Elisabeth Gerritzen is a premiere Swiss athlete who has been bagging podiums consistently on the Freeride World Tour. She is a true star in the making. She’s an incredible personality to highlight, humble yet fierce. She also loves Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Canada 😉
ELISABETH GERRITZEN BIO
From her home town of Verbier hails rising freeride star Elisabeth Gerritzen. Coming through from the Junior Freeride Tour to topping the World Qualifier rankings and a two seasons on the big stage of the Freeride World Tour, Elisabeth showed the world what she was capable of taking home an emotional gold medal at the final hometown stop in Verbier 2019. A strong skier who charges hard and frequently winds up the day with a game of darts at the pub, Elisabeth doesn’t do compromise and can also be found studying for a master’s degree when she’s not ripping on the hill.
INTERVIEW WITH ELISABETH GERRITZEN
What are three things about you that people might not know?
EG: So many things! My skiing personality and what I decide to share on social and with the media is only a small part of my ‘real’ day-to-day life. I believe keeping an important part of my life away from followers’ attention, and therefore judgment has always been fundamental to my emotional well-being. But I’m getting off-topic. The first thing that comes to my mind is the fact that I am a bike messenger in Geneva in the summer. I work within a small delivery co-op so my colleagues and I are our own bosses, which is great because I dislike hierarchy and the authority that inevitably comes with it. Another thing people might not know about me is that I grew up wanting to be a professional soccer player. Unfortunately, this was a highly unrealistic dream as I was, and still am, a very average player. I eventually stopped playing midway through high school when freeskiing started to take up a lot of my time. Last but not least, most people don’t know that I am binational. I was born and raised in Switzerland, but my father is Dutch—Gerritzen is a typical dutch last name—and I feel very close to his culture and country. This is ironic because the Netherlands are known to be the flattest country in the world. The Dutch are very avid skiers nevertheless. They tend to colonize European alpine resorts during school holidays. I also think it’s the country with the most indoor skiing infrastructures per square meter. Though, this is nothing to be proud of as these so-called fridges have a disastrous impact on the environment.
Can you share some thoughts on the ski season that you were having, and what it felt like to have the season cut short? Specifically with regards to the cancellation of the Verbier Extreme contest?
EG: To be honest, we sort of saw it coming. We were in Japan for the first stop of the Tour when the media first started talking about the Corona Virus in January. It sounded pretty serious and the Japanese government was already taking measures. It was hard to foresee how rapidly it would evolve, but my gut feeling was not too optimistic. It’s a miracle we didn’t have to cancel the Fieberbrunn stop, as well. On a more personal level, I was having a good season, I felt confident on my skis and generally in good spirits about the whole thing. After ending up third three times in a row I figured I wanted to step it up in Austria and crashed after coming in too hot on my first cliff drop. I think this is a big part of competitive freeriding—skiing within your comfort zone for too long and getting frustrated by good-but-not-excellent results, you try to step it up and sometimes you end up being a little bit too pretentious on a line choice. It’s a metaphor for life. Concerning the cancellation of the Xtreme, I was obviously disappointed. Having won last year and more generally having had the best day of my life with amazing support from the entire Verbier community, close friends, and family, it is the kind of emotion one only wishes to recreate. I guess kind of like a drug. Don’t do drugs, kids. But with hindsight, and considering how widespread the epidemic is today, canceling was the right thing to do. Turns out skiing is not that important in the grand scheme of things, and this was a good reminder.
Can you share some thoughts on the camaraderie that you experience on the tour? What do you and your friends on tour get up to outside of the comp?
EG: I’d say the camaraderie on the Tour is just as important as the skiing, if not more so. If you allow me to speak figuratively, the friendship is the very structure of the Tour. It defines us all as skiers and individuals during the intense three months we spend together. It adds a collective component to our competitions that would otherwise only be illustrated by our athletic performance. In regards to what we get up to, what don’t we get up to, really? Over the past four seasons, traveling with the FWT circus—I believe this is truly the best way to describe it—I have played ping-pong (a lot of it), gone curling, missed flights, gotten wasted on too many occasions, hung out at an Antifa bar in downtown Tokyo, sung karaoke, crashed rental cars, had numerous arguments about the meaning of life, met lifelong friends, eaten a ton of incredible food, and snus-ed too much, to name a few.
