In January most of the snowboarding world was gearing up for the Olympics, with crazy qualifying round after crazy qualifying round. A lot of the hype - as usual - was over Shaun White and his quest for total domination over the two freestyle events, there was drama as he had one of the slams of the season in one US Grand Prix before eventually coming out on top in the US for both halfpipe and slopestyle despite picking and choosing when exactly he would be competing. Right behind him in slopestyle though was the dark horse, Sage Kotsenburg...
The Brits had a great run up to Sochi, with Bill;y Morgan pipping the whole field at the Breckenridge Grand Prix, just before the event finals got cancelled... His bad luck continued into the X-Games where despite putting down the first ever back-to-back triple corks in practice he missed out on the finals by one spot. No matter though, he and the rest of Team GB had comfortably qualified to go to Russia by the end of the month.
With the Flying Tomato noticeably absent from the X-Games proceedings, the build up did feel a bit like a hollow warm up to the 'Lympics, that is until it got underway, throwing up one unexpected result after another: Mark McMorris broke a rib in slopestyle and lost out to fellow Canuck Max Parrot, who went on to take gold in Big Air too (an event described as "never go full rotard" by Todd Richards); Silje Norendal comfortably beat women's favourite Jamie Anderson in slopestyle and then in a dramatic halfpipe final iPod failed to land his signature YOLO flip and ceded to win to a stylish-looking Danny Davis. Then, as if all that wasn't enough, the Real Snow voting event was called off as it turned out there had been some ballot tampering by one of the final two competitors... The one that wasn't a Helgason.
Away from the park scene though, another Brit was making waves: after being the oldest to qualify for the Freeride World Tour by a good ten years, Sascha Haam finished second at the first freeride event of the year in Chamonix, an amazing result by all accounts!
February 2014 was, of course, all about the Olympics. From the dramatic beginnings - slopestyle favourite Torstein Horgmo breaking his collarbone in practice, Shaun White pulling out of slopestyle and Cheryl Maas' pro-gay protest - right through and to the end - the BBC commentary 'scandal', Anna Gassers' mind melt and the "garbage" halfpipe - there was non-stop drama on and off the snow for the whole fortnight!
But as it ever was, history will remember the victors above all else: Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson in slopestyle (not for a second forgetting our own Jenny Jones' bronze!) and Iouri Podladtchikov and Kaitlyn Farrington in halfpipe.
However, let us not forget those who flew so close but didn't quite make it: Billy Morgan qualifying in first in the slopestyle semi-finals, Jamie Nicholls coming so close to what might have been another medal winning run (cab 1440, switch backside 1260 and a backside triple cork 1440!) and Shaun White's return trip home sans medals. But most of all, let us remember the insane lemming-style madness that was six man boardercross - officially the most entertaining snowboarding contest ever.
After we emerged from our Olympic bunker, it turned out there was still way more snowboarding to be had from 2014, and so as March got underway so did spring. Controversial comedy as British ski instructors were actually arrested in France for teaching, before it emerged that despite their claims they had actually been breaking the law. For over ten years.
Contests carried on, most noticeably the Burton US Open and Arctic Challenge, both of which had Terje Haakonsen involved and thus both claimed to have 'saved snowboarding' from the clutches of FIS (there will be no Arctic Challenge this winter and Terje has since distanced himself from the TTR/WST). Red Bull, after ditching the Ultra-Natural event for 2014, went all out for residual interest in halfpipe from Sochi and built a huge double pipe, which young Taylor Gold went on to tame.
Brilliantly though, snowboarding scored another huge win with a successful first outing at the Winter Paralympics, with Bibian Mentel and Evan Strong taking home the gold medals in boardercross.
By this time the Freeride World Tour was wrapping up, leaving it down to the Verbier Xtreme to settle the victors. The Bec des Roses was at a terrifying low tide due to a poor snow year, but that didn't stop gentleman/mad-man Sascha Hamm from straight-lining the entire thing, crashing out but still being awarded third for his balls. That was enough to get him the bronze for the whole season and the first ever overall podium for a British freerider! Ralph Backstrom took the win on the day, but Swiss Emil Badoux took home the overall win after an exhausting season.
