Tuesday, 10 July 2012

My favourite Snow Parks in Europe...

It’s a common sight to see nowadays in resorts. Huge expansive mounds of snow, strange kinked rails, and boxes plastered in sponsors, pyramid shaped jumps and even half buried cars can make an appearance. Of course, covered in sponsorship stickers.

It seems that these snow parks are the place to be. What with all the snowboarders sat in groups, contemplating the next hit, or simply sitting there to look cool.

To keep their clientele of teenagers with long hair, baggy pants and mono-syllabic conversation happy, resorts are investing a lot more money in snow parks. But with the huge running costs, (daily grooming, pipe carving, park patrol) this is making the lift companies invite a huge array of sponsors to advertise in the parks, or even sponsor the build of them, meaning reduced running costs for the mountain companies. Companies such as: DC, Oakley, Vans and Swatch sponsor and advertise on any surface possible. With that, bigger jumps are built, it is better maintained, and it attracts a list of top names and pros to ride them.

Summer parks are also a popular side project. Only yesterday did Les Deux Alpes open their summer park due to the insane snow from the winter. This year, popular skate brand Zoo York have taken over the reins, and designed a park on the glacier, boasting 2 pipes to Olympic specification (one standard, one super-pipe) a slope style course, big air section and a ‘shred zone’ with a massive selection of jibs and kickers.

Companies are always trying to build bigger and better, but with technology making huge leaps in the ski industry, new quirky additions are being made. Take the DC Area 43 in Meribel-Motteret.

Area 43 parks are already established in Chamonix and Kitzbuhel, and with the huge amount of visitors to Meribel each year, it makes sense for one of Snow Park building most popular names to try their luck. Located under the Plattieres 2 lift, the park was 650 feet of rails and jumps. Even a skateboard min ramp was installed. The techno-geeks were served as well, with DC installing the ‘Live park system’, a system which allowed riders to check out their action shots online. Cameras were placed in sections and those with electronic tags were captured, and allowed them to go online and edit their runs. Good news is that according to their website, DC looks like they will be back next year. Watch this space.

With the prestigious honour of ‘European Snowpark of the Year’ the Vans Penken Park in Mayrhofen has a pretty big reputation to live up to. The home of the Vans Wängl Tängl event and most famously, the ‘Snowbombing’ festival, Mayrhofen boasts glacier and one of the best constructed parks in existence. 11 kickers, 2 hips, 34 jibs and a halfpipe make up the park and is serviced by its own 4 seater chairlift. The park is renowned for its ‘pro sessions’, with riders like Aimee Fuller, Antoine Tuchant and freeskiers Sebi Geiger and the Hunzikers brothers joining sponsored rides by the Nike 6.0 team and Vans on the hill. With planning underway for next season and an estimated Christmas opening, snowboarders can look forward to riding one of the best parks in Europe, if not, the World.

With clientele ranging from the Royal family to the Beckhams, Verbier has a reputation as a home for the stupidly rich and famous. With the freestyle scene taking off in other countries, Swiss watch makers, Swatch (get it) have put their name all over the Swatch Snow park in Verbier. Having had mediocre, badly maintained parks for a few seasons, the Swatch team have created a 740 foot masterpiece under the La Chaux Express lift, with breathtaking views and breathtaking jumps. The 3 grades of difficulty apply, which are clearly marked and well groomed everyday and twice a day in busy season. The park is open from first lift to last, and is nosebleedingly high.

To resorts that have them, good parks are worth their weight in gold. With the European X-Games now taking place in Tignes, and huge musical acts coming to Snowbombing and Ischgl, the international freestyle and music scene is making ground in Europe. As well as the increased sponsorships, it seems Europe is the next up and coming place for snowboarding development.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Exciting New Snowboard Toys.

New Snowboard Gear for 2012/2013.
It only seemed like yesterday when we getting all hyped up for the latest kit. New graphics, new designs and the latest most innovative designs were centre stage of the ISPO tradeshow. The latest gear was on show for all to see, with exciting new products and a range of the newest bright ideas.

Below are my highlights from the show, which included huge names, such as: Bataleon, Burton, Westbeach, Electric, YES, Salomon and Analog, to name but a few.

