Last winter our lives were taken over by the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. This year we can get engrossed in the many more ski and snowboard competitions and events that take place in Europe. Most kick off early season in January, getting us stoked up nicely for the rest of the ski season.
One for the snowboarders. Innsbruck is the second stop on the Air and Style circuit, Emil Ulsletten stole the show at the first event in Beijing in December, and then next step will be Los Angeles in February. The World’s best snowboarders have competed in this big air event over the past two decades. Athletes are whittled down through 3 rounds before the 4 snowboarders battle in out in the super final. Athletes includes at Innsbruck include: GB’s Billy Morgan, Halldor Helgason, Sage Kotsenburg, Max Parrot, Stale Sandbech, Seb Toots & more. Date: 16th & 17th January 2015
One for the British Team This year’s World Championships take place in Kreischberg, Austria. This is the first time that both freestyle skiing and snowboarding have been combined in a World Championships. After Great Britain’s success at Sochi we have a 22 strong squad of skiers and snowboarders competing in the event, including slopestyle, halfpipe, moguls, aerials and more. View the full British team line up. Date: 14th -25th January
One for the girls This is the 5th big air competition of the Suzuki Nine Queens in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, Austria. The world’s best female skiers and snowboarders are invited to this stunning pocket in Tirol for a unique event consisting of a series of jumps and features set around a huge sculpted ice castle. Date: 15th – 20th March 2015
For the utmost dedicated This mammoth snow sports tour consists of five venues in Europe and the USA. 2015 is bigger than ever with two new stops on the Freeride calendar, Vallnord, Andorra and Alaska, USA. Last season more than 637, 000 viewers followed the finest skiers and snowboarders across this spectacular journey.
Taking part in the Freeride World Tour Competition will be 28 male skiers, 14 male snowboarders, 14 female skiers and 7 female snowboarders. Through the events the riders will be narrowed down to a limited few that will take part in the Grand Finale in Verbier. The FWT season kicks off in the ultimate freeride resort, Chamonix, on 24th January, then heads to Fieberbrunn, Austria, on 31st January before Vallnord, Andorra for the first time on 14th February. Then it is off to Alaska on 14th March before the grande finale and the 20th anniversary of the Xtreme Verbier on 28th March. Athletes that reach the Verbier climax will have to take on the legendary Bec des Rosses mountain face. Two-time winner at the Bec des Rosses, Sweden’s Reine Barkered is delighted to be part of the history of the “Bec”: “I'm excited to have the chance to compete at the 20th anniversary of Verbier Xtreme. Verbier is the crowning point for a freerider and I will do my very best to step up to the top of the podium here a third time.”
One for the ski elite Austria’s greatest ski festival is bigger than ever in 2015 as it is celebrating its 75th Anniversary. The Hahnenkamm race is one of the most famous alpine ski races of the world and is the highlight of the World Cup calendar. For Kitzbuhel, this is the best week of the year, as spectators and celebrities flock to the town to see the famous ski racers, as well as joining in the week of partying. The magnificent race features jumps up to 80m, steep slopes including peaking at 85% gradient on the Mausefalle, and skiers reaching speeds up to 140 km per hour along the run. The famous ‘Streif’ is considered the most spectacular ski runs in the world where only the elite can Date: 20th - 25th January 2015
What did you get up to after Christmas? Whilst some were polishing off the turkey leftovers and watching a festive flick on the telebox, others were shredding the gnar in the UK countryside. Parts of the north and midlands received up to 11cm of snow from Boxing Day 2014 which allowed keen skiers and snowboarders to head to the hills for some fresh powder turns. Check out these awesome photos of backcountry riding, UK style!
Team GB Olympic Snowboarder Jamie Nicholls getting some fresh tracks at home in Yorkshire
Jamie laying down a handplant on his mini ramp & Bradford looking very snowy in the background
Friends of Iglu, Lauren Quinnell & Ollie Evans riding near the Peak District in Wessington, Derbyshire
Stunning snowy landscapes in Leek, Staffordshire, perfect day for a fun shred with friends (Credit - Instagram @samcorbett88)
Paragliders jumping off Mam Tor in the Peak District (Credit - Twitter @PaulSCaddy)
More beautiful snowy scenery in the Peak District (Credit - Twitter @PaulSCaddy)
Skiers in the Peak District (Credit - Twitter @PaulSCaddy)
David Mercker Cox taking his board out in Glenariff, Northern Ireland
Snowy Glenariff at sunset
David getting his freestyle on in the snow in Northern Ireland
Black ski runs are the most advanced pistes on the mountain, suited for experienced skiers and snowboarders that can tackle this tricky terrain. Some resorts even go beyond the black piste with double black diamond runs for experts only. I’ve done my fair share of black pistes in the Alps, but as a snowboarder my favourites may differ to a skiers, so with help from our expert ski team: Sales Director, Adam Johnson, Head of Ski Product, James Box and Ski Team Leaders, Nick and Scotty, we’ve put together the ultimate top 5 black runs in Europe. From beginner blacks to harakiri-extreme pistes, you’ll feel like a ski champion after executing these advanced slopes.
5. Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs, France A Black/Red run for starters If your ski legs aren’t warmed up yet, they will be after this. From the top of Aiguille Rouge at 3226m you can take the epic 7 km Aiguille Rouge run down 2000 vertical metres to the village of Villaroger. It’s a mix of terrain starting as a black run for the first half, then a red piste through the trees for the remainder of the run. The steepest section is at the top, after that it feels more like a red run (a blackish red?)
