Absinthe Films: The Joy of Snowboarding

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Get ready for Ready––Absinthe Films’ new project that features some of the best snowboarders in the business. This year Absinthe will kick off its third year of The Sphere of Influence Tour. This tour will make its way through 21 major cities, with Salt Lake City being the first banger stop! So seriously… get ready. You’ll be left astounded and we may even have to peel you out of the theater––the riding is going to be that good.

Ready features some of the best riders in the world including: Nicolas Muller, Gigi Ruf, Kevin Pearce, MFM, JP Solberg, Romain deMarchi, Scotty Lago, Mikey Leblanc, big mountain: Jeremy Jones, Annie Boulanger, Keegan Valaika, Matt Beardmore, Matty Ryan, Wolfgang Nyvelt and many more. The riders and filmers traveled the world finding new and unique obstacles to ride down, jump on, slappy tap change up out of and whirly bird over.

This tour is unlike any other snowboard film premier to date. In its third year now, The Sphere of Influence Tour is here to not only blow your mind, but to educate it about being environmentally responsible as well. For every Sphere of Influence ticket sold, Absinthe will donate $1 to the Protect Our Winters organization and another $1 to a local non-profit in each city that the tour makes a stop in––so feel good about spending your money on this premier ticket.

I was lucky enough to chat with two of the best riders out there, Mikey Leblanc and Annie Boulanger. Leblanc has been part of the Absinthe crew for over three years now. Boulanger, the only female involved, has been filming with them for two years. In these interviews, we talked about traveling, filming and their take on the environment, not makeup or boys.

Photos: Absinthe Films

Annie Boulange
SLUG: How long have been snowboarding?
AB: Since 94’. 14 years.

SLUG: What mountain is your home?
AB: Whistler/ Backcomb

SLUG: Who are your sponsors?
AB: Nike, Salomon, DAkine, Anon, Eesa, Whistler/ blackcomb, Ifound and Empire shop.

SLUG: How has your riding changed since you started?
AB: I used to ride the small icy hills of Qubec, so I rode the icy jumps and iced yellow slick half pipes. Then I started competing in big air contests and half pipe. I wanted to continue down that path, but found it hard when I moved to Whistler because it kept dumping all the time. The park was always buried, so I had to learn to free ride instead. It took me a while to like it as much as the park, but now powder is pretty much the reason I ride.

SLUG: How have your injuries helped and hurt your riding? Do you feel any of your injuries were a blessing in disguise?
AB: When you’re pro, the worst thing in the world is an injury. That’s your enemy. I’ve lost a few seasons to blown-out knees and bruised heels. I took that time to reflect, learn from mistakes and read a lot. I think that being an athlete really pushes you to your limit and brings up your fears. If you want to come back strong, you have to confront them and deal with the psychological side of the sport too.

SLUG: What do you get out of being a professional snowboarder? You slay the crap out of anything put in front of you. Do you feel satisfied where you’re at right now or do you want to keep on pushing to the next level?
AB: I feel so lucky to have had the chance to travel and see the world, to meet so many different people and learn about their mentalities. I believe that’s the best way to educate yourself. Get out of your little bubble and explore what’s out there. Snowboarding has also taken me to surfing, my new love. On the snowboard side, I always want to progress and learn. I’m never really satisfied, that’s what keeps it interesting and fun.

SLUG: What riders do you look up to or that influence you to keep pushing yourself to the next level?
AB: Gigi, Devon Walsh, Nicolas, Romain, Wolle, DC P, Jake Blauvelt, Austin, Eero E & N, Bjorn Leines, MFR.... so many....

SLUG: When did you start filming with the Absinthe crew?
AB: Two seasons ago.

SLUG: What is it like being the only girl involved? How is filming? Do they push you, or do they let you have more of a voice?
AB: Well riding with those guys makes you realize how bad you are compared to them… that’s for sure. I love working with Absinthe. They’re awesome. The guys are super cool and push me, but sometimes it’s hard cause the jumps are massive so I try to find something else to hit. I also find that I have a hard time speaking up, cause the guys should deserve more attention than me since they are better. I’m working on that part...

SLUG: Who are your regular filming buddies?
AB: This year my crew varied between Romain, JP, Matt B, Wolle and Markus K.

SLUG: Absinthe is promoting environmental education and awareness. How do you think the environment is looking right now?
AB: If you travel to overpopulated third world countries you realize how far the world is from recycling and being aware of what’s going on. That’s even scarier then what you see around here with the glaciers melting and everyone driving full size vehicles.

SLUG: How do you think snowboarding both positively and negatively affects the environment?
AB: I haven’t seen the positive side, besides some happy people. The negative list gets long if you really think about it. Driving to the hill, running the chairs, cutting trees... that’s without considering everything that went into producing your gear in China or some other over populated country with no regulations and that wax that you just scraped off your board.