Bataleon have been a staple sight on mountains for a good 7 years now, with the overwhelming success of the Goliath and Evil Twin and the triple base technology. If you didn’t know, triple base technology or TBT, incorporates lifted side base sections on the board around the nose and the tail. This raises the contact points of the edges at lower speeds and minimises the chance of you catching an edge. It also increases float in powder, and improves edge response in turning.

 There is no real change to last year’s board shape, which includes a blunting of the nose and tail for stability. The graphics have been fine tuned and look super slick, with the Goliath being a personal highlight.

Prices look to be around the £400 mark for the deck, keep a look out at the Ski and Snowboard shows though for a better deal.

Not a year goes by without some new innovation. We’ve had webbed bindings by Ride, Flow introduced a step in a few years back, and boards started introducing rockered bases. Goggles are the same. We had GPS goggles last year, and Dragon introduced the lens less APX goggles. This year, ANON optics has got in on the act and introduces magnetic lenses. The idea is that the lenses can be replaced much easier, without getting fingerprints all over the lenses and without cracking them when you get frustrated after 15 minutes. The new Magna-Tech M1 goggles have lenses that can be replaces in literally seconds and according to Anon, the retention power of the lenses is 20lbs and has withstand impacts of up to 75Gs.

Here’s one for the jibbers. The new Bootlegger binding by Burton is a super flexy binding, designed for grabbing, buttering and generally showing off. The new high back is made with a plastic that is made to withstand cold temperatures; meaning is stays flexy all the time.

However, the feature which stands out most is the new Smackdown toe strap, a gigantic ratchet that resembles a ski boot, which is designed to adjust to your boot size, ride style and save you time when flipping in and out.

Prices are yet to be disclosed, but if you are after buttery soft bindings for the park, these are for you. I would not recommend these if you like all mountain and piste riding, but I can see the toe strap becoming quite a staple figure in most designs in the next few years.

The board that got me most excited though is the new YES trouble range, with Tupac and Biggie design.

A board beyond categorization, the Trouble and it’s Tragna Maction handles the slopes with real ease. It is grippy, stable and pre-loaded with Camrock Pop – the anti-cambered technology avoided by Bataleon. It features park and all mountain twin camrock, medium flex and a triax glass top.

But seriously, who cares when you can choose between Tupac and Biggie? Either 154 or 158, these boards will sell like hot cakes.

And I am first in the queue.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Aimee Fuller again, just because she is a babe.

Ischgl - Home of Reasonably Priced beer and Unreasonably dressed Women.

It started, with a lot of university educated journalists scare-mongering and preaching about the lack of snow. Take this piece of 'ground-breaking' journalism form the Metro;

''Skiing holidays at risk as warm spell leaves slopes snow-free''
Hundreds of thousands of skiers could see their holidays ruined as a record-breaking warm spell leaves slopes across Europe snow-free.

That was December the 4th.
Then, to our joy, and relief, on December the 5th, the snow Gods descended upon the Alps in style, puking metres of white, pristine, fluffy gold. A jubilant middle finger was raised and people have enjoyed what can only be described as an epic season.

Having been lucky enough to ride Chamonix in February, injuries resulted in me not being able to go as hard as I wanted to. Despite the NHS's best efforts, I wasn't fit enough, and wheezed and coughed like a fat man on the tube.

So I bought a bike, vowed to get fit, and cycled a 5 mile journey that takes me 50 minutes on TFL in 18 minutes. Result. My legs felt fitter, I felt fitter and signed up to a 50 mile bike race. Prat. That's another story.

So, last Sunday, the usual shit house journey to Gatwick from West London was completed in record time, and I was on board Monarch Airlines finest Airbus heading to Ischgl, land of Euro Partei, Durndl girls and, fingers crossed, powder.

A short flights and transfer cued 22 of the ski industries finest sellers and crooks, to reek Euro havoc in an Austrian guesthouse for 7 days. Wilkommen am Ischgl read the sign, as we passed Pascha and snow covered trees. 22 twitchy people sat on the coach, gagging to get out.

The resort is epic. It's clean, has noise police to shut you up when leaving Kuhstall and has the best lift system I have had the pleasure of using. Using lifts that could be used in furnishing a Bentley is a sweet pleasure in ski resorts, unlike in Meribel, where most lift are equipped with plastic seats and travel at the speed of a 11 month old child.

Conditions for April were great. White out days were cleverly combined with hangovers and bluebird days were welcomed with open arms. When it wasn’t so sunny, it was technically a white-out and Baltic winds made it quite miserable when coupled with a hangover from the gates of Flugel Hell. One run down and fuck it. Early lunch time. However, the bluebird days were phenomenal.

