Image Maker: Patrick Armbruster
Swiss image-maker Patrick "Brusti" Armbruster is the co-founder of Absinthe Films and one of its principal cinematographers. He takes an artist's eye to capturing snowboarders on film. Here, he's curated a collection of some his favorite photographs from the late 90s and early 2000s, including this shot of Wolle Nyvelt on a handmade quarterpipe, shot with Agfa Scala 200 -- "One of my favorite film types," says Brusti.
Maybe it's the size and expanse of the terrain, but true Whistler locals ride like bats out of hell -- incredibly fast, but also precise. "This image is from my first trip to Whistler in March of 1999," says Armbruster. "I was floored by how much speed Shandy took into the jump in order to clear that ditch in the landing."
After a Volcom gathering at Tandadalen, Sweden just before Christmas of 1999, the crew partied, overslept, and missed their flights home. "What started out as a frustrating situation turned into a great portrait shoot till late into night with Michi Albin and Rüf," says Armbruster. "This is a double exposure on film, with the view from our airport hotel onto the snowed-in tarmac of the Oslo."
A classic rock-star shot of Peter Line, snapped on an Electric Eyewear team trip to Austria in 2002. "I had concerns that we weren't getting the needed images, since all we were doing was having a good time," says Armbruster. "But the team reassured me that that's exactly what Bruce Beach and Kip Arnette -- the founders of Electric -- wanted us to be doing."
In the summer of 1998 snowboarding was fresh on the Olympic roster and summercamps were booming at glaciers across North America and Europe. "Gian Simmen had just won the first Olympic halfpipe in Nagano," says Armbruster. Simmens' career, like this air out of a slushy summertime pipe at Les Diablerets, Switzerland, was very much on an upward trajectory.
Another hype that started in the late '90s was the urban big-air event. "Michi Albin was the new hot shot on Burton's elite team, and on short notice he got an invitation to fly to Sydney for Australia's first Big Air," says Armruster. Albin won $20,000 there, and organizers promised to wire him the money. "Once we were back home, they told Michi that the event went bankrupt, and he never saw his $20,000."
Spring sessions at Riksgrnsen, Sweden are the stuff of legend, featuring a congregation of the entire European pro snowboard community. It's the land of the midnight sun, with enough daylight to keep the resort lifts open until 1 a.m.. Also, like they are in this shot of Michi Albin back in 1997, the conditions are usually prime.
Nico Müller, switch backside 720 at Saas Fee in 2001 -- riding Michi Albin's Burton pro-model board featuring graphics by skate/art legend Mark Gonzales. (The board hit the market the very same season that Albin was, suddenly and inexplicably, no longer riding for Burton).
In January of 2002, Müller and Armbruster headed to North America with one goal -- get as much footage of Nico as humanly possible for Absinthe's upcoming movie. The result: The opening segment of Absinthe's seminal film VIVID. "The two of us spent three weeks filming in Tahoe and Whistler without a photographer or any other riders," says Armbruster. "He finished the season in Alaska, where he slaughtered the lines for the first time. The dedication paid off."
Romain de Marchi
Another snowboard icon from Switzerland, Romain de Marchi exploded on the snowboard scene in the late 90s. "He left a mark wherever he went," says Armbruster. "Legendary sessions paved his career -- and legendary parties documented his nights." Geneva, 2002.
A Viking in his element -- Terje Haakonsen goes huge over the Nordic Sea at Lofoten during the very first Arctic Challenge in 2000. "Look at this monster!" says Armbruster about the sheer enormity of the quarterpipe. "It's one thing to see some heavy snow-park constructions during a major event at a resort, but something completely different on one of Norway's northern islands -- far away from the mainland and way past the Arctic Circle. An unforgettable experience, all around."
Wille Yli-Luoma -- who was part of the first wave of Finnish snow killers that included Jussi Oksanen and Joni Malmi -- ridies a hand-made terrain park in Tahoe back in 2002. "Next to the road on the way to Truckee, this crew had built a little park in their backyard where this unexpected session took place," says Armbruster.