THE INSULAR ALPINE REPUBLIC OF SWITZERLAND is known to keep a low profile. Only a few of the country’s highlights—the banks, the chocolate, Pirmin Zurbriggen, Roger Federer—have made a breakthrough to the world stage. But with a new generation of top-level Swiss big air and slopestyle skiers on the rise, it might be time to add freestyle skiing to the list of things for which Switzerland is famous.
In the last four years, Swiss skiers have earned more medals in X Games big air competitions than any other country, thanks to the duo of Elias Ambühl and Kai Mahler. Either Ambühl or Mahler has consistently landed a second- or third-place finish in big air since 2012 (in 2013, both placed in the top three). One more top-three win and Switzerland will match the United States in overall X Games big air medals at seven apiece.
Meanwhile, the Swiss have been making inroads in slopestyle, a field where other Alpine nations like Germany and Austria have struggled to match the competition from North America and Scandinavia. In February, Swiss young-gun Fabian Bösch, 18, claimed the slopestyle title at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard Championships in Kreischberg, Austria. Up-and-comers Andri Ragettli, Luca Schuler, and Giulia Tanno also posted top-three results at World Cup slopestyle events and at France’s SFR Tour, Europe’s biggest slopestyle circuit. To steal a phrase from freeskiing history, there’s a new Swiss Air Force on the scene.