That wasn't the only British bronze for March though: as the month drew to a close Jenny Jones came in joint third at the first ever Nine Queens event that allowed snowboarders to compete, finishing off her competitive season in style!
As April kicked off it could only mean one thing - The Brits! Despite sweltering temperatures there was still more than enough snow left in Tignes for slopestyle, halfpipe, boardercross and two rail jams to take place. Jamie Trinder reigned supreme in the mens', taking home well over a grand with three podiums and two golds under his belt.
As soon as the British Championships wrapped up, we rushed off to the Cairngorms for the Scottish leg of everyone's favourite contest - The Vans Hi-Standard. With no one allowed to spin more than 720, style came very much into play with Jamie Trinder once again coming out on top and Scott Penman getting the coveted award for best slam.
The April news stayed in the Cairgorms as they made use of their brand new halfpipe to hold the first ever 'Bag the Pipe' event, that is until the FWT announced a controversial contest calender for 2015, all but eliminating the mainland USA and Canada from the tour and not allowing women to enter the Alaskan event.
However the States will still get one of the funnest looking events in the snowboarding calender - The Holy Bowly - which had everyone and their gran calling it 'the best contest ever' as it came to Park City Utah at the end of the month. Rumour has it there'll be a sister event somewhere in France this year, ears to the ground now...
May kicked off in the same way it always does for us, with the annual pilgrimage to Kaunertal for the annual UK board test, now know as Spring Break. As well as riding and testing hundreds of new snowboards we somehow found the time to organise a rail jam and pond skim contest which both went off despite piss poor conditions. Will Smith won the coveted best method award from Dragon, knocking a drone out of the sky in the process! The UK scene is pumping right now.
And nothing made that more abundantly clear than when news of the first ever backside double cork 1080 landed by a women emerged - it was only done by 14 year old Katie Ormerod from Bradford! Maybe we'll see that in the 2018 Olympics, who knows?
Maybe the biggest news in May was the announcement that Jake Burton would be handing over the reigns of Burton to Mike Rees. Despite that however, he'll still be involved in running the company, adding: “I have always claimed I have the best job in the world. Now it’s even better with more time to ride and focus on the areas where I have the most impact."
June kicked off with a major press release from the WST, claiming they were going to shake up their tour and make it more align with the surfing model whilst totally ignoring the effects of the Olympics and FIS' eternal grasp over it. However, it did sound like a great plan, though sadly in recent weeks it turns out it fell rather flat.
The Cairngorms were back in the news in June: after their new owners' bold claims that the mountain would be a future venue for both winter and summer X-Games, as well as a potential Olympic training ground, one #SillySkier decided to sue the resort for £500,000 for breaking his leg on the piste. It later transpired that, rather obviously, he was just a bit shit.
Great summer news was announced for Team GB's freeski and snowboard program as they were awarded and extra £3.3 million in funding after their success in Sochi. That's almost as much as seven brocken legs up the Gorms...
Not traditionally the strongest month in terms of snowboard news, other than a literal barrage of summer edits from Mt Hood, the only major happenings in July were around Jamie Anderson. Pre-empting Kim Kardashian's attempt to #BreakTheInternet, nude shots from the annual ESPN body issue were released online to new fans of snowboarding. Our contributor thought that it maybe wasn't the best idea in terms of moving snowboarding/feminism forward, while a large chunk of the online community (and their local Kleenex stockists) disagreed.
August kicked off with sad news for Zoe Gillings: after three Olympics UK Sport decided to withdraw her funding, but you never know - she might just be back for a fourth. Better news for Quebecois shredder Louif Paradis as adidas announced he would be joining their team, just in time for their incredible Nomad web series.
The Freeride World Tour decided to join the 20th century and treat women as equals to men, grandly announcing that the girls would be able to join the guys in the first ever Alaskan stop on the tour, though it will still be the only non-European date out of five.
