The Fastest Skier in the World - Thinking Bold With World Record Holder Simon Billy

Storming down the legendary Chabrières piste in Vars, Simon Billy slices through the air with the hope of shattering the speed skiing world record. Reaching an incredible 255.500 km/h—that's 158.760 mph—Billy races down at a speed incomprehensible to most.

Vars has witnessed multiple record breakers fly down its slopes over the years, and for good reason. It's home to the world's fastest speed track, sitting at a 98% incline, and now it's home to the latest record breaker, Simon Billy. Dressed in his signature red latex suit, the three-time World Champion records his speed runs with Insta360 X3 for a truly mind-blowing perspective of just how fast he really goes.

Heralding from a family of speed skiers and following in his father's world record-breaking footsteps, Billy has trained for this moment his whole life. We sat down with Billy to talk about his journey to becoming the world record holder and how he embraces the 'Think Bold' spirit.

The legend was born.

Hi Simon! Can you please tell us a bit more about yourself—who you are, where you're from, and what you do?

I'm Simon Billy. I'm a member of the French speed ski team, a three-time world champion, and the current world record holder for speed skiing (255.500 km/h). I was born in Montpellier, a city in the south of France, but I live in Vars in the French Alps. This place is home to the fastest speed ski track in the world (Chabrières), which is why the Billy family decided to live there!

I'm a sports addict, and I love nature, so the French Alps are the perfect place for me! I spend my time playing and training in the mountains.

Simon Billy training in Vars.

You're the world record holder and the World Champion. Can you tell us how you started speed skiing and what made you decide to do it professionally?

The story starts with my father, Philippe Billy. He set the world record at 243.902 km/h (151mph) in Vars 1997. My brother Louis and I used to watch him and his friends racing down Chabrières. We saw him break the world record, and I thought to myself, "I want to do that too". I was six then, and I've had this dream ever since. My father didn't want us to start speed skiing at first because of the dangerous nature of the sport, but it's in our blood!

A young Simon Billy when he started speed skiing.
A young Simon Billy when he started speed skiing.

My father and his teammate, John Dugan, started coaching me and my brother how to ski safely and fast. Our family has a winning spirit, so my father pushed and trained us harder once we got older. It started getting serious, but I had to trust the process.

Your father set the world record at 243km/h, and your brother skied over 240km/h. What makes the three of you so devoted to this sport?

My brother stopped speed skiing after a bad crash at 220km/h. Now, he, my father, and Johnny D (John Dugan) are by my side, coaching and helping me with my quest. I'm so lucky to have them around. They have the knowledge and the experience to make me go so fast. Between us, we've reached speeds of 237–255km/h—we're a fast team!

It's a family story. We spend a lot of time together, developing new aerodynamic equipment, training and traveling the world. We enjoy the journey together, this sport brings us together. My mother never comes to the races, she doesn't want to watch! But I know she's cheering me on from home.

Becoming the triple world champion.

When and where did you win the World Championship for the first time? How did it feel?

I won my first Crystal Globe in 2021 and my first World Champion title in 2022. I remember it so well, I was so happy because it was the result of a lot of work. But that was just one step further towards my main goal: the world record.

I've placed second and third so many times before winning. Losing is always hard, but it makes me stronger. It makes me realize I must work harder, analyze, and learn from my mistakes.

"You don't learn when you win, but you do when you lose."

What helped you become so fast? Has anything in the past contributed the most to your personal growth?

I'm passionate, and I want to win. I've wanted it hard since I was a kid. If you have that drive, then you work and train hard to reach your goal. I live in Vars, so I spend a lot of time on Chabrières, and, maybe it's weird to say this, but I have a connection with this track. It's been there before me, and it will be there after. I have respect and humility when I'm skiing this track.

World Record holder Simon Billy training on the Chabrières piste, Vars.

Once you can ski fast, you need to be ready and patient for the best conditions. Only Mother Nature can decide that. You need a good amount of snow on the track, the perfect snow conditions (temperature, wet snow, etc.), and the perfect weather (sunny and warm, blue sky, no wind). It's rare to get these conditions; you get them maybe three or four times in your career, so you need to be ready at all times.

I crashed in 2017 during a world record attempt at 230 km/h. The experience was so scary that it made me want to stop speed skiing. But my passion was stronger, so I decided to keep going. I spent eight months in a rehab center to get back onto skis. This was an important time because it made me stronger and, ultimately, a better skier. It made me start to analyze every single detail. I learned a lot from that crash.

What were you thinking when you broke the world record? What supported and encouraged you to keep on going?

I woke up on 22nd March 2023, and I knew it was my day. I was ready, the conditions were perfect, and I knew I couldn't miss this window. I had worked and trained my whole life for this moment, and now it was my chance. So I took it. The line was good, the position was good, and I kept my skis flat all the way. I made the perfect run, and I set a new world record.

Simon Billy holding his world record speed skiing time of 255.500km/h.

When you start from the top, you ski from 0 to 200 km/h in around six seconds, and the feeling is simply amazing. After my run, I felt pure joy and happiness. I looked around and saw everyone screaming with happiness. I took a few seconds to enjoy this moment alone, then I looked around to find my brother, my father and Johnny D. I wanted to share the moment with them because it's really a team effort. Without them, I can't ski that fast.

Thinking bold with Insta360.

You've shot some incredible videos of you skiing 2700m high and 1000m long tracks. What was the fastest speed you reached in the videos? How did Insta360 cameras help you capture the moment?

I filmed that run with Insta360 X3 attached to the Extended Edition Selfie Stick, and I skied at 223 km/h (138.5mph). X3 captures such high-quality 360º footage, and it's so easy to set up and use. I can easily hold the stick and film third-person shots at high speeds.

Simon Billy filming his ski runs with Insta360 X3.
Simon Billy filming his ski runs with Insta360 X3.

We wanted to film the run from a different angle, fully immersing viewers. They can see every detail and get a real sense of speed, something I've not achieved with other cameras. The result is so cool.

Simon Billy with Insta360 X3 mounted to his skiis.
Simon Billy with Insta360 X3 mounted to his skiis.

What does Insta360's slogan "Think Bold" mean to you?

Thinking bold means being passionate and free. I consider myself a bold person. I am ready to risk everything when I'm at the top of a mountain. I step into the danger zone to chase these precious seconds, to push the limit and feel alive. It's not only about performance, it's about the feeling. Life is good, and we must take time to enjoy it.

What else do you want to say to Insta360 fans?

Whatever your level, whatever the sport, enjoy the ride and capture the moment with your Insta360 cam. You share it, we watch!

Looking to the future.

So you've achieved your dream. What's next?

The story is not over, we have so much more to achieve. I want to push the limits and see how fast humans can ski. I want to be the first man to ski at 260 km/h (161.5mph).

France is also working on introducing speed skiing at the 2030 Olympic Games. We should know the answer soon! If I'm lucky enough to participate, I'm aiming for the Gold medal.

How will you prepare for the 2030 Winter Olympics?

Physical strength, aerodynamics and experience are the keys to success, so I will work on those over the next few years and hopefully win the Gold medal!

Armed with his Insta360 X3 and ready to capture every second, Simon Billy truly shows what it means to Think bold. We wish him the best of luck and can't wait to see what incredible footage he captures!

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WRITTEN BY @Laura Nellis
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