In the last twenty winters, we've noticed a few common patterns in the snowboarding world; the quibbles and quirks that vary from country to country, but remain constant in their own corner of the world. As Pingu explains, we are no exception... So, are you a true British Snowboarder?
Being a British Snowboarder has always been a peculiar thing. Like a machine-washable mohair wool testicle-warmer or a removable wipe-down screen for a motel television, we shouldn't really exist, but the fact that we do makes the world a better place. For weirdos.
As a Brit shred, I have been a useless but profitable appendage to the snowboard industry, clinging on to the coat-tails of actual snowboarding for the best part of 25 years. I have been tapping on the frosted glass window of the sweet-shop on tiptoes, turning up to the party with a keg only to find everyone already shit-faced, and rubbing myself up against the leg of the hot girl in a Prada strapless dress without her so much as noticing - desperately trying to be part of something that is almost impossible to ever belong to if you hail from our flatland shores.
"British snowboarding is basically a fight to see who is the least shit"
A very small number of us do manage to get the girl's attention, stick our hands in the sweetie jar and tap the keg just as the Wildcats crew rolls in... But for most of us Brits, the experience of snowboarding is one of eternal hope, ever more distant promise, and wistful lust from afar that is predominantly satiated by high-resolution downloadable screensavers, spending too much money on neck gaiters and doing shitty jobs all summer.
So, here we have listed several factors which set us, as British Snowboarders, apart from the broader snowboarding populous, and human beings in general. We are all individuals, of course. That's right. You are special, you are different. None of this applies to you. At all. But... these factors are listed in highly scientific order which required the extensive use of algorithms and computers to deduce the optimal profiling. If you disagree, you are basically disagreeing with maths and the natural laws of physics.
So you are wrong. Even if you are right.
1. Tallest Dwarf Syndrome
British snowboarding is basically a fight to see who is the least shit. None of us will ever be the best, a fact that should be brutally obvious to anyone who has an internet these days, which is rammed full of really annoying professionally-coached kids doing double backflips before they have even learned how to use a fork properly.
The tippy-toed dwarf-like one-upmanship pervades every strata of our shred society: the punter in his fourth week will make out like he is a professionally qualified snowboard instructor when lecturing his beginner mate about whether to ride on a flat base along cat tracks or not; the seasonaire will drop the most unsubtle hints in the lift queue AT THE TOP OF THEIR VOICE about how they have been in resort for more than two weeks, to make sure all the punters know they are not a punter; the multi-seasonaire will act jaded about anything other than a bluebird pow day and drawl about how it was so much better in '98, when the chalet girl is tugging away at his... err... coat first thing in the morning, desperately trying to get him onto the hill for a few laps.
And so it goes on all the way up the food chain to the pot-bellied bearded silverback old farts, comparing snowboard-injury scars and casually mentioning the time they got to ride with Jamie Lynn for an afternoon.
We are all dwarves.
2. Obsession With Resorts Beginning With M
Not unlike a pack of purple-bottomed baboons, successive generations of British snowboarders have clustered together in places beginning with M. In the mid '90s it was Meribel, the late '90s Mayrhofen, the early noughties Whistler (which basically begins with an M, but just upside down) and now Morzine has been the home of all things Brit shred for the best part of a decade. Mammoth has also been popular, and Mayrhofen has made a comeback too.
"If you've ever been sprayed and called a "FEP" by an American wearing a do-rag after you've reverted on a backside 7 and untucked the wrong highback... then you will realise that there is comfort in being part of a like-minded gang in foreign lands"
Of course Val D'Isere, Laax, Tignes, Chamonix and Breckenridge have had their clutches of Limey devotees from time to time. But they don't begin with M, so they have never become massively popular.
Whilst we could find this herd mentality ridiculous, it makes perfect sense to stick together. If you've ever been sprayed and called a "FEP" by an American wearing a do-rag after you've reverted on a backside 7 and untucked the wrong highback, or had a French dude spit baguette in your face as he scoots past in the lift queue, or had an Austrian woman squeeze her massive tits around your face, suffocating you to within an inch of your life only to then force you to down a litre of lager, eat some pork schnitzel off her belly and lick the salt off her sweaty inner thighs... then you will realise that there is comfort in being part of a like-minded gang in foreign lands.
There's strength in numbers, and we are a simple bunch. We like M.
3. Angle Of Thumbs
A sure-fire giveaway that you are a British snowboarder of a certain age is that you have gamekeeper's thumb - but rather developing this affliction by repetitively throttling the necks of pheasants for 20 years, you'll have got it by snowboarding on Dendix with unbridled youthful enthusiasm, and a total disregard for your ability to touch-type without acute pain 20 years later.
Oh, Dendix, how you were a cruel mistress. How you gave us so much for so long with your generous gifts of boned-out stiffies and dustbin-lid bonks, only to take it away again in the form of the broken scaphoid, fractured finger and dislocated digit. You have left us with a generation of floppy-thumbed, mutant-fingered mongrels-des-mains. You are a bitch, my thumbs hate you, but I quite like you really.
