Murray Buchan has been part of the woodwork at Freeze since…well, what seems like forever. Having known him for a good chunk of his 25 years it is pretty impossible to imagine Murray not with skis strapped to his feet or to not receive regular switch-backie snapchats…. With a Sochi Olympic vest already on his wall and his sights firmly set on adding another in 2018 we caught up with Murray to talk handwritten letters over a flat white.
Photo: © Jamie Matthew 2017
How did the relationship with Freeze come about?
Basically, I was riding Hillend Dry Slope in Edinburgh and I used to be that little annoying kid that wouldn’t go away when all the now bosses at Freeze were all riding! I guess I must have showed some promise and the owner said I was trying quite hard and that they could potentially help me out in some way. They pretty much just noticed me and offered some support whether that was product or just someone to ride with. They used to organise these Riders’ Nights at Hillend where all the Freeze staff and riders would go and that’s when I started to meet people like Al, Neil, Johnny, Hasta and Chris and they created a brilliant atmosphere for freeskiers and snowboarders, I’d say that was the most valuable help they gave me at the time - the ability to have friends around you that would encourage you and push you.
Photo: © Mike Truelove 2005
Times have changed somewhat now, with the invention of Instagram etc. You’ve got more and more kids coming up now with their sights set on the top tier of competitive skiing. Back when you were that same age 2002 or so the internet wasn’t really a means to promote your riding. How did you go about picking up sponsors and progressing your career?
There was a lot of help from people like Freeze who were in touch with a lot of people in the industry across the country. My first ever proper sponsorship came about because I hand wrote a letter to the team manager of Line Skis in the UK. The Line team had a lot of riders that I looked up to like Paddy Graham, Andy Bennet and Tom Last. I’d seen and ridden with these guys at a few contests and noticed they were all riding Line Skis; so I wrote a letter to the boss, I’m not sure where I got the address from, I also drew a picture to go along with it haha… Anyway, I got a real nice response ‘If you can come to this contest, we’ll keep an eye out for you.’ So I went to a couple of dry slope contests across the UK and they eventually said they’d love to have me on board! It all just snowballed from there, going to more events eventually more sponsors came on-board etc etc. Now I think social media has helped the sponsorship side of things - it’s easier to get noticed, it’s easier to send people your content and to keep people up to date with your results etc. That being said I kind of think there is also a negative side to it too; people see these kids riding and think they can do better and think that they deserve it more that than anyone else, so in a way it can cause a bit of bitterness between people. Whilst the main benefit is the increased reach, sometimes that can take away from the skiing. People go out thinking about getting the Instagram shot rather than getting a new trick, progressing their feed rather than necessarily progressing their riding.
Photo: © Mike Truelove 2005
You mentioned Paddy and Andy earlier, but coming up in the UK Freeski scene in those early days who were the people that you really looked up to and valued the most?
From the early days it really was the regional Line team as I mentioned earlier. Further afield I had all the original ski tapes (VHS how we watched stuff before DVDs and Newschoolers kids) so people like Jon Olson and Tanner Hall they were so influential. That’s what I always aspired to be, making these really cool video parts. It all just progressed from there, the more videos you watch the more riders you like and the more you try to emulate their style which can be super difficult, especially when they’re on massive snow booters and you’re riding dry slope! Once I started to get older, I started to go on trips with Chris Asquith and Paddy Graham they were both doing seasons in Laax and they were kind enough to let me come out and stay with them for a few weeks here and there during the season. I guess although I looked up to those big pros back then I didn’t see Paddy as one of them even though he was! He was just a friend that would encourage me and ride with me; it was also good having Chris there as he had a totally different view of things. He was the filmer so he could see things that you might not notice yourself, it’s also pretty cool to have all these original clips of me just learning tricks! It was just a really great environment to be around and super encouraging when you’re coming through to have people like that around you.
Photo: © Jamie Matthew 2017
Why halfpipe? Aside from the late Sheffield Dry Slope there really isn’t, or rather wasn’t, an opportunity to get a taste for pipe in the UK. Surely slopestyle would have made more sense?
Why halfpipe? Laxx. Paddy at that point was really in to pipe. There was a big air jump beside the pipe so you could do a pipe line then jump out and hit the big air and get back on to the poma and lap all day! At first I did just stick to jumps because coming from dry slope I was stronger at them; but what I found appealing about pipe was that you went from hit to hit you can have 6 hits in 200 or 300 meters. With slope style you’d maybe get 3 jumps and a couple of rails and it’d be a really long lap, whereas you can just hike and hit in a pipe! Then once I started competing it became my main focus.
Photo: © FIS 2017
You qualified for and rode in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, now you are on track to make the 2018 games in South Korea. Did you ever think you’d make one Olympics let alone a second?
When I first started competing I didn’t really think about where skiing would take me, my priority was just go skiing and have fun. When halfpipe and slopestyle did become an Olympic event everything seemed to get a lot more serious, more and more governing bodies got involved, less people just going to one resort for the season instead people started doing the competition circuit. A lot more money came in to the sport which meant you could prepare properly for an event rather than traveling on the morning of the contest!!! With Sochi I thought I’d give it a bash, if I didn’t qualify then at least I knew I tried and know where I stood. Fortunately, I did make it - and now qualifications for Korea have started it all seems to have come around so fast. Hopefully it all goes well but until January the 17th (2018) nothing is set in stone!
Photo: © Winter Olympics 2017
You’re traveling the globe with the same people every year, Is there a sense of community there at all?
Yeah there is! We’re all skiers so in that respect were all like-minded and most of us have grown up together
Hot topic question, this will score you extra internet points… What’s your opinion on FIS (International Ski Federation) involvement in the Freestyle side of skiing?
I would say, there are for-sure negatives but there are also real positives to FIS’ involvement. I think sometimes perhaps FIS look out for themselves a little bit too much… BUT without FIS there wouldn’t be a qualification process, there wouldn’t be as many competitions which means there wouldn’t be as much opportunity for riders to make a career in skiing. It’s difficult because we rely so heavily on FIS to provide so much, they don’t do a bad job; but skiing is an outdoor sport, weather is such an important factor to consider - snow, wind, sun, there are always going to be issues. Sometimes they don’t deal with some issues in the correct way but they make the most with what they are given. Personally I don’t have a problem with their involvement - I’m quite grateful that they’re running everything in fact. But sometimes they consider themselves to be more important than the athletes and in my opinion athlete welfare and safety should be the top priority.
Photo: © Jamie Matthew 2017
What’s the plans for the rest of the summer?
First and foremost, relax! But then I’d like to get some air bag training in and ride some dryslope with Bearsden Freestyle if they’ll have me back! CSS (Championship Ski and Snowboard) is about to start back up and I’d like to get some filming done for that. Later on in the summer I’d like to head back out to New Zealand for the world cup out there.
Last and final question…. What are you riding?
First and foremost, my Bawbags thermals! Teko Socks, some Patagonia outerwear and of course Head Skis & Boots.
Words by Lewis McLean
Photo: © Jamie Matthew 2016