SLUG: What about snowmobiling? I know they get people to incredible places, but how important do you think they are for the future of snowboarding and the environment?
AB: Yeah, burn gas, lots of it, get the shot, get it done! Are there any positive questions here? Like on make-up and boys?

SLUG: Alright to a lighter note what was the best part of filming…any good stories?
AB: Like Marie France would say: “One life”. It’s been amazing. We stress and complain about shots and sponsors sometimes, but only because we feel pressure at times. The Absinthe guys are funny and a blast to hang with.

Mikey Leblanc
SLUG:How long have you been in the bus? Who are your sponsors?
ML : 24 years. Ride, DVS, Matix Holden and Milo Sport.

SLUG: When did you get involved with Absinthe?
ML : I was riding/filming with Shane six or seven years, but had no parts in the Absinthe Films. I think about three years ago is when I legitimately was in the Absinthe Films.

SLUG: How has it been filming with them?
ML : Ideal for where I am at right now with my riding. I mean Absinthe made the best movie last year, and ever, in my opinion. I love being involved. There is no pressure in filming, they let us dictate 100�f our riding. We do what we want. It is relaxed and portrays true riding, not dictated riding.

SLUG: Who are you generally filming/ riding with?
ML : Last year for city trips it was mainly, Matty Ryan, Justin Bennee, Kale, Keegan Valaika, J2 and Andy Wright is generally there snapping photos. For big mountain filming I love riding with MFM and Gigi Ruff. I pretty much ride with a dream crew in every part.

SLUG: What were the major trips this filming year?
ML : When we did city filming we went to Toronto, Montreal and Buffalo, NY. They were a lot of fun because these were cities that not many people had been to. We had to really explore and find things to do. Nothing was really mapped out for us. This is what is great about Absinthe, they let us take chances and go to new places. There is the risk of not getting 100 shots, but there is the pleasure of getting different and more unique shots. I mean we were filming on streets other crews don’t even know are around …

SLUG: Absinthe is really involved with being environmentally aware and promoting environmental education. What are your feelings with where we’re headed, environmentally?
ML : Undoubtedly, we need to at least admit that we are fucking shit up. You know if you rolled up to your bank and realized you are -100 dollars you’re fucked, below empty. That’s how the world is right now. We are screwed on many levels, but there are 1 million things we can do to fix things and slowly bring the globe together.

SLUG: How do you think snowboarding positively and negatively affects the environment?
ML : No matter what you do period you affect the environment. Let’s face it, the snow industry makes products that are bad, but there are options to become an eco-friendlier company. As for snowboarding affecting the environment, we definitely have a negative impact. We are in the animal’s habitat. However on the positive, snowboarding is getting people outside. If you have a nice day on the mountain you will come back down and probably be nicer to people around you, which I consider eco-friendly. If snowboarding is making you happy, then you will want to return the favor and make others around you happy.

SLUG: How do you feel about snowmobiling? It is used a lot in the sport, but is it absolutely necessary?
ML : It’s 100�orrible. They do get you to places to make epic movies and I do own one, but I rarely use it, and it wouldn’t bother me if I never had to again. Maybe they could create fixed gears for snow? Or since all these kids are riding fixed gears now they should be able to hike up no problem.

SLUG: Where are you living now?
ML : I live in Portland, OR almost full-time. I do have a house in SLC so I come back for the winters.

SLUG: I hear when you are in Salt Lake you go the Kanzeon Zen Center and your Zen Master is Roshi? The funny thing is I garden for Roshi.
ML : Really!
SLUG: Yeah, I love his garden. It’s my favorite out of the gardens I take care of.
ML : Well, I bet there is a lot of good Karma coming from that place!
SLUG: How has learning the art of Zen Buddhism helped your snowboarding?
ML : It has helped my snowboarding so much. It changes your way of thinking. You become more aware of your thoughts, how you perceive the world. I love snowboarding, it absolutely saved my life and gave me confidence. As a pro you go through gnarly stages with money and sponsors. Through these stages you almost lose the joy of snowboarding. Going to the Zen Center has allowed me to find that joy again and helps me be aware of when I am caught up in all that negative nonsense.

SLUG: What do you want the youngins that are watching you get to out of your riding style?
ML : Take away whatever they want. The kids should find their own style, don’t do what everyone else does. It’s good to be inspired by films and the pros, but just don’t copy it. There are so many options in life to be creative and find your own niche. Snowboarding allows people to know they are capable of standing on their own two feet. It gives people courage and confidence to do things on their own. Since snowboarding is such and individual sport, people need that push to get out there. Try new things, share your experiences with others and show people the joy they can receive out of snowboarding.

If you have been living under a boulder field for the past few months and have not yet seen the teaser for Ready then visit: www.sphereofinfluencetour.com

If you feel inspired to start becoming more involved in saving the world, visit and support the following sites:
www.protectourwinters.org
www.energyactioncoalition.org