Xavier Mayrand has just released his latest short film, MTL, which showcases a street skiing exploration of Montréal with two members of Québec's new generation of freeski talent, Vince Authier and Mat Dufresne. So to shine a light on the film—which is supported by Surface Skis, J Skis, Newschoolers, Axis Boardshop and Brasseurs de Montréal, and was part of the official selection of the iF3 Festival (where Dufresne was nominated for Breakout Skier of the Year and Best Urban Segment) and High Five Festival—we reached out to the trio to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on what went into the project.
Hey gents. Congrats on the film! Xavier, how about you kick things off by giving us the backstory on how this project came about.
Xavier Mayrand: As a filmmaker I’ve done a lot of street skiing projects through the years. Being from Montreal, the vast majority of the urban filming I've done has been in the city and its surroundings. Last fall, I was looking to get another film project going and was looking at different concepts and approaches that were possible, considering the different constraints like financing, schedules, Covid restrictions and athletes, to name a few. When I looked at all of that, I thought it would be a cool concept to focus a film on the city itself and pay homage to our hometown. Plus, during the Covid lockdowns, I had some great bike rides that allowed me to find a bunch of new spots that were never hit in the past. I thought this added a great opportunity to revisit some classic spots, but also to showcase a lot of new ones. On the riders’ side, I had filmed with Vince Authier the prior season for Alex Bellemare’s Echo, and we knew that we wanted to film together again. Then I reached out to Mat Dufresne, as I knew he was a special talent, and luckily he was super keen to get to work.
Mathieu & Vince, your skiing in the film obviously entailed a ton of hard work, so tell us about what motivated you to see this project come to fruition?
Mathieu Dufresne: I was thinking about doing a street segment for a while, but never really committed. Then Xavier contacted me last summer about filming a project in Montreal during the winter. For me the timing was just perfect.
Vince Authier: I’d say that filming a full street part was my only motivation throughout the entire season. A lot of effort and bails, but having a lot of fun to shoot with the boys helped so much!
Are there any particular features in the film that either of you hadn’t hit before and that were on your radar for a while?
Mathieu: I didn’t have a lot of spots in reserve last season, but at least Xavier was ready. Every night I was receiving messages from him and Vince of three or four different features and trying to figure out which one we wanted to do during the week.
Vince: Yes! The soccer goal post had been on my list for at least five years. I used to drive by that spot on a regular basis and it caught my attention back then. Having the opportunity to hit it this year with Mat’s winch was just perfect.
What was the biggest highlight for all three of you while making this film?
Xavier: I’d say that I have two highlights. In general, working as a trio was fun, as we were super efficient together. As someone with more experience, I knew the spots and what was needed in order for us to be successful. In return, the boys were great team players; they were on board with every plan I had and whatever they required. Then I’d say a highlight day specifically would be one In January. The season had started really slowly, as the snow situation hadn’t been good. There were Covid curfews, so we couldn’t film at night. Mat got injured on our first spot of the season, forcing him to take almost three weeks off. Then, on our first day back shooting, we go to a brand new, massive six-kink rail (which is the ender of the movie), where I expected to be sitting all day. Rails like these make for uncertain shooting days, as you don’t know if the skier will get the shot after 100 attempts. He might not even get it at all. That day I saw what Mat was made of, He got the shot in less than 10 tries, way before 9 a.m. My initial reaction was a bit of disbelief, and then my second thought was, “Okay, well it’s still early, let’s go to a second spot.” We went to the classic down-gap-down rail that Henrik Harlaut and Phil Casabon hit in Level 1’s Refresh. Mat proceeded to land two super technical tricks with relative ease. Right at that point, I realized we were onto something special and that Mat had a real talent for urban skiing.
Vince: I’d say starting the season with one of my favourite shots in my part. Xavier and I planned on shooting street around mid-December, and he came up with that gap to down rail. At first, we got to the spot and he said straight out the car that I should do a 450 on. Without any hesitation, we started building up the spot and I was just feeling it from the moment I started hitting it. I really wanted to do a 450 on, pretzel 270 off, but the rail was too short to lock and jump for a pretzel 2 out. That being said, I finished up doing it to forward and it still looks as good as I wanted. I would say that starting on this trick and spot just set the pace for the rest of the season, and that’s the reason why it is still one of my favourite moments while shooting for MTL.
Mathieu: The biggest highlight for me was during the session on the close out rail on the side of the highway. When we arrived there in the morning, nobody had any expectations. We were trying to find a little line that could be fun, and then we saw the big rail on the top of the bridge with a fence at the bottom. At this moment I was like, “fuck it let’s do it!” So we started shovelling and put everything in place. After the first time trying to reach the landing I knew that it was possible. I didn’t question myself about the risks and kept trying. After less than 10 tries we had the clip and I started to realize that was my biggest spot for sure. I was so stoked after that day. It was a great accomplishment.
What do you hope people take away from the film?
Xavier: I hope people see how rewarding going on adventures with your friends can be. I tried to showcase, aside from the ski porn, how much fun can be had with friends working on a common goal.
Vince: I hope it gives people the will to get back in the street and produce even more of these films, because they add so much to the community.
Mathieu: Street skiing is more than just a classic video. There’s an adventure and a story behind each clip. We’re trying to keep that vibe alive.
And lastly, how special was it for all of you to make a film completely centered around and based in Montreal?
Xavier: It was really special. It was a great occasion to represent where we’re from. Having a location-centred project could have been a challenge, as it’s limiting in a sense. But in this case, it fuelled us to explore everything that was available near us. But the most special part was staying on home ground. Staying home makes things so much smoother logistics-wise; we had friends helping out when we needed it. We always had a plan B or C if the spot we went to didn’t work, because we knew the city in and out. There was no delay to shoot if the snow was good, we could just get to work.
Vince: It felt really good to be showcasing our playground/area, even though Montreal has been a mecca of street skiing in the past decades. It was really nice to revisit some spots that have been hit before and bring a personal touch to it.
Mathieu: The area of Montreal has been part of the biggest street segments since day one, and to produce our own project there was truly a privilege. It’s a way to show our passion to the next generation and prove that it's more accessible than you think.