Our undercover reporter has been on a secret mission to discover the benefits of riding in every condition, and on a recent trip made the surprising – and controversial – decision that soft spring slush is actually better than the deepest of bluebird days. Read on…
Powder. Pow-pow. The White Room. Bottomless turns. Rooster tails Face shots. All very nice thank you, but slush is better than powder, and here are five reasons why:
If anyone has experienced the sense of unbridled panic that sets in when you wake up late after it has been snowing all night, you will know what I mean. Think Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral, who has risen from his slumber to find himself in the same bed as JF Pelchat, after a night out with the Wildcats. With his pants on the wrong way round.
All the Scandis will already be at the peak. Fuck. By the time I get up there the tracks will be gone. Fuck. I’m missing out, I’ve got to rush, no time to eat. Fuck. My bindings need re-setting. Fuck. Why have I got moustache hair on my Y-fronts? Fuck fuckity fuck.
It’s not fun. The reality is, that for most of us, powder days don’t involve being dropped at the top of an Alaskan peak or having a sled ferry us to our chosen backcountry spot with no-one else around. Powder days are a race against the swarms of other snow-folk who have more knowledge, more skill, more alpha DNA, more karabiners and more capacity to handle lactic acid in their thigh muscles than you.
"There is ZERO stress on slush days. It makes sense to get up late and miss the ice"
If you do manage to get your shit in a pile and find yourself at the top of a decent stretch of pristine snow (most likely at the side of a blue run), you will still spend the whole day stressing about the fact that you could have had it so good had you been higher/somewhere else. But you never do; someone else with a better beard than you is always there first.
By contrast, there is ZERO stress on slush days. It makes sense to get up late and miss the ice. The mountain is half-empty because the tourist skiers hate slush. You can do a few laps and fist bumps, then head home at 2pm to practice your ollies (even though you are 24), do some tanning and prepare your European chat-up lines for the summer glacier trip. Take it easy, bro.
“No friends on a powder day" is a line I have found myself uttering when leaving my wife to flounder in a tree well in waist-deep snow, with the prospect of having to fight off a bear, assuming she survives the cold and that the avalanche risk is overstated.
The Darwinian instincts that are catalysed by the stress of a powder day lead to the kind of me-first behaviour that you’d expect of a commodities trader, not a free-living actions sports enthusiast who favours expression sessions over competition.
On a powder day, whilst you might high-five a buddy, you would only do so if he came down the mountain behind you. If he snaked your line whilst you were still cranking your bindings, you will be calling him a word that Shaun White reserves for when he is talking about the Frends crew. Be honest: if, faced with a choice between scoring some fresh tracks or spending twenty minutes helping your mate find his goggles after he’s ragdolled… you know what you’d do.
"The Darwinian instincts that are catalysed by the stress of a powder day lead to the kind of me-first behaviour that you’d expect of a commodities trader"
Slush days, on the other hand, have the highest ratio of high-fives and bro-hugs to distance covered on the mountain. Everyone is happy to hang, take turns, share the love of the shred. If a mate breaks his bindings, the crew won’t disappear without him - instead they’ll all do one-footers for a couple of hours to show solidarity. Slush = friends.
Powder days are ultimately like masturbating in a locked, dark room surrounded by all the Easter eggs that you stole from your siblings. There’s no sharing unless you absolutely have to.
When it comes to powder days, almost everyone regrets their choice of form over function in their snowboarding gear. Of course, there are some people who are sensible, wealthy, don’t care if they look like a bit like a skier, and who have been prescient enough to invest in 30,000mm / 30,000mm fabrics – but for the vast majority of us, our gear is not appropriate for a powder day.
"On slush days you can turn up in a singlet, acid-wash jeans, a fishing hat and sunglasses from Primark, and still have a good time"
As the snow piles up on my trousers on the chairlift up the mountain, I am not thinking about how great the ride down is going to be, I am getting cold and wet, and (once again) feeling regretful about the vanity of choosing something (supposedly) fashionable to wear with a piffling 8,000 millimetre rating. Plus, I am stressing about the tall guys with backpacks on the chair in front.
On slush days you can turn up in a singlet, acid-wash jeans, a fishing hat and sunglasses from Primark, and still have a good time. In fact, the less waterproof your gear, the more respect you’ll get from the kids. It’s a win-win (actually, not entirely true; you’ll still need to have a pair of mittens on).
Slush and parks go together like fried banana and bacon (this is good, try it - big in South Africa) and create the ultimate cocktail for progression – a cocktail which is usually downed and followed by a guttural and victorious chest-beating roar when a new trick is landed. Think Halldor doing après. In fact, the Helgasons pretty much embody the spirit of the slushy park. Radical. Inventive. Ballsy to the point of self-destruction. Good at posing.
"Slush and parks go together like fried banana and bacon (try it)"
To address the inherent conflict between the two opposing forces of powder and the park, Burton had to create The Stash (a rite of passage for any aspiring snowboarder or eight-year-old skier in an ESF lesson – in Avoriaz at least). Whilst I will begrudgingly accept that the Stash concept does create a park-style creative outlet when there is deep snow, it still doesn’t capture the spunky anything-is-possible effervescence of a sun-drenched kicker line with soft slushy landings and Euro-reggae playing in the background.
Have you ever seen anyone snowboarding in a bikini on a powder day? I rest my case.