Panic Dropping

It’s that time of year again: surprise spring powder time! Where the temperature plummets and it dumps with snow for a few days, even as far down as rainy Morzine; my work gets inundated with people wanting hot chocolate, and there’s a flurry of people waking up at dawn, throwing themselves into their cupboards to find their transceivers and go out to have the best damn powder day of their lives, because it’s unlikely to happen again until next year.
You may be familiar with the phrase ‘Panic Shag.’ Thanks for that one, Belle de Neige, you bag of filth. This was definitely the time for Panic Turns, Panic Drops, and Panic Shots, or for me it was, anyway.
Everyone must have experienced the feeling, when it comes towards the end of the season, of realisation that there’s a lot of stuff left still to achieve, whether it’s a drop that you’ve been eyeing up all winter, hitting a certain feature or landing a new trick, and there’s VERY LITTLE TIME TO ACHEIVE IT!
And we all go a bit crazy, and maybe try things that are a bit beyond our ability level. This is what I did last week, when I realised that I’d wanted to film some powder this winter, but due to my own laziness, and the cameraman going away, I had done nothing. TIME WAS RUNNING OUT. So we went up to do a morning’s filming; there was hiking, double ejecting, freezing cloud, a lot of ‘are you ready’ phone calls and this was the peak of the day:

Video still by Sam McMahon

Video still by Sam McMahon


I tried it a couple of times, and I didn’t land it, but I didn’t really mind, because I’d been wanting to do it for a while, and that was my ONLY CHANCE to do it and get it on film. (Plus that still got heaps of likes on facebook, which everyone knows is the judging platform for how awesome your life is. LOL #didijustsaythat?) Two days later, it’s balmy and warm and spring-like again, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief, knowing we made the most of surprise spring powder time, but secretly hoping for another dump before the season’s over.


Half Term Hiking

My my, those holidays did seem to last a long time… A lot of complaining was done (and not just by me, I hasten to add) a ranty blog was published, an old French couple who ‘got lost’ in the landing between two jumps were shouted at, and that was that.
Around this time of year, some people don’t go up the mountain, some spend their time touring instead, or cutting their days short and heading straight for the bar, because who wants to wait for forty minutes to get from one place to another?

After all, when the visibility is good, who needs to use the lifts? One of the best ways, in my opinion, to get better at rails is to have a good old hike. It’s warm, it’s sweaty, it’s really good exercise, you get to hang out with all your friends, it’s good for the soul etc. etc. By good for the soul, I mean you can look down at the twenty minute lift line and smugly think ‘ha, look at those suckers, spending all that time waiting for a two minute lap, I’m getting multiple hits on this rail and learning new tricks.’ All those people waiting in line for the lift were probably looking at me thinking ‘look at those suckers, getting all out of breath and sweaty when there’s a lift right here.’

ImageNothing like a good safety grab – Photo by Callum Cowie

But anyway, it’s my favourite way to learn new rail stuff, because when I’ve hiked back up to the top and I’m hot and sweaty and out of breath and have really steamy goggles, I know I’ve put in the effort to get up there, and there’s no way I’m going to chicken out, because then I’ll have to hike back up and do it again. It also makes me feel less guilty that I haven’t been for a run for about three months now. I’ve still not managed a 450 out, but I’ve got some good combos down, and been working on those pesky switch lips… let’s hope I can get it before it gets too slushy!

So go on, go for a hike before it’s too late! Your body will thank you… eventually.

Some Rantings and Musings on the Stash… but Mainly Rantings

Who was that aerodynamic sunglasses wearing, headband toting, camelback abusing moron who said in the Daily Telegraph that the Stash in Avoriaz was the ‘best ski run in the world?’

Well whoever you are, I’d just like to say thanks. Thanks for making the Stash into the MOST DANGEROUS PLACE IN THE WORLD.

