Since joining the Red Bull family of athletes last year, Swiss freeskiing talent Elias Ambühl has gone from strength to strength and he’s still only 18. He’s competing at Red Bull Playstreets this weekend on 19 February in Austria.
A third place in Winter X Games in 2010 in the Big Air contest marked the start of a charge for skiing supremacy for Elias Ambühl. It’s been a non-stop push since then, with the young Swiss skier taking part in all the big events across the globe from the London Freeze to the Budapest Fridge contest, where he nailed it and took the top spot on the podium.
“The most memorable contest was obviously X Games last year where I ranked third in the Big Air comp,” says Elias as he prepares to dazzle the crowds at the second Red Bull Playstreets newschool freeskiing contest in Bad Gastein, Austria. “I was super-stoked about that result because it was my first podium in the States where most of the biggest contests take place.”
Riding high on the successes of 2010, Elias was set for more glory at the start of this year but admits there are some kinks he wants to iron out. He narrowly missed out on a follow-up medal at Winter X in Aspen in January when he finished fourth in Big Air and sixth in the Slopestyle contest.
“With the switch right double cork 10, I have a unique trick in my bag.”
“Lately, I have been struggling a bit during the comps but, all in all, I had a phenomenal season,” he confides, aware that this weekend’s inner-city contest will require serious technical ability. “Currently I'm trying to step up my rail game. On the kickers, I feel very comfortable and with the switch right double cork 10, I have a unique trick in my bag.”
Does he think he has what it takes to make the podium? Elias is not saying either way, but the thrill of taking part in the crowd-pulling event is enough to motivate him. No stranger to off-mountain comps, he finished second in the Freestyle.ch event on home turf in Zurich two years running in 2009 and 2010. But can he carry some of this good fortune into the spa resort of Bad Gastein?
“Since I'm competing in all the different in-city big air events, I feel confident for Playstreets although it's a Slopestyle event. I'm pumped to compete in front of a big crowd in an urban arena and Bad Gastein is such a beautiful location to show the people out there what freeski stands for,” he says. “For me, skiing is all about having a lot of fun and Playstreets is an environment where I can get innovative. Getting on the podium would just show me how people appreciate what tricks I'm putting down but honestly I don't have any expectations since the course is really difficult and the top riders are competing there.”
“I'm the one who has crazy ideas and I always try to follow my dream.”
As his pro career continues to flourish, Elias has a few people helping to keep his feet firmly on the ground should the bright lights of fame cause him to become giddy. As one of five children, he’s got plenty of people to remind him of his roots but is also lucky to share a passion with his older brother Andri, also a gifted freeskier.
“There are so many different personalities within our family which makes it so special,” says Elias, who cites his brother as a big inspiration as well as tennis ace Roger Federer. “I'm the one who has crazy ideas and I always try to follow my dream. Being passionate about something is so great and I think people - especially my family can feel that. My sister is the opposite to me though; she's a lawyer with a promising future.”
Speaking of promising futures, it must run in the family as Elias is on track for great things. With a broad smile and a sharp wit to compliment his obvious skiing talent, he should be able to follow his own mantra: “Chase your dream whatever it takes - you just have a lifetime to do it. Carpe diem!”