By Christian Bach
Originally printed in TransWorld SNOWboarding Magazine
Nicolas Muller was born in the spring of 1982 and grew up in a small Swiss town called Aarau. Having the Alps in front of him meant it was only a question of time before he started skiing and being that he was also a skateboarder meant it was only a question of time before skiing changed into snowboarding. Back then, the resort of Laax, Switzerland was famous for its great halfpipes, and shortly after Nicolas started riding them, he also became famous for his stylish straight airs and the ability to learn in a second tricks that would take other guys a week to learn.
“Talented” was the word that came up every time his name was mentioned--but Nicolas had more than just talent. While others were happy between their own two walls, Nicolas was looking out-of-bounds to transfer his skills to the backcountry. Since then, he’s been floating over kickers, cliffs, and pillow lines; shredding tree trunks; and surfing AK faces-or just jibbing little bumps and waves other riders might not even notice--all in his “looks so easy and tweaky” way.
Meanwhile, Nicolas has also been gracing the front pages of probably every European snowboard mag, along with riding great at every single contest he enters. For the last four years, Muller’s parts in Absinthe Films’ videos have been amazing. Add a down to Earth character and a very open approach to life, and you get one unique person and snowboarder.
It seems like it was a good year filming judging from your part in Absinthe’s Pop.
Yeah, it was a very good season again. I got to ride some new mountains and places I’ve never been before. It’s always exciting to do new stuff in new terrain-otherwise, it’d get kind of boring. But yeah, I had so much fun! No injuries-all good.
What was your most memorable moment of last season?
There are many--but if I had to choose one, it’d be the tree jib we had going in Jackson, Wyoming. It all started with a stupid idea: “Let’s build a jump in front of that tree with the pillow on top!” There was no landing behind it; it was totally flat. I didn’t think it was a good idea until I jumped it for the first time. Amazingly, it turned out to be so much fun! It was like a highest-ollie session you have with your friends skateboarding.
Your last three video parts have been really remarkable. Do you plan early season which tricks you want to have in there?
I never plan anything. I just go with the flow. I’m more and more into doing tricks on natural terrain, so you have to be spontaneous and creative. Of course, I think of tricks I’d like to do sometimes, but it’s not like I have a list of tricks I mark off. Snowboarding is freestyle, and new stuff comes about by having sessions.
So it’s important to have a crew that can handle “freestyle” then?
Totally. Everybody at Absinthe is very cool and laid-back. No pressure or stress. You do your thing-snowboarding; and they do their thing-making sick snowboard movies. The crew is very open to anything new and creative, too. And we’re like a big family-we hang out together on and off the mountain.
Describe yourself “on” the mountain.
That’s probably something you should ask somebody else … I think my way of snowboarding is funny, spontaneous, and smooth-might be creative sometimes, too, I guess.
Concerning your style, it always seemed to me like you were a “tweaky” pipe kid who one day started taking his pipe skills into the backcountry. Would you agree with that?
Yeah. In the beginning, when I first got really hooked on snowboarding, I always wanted to ride the pipe. It’s the best feeling to tweak a straight air in the halfpipe.
In the beginning, how did you go about learning new tricks?
I always studied other guys and how they were doing it. Then I tried it myself and couldn’t stop until I got the trick dialed. Of course, I didn’t do them all first try, but once you have it visualized in your head, you just gotta go out there and throw it down.
What else does it take to be an outstanding snowboarder nowadays, and what extras do you have to bring to the table if you want to make a living off it?
You need your own style. Express yourself, don’t do it for the fame or money. Get inspired by others, but don’t try to be somebody else. Shred, shred, shred, and if you love what you do and put all your energy into it, you can make a living out of it.
But what if the big business happens in North America, and you’re just some random Euro kid?
I don’t know. I guess all the U.S. companies like to sponsor more of the American shredders because it makes sense to them. So you just have to go to America to get a name there, too, and then things are happening. Anyways, I never cared too much about the politics and the big business--I just want to ride.
So what’s the riding like in Switzerland?
There’re tons of resorts all over the Swiss Alps. The mountains are pretty big and steep, but there aren’t many existing parks, so you have to shape your own jumps. Where I grew up riding, we always had our own runs off the slopes using natural features and cliffs-just whatever there was. It’s all about top-to-bottom runs and freeriding next to the slopes.
What else do you think of when it comes to Switzerland?
Well, I’m not a big patriot, but I think it’s a privilege to be Swiss. Switzerland is a very social state with a good political system--and we make the best chocolate!
How many languages do you speak?
I speak Swiss-German and German-which you could count as one-French, and English.
What would you be doing right now if you weren’t snowboarding?
