Fabian Boesch is one of the most exciting freestyle skiers on the planet. In the past year the Swiss ace has been crowned big air world champion, become the first freeskier ever to land a quad flip 1980, and grabbed silver in his second slopestyle World Cup event of 2020. Not bad for a man who finished 24th in slopestyle at PyeongChang 2018.
Fear is not an emotion freeskier Fabian Boesch is familiar with. Doing things that no one has ever done before is what he lives for.
“I am fascinated by the tricks we are doing at the moment, it’s insane,” said the 2019 freestyle skiing big air world champion. “I hope it keeps going. I am excited to see where it goes, what is possible, what I can do.
“At first nobody thoughts trips [triple rotations] were possible and now I have done a quad.”
The quadruple flip 1980 Boesch is referring to marked a groundbreaking moment for the sport. The 22-year-old, who won a surprise X Games big air gold medal in 2016, was warming up for the 2019 edition when he pulled out a trick no one had seen before.
His account of the process involved in landing such a seemingly audacious move provides a deep insight into the dedication and commitment required to be a sporting pioneer.
“I started doing triples and I felt there was still time after the triple, so I did 10-15 triples just to get used to it, opening up at the end and seeing if there was still power to get one more done,” Boesch explained. “Then I talked to my coach and he was like ‘Yeah, it works, there’s enough time’.
“During that phase you get tunnel vision. You know it’s possible and you don’t think about anything else except that you can make it and it’s going to work. I didn’t get scared. It was not a rushed decision to try something new. I knew the airtime I had.”
And with that knowledge, he went out in January 2019 and shocked the crowd watching training at the X Games in Aspen, USA. The historic trick did not win Boesch a medal – he went on to finish ninth in the competition – but it was indicative of the confidence that has been flooding through the young Swiss skier since he made his second Olympic appearance in PyeongChang in 2018.
Always known for his gung-ho nature, Boesch has added a level of steel to his performances in recent times. His past two summers have not involved rest and recuperation but research and relentless practice.
“Most of the time it is trampoline first,” he said of his summer routine. “Even if the [new] trick is a double, most of the time you can split it into first part and second part. So, I’ll do the first part, land on the trampoline and then do the second part. Do it a couple of times until I feel comfortable. Then I’ll jump from a trampoline into a foam pit and try and put it together, get the trick done.
“Then I’ll do it on the trampoline again so I can land it on the trampoline. That’s a big step – then you know the trick works, you know where you are in the air.
“Now with the air bags the next step is super nice because you can try it on the snow, see what happens with the skis, with the extra weight. And then you are ready.”
While he is passionate about both big air and slopestyle, Boesch adores the extra creativity the latter discipline allows. The option of choosing your own path, and therefore tricks, all the way down the course appeals to the Engelberg native.
Some of the venues he competes at through the season release details and even 3D animations of their courses well ahead of time but the freewheeling Boesch admits that more often than not he prefers just to turn up, look and let his mind flow.
“The thing is the 3D prints are always a bit different [to the real thing]. You can’t tell how big the jump is or how steep the landings are,” he said. “So, most of the time I just check them to get a first impression and then I check the course on first practice, pick up a speed-check run and then think up my run.”
The process is working. Boesch finished fifth and second in his opening two World Cup slopestyle events this year. And it appears no stone is being left unturned as he seeks to extend this run of fine form.
“You need to be super fit, all around, not just strength or speed or endurance. You need everything,” he said. “Slopestyle competitions are two days of practice and then qualifiers and finals. It’s a lot of runs and if you get tired near the end it gets dangerous.
“I mainly do mountain biking. Uphill, downhill. I will go up for an hour-and-a-half up and then down. And swimming. Biking for the legs, swimming for the upper body.”
Switching between his two disciplines is not a problem for Boesch – he even uses the same skis for both. Given this, it is no surprise that he is already aiming to compete twice at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 when freestyle skiing big air makes its debut alongside slopestyle.
But it is not only medals that Boesch is after. It is more the joy of just being out on the snow, on the world’s biggest stage, surrounded by his mates.
“We help each other out every competition, every practice,” Boesch said. “On the chairlift you say, ‘Did you see the last trick I tried, what do you think? Was it good enough? Do I have to change something?’ It’s really helpful. I love it.”