Having just completed a gruelling two days at Kreischburg, Austria the snowboarders are heading for Switzerland where the Burton European Open Snowboard Championships are being held in Laax. Now in its tenth year, the event attracts more than 400 snowboarders, including the very best in the world. The biggest snowfalls in over a decade have just been recorded in the Alps and conditions are perfect for riders and spectators alike.
They are drawn by the two disciplines which make up this challenging event, Slopestyle and Halfpipe. In the former, competitors must board down a hair-raising course featuring rails, ramps and kickers. As if that was not enough, they must then complete a variety of tricks that are judged by a panel of experts on technical complexity and quality of execution.
The Halfpipe is subject to the same rigorous judging system but this run is down a man-made semicircular scoop of snow with high sides. One by one, riders drop into the pipe, zip up the far side and emerge in the clear mountain air to execute a mind-boggling series of twists and turns before plummeting back down to earth. It’s adrenalin fuelled, gravity defying stuff.
Jenny Jones, 28, is the UK’s most accomplished female snowboarder. In 2006 she ranked second in the world and was runner up in last year’s championship Slopestyle competition. This year she’s hoping to grab the top spot.
Slopestyle, with its mixture of speed and airborne trickery, requires not only technical expertise but top physical fitness. Consequently, Jones has undertaken a less than conventional fitness regime for the last two months, training with Bath Rugby Club. She hasn’t actually been pushing a scrimmage machine around with a pack of sweaty men, but she has been working closely with their conditioning trainer.
The championships feature both junior and senior events, with plenty of parties and live concerts providing light entertainment along the way.
Someone else who is zeroing in on the finals is 2008 men’s Slopestyle winner and 2006 Olympic Halfpipe gold medallist Shaun White, who will again be competing at this year’s event. At 21 years of age, this Californian youngster is one of the best-known riders in the world. He’s the star of his own best-selling video game, owns a Lamborghini and lives an international jet-set lifestyle. In short, he epitomises the huge leap that snowboarding has made from cult pastime to international sport over the last twenty years.
“I love the championship because it’s a really fun event and it’s great catching up with my European friends,” he says. “What’s more, the riding is always really exciting and last year’s Slopestyle course was more progressive and better to ride.”
The Burton European Open Snowboarding Championships run from January 9-16 in Laax in Switzerland. For more information visit www.opensnowboarding.com Live action from the event will be broadcast on www.go211.com and on the Eurosport TV Channel.
Top 10 scariest snowboarding routes in the world
1 Mount Everest. Successfully descended by Frenchman Marco Siffredi in 2001. He attempted it again in 2002 and was never seen again.
2 The Spearhead Traverse, Canadian Rockies. Backcountry expedition that takes in 14 glaciers over three days.
3 The Couloir Bellevarde, Val D’Isere. Fantastic off piste fun favoured by Olympian Lesley Mckenna.
4 Mount Cook, New Zealand. In 2008 British snowboarder Johno Verity nearly perished in a huge avalanche whilst boarding this region. Not only did he live to tell the tale but he captured it on film as well.
5 The Wall, Avoriaz, France. A technically challenging course that features an array of humps, bumps and dips recommended by Jenny Jones.
6 Peak 7601, Alaska. Unspeakably steep pinnacle of snow and rock first negotiated by snowboard legend Terje Haakonsen in 2005.
7 The Valle Blanche, France. Europe’s longest uninterrupted off-piste run littered with crevasses and hidden snow bridges.
8 Sache Valley to Les Brevieres in Tigne, France. Precipitous cliffs and avalanche risk make this a truly testing run.
9 The Haute Route. Classic seven day tour between Chamonix and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps.
10 North Face of the Aiguille Midi in France. Treacherously steep run in the shadow of Mont Blanc.
Having had the biggest dump of snow for many years in the Alps conditions are perfect for a great competition but we would like to draw the attention of our readers to the threat of avalanches when you are in the powder. The terrifying speed with which an avalanche moves is clearly shown in vincent154 ‘s movie below – don’t plan on outboarding an avalnche.