Early season powder in Morzine/Avoriaz with the Salomon Snowboards UK team

Words: Sam
Photos: Sam/James Fuller

It’s with the giddy excitement of a 6 year old kid at a Barney the Dinosaur show that I hand over my boarding pass at the gate at Heathrow and amble aboard a plane bound for Geneva. UK summers are far too long and depressing for us snowboarders and try as you might to make the most of its wet unpredictability there’s no avoiding the long, drawn-out and overly graphic daydreams of stepping out into cool, crisp air, zipping your jacket all the way to the top, and floating weightlessly down naturally sculpted white landscapes. It would be downright wrong if your first trip of the season failed to rouse that kind of excitement.

The kind of view that fills many a daydream in the summer months

It’s the day after our work Christmas party and lets just say that I’m actually hugely relieved that my original flight from London City at 6 in the morning has been randomly and inexplicably cancelled the evening before, giving me a nice cushty morning to sleep off those last few J-bombs. Once grounded in Geneva airport I collect my bags and saunter out into the arrivals hall. The place is teeming with people – some seasonaires, others holidaymakers and most are evidently heading to the mountains.

After I greet the friendly chap from Ski-Lifts who’ll be driving me up to Morzine, I grab a seat and wait for a few remaining stragglers. I know it’s bad to sterotype but I unwittingly begin guessing which of the many people walking by are seasonaires, and whether their chosen mode of snow sliding involves one or two pieces of wood: leggings, Ugg boots and gilet? – skier, first season. Weathered looking bearded dude in a puffy North Face jacket? – skier (more likely), probably lives in Chamonix. Scruffy looking twenty-something in a Westbeach jacket? – snowboarder, may very well come across him in the park in Avoriaz.

I had to put up with this rowdy bunch ;) The UK Salomon team outside the Riders Refuge Deffert chalet

The transfer up to Morzine is quick, and unlike my flight, which had been delayed by over an hour, on time and efficient. I’m dropped off at my chalet that’ll act as my base for the next seven days. Chalet Deffert is one of four chalets owned and operated by Riders Refuge and is located just a few hundred metres from the Super Morzine lift and literally right across the street from some of Morzine’s most popular watering holes. It really couldn’t have been a more convenient spot to stumble back to.

I’m greeted at the entrance by two very smiley staff and shown into the dining room where the UK Salomon team and chalet staff are already a starter deep into a delicious three course dinner.

Don’t be fooled by it’s distinctly average appearance. Mutzig at Robbo’s is potent.

Team Manager James Fuller is quick to fill me in on the fact that even though I arrived in resort later than I’d hoped thanks to my flight being sacked off, I hadn’t actually missed any riding. Turns out that even though Matt McCormick, Sophie Addison, Tom Hunt, Sophie Nicholls, Stu EdwardsAndy Laird and Tosh Mitsu had all been ready to go up the hill earlier that day, the bus that should have showed up to take them to the one lift that was open failed to do just that, leaving them literally no other option but to head to Bar Robinson, (or Robbo’s as it’s lovingly known by the locals), and get a few Mutzig’s down ‘em. Anyone that visits Morzine will undoubtedly learn about that infamous Old Lager at one point or another on their trip. It’s brewed so strong in Robbo’s that most people drink it by the demi…

Back at the dinner table and a few members of the team are clearly still feeling the effect of those Mutzigs, not helped of course by the quality wine served with dinner. I find it particularly amusing when Sophie Addison proclaims with a definite hint of slur that ‘Mutzig ruins lives’. I don’t really get what all the fuss is about at the time (it can’t be that potent right?) but as I later discover, I couldn’t have been any more naïve…

Believe it or not, that is Andy Laird’s stoked face. Fuller is a little more animated…

I awake the next morning frothing to get up the hill and after the troops are rounded up and plucked from the Wii I find myself heading up my first gondola of the season. I’d heard there was a lot of snow up there and they certainly weren’t been lying – the resort had opened early thanks to it. Visibility is less than ideal and we head straight for The Stash, which was topped up with fresh snow run after run. With almost infinite lines to take through the area, several littered with eco-friendly wooden features, The Stash is always a ton of fun to play around in.

Tom Hunt blasting off one of many hidden drops in the Stash trees

We continue to slash our way through the trees all morning and it’s amazing fun to be able to have so many laps that so seamlessly combine freeriding with freestyle. Riding as such a big crew is always a blast, provided everyone can keep up with each other and is feeding off the pooled excitement of course.

Matt McCormick rides with a confidence that belies his fifteen years and boosts off every feature he comes across while Tom Hunt is both calculated and efficient with his trick selection on features. The two Sophie’s both surprise me by pulling out bangers when I least expect ’em to (although one Sophie is clearly a little more hungover than the other…)

Matt McCormick is young, super keen and has the skills to back it up. Tail grab in the Stash.

As the first day wraps up and we return back down to Morzine, Stu Edwards has the innocent idea of going for a spot of apres at Robbo’s. Finally I’d be able to see what all the hype was about. Fast forward a couple of hours and I find myself buzzing at the dinner table, with more red wine at hand and James Fuller making penis shapes out of banana skins… The next minute I’m holed up in another bar, with a seemingly endless string of beers somehow finding their way into my hands and money inexplicably vanishing from my wallet. Before I know it we’re all in the god awful nightclub that is Opera armed with 10 Euro rum and cokes, throwing (outrageously rad) shapes to soul destroying Europop.

Just look at that packed out dancefloor, and the girl to guy ratio? Second to none…

The hangover I wake with at midday the following day is one of the most brutal i’ve experienced since being a bright-eyed fresher. The day is a total and utter write off. Yes, I wholeheartedly blame you Mutzig.

Luckily, I more than make up for my loss the following day as I step out of the gondola into another foot of light, fluffy stuff to get amongst. I also have the chance to take out next season’s Salomon Sabotage and after charging on it for the day can certainly vouch for it being one hell of a lively deck. The thing has more pop than a gazelle being flanked by a cheetah at a watering hole and if it’s good enough for Jamie Nicholls, it’s good enough for me. Riders Refuge have a Salomon demo centre all season long for any guests interested in taking any of their sticks out for a test ride.

WARNING: The Salomon Sabotage has so much pop it gives you nosebleeds. Ok, that’s actually a lie (this wasn’t even Andy Laird’s blood) but it does have a shit-ton of pop…

That evening the Salomon team say their goodbyes and hop in a van headed back to UK, their short and sweet three day trip wrapped up until next year. It was great riding, eating and drinking with the bunch of ’em.

Stu Edwards got a little emotional when it was time to leave

Meanwhile I spend the remainder of my week tracking down the last few powder stashes and lapping the park and Stash with anyone who’ll care to join me. I have an epic sunny day lapping the park with Lucas Brammell, (who’s lent his voice to many a Whitelines event over the years) and a second park and Stash day with one Andy Nudds, who’d popped out to his second home of Morzine for a cheeky holiday. As always, he’s a pleasure to ride with.

The Chapelle (baby) park was looking pretty tidy considering how early in the season it was…

As far as early season conditions go, that week in Morzine/Avoriaz were some of the best i’ve ever experienced, with more than enough powder, cold temperatures and some sunny days thrown into the mix as well. Of course it was made all the sweeter with some excellent riding company in the form of one of the most talented UK snowboard teams out there.

Massive thanks to Jono, Jill and all of the folk at Riders Refuge for looking after me so well and to Ski-Lifts for bossing it behind the wheel.

Nuddsy was consistently throwing down hammers like this Miller flip in The Stash

 Morzine, you stay classy now.

Beautiful colours at dusk

Check out more Instagrams from the trip in the gallery below:

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