Dan Wakeham, the first British male snowboarder to qualify for the Olympics, has started a blog following the GB team. Along with head coach Hamish McKnight, Dan has formed a company called 'One Snowboarding' with the aim of developing the country's competitive talent. He's also found his own love of riding pipe has been rekindled along the way!
This first blog for the season sees the team land at Copper Mountain, Colorado, for an early warm-up...
In the early season there are resort hotspots where you will find all of the national teams who know which are the best places to be at that moment in time. So as autumn hits the teams will travel to Hintertux glacier, the next spot will be Saas Fee. As winter hits the European glaciers become stormy and the lower resorts are still waiting on a good base of snow. The place to be is Colorado. The teams move in and ride Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper. Copper always amazes me, I have seen it in the past where they have little snow on the slopes but they have the best pipe that you will see all season. They know if they can make it perfect then they can attract the early season traffic.
I have retired from the tour so don’t have reason to chase the early season parks and pipes anymore but going to Colorado was always my favorite trip. So without any real thought or planning I found myself on a flight to Denver to join the GB team and ride the early season perfect pipe.
Today was my first day. The temperature was around -15c but it was sunny with clear skies.
The pipe is made purely of artificial snow, which is the best way to build a pipe. The walls are consistently smooth with no air holes, which you often find in natural snow pipes. The cold temperatures allow the resort to be constantly blowing snow, because of this there is a never ending deafening tone of the snow cannons blowing clouds of icy flakes in to the air. There were many recognizable faces stood ready to drop in and the standard was high. Double corks and huge amplitude are the standard.
I met with GB Team mate Dom Harington. He has been here for a week and was quite clearly warmed up. He was straight in with backside 900s and frontside 1080s. I know from my years of experience to take my time and warm up properly. It is easy to get carried away when there is so much going on around you but I had only arrived the night before and had been awake since 4am. So today I took my time. It was quite impressive to watch some of the skiers. Simon Dumont was there and he was in session with his pal doing 15ft double cork 1440s. Each time either one of them went in to the air the people on the deck would hold their breath.
It is impressive to be there as a spectator yet alone to get involved and ride yourself.
I had some mellow runs and just concentrated on getting good height out of the pipe.
Tomorrow I will start to step up and get some tricks going. I would like to work on a new comp run with Hamish so that when I get to Davos in January I can have something new to get me closer to the podium.