Mountain Man | Fredi Kalbermatten Shreds and Climbs His Home Country of Switzerland

Our man Fredi likes to dabble between snowboarding and mountaineering. Holden Outerwear keeps him ticking.

A Man For All Seasons. Photos: Holden Outerwear & Silvano Zeiter

One day, Fredi Kalbermatten will have climbed all thirteen of the 4000m-plus peaks that surround his home resort of Saas-Fee, Switzerland. He got off to an early start, scaling his first with his mountain-guide father by the age of seven. Thirty years later, he’s still only made it up four others – the paltry business of being one of the continent’s most celebrated professional snowboarders getting in the way for a while.

Ticking off the rest will be no mean feat, but he doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. “My grandmother did them all with my grandfather, who was also a mountain guide”, he tells us. “Grandma Marie did them back in the day, probably in a skirt, wearing shoes with nails stuck onto them for crampons.”

“He draws breathtaking lines all over the famous glacier without losing any of that burly style that made him a video-part great”

It’s always good to have a goal, but Fredi will be taking his time with this one. He’s a relatively recent convert to the world of splitboarding – four years and counting – and knows that there’s still lots to explore on that front too. The Fredi-centred mini documentary The Swiss Knife shows just how in tune with Saas Fee he is, drawing breathtaking lines all over the famous glacier without losing any of that burly style that made him a video-part great.

Leading the charge on home turf. Photo: Silvano Zeiter

Helping him out with his twin passions is Holden, the snowboard outerwear company founded by legendary rider Mikey LeBlanc and designer Scott Zergebel. While American at heart, the brand has certainly let a fair bit of central European influence creep in. As well as having Fredi on the team, this winter Holden has teamed up with Switzerland’s Schoeller Textiles.

Its patented Corkshell material (made from – you guessed it – corks) is used in key pieces of high-performance technical jackets and pants. The collaboration won big in the outerwear category at last year’s ISPO Awards, marking it out as a genuine innovation rather than a gimmick.

“This material really suits the diverse types of environments and activities Fredi uses it for,” says Scott Zergebel. “The 4-way super stretch makes it great for mobility without restriction or bulk, and the membrane opens to breathe and release heat when he’s active and closes to retain heat when he’s static. This equals more comfort, warmth and protection, allowing him to enjoy longer spans of time in the outdoors while being dry and comfortable.”

Fredi agrees: “Cork is really an amazing material – and the Corkshell Summit series is ideal for splitboarding. When I’m out on a mission, sweating up a mountain summit, it lets off steam, and when I’m shredding down it insulates from the wind. And I dig it that it’s recycled.”

Fredi (right) in the Holden x Schoeller Corkshell Summit jacket. Photo: Holden Outerwear

The Schoeller tech’s humble origins lie in the process for manufacturing wine-bottle corks. The resultant granulated cork is FSC-certified, yet once prepared for use in technical apparel it can rival just about any other material out there, recycled or otherwise.

These days going down the ‘green’ route doesn’t just earn you good karma – it’s also a smart business decision. “From a material and manufacturing standpoint, eco-friendlier options are continuing to gain traction and importance to both brands and consumers alike,” notes Scott – and these days there’s no need for the quality to take a hit. “We always look for the latest innovations in technical materials and manufacturing in order to achieve our design concepts”.

The late season in Saas Fee is something special, but eventually it’s time for Fredi to stash the splitty and reach for the crampons, in pursuit of those elusive 4000m peaks. There’s a lot of crossover in the gear he needs for both, as “if you climb high enough, you will always find snow”.

Photos: Sebastian Bumann
Enjoying another epic Swiss vista in the Holden Hybrid Zip hoody.

“Whether powering his way up a skin track or scrambling up a rocky face, the Holden Hybrid Zip hoody is one of Fredi’s go-to garments”

A case in point is the Holden Hybrid Zip hoody, part of the brand’s range of ‘Down Sportswear’. This isn’t your classic cotton hoody – far from it, in fact. The Hybrid Zip features warm down insulation over the torso where it’s needed most, with light and stretchy Polartec material used for the sleeves. Whether powering his way up a skin track or scrambling up a rocky face, it’s one of Fredi’s go-to garments.

“I need gear that I can use in every season. I use the Hybrid Zip as a layering piece in colder temperatures, and an outer piece when it’s warmer but I still need some down insulation” he explains. “My favourite thing about this piece is the way it looks – super sharp and on point – and I also like how the down fill only covers the body.”

Such input from riders like Fredi is key to Holden’s R&D process. He’s the linchpin of the brand’s team of ambassadors (known as ‘Explorers’) that test new ideas in exactly the kind of conditions that would betray any weakness in design. “We have great respect for [Fredi’s] mountaineering knowledge, style and skills,” says Scott. “There is an easy and very natural relationship where we share common values and passion for all the things we do in life.”

You can bet the farm that he’ll have weighed in on Holden’s upcoming WholeGarment Knitwear collection, set to drop in late 2019. Made from a mixture of Merino wool and recycled plastic bottles, this Japanese-made material is perfect for efficient layering, and is also seamless for extra comfort. The WholeGarment range will start small, but has the potential to be a game-changer.

“If you climb high enough, you will always find snow”

Whatever happens down the line, you can be sure it’ll feature the tried-and-tested Holden formula: high performance, considered construction, and great-looking design. Indeed, while Fredi uses the gear for mountaineering as well as snowboarding and splitboarding, it’s usefulness doesn’t stop there.

“I like to look good when I’m in the city or on the train, or when I have a DJ gig. Holden is ideal for that – I never feel like I look like a snowboard bum in the city.”

We’ve come a long way from Grandma Marie’s skirts, in other words.

In Saas Fee, the down is always worth the up. Photo: Silvano Zeiter
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