You Reap What You Sow: How Grassroots Comps Helped Team GB's Snowboarders

Tristan Kennedy Tristan Kennedy
Billy Morgan boosts a rodeo out of the cannon / Photo: Nick Atkins/Scene Images
Billy Morgan boosts a rodeo out of the cannon in Sochi / Photo: Nick Atkins/Scene Images

About this time last year, when it was announced that British Snow Tour was being updated with standardised ranking points, I voiced in WL my concerns that this might lead to a stagnation in the creativity and progression of UK riders.

From where I’m sat now, basking in the afterglow of two of the most glorious weeks for British snowboarding I am very happy to say that I have been emphatically and beautifully proven wrong. Our scene has never been so alive and the memory of being glued to the TV in the early hours of the day, with Facebook and Twitter overflowing with emotion and excitement, will live with me for years to come.

The first ever Winter Olympics slopestyle event was an epic of Shakespearian proportions, leaving those of us who have been around the UK scene for a number of years emotionally wrecked. I would love to know Terje’s thoughts right now, upon seeing that it is, in fact, an FIS backed event that has turned out to express the beauty and creativity of our sport that no X-Games or TTR event has for years.

In fact, the whole thing felt like a celebration of our scene and it was amazing to see Ed Leigh and Time Warwood doing an incredible job on the BBC commentary and Aimee Fuller almost in tears after Jenny Jones’s last run. I couldn’t help but feel that this Olympic slopestyle has been for everyone, as though the whole Brit snowboard family descended on Sochi, free from status division and ego, breathing fresh air into the IOC and snowboarding in general.

Jamie Nicholls, who honed his skills in the Orange AIM Series as a grom, owning the Sochi Slopestyle course. Photo: Nick Atkins/Scene Images
Jamie Nicholls, who honed his skills in the Orange AIM Series as a grom, owning the Sochi Slopestyle course. Photo: Nick Atkins/Scene Images

 

And that is the best thing about what has happened over the past two weeks; that it has been shared by a community in a way never before seen in professional sport. Hearing Tim Warwood commentate on Jamie Nicholls’s run, I had a sudden flashback of almost a decade ago of Tim with a mic in his hand at various dome events, pumping up the riders and spectators, encouraging us to push the limits whilst Jamie Nicholls, just a grom then, destroyed any indoor park put in front of him.

The best thing about the past two weeks? It has been shared by a community in a way never before seen in professional sport.

The fact that even in nation without snowy peaks young riders like myself were able to journey around the country to a massive array of competitions is a massive testament to those who have been working behind the scene for countless years. The success for Team GB in this year’s Olympics has been a direct result of the actions and efforts of these guys, not least those behind the British Snow Tour.

Becky Menday at a recent Protest British Indoor Slopestyle Champs
Becky Menday at a recent Protest British Indoor Slopestyle Champs

 

Ever since the early days of the AIM Series, the likes of Stu Brass and Spencer Claridge have been godfathers of the UK scene, helping to build a competitive structure that prepares our young riders for the rigours of the international competitive circuit. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Jenny Jones, Jamie Nicholls and Billy Morgan are veterans of the British Ski and Snowboard Championships, which have given UK riders the opportunity to compete in a real alpine environment.

 

The amount of work that goes into putting on the indoor series and then the Brits is monumental and I really hope that all the effort is properly recognised now in the aftermath of the Olympics. If social media is anything to go by, happily it looks like it is already the case.

Yes I know the early days of UK competitive snowboarding were more akin to a group of mates getting together, shredding and having a few beers, and since then the British Snow Tour has become increasingly professional and structured. It is inevitable that we will miss the old days when our community were the underdogs and outsiders of the wider snowboard world, and I think this was the nostalgia I was trying to articulate in my last piece.

BillyMorgan-Brits-2010-1920x1200
Billy Morgan on his way to winning his first Brits big air title in 2010, his breakout season.

However, after seeing the exploits of our slopestyle team, it is glaringly obvious now that far from restricting and stagnating the UK scene, the increased professionalism and tighter regulations of competitions like the old AIM Series or the new British Snow Tour can create an environment that really nurtures UK riders – and has helped enable the current generation to compete with (and beat) the best in the world. After this Olympics, the British snowboard scene is primed to explode, and we could all do with raising a glass to all those who have worked tirelessly to progress our national competitive circuit.

And lastly, how fucking AWESOME are the Brits going to be this year!? See you in Tignes!

You can read more of Joel Plaja’s snowboard-related ramblings at stray-magazine.com. The Brits will take place from March 29th to April 5th in Tignes, France and the British Snow Tour will re-start in autumn. Keep up to date at the-brits.com and on their  Facebook Page.  

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