Aurelien has been competing at the highest levels in junior alpine skiing competitions from a young age. At the age of 15, he joined the French Ski Jumping team and won two titles as Champion of France. In search of new freedom, Aurelien started snowboarding, where his jumping skills led him to be chosen as the stunt double for the main actor in the feature film ‘Snowboard’.
In recent years, Aurelien has dedicated himself once more to the freeride scene, continuing to secure top podium places. Since 2013, he has also dedicated himself to offshore sailing during the summer seasons, skippering a Transat 6.5 headed for a transatlantic solo expedition.
1. More than 57% of people asked (via a survey of 2,000) responded that they are not really living their life to the full. Have you ever felt this way, and how did you change it?
Of course I have, just like everyone. I take those moments as an opportunity to reinvent my life, to dream and to create new challenges.
2. What was the biggest challenge you faced when pursuing your dream?
When I started sailing, I knew that my goal was to do a solo Atlantic crossing. After just one year, I was able to make this a reality by competing in my first solo transatlantic race. This was
a huge and exciting challenge for me. I was facing new fears for the first time, but it was also the start of a new dream, and I’ve never looked back.
3. Did you always want to be a skier?
Yes. I’m very fortunate that I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. Since I started skiing at a young age, it has always been my dream to make it as a pro.
4. What makes you feel more alive – skiing or sailing? Why?
Both of them make me feel Alive. The two sports are really different and bring me very intense moments which make me feel Alive.
5. How has your skiing career benefitted your sailing and vice versa?
Being used to dealing with the snow helped me a lot when I started sailing. Even though the two elements are very different, the way you deal with them and drive yourself into them are very similar. Equally, sailing has taught me to become more patient and focused. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I won my two freeride world champion titles after I started sailing.
6. Who or what was your biggest inspiration and why?
I will always feel inspired by people who are determined to follow their dreams – especially when their dreams are crazy ones!
7. More than 42% of the public often have days when they feel that all they do is eat, sleep and work. What are your top tips for anybody looking to get more enjoyment from their daily lives?
I think we’ve all experienced that feeling at some stage in life. In France we call it ‘la routine’. The best way to break that ‘routine’ is to create opportunities by being curious, trying new things and by dreaming. If you feel inspired, you’ll find new passions and this will help you to break your routine.
8. What is your biggest achievement to date and why?
I took part in my first ski competition when I was just six years old, and ever since that day my dream was to become a world champion skier. Getting to the top of your game takes hard work and dedication, and in March 2009, after 21 years of training and fighting to be the best, I succeeded in my dream and won my first world champion title.
9. What is your ultimate dream/goal – in your professional career and in your personal life?
Ever since I started sailing, my dream has been to do a solo sail around the world. There is a well-known race called the Vendée Globe, which happens every four years – my aim is to compete in 2020.
10. Money is very often seen as the biggest barrier when it comes to people doing things that bring them enjoyment. Holidays, nights out and skiing trips all cost money. How can people overcome this and still find things to do that will make them feel alive?
Yes, things do cost money, but we also know that money doesn’t bring happiness, which means that it isn’t the key. For me, everything comes from passion, the dreams you pursue and a willingness and desire to feel alive.
11. What do you love most about your job?
I tend to share my time between the sea and the mountains. The great thing about working in nature is that it’s constantly changing and evolving. I never know quite what to expect from day to day, which means I never tire of it.
12. What do you least like about your job?
When you’re determined to follow your dreams, you know you’ll need to make some sacrifices along the way. I travel a lot and am often away from my family, which is hard. But I’m lucky that they’re incredibly supportive of the career I’ve chosen.
13. How do you make yourself feel alive on tough days?
I always try to find the small things, which makes those tough days a bit more unique. It’s often the tough days that end up being the most special.
One example was in 2011 in Russia when I was fighting for a world champion title. I needed to be on the podium to reach the title a few weeks later, but the day before the competition I was training, and got a tear on the quadriceps. The doctor told me I couldn’t ski for at least two weeks. The pain was terrible, but I knew what I needed to achieve. The doctor taped my legs on the start gate and told me: “You have only one leg to ski today but you can do it with your head!” I can’t say it was my best run ever, but I ended up in second place and went on to take the lead of the world tour.
It was a tough and painful day, but certainly one where I was feeling the most ALIVE!
14. What do you love most about being in nature?
There’s so much to love about spending time in nature. I just enjoy being at one with it, listening to its sounds and appreciating its beauty.
15. Do you have any regrets?
Not really. My life is driven by opportunities, passion and challenges.
16. What is the one thing that makes you feel the most alive?
The achievement of a dream. There’s nothing quite like knowing that all of the hard work and dedication has paid off.
17. Your job is very extreme. Do you worry about safety?
Safety is the most important part of my job. It’s key to all of my projects, and something I have to take seriously on a daily basis. I try not to obsess or worry too much, but safety planning is a fundamental part of my life.
18. When was the last time you felt alive?
A few days ago! This feeling had nothing to do with my day job, but I did my first solo paragliding flight – it was amazing! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it gave me a true feeling of being Alive!
19. What are the top three things that enable you to do your job to the best of your ability?
1. My personal feeling – it’s hard to give 100% to something you don’t feel passionate about.
2. My gear – I rely on my kit to give me the confidence I need. Whether on the sea or the mountains, I need to know that I can stay warm and dry in all conditions.
3. The elements – my life is often at the mercy of Mother Nature. Over the years I have learnt to understand and respect the unpredictability of the weather. I never underestimate the true force of nature.
20. Do you ever feel afraid, and how do you deal with that feeling?
Sometimes I feel afraid, and when I do it means that I’m not 100% confident. I always listen to my instinct, and fear tells me that I need to question my decisions until I feel certain I’m
doing the right thing. If the feeling of fear is strong, I know that it’s time to say no, and to walk away from whatever it is that’s making me afraid.
21. If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
To always listen to the elements, and let them choose the best way!
22. What you do to relax/chill out?
Spending time with my family. As much as I love my job, it’s so important to be reminded of the really important things in life. Nothing recharges my batteries better than spending quality time with my loved ones.
23. What is your favourite piece of Helly Hansen kit and why?
The Elevation Shell Jacket, I had the chance to work on the development of this jacket, which I’m really proud about. It’s the perfect design for skiers. It’s super breathable and regulates my body temperature depending on whether I’m too hot or too cold. It’s packed with loads of really great technical features and it looks really cool too! I’m always getting great comments from other skiers when I wear it.
Images: Dan Ferrer