1998 Bristish Snowboard Championships - Saas-Fee

The Travelling

Left for Gatwick on Saturday morning, bought Scotch in duty free (more of which later), and got on the plane. The plane sat on the tarmac for 50 mins (apparently waiting for some replacements for the pilot's faulty headphones - if he'd asked he could have borrowed the ones from my Walkman), and then the pilot put his foot down, and did the flight in an hour (should be 1hr 30 ish). This left us only 25 mins to get the train, but our board bags were waiting for us when we got out of immigration, and the train station is next to the airport, so we got straight on the train, no problem.

We the had a 3 hour train ride ahead of us, with nothing to do, so we cracked open the scotch, just to pass the time. To cut a long story short, we arrived in Visp with 2 out of 3 of our party pissed as farts. I was the (half) sober one - well somebody had to be. By now it was 9:15pm, and the buses had long since stopped. We met a British guy & girl (Toby & Natalie) who had hitched from Meribel, so decided to share a taxi; Toby & Nat had nowhere to stay, so the drunks immediately said they could stay with us, even though we were sharing with a bunch of friends in an apartment which was already full! Anyway, we found room for them for the night. I quickly rushed down to the popcorn bar to see who was who.

The Snowboarding

On sunday morning we got up the mountain in LOW cloud - I couldn't see F all, and my new impulse buy board (Supermodel 174) was proving a bit of a barge in the poor vis. It was eery ridding a drag when you could hardly see the person in front. By lunch time the fog lifted enough to actually see where you were going, and we started to enjoy all the fresh snow. At 3pm, the sun came out, and we had 2 glorious hours in 2 feet of fresh powder, only riding for home when the pisteur chased off the mountain.

Monday was the Giant Slalom day - the only event I entered. The course was a dual affair i.e. you ride against someone else, and ride each side of the course and add the 2 times together. Having never ridden gates before, I buggered up my first run by missing a gate, and was therefore disqualified. However, the time on my second run (of 46.1 seconds) would have put me about 57th out of 98th. Lloyd Rogers won it, with a time of around 31 seconds (ulp). By sheer chance I rode against my mate Chris Hart, who only beat me by a 0.1 seconds, however, we were both humbled by his 16 year-old daughter, who ran the same times as us, and came 3rd in the women's junior class. After mucking about racing we hiked off to ride a beautiful powder bowl, which was in full sight of the GS area (extra pose value), and only had 2 tracks down it). We had a great ride, only spoilt by a chat with the ski patrol who were waiting for us, and wanted to take our tickets off us. After some grovelling we were let off with a slapped wrist.

On Tuesday I did some free riding with Simon Richardson, the UK Burton importer. (name drop, name drop). Also watched some of the boarder-cross - VERY SCARY, 2 people airlifted out, one poor girl with suspected spinal injuries, tho' we heard later that it was 'only' compressed vertebrae, with no permanent damage. The course had a big jump only 20 foot from the start gates, which always caused a crash, with the crasher usually taking some or all of the rest of the field down with him.

The rest of the week we just spent hooning around, in warm weather and blue skies every day. We were still managing to find untouched snow on Friday, although the warm weather meant it was crusty early in the day, and slushy at the end. By Wednesday, the resort runs had died due to the hot sun, but the snow conditions high up stayed good. I also got some rides on 1999 spec Burton's - I rode a Supermodel 163, a Johann, and a Custom 160. The custom is so good I'm going to buy it, to complement my Super 74 powder board.

My mate Chris also spent half the week riding Burton's new Step-in binding system. I couldn't try it cos there were no boots in my size - curses. Chris was a step-in sceptic when he started, but was pretty well converted - he says the boots are comfy and supportive, but not too stiff; the step-in/out mechanism works well (he found it a little awkward to bend over and click out, but then he is an old gomer), and when riding the feel was indistinguishable from a conventional setup, which I guess is the ultimate goal. I think I shall be ordering some.

By the end of the week the conditions were starting to deteriorate, but for the end of April we were incredibly lucky to get all that fresh snow.