Michi Albin

Watch him ride, and you’ll think he’s one of the chosen few-blessed at birth with a natural snowboarding ability that can only be admired, not learned. Witness him defy gravity and reason in the pipe, and you’ll swear he’s insane. Sit through an energetic demonstration on the art of making marshmallow-spread toast, and you’ll realize he could ask you to come watch paint dry with him, and you’d drop everything to go along-because while the fire in most people’s souls is a burning ember, Michi’s is a blazing torch that lights up everyone and everything in his path. Who is Michi Albin? He’s a super-positive, smart, funny, honest kid who’s always down for whatever, whenever, with whomever … plus a whole lot more-some people can’t be defined in fourteen pages.

“That fellow has the most unique voice I have ever heard, and for some reason, it fully matches his riding style and personality.”-Craig Kelly

“I don’t know. So hard, amped, electrified.”-Johan Oloffson

“Michi … he always loses everything.”-Reto Lamm

“Michi quote? Hmmm … the mortal has fire in his eyes and good discipline. I don’t know … help.”-Terje

“I see him in front of me: spasms and curly hair.”-Jacob Soderqvist

“The personality of Mickey Mouse, and the talent of Johan and Terje.”-Mike Parillo

 

Michi is positive vibration. He’s a super-charger-an incredible pipe rider, and a great freerider. Speaking as a photographer and a filmmaker, Michi is a pleasure to work with because he’s always going for it-trying new stuff and hanging in there until he sticks it. Michi Albin gets two thumbs up.-Interview by Ari Marcopolous

What kind of terrain have you been riding lately?

I was traveling a lot to all these competitions at the beginning of the season, so most of the time I spent in my car and in hotels. Not too much riding, actually, ’cause you have to compete. You have a lot of time you just hang around-to wait for qualification. You just ride the training and the competition, and then you travel to the next competition.

Compare halfpipe and big-air contests.

At the big-air contests there are not so many riders, and it is more like a big party. Everybody is scared jumping. Everybody is kind of hanging out and just looking forward to finishing the competition-and the party after the competition. The halfpipe event is more-there is more competition between the riders. I mean, you’re happy when another rider has a good run, but it’s not the same as at a big air. I don’t know.

Big air is just one jump …

Just one jump. And you watch it-you know everybody is scared. Sometimes it is kind of sketchy-super icy landing. And they make a super big tabletop, and they say, “You have to jump now.” You’re invited, so you jump this thing here.

How do you deal with the fear? Is there a trick to it?

No, because everybody is scared, so it doesn’t matter. You just try, and then after a while you ask the other riders, and everybody has the same opinion about the jumps. It is funny how this works. Everybody is always happy at these kind of competitions.

What do you think about all the big prize money at the contests?

It’s super cool they make big prize money, but right now it is a little bit weird how they do it. They can’t give the first guy 100,000 dollars and then the second guy 20,000 dollars. Both riders give the same effort, and the difference is so small between the two. They are both risking their lives on the jump. It’s not fair that one guy gets so much more.

Lately you have been riding with Johan Olofsson a lot at your home resort San Moritz, Switzerland and in Jackson.

The time with Johan is super cool. It is more like we go and do really freeriding. We didn’t do too many jumps. We just go riding, riding fast-do tree runs, jump on snow pillows. It’s training, too, I think. You do less tricks, but you get a lot of control about your bod. You get maybe more sense in your head how to ride the tree line. Sometimes you get stuck in trees, but if you ride it a lot, you kind of know which way you got to go. I don’t know why. Laughing I mean, you still get stuck.

Do you have a lot of board control because you’re going at such speed, and there is unexpected …

Unexpected stuff-you’ve got to turn. You’ve got to brake hard. You’ve got to ollie over it. You have to see the terrain from all sides, because then, when something unexpected comes, you know mmmm … in that corner is a stone, in the other corner is that. So you can turn in the right moment. You can’t think too much, otherwise it’s too late.