And then just as we thought it was safe to check the internet for snowboarding news, the ball started rolling again with the first contest in another bewildering year of snowboarding tours, games, events, derbies, exhibitions and jams: the Mile High contest in Perisher, Australia kicked off the 2014/15 contest season.
Incredibly sad news emerged in September as problems with Apo's binding design (as well as having to shell out to keep their new Olympian on the team) meant that cuts had to be made. Deep cuts. So deep in fact that founder of Apocalypse Snowboards and star/creator of the amazing Apocalypse Snow films shot in eighties France - Regis Rolland - was fired. No worries though, as he himself put it: "Retirement at 53 seems a little early."
Joining the list of the fallen in September was Jussi Ocksanen, retiring from Burton and professional snowboarding to concentrate on his bottle brand Mizu. It hard hard to see him go, but incredible to watch him leave.
Thankfully to cheer us all up, Jamie Nicholls was featured on Sky in his very own documentary: Forged In Steel, celebrating the genius (well, at least on a snowboard) of 'our lad' from Yorkshire. It was great stuff, including a top-to-bottom, outside-to-inside-to-outside-agin line through Hemel, a giant Scottish kicker, a return to Halifax and - best of all - the sight of the young athlete almost in tears whilst splitboarding.
A month normally spent whining ‘Is it winter yet?’ was perked up in no small way by the arrival of two world-class pro teams. Nitro was first to ship their riders over, touring the UK’s domes to promote their latest (and surely greatest) movie, The Bad Seeds. Not far behind was the star-studded CAPiTA team, tearing Bearsden dryslope a new one as they promoted Defenders Of Awesome 2. Elsewhere we were treated to premieres of Jeremy Jones’ Higher and Absinthe’s Heavy Mental – more than enough to stoke the fire before the actual white stuff arrived.
It was also the month when a long-running rumour was finally confirmed: Nike Snowboarding was no more. Citing the comparative lack of moolah to be made when compared to its skateboarding division, the brand swooshed off – but not before agreeing to honour the contracts of Jamie Nicholls, Nicolas Müller, Sage Kotsenburg etc.
Very little had been heard from Shaun White since he returned home empty-handed from Sochi, but he soon fixed that. As the new owner of the Air & Style series, he unveiled plans to host a new event in California to run alongside the established legs at Beijing and Innsbruck. It’ll be a change to perform with his band, Bad Things, as well as bring the shred to the decidedly non-snowy city of Pasadena. Plus, he’s throwing skiers into the A&S mix for the first time too.
Halldor Helgason got November off to a dramatic start when he publicly slammed the recently-departed Nike on Instagram. Essentially his feelings were ‘Nike Snowboarding good, Nike parent company bad’, and it kicked off quite a debate online. In cheerier news, Swiss pow master Fredi Kalbermatten finally came back in from the wilderness, signing on the dotted line with Lib Tech snowboards and outerwear.
Oakley pulled out all the stops for the UK premiere of Snowboarding For Me, bringing five of the biggest names in the sport to London. Meanwhile on the webisphere, Bryan Fox and Austin Smith of Drink Water made waves with their first full movie, Pathology.
Here at WL we took an in-depth, week-long look at the state of competitive snowboarding, that aimed to get to the bottom of why it’s in such a sorry state, who’s really to blame, and how it can be fixed. What do you mean you didn’t read it?
One of the good things about snowboarding is that the end of the calendar year isn’t really the end – it’s only the end of the beginning. Already in December we’ve had the (somewhat disappointing) Beijing Air & Style, the Helgasons’ latest full movie NoToBo, the Dew Tour, and the start of the FIS World Cup series (including its first ever women’s Big Air). Plus we got word that, after a decade on the Burton Global Team, Nicolas Müller had moved over to Gnu.
We had a Travis Rice shot all lined up for the cover, taken during the filming for his follow-up to The Art Of Flight. Unfortunately some skier dude let the cat out of the bag when he released footage of the very same gnarly culoir. Fortunately our North Korean correspondent was able to “stumble across" leaked footage of Trav’s own line – gnarly, eh?
Which leaves us with only one thing to muse on for 2015, as crazy as 2014 was, it will only get more so in 2015.