He May Be the Most Famous 'Freerider' in the World

'Guardian' profiles death-defying skier Jeremie Heitz of Switzerland
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2024 10:45 AM CST
He May Be the Most Famous 'Freerider' in the World
Jeremie Heitz in a 2016 photo.   (Tero Repo/Mammut/PPR via AP Images)

"To spend much time in [Jeremie] Heitz's world is to encounter something like the normalization, even the banalization, of premature death," writes Simon Akam in the Guardian. Hyperbole, you might think. But watch some video of Heitz's passion, and you'll think again. The 34-year-old from Switzerland is one of the most famous freeriders in the world—meaning he's a skier who goes far, far from the beaten path, on mountain slopes so steep that few skiers would even think about going down. What's more, Heitz made his name—particularly through a 2016 documentary film called La Liste—on some of the most extreme slopes ever tackled. "This activity combines two of the world's most perilous sports—alpine mountaineering and backcountry skiing—and regularly kills a handful of its practitioners every year," writes Akam.

In addition to chronicling Heitz's feats—and a near-fatal accident highlighted in La Liste—the story explores the ethics of a sport whose participants vie for sponsorships from the likes of Red Bull, knowing they must continue to push the extremes ever further in order to make any money. (Heitz pulls in about $350,000 a year.) Competitions in the sport exist, but "freeriders happily admit that their sport largely exists to be seen on a screen, and the goal even on the mountain is to look good," writes Akam. As American Drew Tabke puts it, "The finished product is a three-minute highlight reel." Heitz, meanwhile, has begun shifting away from the sport, having watched a friend get seriously injured while they were filming a follow-up to La Liste. He's now training to become a European mountain guide, which would combine his skiing and climbing prowess. Read the full story. (Or check out other Longforms.)

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