Is it different when you jump a cliff?

Not really. I think in that kind of riding, like with Johan, we did a lot of steeps and tree runs. And maybe there is a little cliff in the downhill, so you just go and hit it on the way down. You already see it from far away. You have to see the jump you want to do, not knowing it already. It is hard to explain. You just ride and see what comes up to you. The cool thing about this kind of riding is you can’t all the time be lazy. I mean, you kind of get a lazy feeling if you don’t do any jumps anymore.

Last year, you’re used to doing so many jumps, so many super extreme spins. Then once you kind of get over it, you think, “maybe I should do something different.” Then you ride improvised. You know, ride fast-fast as possible down, and you have to see all the stuff on that way down. And you see a sketchy jump, but you already know from far away- mmmm, I guess I’m gonna do this trick here. This is pretty cool. But if you stand on top of a big cliff and you say, “Okay I’m gonna jump it.” And you start thinking … I don’t know. I wouldn’t jump if I would start thinking too much.

Can you say something about riding different kinds of terrain?

Mmmm … when you ride at your home resort, you have your own run that you do every year. You get bored with that run. You did all the tricks so many times. You can do this run so safe, you know? Riding different terrain you get so much better in snowboarding-your skills get better. And then you can’t have fun anymore on a … whatever run. You have to have a certain level of challenge, then you go and have super, super much fun.

Best example is riding a pipe. Who goes and rides a bad pipe? What for? Why should I ride a bad pipe, try to do my tricks and it doesn’t work so I get pissed at me? So I better wait for a good pipe, and do my tricks and have fun. And if I do bad, then whatever, it’s a good pipe.

The same is freeriding. Freeriding is such a cool thing because you can miss stuff. People think you ride down, and you make a couple turns, and when you’re down you go, “Wow, that was great.” You can go up on the nicest powder day. You can ride down, and at the end you say, “F-k, what did I do?” Because you go up, and in your head you have a line, a certain line that you want to do. You checked it out from the gondola exactly. You were thinking, “Ahhh, I’m going to do this and this, ride down there” … and then you don’t do it. You just miss it. You know? You ride down-for other people maybe it looks good, but for yourself, you’re not happy with what you did.

Are you scared sometimes when you’re snowboarding?

Yeah. You know you can break any second your neck or something, trying to do crazy stuff. But I don’t know, that’s maybe because you’re scared you do it. When you stick it, you get so much adrenaline. That’s actually a weird question … I’m thinking about it laughing. I shouldn’t be scared, you know? Because I remember when I was scared doing backflips-I always landed on my ass.

How much do you know about avalanches?

Actually, not too much. My daddy is a mountain guide, and he always tells me everything how the snow conditions are. I know a lot about it from just my daddy talking about it, but I never did an avalanche course. I couldn’t dig a snow pit to judge the snow, or anything. That is pretty hard stuff. I learned a lot by just being on the snow. I mean, I lived in a snow area since I was born.

How did you start snowboarding?

There was a friend, a good friend. We went up to the mountain in Pontresina, the local mountain-little small, shitty mountain-and he taught me. I was riding with his board, and had so much fun on it. Even if I crashed. I remember there was a jump called Camel Jumps. We always jumped those with the skis, and I tried to jump it with the snowboard. It was just a small jump-like one of those kiddie courses. I tried to jump it all the time, and fell so hard, but had so much fun. Then at Christmas at the beginning the winter in ’90, my parents gave me a snowboard, and I was so stoked.

Who were your first heroes?

My first heroes were just all my friends because they snowboarded before me. I had to follow these guys, and they were riding so fast. I was behind them going, “Hey wait for me!” They were like, “No waiting. Here, just let it go.” I was stoked about these guys for so long. I learned all the tricks from these guys. They bring me to Diavolezza, the home resort, and ride me in front of up to super big cliffs. And you can’t go back. You have to jump it. And I’m going, “What the f-k? Where are you guys bringing me? I can’t even ride!”

