10/10/2013 | by Sam McMahon | 6 comments
Putting dryslope on the map
The Halifax jump kick-started a new golden era in dryslope riding
It might seem perverse to stick a modest plastic cheese wedge in a list of monumental jumps such as this – and maybe it is – but to British riders there can be no denying the influence of Halifax’s sole kicker.
To understand its inclusion, we need to put the slope into the context of dryslope history. Artificial slopes have been a feature of the UK landscape since a Welsh wartime brush manufacturer – inspired by an old cartoon strip in which two boys skid across a kitchen floor with brushes tied to their feet – invented the first viable ski surface. The new diamond shaped matting was named ‘Dendix’ after the company’s founder, Dennis Dixon. First installed in a disused cinema in London in 1961, Dendix gained a reputation for inflicting painful scars on those unfortunate enough to fall on it – including many a broken thumb from catching your hands in the gaps. Despite this limitation, pioneering UK snowboarders such as Danny Wheeler and Steve Bailey landed some impressive spins over dendix kickers.
In 1996, however, another UK firm called Briton Engineering invented an alternative plastic ski surface, ‘Snowflex’, that was softer and better suited to jumps. While a doff of the cap must go to Sheffield Ski Village for being the first slope to apply the new material to a kicker, it was the Halifax jump that really kick-started a new golden era in dryslope riding. Thanks to its steep, soft landing and smooth transition, a new world of tricks was open to our snow-starved brethren, and today 900s, 1080s and even double backflips have all been thrown down over the green hills of West Yorkshire.
Halifax dryslope is the cradle of some of the UK’s finest talent, including Andy Nudds, Colum Mytton and Jamie Nicholls. It is also the only carpet to have featured in an international snowboard film, having been selected for a part in David Benedek’s documentary-style production In Short. Thanks to the obvious quality of this transition, Briton Engineering secured contracts to build similar Snowflex jumps as far afield as Noeux-Les-Mines in France and, most recently, Liberty University in Virginia – paving the way for dryslope to go global.