Freshies in April? Are you kidding me Ischgl?

10 am in the Idalp was like waking up on Christmas morning. Not a single cloud, a fully functioning lift service (and body) and no one to be seen. Just the right amount of early thumping Euro beats to set us off and we were greeted by steep, shin deep runs covered in a fresh layer of mountain ambrosia. Epic in size, the number of lift served off piste runs was huge, and despite spectacular dismounts by a social media mogul on the first run and a rag doll down a rock face, we were stoked with our efforts, and 3 more days of this followed.

Photos are following, which include some standard scenery shots for the parents, some nice powder footage to impress the friends and way too much banterlash cam. Having pissed off enough people in bars and clubs in Ischgl, reciting the Schatzi song until staff cried in Solden, and throwing down some downright illegal dance moves, I for one can't wait to spread these pictures to the masses. Maybe the uptheirownarseresorts in France could learn a thing or too. Point put forward, the Austrians love drunk Brits and playing stop, drop and roll in the street. And I love the Austrians.

Ischgl kicks ass. At least from a deteriorating snowboarders point of view. My legs were shot and I ached everywhere, but nothing that a couple of Nurofens and some medicinal Pale ale won't help. But whatever, I am honoured to have ridden this resort, drunk its' well priced beer and danced in its' sausage infested clubs until 4am.
So after a week of epic pow in Ischgl with some great people, being back in london sucks.

Hakuna matata, at least i don’t have to wait long until i fly to New Zealand for a few years. May catch the last of the snow there – somewhere i’ve never been but always wanted to go.

In the immortal words of perhaps the most famous Austrian - ''I'll be back''.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Safe as fuck?? What price do you put on your safety?

Ever since the high profile death of actress Natasha Richardson while she was skiing, mountain companies are shitting themselves over the prospect of having multimillion dollar/Euro lawsuits on their hands. Now days, you can’t wear sun cream in schools due to health and safety, so why can you throw yourself down steep hills, on as little as a plank (or two) of wood and plastic, manufactured to make you go as fast or as high as possible?

It seems baffling that with all the health and safety laws applied to motor racing, rugby and cycling to name a few, the fastest non motorised sports recreation in the world has no rules regarding safety gear. To cycle through London at rush hour without a helmet is complete idiocy, so why would you ski without a helmet on? Slopes at peak times unfortunately do get busy so why not make them compulsory....

In Italy, children under the age of 14 are required by law to wear a helmet, so why has this not been spread across the whole region for all ages?

Skiing holidays are becoming more and more popular, with people more readily prepared to split their hard earned cash and holiday allowance. So why put the one or 2 weeks a year they have in jeopardy, by risking themselves? Like car accidents, crashes do happen, and more than often, it is not your fault, but the yuppie prat behind you wearing jeans with his legs glued together on his way to his mountain hut for a latte.

For the sake of £50, a good quality (and stylish) helmet can be bought from most places. 

Other safety aspects are making their way into the sport – wrist supports and back supports are becoming common in the parks and about bloody time too.

This equipment doesn’t come that cheap, but at what price do you put your safety? For a stingy £50, your chalet holiday is a little safer, and OK, you would spend a little more time in the chalet hot tub with an injury, to your wrist or back, but a feeding tube from a fat nurse in the Charing Cross hospital is a lot less attractive.

Admittedly, I only started wearing a helmet in the past few years, and having been away 3 times last year in those conditions, I’m pretty glad I did. Now if the yuppie prick in jeans on 3 metre skis would just slow down and find a fur trim helmet we would be fine.

Accidents happen, so ride safe.

Anterior dislocation of MY shoulder.
Jah bless.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Heygate continued.

Heygate Estate, SE1

Heygate is an abandoned estate in South East London. Currently being demolished to make way for a new development. Once home to some 800 people, the estate had a real community feel to it. Regeneration projects are taking place, but it is due to come down soon.

I took a trip down there today, and the real eerie feeling is definitely there.

Southbank Skatepark

Got a few shots of the skaters under the Southbank. Aiming to get a few more soon.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Converse throw sick parties...

So I was pretty lucky and scored tickets to the Converse Block Party at the Old Vic Tunnels.

Live grime show, skating, graffiti and booze.