4. Saslong, Selva, Italy
A world class thrill The World Cup Saslong run from Selva down into St Christina ‘is awesome’ says James. It’s not a difficult black run, as there a steeps followed by flats, followed by steeps, etc. So if you are flying down the piste you can get lots of air just as the downhill racers do when the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup comes to Val Gardena. Extreme fun paired with the beautiful scenery and the stunning mountain range backdrop.
3. La Sache, Espace Killy, France Not for the faint hearted AJ: My favourite black run in the Espace Killy is La Sache. There is a big caveat on this though. It must be done before lunch or maybe at lunchtime when the pistes are emptier. Some of the narrower and steeper sections get very crowded with skiers negotiating the monster moguls that form during the day that makes it a nightmare later in the day. Just before lunch is ideal because there is a great little Savoyard restaurant in Tignes-Les-Brévières called La Sachette that you can stop at after. At 1550m, this is the lowest point in the whole Espace Killy and therefore the warmest and best for dining outdoors. Scotty: The first time you do La Sache you just wonder where the hell you are going to end up, it’s steep, bendy but awesome. 2. Grand Couloir, Courchevel, France
Terror at the top
At the top of Saulire at 2700m there is just one of the famous Courchevel couloirs marked on a piste map as a run, the Grand Couloir. This famous piste is often high on the list for the scariest black run in the world and can get extremely mogully if it hasn’t snowed in a while. To get to the Grand Couloir there is a narrow ridge that gets icy and grooved so you can’t turn your skis to slow down. As you pick up speed the ridge gets steeper and bumpier. I’ve seen quite a few skiers lose their nerve and bail out at this stage but if you hold your nerve there is a small space to stop at the end of the track. The GC is steep to start but it quickly widens, it is steeper if you keep to skier’s right and stay in the shadow to get the best snow.
1. Chassoure – Tortin, Verbier, Switzerland
The possibilities are endless
From the Chassoure peak there are a few options to make your descent, depending on the snow fall and conditions these slopes can change daily. From the top you can drop straight in and face the moguls of ‘the wall’ or traverse along and ski down when you see a preferred route. The 700m track takes you down to Tortin where you can head up toward Mont Fort, or tackle the Chassoure-Tortin run again. This was described as a ‘skiers dream’ by one of the team, but beware as this is world renowned as an extreme ski run.
If you're looking to tantalise your extreme taste buds further, here is a quick rundown of more brilliant black pistes in Europe: For Starters: Piste 21 (under Chairlift 1), Kitzbühel, wide black run with flatter sections For Excitement: Through the tunnel in Alpe D’Huez …… stop… out the door…. ARRRHH. Beware, it’s steep. For Fear Factor: Anything down Mont Gele in Verbier. For Endurance: Point de Vue at Grand Montets in Chamonix, the run goes on forever. For Mogul Mania: Top of the Valluga in St Anton, it’s about half a mile of moguls! Gulp factor: Pan du Fou, Nendaz. If you’re a chicken then you turn right:
In the middle of the hustle and bustle of day 1 at the London Ski and Snowboard Show, we met up with cheeky chappie and Team GB snowboarder Jamie Nicholls. After a stunning performance at Sochi and achieving sixth place in the first ever snowboard slopestyle final in a Winter Games, the Olympics has thrown Jamie into the spotlight and he is now recognised as one of the country’s best snowboarders. Nicholls scored a huge 85.5 from the judges on his first run, but the standard of the male snowboarders was so high and Jamie was knocked out the running for a medal. We caught up with Jamie about his Sochi experience, what he’s been up to over the summer and his plans for the this winter, including a pretty big exciting secret project that’s happening in London (watch the video below for more info)
The Yorkshire lad is well known for lapping Halifax dryslope since a tender age, so he is an ideal example to inspire a generation to have a go and try skiing or snowboarding at their local ski centre. Since Sochi, Snowsport England have recorded a 12% increase in participation at domestic slopes and centres year on year, which is fantastic news for the British ski and snowboard industry. As the latest ambassador for Snowsport England’s national participation campaign, Go Ski Go Board, Jamie tells us that he is ‘trying to help build good camps for kids’ with the governing body and help fly the flag for winter sports. He is a regular to The Snow Centre Hemel Hempstead which always creates a buzz at the dome and inspires more people to give it a go themselves.
Read more about Team GB's involvement with Go Ski Go Board He has a very light hearted approach to getting in to the sport, and when asked for advice for anyone wanting to learn: Drop in to your closest snowdome, snow centre or dry slope and give it a good go. If you like it, stick at it, if you don’t like it, try it again and again till you do (laughs)… we agree too!
Hayley and I meeting Jamie at the Ski & Snowboard Show
The British snowboarder has a busy winter ahead of him. Last week he narrowly missed out on a podium spot on his first competition of the season and came in 4th at the Burton Rail Days in Tokyo. Some people will see fourth as a good result in Japan but I was going out there to try and win it. Next up will be the Dew Tour Mountain Championships in Breckenridge from 11 -14 December. After some training and down time in Austria he has high hopes for the competition in Colorado. Snowboarding has taken Jamie all over the globe and the 21 year old is now recognised as one of the World’s best snowboarders. But when he’s not in the park he does enjoy the backcountry; Last winter Jamie went on his first splitboard adventure in Austria, and that must have given him the bug as when we asked him if could snowboard somewhere in the world he’s not been before, Jamie told us that he desires a trekking trip to Nepal, Argentina or some weird places that I’ve never been and never get a chance to go. We are very interested to see what Jamie gets up to this season.
Jamie in Stubai, Austria.
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