Is the UK Snowboard scene dying?

Published in Whitelines Magazine Issue 93, December 2010

Words: Ed

Jamie Nicholls, Photo: FRODE SANDBECH

When will we get another Jamie Nicholls?

That is the question I’ve been asking myself, after interviewing Britain’s brightest snowboard talent for this month’s issue. Jamie is still only 17 but is beginning to mix it with some of the best riders in the world. At the Freeze contest in Battersea last month he was killing it, storming into the finals with a double cork 10 that had the 14,000 strong home crowd roaring (see p.30). His all round game shows just what’s possible for a UK rider and bodes well for the future of our local scene… doesn’t it?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out. You see Jamie is the product of a kind of snowboarding alchemy – sure, he had the latent talent and enthusiasm, but he is also sensible beyond his years, ambitious, had the ideal mentor in Halifax legend Wayne Taylor, had the right sponsors, the right support, and the right timing. In his own words, “I think I kinda landed in the time of dryslope pretty well. I was in that booming scene when the hype was around Snowflex and Halifax ski slope.”So, while the snow domes have given Jamie the jibbing skills that landed him this month’s cover, it was dryslope that taught him how to jump.

Today, though, the UK’s dryslope scene isn’t quite what it was. While there are a few hardcore spots still flying the flag (notably north of the border in Bearsden and Aberdeen) the success of the snow domes has had a knock-on effect on the numbers queuing up to ride carpet. We’re producing a hell of a lot of sick jibber kids, in other words, but perhaps we won’t be seeing any youngsters with the aerial prowess to follow in the footsteps of Steve Bailey, Danny Wheeler, Jenny Jones, Dom Harington, Dan Wakeham and now Jamie Nicholls – all of whom cut their teeth on plastic?

In this month’s Last Lift (p.170) Sean Miller actually goes as far as suggesting the UK scene is dying. I really hope not. It seems perverse to even suggest it, given the popularity of the indoor slopes, the storming season Scotland enjoyed last year and the swarms of people surrounding the kicker at Freeze. In fact snowboarding is probably more popular than it ever has been in this country.

But on the subject of competitive riding, does he have a point? Are we sleep-walking into a fallow period, and the freakish success of Jamie and Jenny is just that – a freak? It was always tough to compete with more mountainous countries; now the Scandis and Americans are sending their youngsters to dedicated snowboard schools at 13, while the Halifax kicker Jamie learned his trade on is up for sale.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps this is all way too dramatic. Maybe we should just chill out, enjoy the surprising success of our current pros and put our faith in former Olympian Dan Wakeham’s new One Camps to nurture a new generation. British snowboarding has always found a way to punch above its weight, after all. And for the vast majority of us, competing has nothing to do with it anyway. As long as we’ve got plenty of mates to ride with and we’re still having fun, does the success of our elite even matter? Maybe not, but it’s food for thought isn’t it? You can continue the whole debate lift

Sorry if I’m pissing on the festive chips here by the way. In the words of Raymond Briggs’ Santa: Merry bloomin’ Christmas!


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