Reading it really stokes the desire to get out on my board and each line evokes a specific memory. I especially liked:
The diminishing beat of the lift's bullwheel,
So subtle, yet so reminiscent of strapping in and riding away from the lift in anticipation of the run - I can hear it now.
I just discovered via Ben Saunders that it is possible to try out rollerskiing very close to home. I have seen people doing this on the back roads of New England as summer training for cross country skiing and always thought it looked like fun. Now I have a chance to try it out.
There is a good article up on Endless Winter about working with the Loveland Volunteer Ski Patrol. I particularly liked the info and pictures describing the use of an "Alpine Toboggan" (aka blood wagon) with a snowboard rather than skis.
Todd on rec.skiing.snowboard has a great write up of a recent cat-boarding trip to Baldface Lodge in British Columbia.
I previously listed the cat skiing operators in BC from the Snowboard Journal article he mentions and one day I hope I will get the chance to take a trip.
This travel piece from the Guardian reviews a girls only learn to ride holiday with instruction from Becci Malthouse (a senior BASI person IIRC).
If you really are after powder it might be a bit tame but if you want to learn in a supportive environment with high quality instruction its worth a look.
There seem to be lots of web sites that offer to relate the history of snowboarding and most are dire. I just came across this potted history though that actually reads quite well.
I was interested that it mentions the first "National Snowsurfing Championships" held at Suicide Six in Vermont as I was there last year. Its a tiny ski hill with two small lifts in stark contrast to the mega resorts where current day comps are held which helps to give a feel for the scale of the sport in 1982.
I was also reminded of my own first cognizance of snowboarding as a teenager in 1985. It was the fabulous title sequence to A View to a Kill in which 007 is being chased on skis. After a bit of Bode Miller-esque single ski skiing he looses his final ski and picks up the front skid of a blown up snowmobile, the music changes to California Girls and he 'surfs' down the mountain into the arms of some babe in a submarine. IMDB lists one Thomas Sims as the uncredited stunt double!
It was on a ski holiday with some pals to Bormio in Italy. Most of the others had been skiing a few times and persuaded me that I should ski with them rather than spend my time falling over on the bunny slopes. As the end of the holiday approached I was desperate to try a snowboard and cajoled the most adventurous member of the group into joining me for the last day.
We strapped in and headed up the nearest short drag lift (getting the hang of that was half the battle) then we just went for it. We had no instruction but tried to copy the riders we had seen. I was hooked from the first turn.
I spent the rest of the afternoon falling on my head and laughing with delight, meanwhile my friend was struggling with the drag lift and gave up out of caution when he saw me perform a particularly acrobatic head plant (happily he tried again a few years later and has long since given up skiing).
Amazingly, a photo from that very first day survives. Note the ski boots and plate bindings and the 1980s hand-me-down C&A "ski wear"!
Gadling ran a top ten tunes to ride to feature yesterday. It reminded me of how, when I was learning, I used to hum Sheryl Crow's "Every day is winding road" as it forced me to remember to keep turning.
So I was wondering, what songs best embody the rhythm of riding?
There is a good thread running over at rec.skiing.resorts.europe on "How hard are the Courchevel couloirs?" - first hand descriptions from people who have skied them and discussion of how difficult they really are. There is also a useful link to further info on skiing the couloirs and one of the posters has some good pictures showing the couloirs and his party skiing them.
I have always fancied riding them but they do look intimidating, the best advice seems to be that, while they are not that technically difficult, you want to be pretty confident on steeps due to the exposure.
I have always ignored those little signs on the chair that advise removing backpacks. After this incident I may pay heed.
It has been ages since I saw any skwaleurs and I assumed that skwaling had died out. Not so. From a new comment on an old post it seems that skwaling is thriving.
There is a great site at Skwalzone and, although much of the text is in French (English coming soon apparently), there are lots of good photos, videos and a forum with a fair number of English speakers. Additionally, new for this season is the Assocation Européenne de Skwal which has a championship lined up.
I must try it again.
Scott Firestone has just alerted me to his revamped site, The Carver's Almanac. It is a superb resource on carving equipment and technique and is also available in Russian!
I have only tried a carving board once and its something I would like to try again (I was very taken with the skwal too). Scott's site is a great intro to the subject for riders like me who want to find out a bit more about carving and carving gear.
Being the father of a two year old, I have always taken an interest in the annual discussion at rec.skiing.snowboard about what age to start kids snowboarding. The usual consensus seems to be at about age seven as smaller children generally do not have the necessary balance skills. So I was interested to read that Intrawest resorts are now promoting a new program to teach kids as young as three to ride.
Maybe I will take my boy to Les Arcs next year.
My season ended early this year, due to injury, but this morning some of my riding buddies returned from Val Thorens where they saw out the season with fresh snow and sunshine over the May Day weekend and so I think its now time to draw a line under 2003/2004.
Season highlights, for me, included introducing more family members to snowboarding, discovering that a 2 day weekend trip was both feasible and affordable and writing this blog.
