MARIO KÄPPELI ON THE VÖLKL AFC
We’ve been following Swiss rider Mario Käppeli’s career since he started blowing up on the European Forum team. His strong all-round skill set was quickly snapped up when Forum went down the can, and more recently he secured himself a spot on the close-knit Völkl Snowboards roster.
Not only this, he’s been getting his hands dirty straight off the bat, and has been instrumental in designing product for them already – notably this year’s all-new Völkl AFC. It’s been a while since we caught up, so we did just that...
Last time we spoke, Forum had just gone down the can but you’d managed to snag yourself new sponsors quickly in the shape of Colour Wear and Slash. What’s happened since then?
A lot of my homies are riding for Völkl and I always knew that Völkl is really doing cool stuff for the team and pushes their riders as best as they can. Patrick Steiner is the Völkl team photographer and a good friend of mine, so that was how I got to hang out with Völkl a lot and we started talking about me getting on to the team... I was pretty stoked with that offer and couldn't really say no! A lot of my good homies are in the team and it’s stunning how they took me into the Völkl family and how they treat me... Feels awesome if you know that your board sponsor stands behind you and supports you in whatever you love to do. Also if I come up with projects or ideas, they never say no and we can talk about like friends. It doesn’t feel like there is a boss. We are like a family!
You’re pretty new to the team. How’s it been hanging and riding with the dudes? And whose attitude and riding gets you most hyped?
Yeah, I am maybe the newest member of the gang I think, but they treat me like an old friend and I’ve felt comfortable since day one! Everybody in the crew is super cool and there are so many characters... like Michi Schatz – aka "the Don" – is super funny to hang out with... or Benny Mösl is always pushing the limits.... Stani is the mellow one and never gets stressed... Weini, who is in charge of marketing and the team, did some cool splitboarding with me – including roping down to the untracked… he supports and helps everywhere. But in general it’s just the whole gang which gives a comfortable feeling. The riding styles are all different, we’ve got a lot of rookies and street kids and they kill it... but also some insane BC riders! It’s the perfect mix and they match together.
Also when we last spoke you were pretty much an all-round, ride everything kinda dude – you’d see street, parks, jibs, and backcountry in your footage. How has your riding evolved since then? Where is your focus at these days?
Haha! Well it’s definitely changed. I pretty much only ride BC anymore. It’s just the best feeling being out there just only you and your crew... seeing all these amazing mountains and finding spots. I’m working on my mountaineer diploma and spend pretty much every free minute in the mountains. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a snowboard, splitboard, climbing or ice climbing, I just have to be in the mountains... it feels like home. And, yeah, that kinda made me get away from riding street and rails or park. I just wanna be out there in the mountains everyday all day!
Your team manager tells me that you pushed for Völkl to develop their new AFC board. How did that come about and what was the process like?
I always had this board in mind. I just wanted to get a normal camber board, but also with a little rocker in the nose, which prevents you catching edges that quick, plus the nose pops out more in the deep snow. I like my boards to be a little more responsive so we were playing around on the stiffness and now we’ve got it perfectly right for me. It’s still playful but you also can land big pow jumps, because it gives you a lot of stability.
How did you feel about being so involved in the development of a board? Ever had that much influence before?
Nope, I didn’t have that much influence before. That’s the cool thing about Völkl, you can really talk to them about changes or other boards or projects and they actually listen to you. That’s why you really feel like a part of them. And to ride the board you’ve been dreaming of is a pretty cool feeling... just to see that it turned out exactly how you wanted it.
What are you most stoked on about how the AFC turned out?
The AFC might look like a freeride board, but it’s really an all-mountain freestyle camber board! Guess what AFC means, haha. As I showed in my TfA video part, you can easily jump big pow kickers and land switch on it, but it is also amazing for big mountain lines and riding at high speeds. At the beginning I wasn’t sure about how it would be to ride switch, but with the strong flex in the fish tail it's no problem to ride lines or do tricks switch! For real!
In short, which kind of snowboarder is the AFC best suited to? And who would be best advised to look at some of Völkl’s other boards instead?
The AFC is for all snowboarders who like to ride deep pow, doing tricks in the backcountry… the rocker and the pointed nose makes it easier for everybody. But also in the park the camber gives you the grip to ride big park jumps. HonestIy, I maybe wouldn’t not really ride technical rails with it though…
Word has it you rode the AFC pretty much the whole winter and you’re on it most of the way through your new TFA video part. How did it hold up for you in different conditions and on different terrain?
True that! I’ve been riding the AFC all winter long – in the deep, deep snow in Japan, big mountain lines and for backcountry jumps. And the crazy thing is, I only used that ONE board! I never broke or destroyed one board! That’s never happened to me before! And it kept the pop all season long!
[Check Mario getting busy on his board in the new TFA movie. Homie scored the opener! And you'll see this AFC is as handy for switch back 10 dubs as it is for faceshots...]
What’s coming up this winter for Mario? Will you be filming? And will you be involved in more product development for Völkl?
I’m staying with the AFC as I really love this board. But we are working on some other incredible things, don’t worry! Then I will be filming for a new crazy project – It’s actually Boyz 'n’ Toyz, but we’ve got some fresh stuff coming up... it’s gonna be an insane backcountry movie. Together with Tom Klocker and Mario Wanger in the gang and with Julian Pintarelli and Franco Marco Avi as the filmers, it can't go wrong! Just wait for it, dawg haha! We will drop some episodes already soon.
When it’s time to hang up your boots for good, is product design and development something you’d like to get more into?
Well, I know I’m not getting younger, haha, but I still love to snowboard and do my thing... But as I said, I’m working on my mountaineering diploma and hope to work as a mountain guide/freeride guide in a few years. Until then I’ll just enjoy snowboarding and being out there with my friends.
For more details, or to buy, check out the full specs of the Völkl AFC here.