Who is an influence on you now?

Not one person influences me, especially. It is just what I see around me that pushes me. Like when I go riding with Johan. He takes a crazy line, so me, too-I’ll take a crazy line. Everybody has his own style to do the crazy stuff. For instance, when you ride the pipe and you see Terje ride, and you go, “Okay. I want to go as big as this guy.” You get pushed by each other. Whatever, you can’t say it is this guy or that guy.

Didn’t you teach your mom how to snowboard?

Oh, yeah. That was great-the teaching. I just took her to the extreme, steepest slope laughing. “Okay, mama. Now you’re going to ride down here.” And she start riding a little bit, and I hold her hand-she was riding pretty good. Then there was a long steepness. It went down, and then up a hill again. So I ask my mom, “We can make it like this style that we’re doing right now, but then we gotta walk maybe. Or I’ll really take you and show you how to do it, and then you don’t have to walk.” She’s like, “I don’t want to walk.” So I just grab my mom at her shoulders and said, “Okay, now point it.” She just pointed it, and I hold her, and she was riding all the way-straight down moguls and everything. It was so bumpy, my mom just screaming. And I say, “Don’t move your board.” And we made it over the bump. My mother was super stoked on that technique. She is riding so good now.

Do you think video games are bad for kids?

I don’t know. I think that video games are a pretty good thing, ’cause when you travel around you get tired. You hang out in a hotel. You don’t know what to do. So, pfff, plug in the video game and have a super video game session. Sometimes you get a little stuck in the games … maybe you kind of don’t want to quit anymore.

Does it encourage faster brain/hand coordination?

Yeah, you get quicker. I mean, you start knowing all the lines. You know after this, this guy is coming up, and he shoots from there at me, and then this peak is coming, and it tries to crush me … and that’s the same in snowboarding. You got to ride maybe and you say, here is the cliff, this guy … the Avalanche Guy-you don’t want to see him laughing. It’s like a game, kind of. Just in that game, you got to do everything right. When you snowboard you can’t have any failures.

What things do you need most when you travel?

Underwear … music. Ahhh, I need music. Of course I need music-otherwise I would sleep all the time.

What is your favorite book?

The one book I like a lot is called Sc did an avalanche course. I couldn’t dig a snow pit to judge the snow, or anything. That is pretty hard stuff. I learned a lot by just being on the snow. I mean, I lived in a snow area since I was born.

How did you start snowboarding?

There was a friend, a good friend. We went up to the mountain in Pontresina, the local mountain-little small, shitty mountain-and he taught me. I was riding with his board, and had so much fun on it. Even if I crashed. I remember there was a jump called Camel Jumps. We always jumped those with the skis, and I tried to jump it with the snowboard. It was just a small jump-like one of those kiddie courses. I tried to jump it all the time, and fell so hard, but had so much fun. Then at Christmas at the beginning the winter in ’90, my parents gave me a snowboard, and I was so stoked.

Who were your first heroes?

My first heroes were just all my friends because they snowboarded before me. I had to follow these guys, and they were riding so fast. I was behind them going, “Hey wait for me!” They were like, “No waiting. Here, just let it go.” I was stoked about these guys for so long. I learned all the tricks from these guys. They bring me to Diavolezza, the home resort, and ride me in front of up to super big cliffs. And you can’t go back. You have to jump it. And I’m going, “What the f-k? Where are you guys bringing me? I can’t even ride!”

Who is an influence on you now?

Not one person influences me, especially. It is just what I see around me that pushes me. Like when I go riding with Johan. He takes a crazy line, so me, too-I’ll take a crazy line. Everybody has his own style to do the crazy stuff. For instance, when you ride the pipe and you see Terje ride, and you go, “Okay. I want to go as big as this guy.” You get pushed by each other. Whatever, you can’t say it is this guy or that guy.

