Edge catches. One of the horrific certainties of our wonderful, wonderful little past time is that you will experience two (heel and toe!) of the most violent, painful and quite frankly shocking human body movements ever conceived when you start shredding. It's not a matter of if, but when.
Of course these devils come in many shapes and form - from the beginner who gets their arse handed to them in the form of the heel edge whipper just as they're finding their balance, to the seasoned pro who slightly under-rotates that back double ten and gets the almighty smack down from beyond.
There's the winded cry that escapes from the victims lips, the look of panic in the eyes, the legs in the air front-arm crawl as you try and escape away from the pain signals sent right up your spine from your pulverised coccyx. Or there's the full body KO, a la Halldor Helgason at the winter x-games - the victims body sliding lifelessly down the landing, often raising up in a rigor mortis style salute.
You will experience two (heel and toe) of the most painful, violent and quite frankly shocking human body movements ever conceived when you start shredding.
Undoubtedly these slams will happen either in front of a mountain restaurant packed full of skiers - who will spend the next 10 minutes whipping out their iPhones and capturing you in your moment of horror. Or they'll happen on a cold icy piste as you're trying to keep up with your charging mates - and as you try and shout out to them they will vanish beyond the next roller, leaving you in the shadow quietly watching your tears freeze...
There is however, another type of edge catch, possibly one of the rarest and most fabled things in the world of winter activities...
There is however, another type of edge catch, possibly one of the rarest and most fabled things in the world of winter activities. Rarer than a skier who understands the difference between front boards and board slides, rarer than an Austrian ski instructor without an 80’s hair do, and dare I say it? Even rarer than a Shaun White non-boot grabbed backside spin. And here begins my tale:
It was the last day of the season in Mayrhofen, and the tradition amongst the seasonaire park aficionado’s was to meet for a final day of uber-slush shred then boozing in the Grillhofalm restaurant.
Now this was back before the combined force of the Vans park and the Snowbombing music festival had brought droves of seasonaires to the Zillertal valley and we were a pretty tight knit crew of Benelux, Antipodean, local and British riders. After some casual laps in the park we descended on the Grillhofalm at the bottom of the park and started to sink a few.
As you would expect a few turned into a few too many and various drinking games with forfeits were being handed out, nothing too spectacular, nudity, snow down pants that kind of thing...
But after a while though we started looking further afield for something more challenging - and it wasn't too long before someone looked up and saw the “Hara-kiri" run beckoning us.
Now, for those of you that don't know the Hara-Kiri is Austria's steepest piste. It over looks the park and many a fun chair lift has been had watching people slip down it full speed, skis and poles lost. On a more serious note though it has actually claimed a few peoples lives, so its not one to be messed with. The piste itself has also copped a load of shit from the local crews as the building of it ruined one of the most fun and easily accessible pow fields on the mountain, prompting a general boycott from the snowboard community.
Nevertheless, with the combo of booze and bravado that was flying around, it wasn't long before we all found ourselves strapping in at the top of the beast and preparing to launch ourselves onto the 70 degrees monstrosity.
As I watched my colleagues slip and slide carefully downwards, that little voice in my head started speaking up...
At this stage, everyone was quite pissed to say the least, and the collective consensus was to ride down beers in hand slowly and safely.
I, on the other hand, didn't think this was the way to go...
As I watched my colleagues slip and slide carefully downwards, that little voice in my head, you know the one, the one that thinks climbing that lamp-post at 3am is a great idea, or trying to backflip off the table in the middle of the bar, that little voice started speaking.
From what I can remember the rational was “well, you’ll never have the balls to straight line this mother fucker sober, and at least its a bit slushy so why not eh?" “Done!" I don't remember too much after this point, mostly I remember laughing hysterically, almost maniacally as I bumped at an ever increasing pace over the moguls and slush bumps that had accumulated.
I remember the utter joy of flying past my startled friends, and hearing a few cheers as I approached terminal velocity. This is when things went wrong. Nearly three quarters of the way down the piste is a cat track that crosses it, the only part of my brain that was functioning rationally started to tell me that hitting the cat track at 10000000 miles an hour wouldn't be a good thing, so I tried to slow down. This is when the edge catch took place. I tried to turn onto my toe edge to scrub off speed, bounced off a mogul to a split second of calm then hit my heel edge into the next mogul. From then in things start to go a bit blurry. By all accounts what happened next was one of the most violent rag doll sessions my friends had ever witnessed, I flew past at least three groups above head-height and flipped head over heel at least 40 times.
Everyone on the piste held their breath as I tumbled as fast as physics would allow to the bottom of the piste about 250 meters away, landing in a crumpled heap motionless at the bottom.
My buddies rushed down as quick as they could, obviously thinking I was dead/crippled/unconscious or all three.
My buddies rushed down as quick as they could, obviously thinking I was dead/crippled/unconscious or all three. I think two guys were already dialing the mountain rescue to come pick up a body. It took a couple of seconds before I came round, and I remember thinking that I was probably in a lot of pain but couldn't feel it due to shock. But slowly as I started moving all my limbs one by one I realised that nothing hurt, not even a little bit. In fact my stiff and aching joints from a season of park riding abuse even felt looser and more limber, there was no blood, no bruising and no pain whatsoever. I started grinning and looked up at the astonished faces of my buddies.
“You all right?"...
“How the fuck is that possible?"...
“You're the luckiest fucker I’ve ever seen!"
And I was.
With relatively little effort I stood up and brushed off some of the snow - planning to head off toward the chair lift. But before moving on I noticed my beer was lying in the snow right next to me... I had been carrying it the whole way down, and yet it was completely untouched - miraculously not a single drop had spilt, imagine that!
So there is my tale of the near-mythical painless edge catch, discovered in the most unpredictable circumstances ever. I hope you too can find it one day.
The moral of the story? With booze, anything is possible!