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You may not be able to get snowboard lessons until you are seven years old on snowboarding holidays in most European resorts, but snowboarding is definitely for kids.
Burton Snowboards, one of the founding fathers and major brands in the sport, have pioneered boards for years. From the early days of Terje Haakonsen to launching Shaun White's career, they are always at the top of the game, and now they plan to be there from the start.
The choice of kids boards seems to be growing from year to year, but the Burton Chopper and sister board the Burton Chicklet have to be among of the most innovative. Starting at an incredible 80cm in length and designed so nippers can jump on without any bindings, these boards are fantastic to get a feel for snowboarding. Designed with a child-friendly flex, but strong enough to terrify you as they go off the jumps and rails in the snowpark and for complete beginners it even comes with a Riglet accessory, that lets you pull the board along.
The Riglet leash is a great idea, as you can pull them up the hill in the local park, while they get their snowboard legs before that first holiday to the slopes, and you can even use it to slow them down while they link their first turns.
The guys from The House, a US based board shop, have come up with a great little video in regards to the tech behind the board:
Both these boards also come with a free lesson as part of Burton's Learn To Ride scheme, luckily this has been rolled out in both Europe and the USA, with top resorts. Top Swiss resorts include Verbier, Flims Laax and Klosters, along with the small resort of Morgins in the Portes Du Soleil, Saalbach and Hinterglemm in Austria are available to choose from, as are Passo Tonale and Livigno in Italy. So, you may not pick your holiday to a resort based on a free lesson for your kids, but if you are travelling to any of these resorts it's a freebie not to be missed!
Here's a clip of the Burton kids from the 2008 Warren Miller film, Playground.
As you can see, talented kids are getting signed up by teams at a pretty young age these days and it is quite terrifying seeing how good the groms are getting. Your offspring might not be doing back flips on these dinky boards, but what's to say they won't be the next Jamie Nicholls or Aimee Fuller, given the opportunity.
With more chalet hotels to choose from in the Alps then ever before, a few properties have re-branded in an attempt to stand out from the crowds. Here are a couple of my favourites, offering a similar name, but a very different experience. So, let's check out the lodges.
The Ski Lodges
The Ski Lodges to me are a great idea, the only problem being that when I hear the name Ski Lodge I think of a lively, British-run pub in the Three Valleys' resort of La Tania. These Ski Lodges however, offer a very different, and more relaxed experience.
The three ski lodges on offer are one new property, where the name has been taken from — The Lodge in Val d'Isere, and two very popular, former chalets hotels, the Aigle in Tignes and the Stoanerhof in Mayrhofen. The experience in many ways will resemble that of a chalet hotel — along the lines of chalet-style food and friendly service, but on a larger scale — with some subtle and major differences.
The Ski Lodge concept is to offer a more elegant, almost exclusive experience, but in a large chalet environment. The three Ski Lodges will all feature a dedicated Snow Concierge, to help with all things snow and a wellness area with hot tub, sauna or swimming pool (in the Aigle). The properties will also boast free Wi-Fi, heated boot racks, occasional English papers and a selection of ski magazines and DVDs in the lounge or bar area.
To me, this makes the whole chalet hotel thing more appealing. I love chalet food and hotel-style facilities, but I usually prefer accommodation for sole occupancy when skiing. With these properties you get the feeling that you can escape to your room or the wellness area, as you would in a hotel, for peace and quiet, but could also mingle with friends or new found acquaintances in the bar or lounge. The free Wi-Fi is a nice touch as are the English papers and magazines.
Another thing I like about these properties is the food, as I mentioned I love chalet food and as with a few properties of this ilk, you can enjoy a later breakfast until 10am and a choice menu each evening. The choice menu in this style of property is increasingly popular, with the menu usually put out at breakfast a choice of start, main and dessert — with fish and vegetarian options available.
The Riders' Lodge
The Riders' Lodge, as it sounds, is aimed at a younger crowd, with a real emphasis put on freestyle skiing and snowboarding. With similar names you wouldn't want to mix them up as relaxed conversations over a cheese board are replaced with tales of shredding the park and riding knarly lines, before hitting the resort bars until the early hours.
The Riders' Lodge is a great concept though. There is a whole crowd of skiers and snowboarders in their more youthful years looking for a less 'stuffy' environment, where they can hang out with their mates and meet new people to hit the hill and bars with. The two properties are based in high altitude and high octane resorts with the Riders' Lodge Tignes and Riders' Lodge Val Thorens and offer ski-themed artwork, big TV with Xbox 360 and in Tignes a table football and pool table.
The Riders' Lodge have their own answer to the Snow Concierge with their Snow Guru — an expert in all things snow and social in the resort. The Snow Guru will organise freestyle lessons, take you guiding on the mountain and show you how to party seasonaire-style.
These two very different concepts, targetting very different audiences, in my opinion are just what we needed. I love the idea of heading to The Lodge in Val d'Isere with my misses and the family, having a relaxed holiday, enjoying great food and elegant surroundings. I also love the idea of heading to the the Riders' Lodge in Val Thorens or Tignes with a few of the boys and enjoying long days on the hill, chilling with a few games on the Xbox before dinner, then heading out on one of the bar crawls or recharging ready for a freeride lesson the next day.