Didn’t you teach your mom how to snowboard?

Oh, yeah. That was great-the teaching. I just took her to the extreme, steepest slope laughing. “Okay, mama. Now you’re going to ride down here.” And she start riding a little bit, and I hold her hand-she was riding pretty good. Then there was a long steepness. It went down, and then up a hill again. So I ask my mom, “We can make it like this style that we’re doing right now, but then we gotta walk maybe. Or I’ll really take you and show you how to do it, and then you don’t have to walk.” She’s like, “I don’t want to walk.” So I just grab my mom at her shoulders and said, “Okay, now point it.” She just pointed it, and I hold her, and she was riding all the way-straight down moguls and everything. It was so bumpy, my mom just screaming. And I say, “Don’t move your board.” And we made it over the bump. My mother was super stoked on that technique. She is riding so good now.

Do you think video games are bad for kids?

I don’t know. I think that video games are a pretty good thing, ’cause when you travel around you get tired. You hang out in a hotel. You don’t know what to do. So, pfff, plug in the video game and have a super video game session. Sometimes you get a little stuck in the games … maybe you kind of don’t want to quit anymore.

Does it encourage faster brain/hand coordination?

Yeah, you get quicker. I mean, you start knowing all the lines. You know after this, this guy is coming up, and he shoots from there at me, and then this peak is coming, and it tries to crush me … and that’s the same in snowboarding. You got to ride maybe and you say, here is the cliff, this guy … the Avalanche Guy-you don’t want to see him laughing. It’s like a game, kind of. Just in that game, you got to do everything right. When you snowboard you can’t have any failures.

What things do you need most when you travel?

Underwear … music. Ahhh, I need music. Of course I need music-otherwise I would sleep all the time.

What is your favorite book?

The one book I like a lot is called Schachnovelle chess novel by Stefan Zweig. That is such a great book-I like this book so much. The guy gets so much into the chess game, playing against himself.

If you had the magic lamp with three wishes, what would you wish for?

A couple of more wishes.

Don’t you think you should be happy with what you have already?

Yeah, but if you have the chance, might as well ask for more wishes.

What does the word “extreme” mean to you?

Extreme is a word that my friends and me use a lot. Actually, everything can be extreme. You can be an extreme guy. Or, he does something extreme, or eats something extreme, or the car is extreme … I don’t know. We kind of have an extreminator club in my hometown. It’s called Bluffers In Paradise.

Bluffers In Paradise? What does that mean?

Laughing It’s Danny Sappa and me. We are the presidents of this club. We have one member right now, kind of-it is Wolfie Schroeter. We want to make T-shirts because this club is going to be big. This is like the bluffers club. To enter the club you have to do something extreme. You don’t have to be a macho, or something-that’s not a bluff. You just have to bluff. Brusti is actually an extreme member-Patrick Armbruster. He is an extreme oberroedler from Switzerland.

What is an oberroedler?

Roedel, that is like … ahhhh … an oberroedler is a superf-ker.

Superf-ker?

Laughing Yeah … another thing-Sappa and me, we have our own valley at the Corvatsch local mountain ski resort. It’s called the Sappa-Albin Couloir. It’s a pretty extreminator couloir. Not the riding down-that’s just riding. It’s easy style. But how to get there is super extreminator. You have to climb three faces, and the rocks are falling off, and it’s all ice everywhere. You have only snowboard boots. You have no rope, one hand free, and in the other hand the snowboard. You have to climb up straight walls, and you get scared.

Oooh. I didn’t get to do that.

You don’t want to do that. We don’t want to do it again. So sketchy … I have to say Sappa is the guy I’m riding with all the time. Danny Sappa-super good friend of mine, and we always have the best sessions together.

How do you feel about the mountains?