Not many people seem to know this but the Stash is actually a park. There are quite a few of them spread throughout the world, they’re designed by Burton, using natural, sustainable materials and make use of the natural terrain. Ok?

Now I know I’ve said in previous blogs that patience is a virtue and we all had to start somewhere and all that hippy stuff. I’m just going forget about that for the purpose of this post, because, quite frankly, I have no time for poor etiquette, and there is a lot of that going on in the Stash right now.

Safety first... Karlien Abbeel knows how to get it done. Photograph Oreli.b. Photography

Safety first… Karlien Abbeel knows how to get it done. Photograph Oreli.b. Photography

And yeah, it’s all well and good if you’re on holiday with your wife who only likes to ski blue runs and your ten children who have no spatial awareness and snowplough around looking in awe at trees and bright colours, and all of a sudden you turn up at the Stash and think, ‘yeah, this looks like a cool place! I think I could do the Stash!’

Well, firstly, you don’t DO the Stash, that’s like saying, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve DONE Australia.’ Oh you have, have you? You’ve done everything there possibly is to do in Australia? Every single thing? It’s not like just DOING your taxes, or DOING the washing up, or DOING your girlfriend once a week on a Sunday night, if she’s in the mood. It’s, like Australia, a place with lots of different things in it, and lots of different things to do on those things, so, sort your syntax out.

Secondly, does anybody actually read the sign before they go in? If you do, it says something like, this is a park, there are small, medium and large features in it, wear a helmet, look where you’re going, be aware of what’s going on around you, and don’t stand somewhere where you can’t be seen by people hitting the features. Now, I know skiing and snowboarding can be hard sometimes, but if you can’t control yourself on variable terrain and like to stop for a breather in the landings of features and then get angry when someone has to throw themselves out of the way in mid air to avoid slicing your head off with their edges because you were standing around somewhere you couldn’t be seen, then you should probably, er, to put it politely, get the hell out before you hurt yourself, or someone else.

Little does this persoin know, there is a family having lunch down there.

Little does this person know, there is a family having lunch down there.

Now, I know, I know, the Stash is for everyone, but did I mention it’s a PARK? Not a museum, a park. Would you go to a regular snowpark and just, say, hang out in the landings of all the jumps? Eat your meticulously packed picnic lunch on a box? Cut in front of someone on their way into a rail, then not hit it and ride off the lip, arms and legs everywhere, thinking, ‘yeah, I did a jump.’ And, FYI, I can guarantee you that any easy feature in a snowpark is easier to do than an easy feature in the Stash. What is it about all that wood and ice that just makes it look so appealing? Is it knowing that you’ll probably slide out in the landing? Or bounce out of the massive hole made from people who’s legs are unable to hold them up from the strain of a one and a half foot drop. Or maybe the thought of catching an edge in that not very slidy, soft wood is just too much to pass up.

If it weren't for that pesky tree...

If it weren’t for that pesky tree…

So anyway, it’s not that difficult, right? To pay attention to your surroundings, wait your turn and look where you’re going? I know it’s hard when your dad is standing there with his iPhone, waving frantically and saying ‘come on, Little Jimmy, do the jump!’ but you never know, that little bit of extra attention might just save someone from getting a ski pole through the eye.

That is all. Rant over.

Back to Basics

Well, January is over already and I’m finding myself asking, where has all that time gone? Seriously. Where did it go?

There’s been lots of work, rubbish weather and illness… the cameraman has left me to do some fancy freelance work for some snowboarding magazine in the UK… Whiteguys, or Whitelines? Something like that…

Amid all this eventfulness, I seem to remember making a new year’s resolution. One was to actually get paid for some writing work (cue a well timed cough) and the other, which is pretty much the same one I make every year, was to get better at skiing. A bit vague, I know, but I manage to learn at least one new trick a season so it’s not a complete waste of time.

