Frenchman is one of world's best free skiers
"One of Those Days" trilogy has amassed more than 28m YouTube views
Thovex is multiple X Games winner and 2010 Freeride World Tour champion
La Clusaz native is passionate filmmaker
Imagine yourself soaring 30ft in the air on a pair of skis. Now picture a helicopter with whop-whopping blades whirring under you.
If you can’t quite conjure what that might be like, put yourself in the ski boots of one of the world’s best free skiers Candide Thovex.
He filmed it on a headcam, so you can.
“I don’t think I would do it again,” the 33-year-old Thovex told CNN. “It was definitely kind of scary. You don’t want to finish like a ham.”
As well as not ending up like a ham, he also jumped over a paraglider and a peloton of cyclists, skied across a lake and water-skied behind the helicopter in his latest YouTube edit.
Thovex is the man behind the internet trilogy “One of Those Days,” three high-speed “point-of-view” romps packed with big jumps, flips and spins and laced with an impish sense of humour around his home resort of La Clusaz in France.
The original “One of Those Days” came out in 2013, and skiers and action sports junkies were hooked.
The editor of Powder magazine, John Clary Davies, wrote at the time: “The best skier on the planet at his home hill. This is the most fun I’ve ever had skiing and all I did was sit in my office and press play. Movie of the Year. Edit of the Century. Done.”
The flying Frenchman released “One of Those Days 3” on February 23. Five days later it had achieved more than 4.4 million views on the social media channel.
A passionate filmmaker, Thovex says he wanted to showcase a different type of skiing to the powder, snowparks and big-mountain skiing seen in most ski movies.
“I knew it was going to work because people aren’t used to seeing that kind of skiing, but I was definitely surprised,” he says.
“I wanted to show different stuff, just skiing slopes in resorts and doing the type of skiing I’ve done since I was a kid. I think that’s why people enjoy it.”
As outrageous as the heli stunt was, Thovex says he was more concerned with what came straight after it.
“It was something we’d really planned. I’d been doing the jump before the heli came – it was a massive jump and I knew exactly the speed I needed,” he said.
“At the same time I was focused on the second jump right after it. It was almost more scary. It was big and if I didn’t have enough speed I would have landed on the flat. I broke my back a few years ago and I didn’t want to be shocked again.”
Thovex has made a career of huge jumps on skis after making a name for himself with the first clearance of what became known as “Chad’s Gap,” a 120ft jump over a 40ft deep gully in the Alta backcountry in 1999.
He went on to become a triple Winter X Games gold medalist in big air, superpipe and slopestyle, but after breaking his back in 2007 – he fractured a vertebrae with a bad landing off a jump called “Big Bertha” – it was initially feared he might never ski again.
He did return, however, and clinched a remarkable victory in the 2010 Freeride World Tour alongside a first foray into filmmaking.
Given he has logged more air miles on his skis than a lot of people do in airplanes, Thovex says big jumps are not the thing that fazes him most.
“When you have some jumps that go really high it’s crazy,” he says. “You just want to make sure you get the right speed, but in the air it’s just the greatest feeling, you know?
“But I’ve been doing that since I was a kid so it’s usual.
“I’ve been more scared doing things like freeriding big mountains where there is always the risk of avalanches, and often you are doing stuff nobody has skied before. When you are the first you are in the unknown and there is definitely a lot of pressure.
“But I think it’s good to have some pressure. When you are too confident, that’s when you hurt yourself. You need to be a bit on the defense.”
The first film ends with Thovex pulling a back flip over a police car before running up the road in his ski boots with the sirens wailing behind him.
“One of Those Days 2,” which came out last year, upped the ante.
It culminates in Thovex skiing off the terrace of a mountain restaurant at lunch time, hopping the fence at the lift station and skiing straight into the open gondola as people at the front of the line bang on the doors.
One of the main themes in the comments section under the videos on YouTube is whether Thovex’s stunts are real. He insists they are, but admits “painting” some shots – for instance with a flock of birds – to enhance the look.
For the most recent edit, Thovex, “pushed a bit more.” Where the first one took “a few days” to film, “One Of Those Days 3” took about three weeks, plus about another month to edit.
“We scripted everything we wanted to have in it,” says Thovex, who does all his own editing.
“People are not used to seeing skiing on water so I can understand why they think it is fake. That’s why we started using outside views, so people can see that’s its real.
“The title is ‘One Of Those Days’ but it’s kind of a concept.”
Some scenes took longer to get right than others – the water-skiing-behind-a-helicopter finale proved particularly troublesome.
“The water was super cold and it took me a bit of time to be able to catch the rope. I was freezing,” said Thovex, who wore a wetsuit and life-jacket under his ski suit.
“The heli pilot, when he is on top of the water, doesn’t know how high he is so it’s really difficult for him to get the right spot. And when I was catching the rope he had to move forward at the right time so it was definitely the most difficult thing to shoot.”
Thovex says the trilogy is complete and is planning a new filming project away from the point-of-view angle. But amid the frenzied life of a traveling pro skier, he will always find time to do what he really loves.
“I just love to be on my skis, skiing with my friends, just going out into the mountains and being in nature and skiing some powder, that’s the best thing,” he says.