Is there a single moment on the tour these past two seasons that has meant the most to you, or had the biggest impact on you?
EG: As mentioned above, I think my victory at home on the Bec des Rosses is the one thing concerning the Tour that will stick with me for the rest of my life. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I won, it’s not some kind of domination ego trip about finally being able to say, “I’m the best.” I’m not the best, I never was, and probably never will be, but that day I realized that when things come into place, when you are in the right headspace, and that you feel overwhelming support from your community, you can show the kind of skiing you didn’t even know you had in you. This impacted me a lot because I’ve always felt very insecure about skiing competitively. As if I didn’t belong, or was illegitimate because I knew so many other people who were way better than me. In the end, that day for me represents a victory over my insecurities, and not so much over other riders.
What’s your favorite tour stop, and why?
EG: I love Kicking Horse. I fell in love with that place immediately the first time I was there three years ago. There’s a really fun vibe on the mountain, the locals are adorable. It’s just so different from what I’m used to at home, that’s probably why I like it so much. It also has the best in-resort coffee shop I know: Double Black. Best coffee, best service.
What is it about the FWT that keeps you coming back each season?
EG: Ah, good question. It would be too easy to just say, “it’s fun, I love skiing, blah-blah.” There is obviously some truth in that, but it’s over-simplifying it and doesn’t give justice to what it really is. The FWT is like a big, weird family. The kind of family you love unconditionally despite its many flaws. I guess it comes down to the sense of belonging you get from all these adrenaline-addicted nerds from all over the world. We all have very different backgrounds and opinions, but I believe we all value community equally. It’s hard to find that anywhere else. On a personal level, I often say that I keep coming back for selfish reasons. For three months a year, I don’t have to think about anything other than skiing. I usually de-connect from the outside world and just put on that role of sold-out skier traveling the world to find pow. I allow myself to forget for a while that the world is a pretty horrible place for many people who aren’t as privileged as me: the climate is evolving way too rapidly, inequalities are growing and the capitalistic economy in most western countries is essentially preventing these dynamics from changing anytime soon. And guess what, the ski industry is part of the problem. But from December to April, the guilt wears off and I take advantage of that crazy, incredible life I was given and worked pretty hard for.
What does it mean to you to now have equal pay between genders on the FWT? (New this year).
EG: I mean, finally! I was a bit surprised when the media responded so positively to this news when all I wanted to scream was that it should have been done decades ago. My good friend and fellow activist Anne-Flore Marxer has been fighting for this her whole life and was pretty much censored by sponsors and the industry in general. She was fighting this fight “before it was cool,” before equal pay became a hype marketing strategy that many corporations have since instrumentalized. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy about it and value the decision, but for me, it’s too normal of a thing to put in place to praise the FWT as if they were modern heroes.
What is your go-to ski, and why has this ski worked so well for you?
EG: My go-to ski is the Faction Dictator 3.0. It’s a stiff yet fun ski that goes everywhere and that doesn’t let you backslap.
Are there ways that your local government is treating the pandemic differently than other countries that surround you?
EG: We were never fully locked down in Switzerland, as opposed to France for example. This saved me I think. Living in Verbier and having nature just outside of my house, I was still able to go touring safely, hiking, etc. We were super lucky to still be able to take advantage of the outdoors. Though it was criticized at first by many COVID radicals, it proved to be a valid political decision. The hospitals were never super busy, our curve remained low for the entire confinement period, and life has started again pretty much everywhere.
Amid the pandemic, are you taking any steps to try and maintain a healthy mind?
EG: At this point, I use exercise and its dopamine releases to stay sane. It’s sort of working.
Has staying at homemade you think differently about spending time outside?
EG: Yes, I’m generally much more thankful for my lifestyle, my home, and its endless opportunities, both outside and inside. I really, really miss going to concerts.
Have you picked up any new hobbies while under quarantine?
EG: I finally learned to ollie on a skateboard [laughs]. Lots of yoga with Adriene on YouTube, lots of catching up on the 208,230 unread books that were sitting on my bed stand for months. I guess I learned to live a little slower which is a very useful life skill to have.