On the downside breaking my ankle was a real nuisance and meant that I missed out on 9 of my planned 16 days riding.
For next season I am looking forward to more short weekend trips, maybe some new European destinations beyond the Alps, riding with family and a new web project.
I have been trying to figure out just what I did wrong to break my ankle last week and I think I can understand it now so I will share the lesson I have learned.
I was carving quite quickly on my toe edge when I decided to hit the brakes and come to a stop at the side of the slope. It probably would have been more elegant to finish the turn and slow a bit more gradually afterwards but, for whatever reason, I did not. Even so, it should not be a problem to apply the brakes mid turn, even at speed, so what did I do wrong?
I think what happened, and it is hard to remember exactly, is that as I tried to brake I started to lose the edge and I pushed out with my feet extending my knees to try and drive the edge harder into the snow. This is quite a natural and instinctive reaction but it is absolutely the wrong thing to do and I should have known better.
I learnt a few years ago that when you begin to lose an edge and start to slide the thing to do is not to push harder against that edge with your legs but, rather, to bend your knees and sink into the board. This has the effect of moving your centre of gravity over the edge and will stop the slide very effectively. Pushing out with your legs, while it might feel like you are increasing the edge pressure, just puts the edge further away from your centre of gravity and loses grip.
In the case of my accident it also meant there was no flex left in my knees to absorb the shock which I was actually opposing by pushing when I should have been absorbing it by bending.
I learned that lesson in theory long ago but I never put it into practice in my riding sufficiently for it to become instinctive. I will now.
The Times ran a 5 day series on fitness for snowboarding this week with a recommended daily exercise regime. I might just try it next week in preparation for my upcoming week in Tignes. Here are the links to each day (free registration may be required): Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5.
Spotted this piece in the Anglican Journal (I'm a regular reader don't you know) about Neil Elliot and his PhD thesis in the spirituality of snowboarding. It caught my attention because I had met Neil through the Snowserve mailing list and I was one of the riders he interviewed.
Talking to Neil did get me thinking about snowboarding as a meditation and certainly I have found that it can sometimes be like that, especially when you find yourself alone on the mountain rhythmically linking turns like a mantra. I can identify with his 'out of body' experience in these situations.
I am reminded of the mad cult leader Frederick Lenz's book Snowboarding the Himalayas in which he describes transcendental snowboarding (sounded more like an acid trip to me) but I think Neil has a bit more credibility.
I have been looking forward to reading the thesis (well maybe an executive summary and his conclusions) but it looks like he has some more 'research' to do in BC before writing it up!
There is an interesting discussion over at Piste Hors about whether or not off-piste hazards should be marked. This follows the death of a 17 year old British rider who fell 70 metres over a cliff in the Cote Brūne sector of Meribel last week.
I don't think anyone should expect such warnings when riding off-piste and nor should any ski area be expected to undertake such an onerous responsibility.
What is needed is better education about the dangers of off-piste riding which, to the uneducated, can often seem so benign especially when near to a marked piste and heavily tracked.
Dave Mossman writes in The Telegraph about taking up snowboarding at 40 plus as though it were a near impossibility. In fact, his learning experience sounds very similar to many others, both older and younger, and demonstrates that attitude rather than age is the only barrier to learning to ride.
Its been raining the last couple of days here in Vermont but today the snow started to fall and we built a kicker in the garden - great fun. Planning to kick off the season properly tomorrow at Suicide Six.
I don't normally pay much attention to competitions but this caught my eye as I have been a regular at the Boarder Week festival for the last few years and it has become a traditional season opener for me and my regular riding pals.
This year parental responsibilities mean I will have to skip it which is my excuse for not entering the new pro/am big air comp. Entries are invited from amateurs for the big air and slopestyle events and must be received by 5 December. Full details at Boarderweek.com.
Crap advice on "Boarding Basics" from the BBC's Sports Academy:
Start to turn your shoulders in the direction you want the board to go...
Why did the BBC get a skier (Graham Bell) to give a class on snowboarding?
So, Stephen Koch and Jimmy Chin did not make it to the top but at least they did ride Everest.
For the descent I took advantage of the deep powder conditions and enjoyed some great turns on my snowboard down the north face.
extremecarving.com has some new pictures up from last season. Its a very alternative style of riding and well worth a look. The site also puts forward the manifesto and philosophy of extreme carving in rather charming franglais.
I just rediscovered this old Guardian article. It was published a few weeks before I went on a similar McNab camp last year and re-reading it now it sounds very familiar.
There are some good riding tips and, of course, Neil's pet theory which I find very encouraging:
"Snowboarding's dead easy," Neil says, "but 95% of snowboarders don't know how to do it properly. The other 5% are all sponsored pro riders."
Although I am not actively seeking sponsorship, I am still working on what I learned and aiming for that top 5%!
For years I fiddled around with stance angles trying to get comfy, trying not to get toe drag and never really succeeding on either count. Then I went on a Neil McNab Kommunity camp in Chamonix and was enlightened.
Correcting my stance has yielded the biggest single improvement in my riding since I started and it was easy!