However, when the weather forecast looks like this, and is subject to change every two hours, it gets hard to work up the courage to try new stuff. Being able to see lips, landings and take offs is quite important to my confidence, you see. We’ve had the kind of uninspiring weather where you look out the window and think, meh. A lot of cloud but no snow, icy, punter filled pistes and an unstable snowpack. What can you do on a day like that?


Wind, grey skies and minimal snow. SWEET.

 Instead of using these days to lie around in bed watching TV and eating Nutella straight out of the jar, I’ve decided to go back to basics and learn all those things I should have learned when I started freeskiing, but since I didn’t know anything about freeskiing then, I didn’t learn them. I’m talking grabs, spinning the other way, doing rails the other way, getting the correct stance for doing rails, stuff like that.

All these things are great for practicing on a nothing day. They’re also getting into the kind of technical category (apart from the rail stance, that’s my bad) and I’m starting to get the feeling I’m just not a very technical person. After all, I can barely use a computer. Thinking about more than one thing at a time can prove quite difficult, especially when, like me, you’re so used to doing things the same way all the time.

 I pushed through though, and I’ve just about managed to get away from doing boot grabs when I spin, (which according to FIS rules, don’t even count as a real grab) and have moved on to the ever so technical safety grab.  I’ve not managed to up my rail game at all because apparently the shapers in Avoriaz don’t know what a progressive rail looks like, let alone how to put one into the ground. Just making it to the end without feeling like I’m going to have a serious accident is good enough.


Getting there…

I have managed to spin (and land, I might add) some right side 360s. On a blue jump. It’s not much but it’s definitely a start, I feel like I’ve learned something even though it’s a trick I can already do, so my efforts haven’t been a complete waste. Hopefully I’ll even be able to pop one in my next edit. If the cameraman ever returns from the office…

We All Have to Start Somewhere…

So, what with it being the start of the season, there are a lot of new faces around town, and now it’s Christmas, lots of holiday makers as well. From the outside, Morzine looks like the perfect, bustling little ski resort town, but in reality, going riding around this time of year involves a lot of waiting in lift lines while the person in front of you can’t get their pass to scan, avoiding ski school trains and trying to get around THAT guy on a cat track who thinks that doing the ‘race pose’ will make him go faster.

There are a lot of names floating around for these types of people: punters, gapers, kooks, etc. and then we can go into the sub categories of skier dads and skier mums and so on and so forth. People who just generally don’t really know what’s going on.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I may sometimes get a little bit annoyed when that person in front is trying to climb over the turnstile with their skis still on and it’s the third time that day. But then I take a deep breath and think: that was totally me once. On my first winter, I thought everything I wore had to be Gore-tex, wore goggles that only came with an orange lens, and thought that a twin tip was some kind of sex move. I also spent the first three months of the season being completely out of control trying to keep up with all my friends, probably cutting people up left right and centre and rag dolling down mogul fields. Come to think of it… sometimes I still even have trouble scanning my pass, and I fall over standing still.

Anyway, my point is, we were all shit once. Whether it was as a child, on a mountain or in a snowdome, or the long anticipated gap yah, we all had to start somewhere. This is what I looked like on my first season:

       Image       Image

Working on two classic poses: the skier, and, the skier

And here are a few kindly donated photos from some of my friends of what they looked like when they first started skiing or snowboarding:

Image  Image

George: really a mountain biker

ImageSabrina: now rides for GNU


The McManaways: no longer this cute


Dunstan: and his first ever line


Nathan: could smash this jump now


Catriona: now snowboards


Lois: accessorizing with matching boots


Lottie: demonstrating that the hat and sunnies combo has worked its way back round


Catriona again: pioneering skinnny pants


Sam: actually has brown hair, and a beard now, too


Luke: does double front flips now (but looks pretty cool for his first season, well done Luke)


We were all having the best time ever in these pictures (except maybe the McManaways) and that’s what’s so awesome about being in the mountains and getting to ski and snowboard all the time, or even snowblade if that’s your thing. I’ll have to remind myself of that next time a child cuts me up on the run in to a rail.