NB1. If you are ever formally introduced to a British snowboarder over the age of 35, you may initially suspect that they are trying to give you a masonic handshake, and thus enticing you into a world of virgin-sacrifice ceremonies, devil worship and favourable business deals. They're not, they just can't straighten any of their fingers.
NB2. Please refer to point 1 about injury one-upmanship.
4. Gets Emotional About Sheffield
Not entirely unrelated to point 3, British snowboarders will typically have a deep love of Sheffield. The City of Steel played host to the world's most unlucky ski slope which kept burning down, over and over, no matter how much it rained, no doubt due to some sort of spontaneous combustion of all the shred joy that had taken place there over the years. Along with Hillend and Halifax, it can lay claim to being one of the most important plastic-coated quite large hills in the land. Mention it to a Brit shred, and they might just weep on you.
"The piece de resistance of the Anglo-Saxon punter is, of course, the GoPro plonked on the helmet like a lollipop"
5. Bad Taste
Oh lordy, the British Snowboarder is second only to the pure-bred park rat of Mammoth in their ability to adopt really fucking stupid fashions on the slopes. It takes about 36 minutes for a fashion initiated on the sunny side hits of California to percolate down, via internet-enabled mobile telephony, to the domes or Morzine. Once some Yank with a back 9 on lock has started wearing a Hawaiian shirt, scarf, French maid's outfit, tea cosy, Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle onesie or their dad's old ski trousers, then the Brits with a back 180 on lock and a half-decent boardslide will be straight down to the Emperor's New Clothes Warehouse™ and will have decked themselves out in a similar fashion (only a bit shitter).
At the other end of the scale is the British Snowboarder who is thoughtlessly splattered in this year's gear. Imagine someone has covered themselves in glue and then stumbled drunkenly into the Covent Garden branch of Snow + Rock, gripping a grand's worth of £50 notes, and you get the picture. Usually adopted by people with neat hair who also go to Center Parcs every spring bank holiday, who took up "boarding" because it was "cool" and have a shiny car with motorway mileage and a low rate of benefit-in-kind tax.
However in recent times, it has become a lot tougher to tell who is a dorky shred and who is aping the latest schtick like a wannabe dork. It used to be the case that punters' trousers would be too short (now cool), they would be wearing massive gloves (now cool), sunglasses with their helmet (now cool), salopettes (now cool) and a snood (now cool). So I don't really know any more.
The piece de resistance of the Anglo-Saxon punter is, of course, the GoPro plonked on the helmet like a lollipop. Nothing shouts "it feels a lot faster than it looks" or "I will soon be boring my workmates back at the Theale Business Park with this" louder than an action camera poking out of your bonce. You may as well ride around with the Union Jack draped over your shoulders singing Land of Hope and Glory and being casually racist, it's that obvious.
6. Crap Jobs
Apart from those guys who are shopping in Snow + Rock, everyone else has probably had a shit job at some point, with the aim of funding a snowboarding trip or season. Chances are, if you see someone in the mountains with their hand down a toilet, or cleaning up a big pile of vomit, or scraping little bits of food off a fridge door, or peeling potatoes with a blunt blade or smiling whist they are being given shit by someone posh... they are a snowboarder.
"To those who have tried to cross-sell value added services in a call centre whilst staring at the full-page bleed of a back-copy of Whitelines... I salute you"
To those who have tried to cross-sell value added services in a call centre whilst staring at the full-page bleed of a back-copy of Whitelines, or delivered stuff on their bike whilst listening to the Afterbang soundtrack, or hauled rubble around a building site whilst wearing a pair of Vans with no toe protection...I salute you, and your resolutely British commitment to the shred.
7. Dreams The Dream
And finally...we are dreamers. We are eternally hopeful. How else could we build an entire lifestyle and belief system around something that we only spend 2/52ths of our year doing? How else could we spend so much money, do such shit jobs, make ourselves look like such idiots, pore over so much GoPro footage if we weren't absolutely nuts about snowboarding?
"Like a puppy being given a big bowl of braised steak and having his castration cancelled, or a married man presented with the opportunity of sex, we soak up every last jot of the snowboarding experience that we can"
We, British Snowboarders, are the most grateful on the planet. Like a puppy being given a big bowl of braised steak and having his castration cancelled, or a married man presented with the opportunity of sex, we soak up every last jot of the snowboarding experience that we can, knowing that we will have to make it last for so goddamn long until the next time.
We dream, drunk and delusional on the mystic brew of shred, that one day we, or our kids, will actually be able to drop a front 7 off the toes before casually miller-flipping the next knuckle. We are idiots, bonkers, crazy, pathetic and frankly, a bit crap.
But by God, we love it. We properly love snowboarding. And that, my friends, makes us absolutely the best snowboarding nation on the planet.