I’d be sitting at the university trying to be smart.
Has people’s behavior toward you changed since you became famous? Or do you actually feel famous?
I don’t feel famous. Maybe some people know me for what I’m doing, but it rarely happens that they approach me because of that. If they do, it’s just funny-I mean the whole snowboard scene is so small.
Who do you think kids will remember in ten years? Is it a goal for you to be remembered as one of the sickest snowboarders of this decade?
They’ll remember Shaun White, that’s for sure-otherwise, I don’t know. It’s not my goal for kids to remember me in ten years, even though it’d be cool. My goal is more to motivate kids to go out snowboarding today!
How do you handle slams on big kickers? Is it like, “Yeah, whatever, I’ll go up again.” Or do you have to tell yourself to stop the session in order to not get hurt?
My health is always the most important to me, so I try not to slam on big kickers at all-or at least avoid the really bad wipeouts. If the jump is sketchy, I probably won’t do it at all. It’s not worth it to kill yourself on a stupid session just for a photo or something. You have got to think ahead, because there’re many sick days coming up.
How come we don’t see too many shots of you doing rails?
It’s just not my deal. I like to ride on snow, and if there’s no snow, I’ll go skate. And I like my edges sharp!
Do you like contests?
If the vibe is right, I like contests a lot! It can be some of the greatest times to session at a competition and push each other to new levels and everything in front of a sick crowd-hell, yeah! As long as these events are made for snowboarders by snowboarders, I’m on it.
You finished fourth at the 2002 Air & Style and then third the next year in 2003. You were competing with guys like David Benedek, Joni Malmi, Shaun White, Marc-Andre Tarte--basically everybody who dominates straight-jump competition. Does that make winning an event even more important to you?
Yeah, it’s just great to be part of this big event. There’re always so many good riders--it’s amazing. I’m happy when I make it to the final round, but winning the Air & Style would be a dream come true.
The Olympics are coming up in 2006--this is the year to qualify. Do you want to represent your country in Torino?
Totally, I think that would be awesome. Even if those days are gone, the original spirit of the Olympic games is pretty cool. Being there is all that matters.
Even if that means that you’ll have to cut down the time reserved for filming in order to ride in qualifier events?
Well, it’ll cut some time for filming and other stuff, but that’s just how it is. You can’t have everything.
You went to the 2004 Arctic Challenge. How did you get there and what else happened?
I love the Arctic Challenge--it’s like the best event out there. It’s all about having a good time and shredding together--snowboarding without all the stupid FIS rules saying, “Do this, do that.” We snowboarders know best how our contest should go, and we don’t need some greedy office guys who have no idea about snowboarding to tell us shit! Anyway, I got a wildcard from Terje last year. But then I hurt myself very stupidly while skateboarding.
That was after you had qualified first for the pipe finals.
Yeah. I was pretty bummed-but what can you do? Shit happens.
From the Arctic Challenge to some completely different terrain-what’s the “mini shred” all about?
The mini shred is all about little tricks all over the place. If you’re on the hill and open your eyes, there’s mini shred everywhere. You just have to be creative. Michi Albin is the originator of this. It all started in his backyard a few years ago, and then Michi held the Mini-Shred Open. I go there every year, because the mini shred is like real life. It’s the small things that you appreciate and that make you laugh the most.
Considering that one-footed McTwist in Pop’s mini-shred section, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was “mini,” but anyway, that brown jacket you’re wearing while doing it isn’t made by Burton, is it?
No, it’s Arcus, my own little streetwear label. Freddie Kalbermatten and I started it four years ago. It’s still very small and underground. Right now you only can get it in select shops in Europe, but we’ll be in Japan soon and hopefully in North America, too. So marketing-wise, I should say-watch out!
What’s important in life?
Enjoying the moment and having a good feeling whatever you do, wherever you are.
Okay, if there’re any shout outs, go for it!
Thanks, TWS! Shout outs go to the peeps at Burton, Oakley, SigSagSug, Absinthe Films, TTR, Mauro, Fà¥rdy, Tobis, Laax, my family and my homeys, Fleur, every snowboarder, Terje, Jake, Danny Way, Drew, Tom Penny, and everybody else!
“Nicolas reminds me of a young Terje-the same natural riding ability and style. Watching him ride reminds me of everything I love about snowboarding.”-David Benedek
“Nicolas? He’s a hawk! Back-seven Japans with spawning steez. Dude can one-foot Micky higher than I’ll ever both-foot McTwist! The kid’s sick and has put a fresh style on the table.”-Jeremy Jones
“Nicolas has the ability to read the terrain really well-he’s smooth and has a light-footed style.”-Terje Haakonsen