On April 3, 2017, Léo Slemett was in a three-way tie for the Freeride World Tour (FWT) title—the pinnacle of competition big mountain skiing. It was the final day of the Xtreme Verbier contest—otherwise known as the FWT finals—and after an American competitor landed a switch 180, it was time for the 26-year-old Chamonix, France-native to drop in to the north face of the Bec Des Rosses, the infamous big-mountain venue in Verbier, Switzerland. He started off his run with something no one had ever done in the contest’s 22-year history: a 360 in the Central Couloir. He followed-up the consequential move with a series of clean, high amplitude airs—it was enough to earn him the title of overall 2017 Freeride World Tour Champion.
“Looking back at that day, I took some risks… that was big,” says Léo. “The couloir is super steep and narrow, it’s a no-fall zone. I asked some [veteran] competitors and they told me no one had tried a trick there.”
He joined the FWT at age 19 as its youngest competitor in history. Léo, who often prefers listening to music over chatting with fellow competitors, started the competition season with little confidence, and he was kicked off the tour on account of poor results. He trained harder, started enjoying skiing even more and the following year won two major Freeride World Qualifiers (FWT) events and topped the rankings. In 2017, Léo surprised himself with the overall title. Then he ended the season winning the Chilean Freeride Championships.
Born in Chamonix to a family of skiers—both of his brothers are ski instructors—Léo took every advantage of growing up in the heart of the Alps. Leo joined the well reputed Young Rider’s Crew as its youngest member at age 12. The unique program teaches young skiers in Chamonix the ski skills and avalanche education to safely ski off-piste. Léo started participating in big-mountain competitions in 2011 and secured sponsorship to travel to the U.S. to compete in junior freeride contests at Snowbird, Utah and Taos, New Mexico, and the Junior Freeride World Tour stop in Austria. Léo skied by instinct, but that wasn’t enough to win competitions. He spent two winters working on the mental part of competing and honing his technique. His coaches said he worked endlessly to improve his skiing and they knew Léo could do anything he wanted to do in skiing, including become world champion.
In the spring following his title win, Léo joined TNF teammates Sam Anthamatten and Markus Eder on an expedition to Georgia’s Mt. Ushba. Since then, he’s become a steep skiing wonder, ticking off ski mountaineering objectives on big peaks around Chamonix. If big mountain competitions are an indicator of Slemett’s ability to focus, train, manage risk and achieve his goals in steep skiing, chances are he’ll succeed.