Every year the ski industry broadens its appeal, and to me this is part of the charm of working in it. There is something for everyone these days, no matter what your needs — you just need someone to point you in the right direction.
It's that time of year when all the big hitting ski and snowboard films start to release their trailers, build up eager anticipation of the premier nights and eventually release the films throughout September and October.
The big hitters, such as Teton Gravity Research (TGR), Warren Miller and Red Bull are already whetting our appetites and will hopefully start the season with some big shows for us. With Premiers usually varying from tents at the Freeze Festival in London, to cinema screenings up and down the country, as the Autumn approaches, so does the pre-season furore of the winter sports world.
Last year we made it to the UK premiers of Jeremy Jones' Deeper, at the Freeze Festival, and the always much anticipated Warren Miller premier for their 2011 film Wintervention (out this November!). So, as we look forward to what is coming for the 2011/12 season, we've taken a look at this year's big trailers.
Following on from Red bull and Travis Rice's 2009 big hitter, That's It, That's All, and TGR's two huge 2010 movies, Deeper and Light The Wick, 2011 is the year of the Epic. Ski and snowboard films are taking full advantage of the crazy progression within the sports and the ease of accessibility to HD footage — I think a thank you to Go-Pro is definitely needed!
This year think big, think riding and line of epic proportions, think drama and excitement and don't forget, North America had record breaking amounts of powder to play with. This year's films are going to have you dreaming of snow for days, and here are a few, just to whet your appetite.
Brain Farm productions have teamed up with Red Bull to release another epic snowboard film. Their last offering, That's It, That's All, was one of the biggest budget snowboard films of all time, with rumours stating they exceeded more than Quiksilver's, one of the sponsors, entire yearly marketing budget.
Travis Rice and Red Bull pushed the boundaries in terms of filming, riding and destinations in That's It, That's All, and The Art of Flight, which has been two years in the making, looks to continue the trend. Travis Rice is making a big name for himself for hitting the biggest lines and insane locations and with the likes of Jeremy Jones onboard, you know there will be no punches pulled. This film looks so incredible, I had to post both the trailers!
Matchstick Productions' latest offering, Attack of La Niña, starts off with reports of too much snow in the US last winter, before taking you on a powder-filled journey during North America's deepest winter in recent history. From heli-skiing and cat-skiing into North America's deepest powder field and steepest lines, to huge cliff drops and insane freestyle skiing. This film showcases some of the craziest of freeride and freestyle skiing from last winter.
Standard Films are releasing TB20, the 20th film in the legendary TB series later this year. Other TB films include the legendary TB8, featuring one of Jussi Oksanen's all time sections and a very young Shaun White ripping it up. The 2006 movie, Draw the Line, was best remembered for its 'trapped in Chile' section, where four of the team were stuck in resort after too much snow fell to open the roads of lifts.
This year's TB20 looks to continue on the trend of being one of the biggest snowboard movies to hit the shelves. With last winter's huge amounts of snow offering the perfect backdrop to a brand renowned for pioneering big mountain snowboarding. The likes of Halldor Helgason, Xavier De Le Rue and Mads Johnson, showcase why the TB series is just so damn impressive year after year.
Teton Gravity Research are known for making incredible ski and snowboard films, last year's Deeper took you on a journey to the deepest powder lines in the most inaccessible terrain ever seen. Light the Wick, another of last year's films, showed off TGR's ability with HD cameras and progressive skier's and this year's film, One For The Road, is bound to raise the bar again.
From the Teton (Jackson Hole) based film makers, One For The Road, goes from steep, deep and terrifying terrain to huge kicker sessions with some of the world's top skiers, while taking to the road for this almost documentary-style film. It's worth watching the trailer for the music, pillow lines and cliff drops alone!
Warren Miller is synonymous with ski films and has been for the past 20 years. The production company, that still bears the name of the founder, have notched up 62 films in this period, and their current offering, ... Like There's No Tomorrow, will be touring the UK shortly. Last year's big premier, Wintervention, will only hit the shelves in a month's time as Warren Miller go down the route of a 12 month tour to build up the hype of their films, but they are worth it.
In ... Like No Tomorrow the world's top skiers will be taking on some of the planet's most adrenaline-fuelled lines from India to Alaska. With last year offering huge amounts of snow, be prepared for some serious back country riding, with a mix of freestyle to keep the crowds happy.
These are just a few of what will be on offer with films such as Jeremy Jones' Further, the second part of TGR's Deeper, Further, Higher trilogy, and Absinthe's Twe12ve, yet to release full trailers. Absinthe's Twe12ve is bound to be huge, previous films, Pop, Futureproof, Optimistic and NowHere, has all pushed the limits on snowboarding and film quality, being one of the first big film makers to take on HD filming in previous efforts. Here's a little pre-trailer teaser from Mikey Le Blanc:
Whether the snow is dumping or sparse, ski and snowboard films are big money these days, so the effort to make them bigger and better year on year really tells. I can't wait to see the two new films from Teton Gravity Research, the Art of Flight and ... Likes There's No Tomorrow!
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