarding and surfing professional, businessman, and traveling dharma bum, you haven’t had the pleasure one of those rare cats who looks you in the eye when he speaks to you, smiles and means it, and projects a super-charged positive attitude everywhere he goes. A man truly tapped into the flow of life.

SNOWboarding Business: Dani, what inspired the creation of the Crystal Awards?

Meier: The Crystal Awards started in 1998 when Steve Veytia of Billabong Europe asked me to design a contest that would carry my name on top of it, kind of a “Dani Kiwi Meier” event. That’s when I actually sat down and asked myself: “What is it that means so much to me after all the years of being a pro?”

For me the answer was clear. If I was going to put my name on top of anything, it was going to be an event for the people who devoted a lot of sweat and talent to making almost every pro rider out there internationally known — namely the photographers. And within one hour I had the event concept that still exists today.

SNOWboarding Business: How is the event funded?

Meier: The event has been supported since day one from my clothing sponsor, Fire & Ice. They were the main catalysts of support and I owe them a lot. The rest of the funding comes from tourism, resort, hotel, transport, film, and industry support. The huge hole that’s left is where I come in and empty my pockets. Making it affordable to host and post-produce the Crystal Awards content hasn’t been easy.

In the future, we aim to generate revenue from the images themselves, television broadcasting, online content, cybercasting programs, tourism, event partnerships, and snowboard-industry support.

SNOWboarding Business: Tell us about your involvement with Max Multimedia.

Max Multimedia came to me shortly before the last event and showed interest in its unique content and concept. After we met I realized they had a similar vision, which required the event to stay clean and unbannered, allowing for the images and artists to speak for themselves.

Max is a leader in broadband and online activities, so the Crystal Awards are the perfect medium for them. We have a contract with Max Multimedia for the 2000 Crystal Awards in St Moritz and the 2000 Surf Awards in Margaret River in October. During this period I’ll find a solution to a long-term joint venture with Max.

I’m still in creative and fiscal control of the event and its future direction. However, a strong partner like Max enables me to pick and choose event partners and allows riders and photographers to stay away from getting all bibbed up and bannered out. That can ruin the best event as quickly as it helped it grow — and I won’t allow it.

SNOWboarding Business: What are your plans for other sports?

I will have the Crystal Awards Surf 2000 finished before Christmas. That’s a goal I set in 1998. I grew up at the beach in New Zealand, and really miss the ocean. Surf photography will be a new challenge and we won’t carbon copy events. Instead, we’ll tune each one to the demands of the medium.

Legendary photographer Mark Shapiro and top young freeskier Brice Lequertier demonstrated freeskiing this year in St. Mortiz. Their images proved how key freeskiing is to future Crystal Awards. We will include freeskiing in 2001. I have several other sports in my mind, but it’s always good to take everythhing one step at a time. The sports pushing the limits of imagery and motivating the younger generation are the ones I want to present under the Crystal Awards umbrella. I’m sure that’s what the photographers want too.

SNOWboarding Business: What is your vision for the future?

We need to stay focused on detail, meaning the nominees need to be cutting edge and very active to be nominated. The week’s structure must remain focused on the team’s desire to expand their creativity. Only in this way will we be able to produce a good product and judge the images fairly.

The online world is key to the public growth and participation. Judging needs to become more defined and refined and we’ll someday have an interactive Award night totally digitized in order to guarantee perfect imagery for judges and public alike.

SNOWboarding Business: What has been the most rewarding aspect of all the long hours and low pay? Seeing grown men come up on stage to receive an Award with tears in their eyes. It shows that the emotional commitment of their hard work and years of dedication to photography has been rewarded. That was my goal, and I feel we’re on the right track.

For more information about the Crystal Awards, contact Meier at: wazzup@crystalawards.com; phone: (41) 81 864 8226; fax: (41) 81 864 0951 — Patrick Colton