The mountains … I’ve gotta see the mountains. I have to see these guys sticking out of the Earth. Always, when I’m in a city, I watch and go, where are the mountains here? When it’s too flat it’s kind of … this is too wide for me. Too wide when it’s flat-you can see all over. Or the sea is something the same-you can see so far. It’s cool to hang out in such places for a while, but I don’t like it too much. I gotta see the end somewhere.

Do you feel lucky?

Of course. I feel super lucky because I did so many things. I finished school and everything, but I already did so many things my friends haven’t done. I would go, “I’m going for a weekend to Stockholm. There is a competition.” This is stuff a lot of people can’t do. You learn a lot by traveling. I don’t know, it’s cool to make your own money without … going to work. You know, making money with the sport you like.

Shout outs?

I want to give a shout out to Bluffers In Paradise, to all the girls around the world, my parents, of course … that’s actually it.

Anything else?

I think all photographers should use Polaroid, so we can see the pictures, too. And all filmmakers get a digicam. Because they are all mean guys. They say they will send the pictures, but they never do.I>Schachnovelle chess novel by Stefan Zweig. That is such a great book-I like this book so much. The guy gets so much into the chess game, playing against himself.

If you had the magic lamp with three wishes, what would you wish for?

A couple of more wishes.

Don’t you think you should be happy with what you have already?

Yeah, but if you have the chance, might as well ask for more wishes.

Whhat does the word “extreme” mean to you?

Extreme is a word that my friends and me use a lot. Actually, everything can be extreme. You can be an extreme guy. Or, he does something extreme, or eats something extreme, or the car is extreme … I don’t know. We kind of have an extreminator club in my hometown. It’s called Bluffers In Paradise.

Bluffers In Paradise? What does that mean?

Laughing It’s Danny Sappa and me. We are the presidents of this club. We have one member right now, kind of-it is Wolfie Schroeter. We want to make T-shirts because this club is going to be big. This is like the bluffers club. To enter the club you have to do something extreme. You don’t have to be a macho, or something-that’s not a bluff. You just have to bluff. Brusti is actually an extreme member-Patrick Armbruster. He is an extreme oberroedler from Switzerland.

What is an oberroedler?

Roedel, that is like … ahhhh … an oberroedler is a superf-ker.

Superf-ker?

Laughing Yeah … another thing-Sappa and me, we have our own valley at the Corvatsch local mountain ski resort. It’s called the Sappa-Albin Couloir. It’s a pretty extreminator couloir. Not the riding down-that’s just riding. It’s easy style. But how to get there is super extreminator. You have to climb three faces, and the rocks are falling off, and it’s all ice everywhere. You have only snowboard boots. You have no rope, one hand free, and in the other hand the snowboard. You have to climb up straight walls, and you get scared.

Oooh. I didn’t get to do that.

You don’t want to do that. We don’t want to do it again. So sketchy … I have to say Sappa is the guy I’m riding with all the time. Danny Sappa-super good friend of mine, and we always have the best sessions together.

How do you feel about the mountains?

The mountains … I’ve gotta see the mountains. I have to see these guys sticking out of the Earth. Always, when I’m in a city, I watch and go, where are the mountains here? When it’s too flat it’s kind of … this is too wide for me. Too wide when it’s flat-you can see all over. Or the sea is something the same-you can see so far. It’s cool to hang out in such places for a while, but I don’t like it too much. I gotta see the end somewhere.

Do you feel lucky?

Of course. I feel super lucky because I did so many things. I finished school and everything, but I already did so many things my friends haven’t done. I would go, “I’m going for a weekend to Stockholm. There is a competition.” This is stuff a lot of people can’t do. You learn a lot by traveling. I don’t know, it’s cool to make your own money without … going to work. You know, making money with the sport you like.

Shout outs?

I want to give a shout out to Bluffers In Paradise, to all the girls around the world, my parents, of course … that’s actually it.

Anything else?

I think all photographers should use Polaroid, so we can see the pictures, too. And all filmmakers get a digicam. Because they are all mean guys. They say they will send the pictures, but they never do.