How Much Snowboard Kit is Too Much?


Illustration by Nicola Rowlands

Taken from Whitelines Issue 102

The most ludicrous travelling companion is the full-sized board bag. At home it encourages you – begs you even – to stuff its ample corners with gadgets, travel sweets, friends’ equipment and extra underpants. “Go on,” says our 180cm-long buddy, “pack a few more pairs. You never know!” And then what? He sits on the airport scales with the sorry look of a Fat Club celebrity who’s been scoffing swiss rolls at midnight.

Perhaps the biggest item of luggage ever sewn together was The Snowboard Asylum’s ‘Danny Wheeler’ pro model board bag. It was a great bit of kit and no mistake, but its sheer bulk encouraged folk to fill it with more boards than Geoff Capes could feasibly drag to the airport. What customers didn’t realise was that Danny’s contest earnings perfectly matched the amount he paid out in excess baggage over the course of his career. Remember when BA’s share price plunged? That was the day Danny retired.

The problem, of course, is what not to pack. Because as 2012 gets underway, a cursory glance at the departure lounge makes it perfectly obvious that ski and snowboard holidays today are as much about peacocking our way around resorts as they are about shredding. It seems we must take a different outfit for each day, or else end up in some imaginary magazine’s ‘look at that cheapo wearing the same jacket twice’ feature. It’s a strange new phenomenon, and the reason my check-in line last week looked like the Boxing Day sales queue at TK Maxx.

My board bag sits on the airport scales with the sorry look of a Fat Club celebrity who’s been scoffing swiss rolls at midnight.

Does heading to a foreign resort with snow on the ground really unleash some primitive urge to prance around with one’s finery on? It’s like we collectively turn into a fashionista version of BA Baraccas, refusing to get on no chairlift until our belt matches our scarf. Fool.

Last year, for instance, I saw a Vogue article based entirely on what full-length après-ski knitwear to don at your chabby-chic chalet. Picture the scene: head-to-toe woollen jumpsuits worn by models resplendent with vin chauds, beside chisel-jawed ski instructors and a roaring fire. “Dolce & Gabbana Après Ski Body,” said the caption. “£1800.” It’s a wonder the article isn’t stapled to a placard and marched around Tahrir Square by the Muslim Brotherhood as a protest against democracy.

An ad for Dolce & Gabanna snowboard kit. It’s getting pretty ridiculous isn’t it?

There was a time when we snowboarders were largely immune from such insanity. During my first season, turning up to the hill with crisp Gore-Tex was like arriving at a soup kitchen in a Ferrari. Most people rode in odd gloves scavenged from chairlift droppings, and we wore so much snow-caked wool that the apartment radiators resembled a Mongolian goat-herder gathering. The remnants of this era survive today in random enclaves: the Duct Tape trophy for the Mt Baker Banked Slalom, Signal’s ‘Every Third Thursday’ DIY snowboards, eBay in Bulgaria.

Sure, no-one wants to go back to the days when goggles were pretty much welding protectors with coloured lenses and boots were worn until they fell apart (or the smell got them thrown out of an apartment – whichever came first) but surely the pendulum has now swung too far the other way? In this age of austerity, perhaps it’s time we took five minutes to re-focus?

So the question remains: what to pack for your trip away? Here, I would suggest investing in that old adage: buy right or buy twice. Get yourself some decent kit that’ll last the distance, just not eight-sets of it. Because come on people – the Alps aren’t London Fields and you’re not Grace Jones making an eye-catching cameo in The Only Way Is Essex.

Of course I don’t expect everyone to go out and get a pair of black salopettes from C&A straight away (mostly because C&A pulled out of Britain after an accountancy irregularity in 2001 – thanks Wikipedia), and I’m not saying that we snowboarders shouldn’t express ourselves; but maybe we should spend a little less time sending the baggage handlers of Geneva to the chiropracter, and a little more time phoning the Bureau des Guides to book a trip into the backcountry.

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