Taken from Whitelines Issue 103 October 2012
Words by Tristan
After eight great years of madcap fun (punctuated by occasional outbursts of snowboarding) the British Championships is leaving Laax. It’s been awesome but change, as King Jong Il so rightly points out in Team America, is inevitaberr, and no doubt the move to Tignes will make 2013’s event an epic one. But before we get there, we thought we’d take a look back at all the good times the Swiss resort has given us.
THE TRESSPASS BOARDERCROSS
Traditionally the boardercross is the first snowboard event of the week. A furious, no-holds-barred dash to the finish line, it offers riders of all ages (and, let’s face it, ability levels) a chance to grab glory early on before spending the rest of the week propping up the bar.
Previously in Laax: In 2007, the boardercross event was all about the masters’ category. Four UK snowboarding legends (including two cover stars from Whitelines’ very first winter) lined up to contest the final. Matt Burt eventually won it, beating James Stentiford, Chris Moran and Spencer Claridge over the line.
The latest episode: The opening day of competition dawned bright, Laax had created a course that one competitor described as “fookin’ ace" and quick times were being clocked up all over the shop. There were plenty of thrills, spills (and quite possibly a few bellyaches) before the final, which saw Thomas Bankes claim his second straight victory. Kyle Wise and James Foster got second and third respectively. 2011 had seen a Bankes clean sweep, with Thomas’ sister winning gold in the women’s event. But this year a young Maisie Potter claimed the top prize, beating out the experienced Kate Foster and Sarah Marriott of the Armed Forces snowboard team.
What the future holds: Ze French shapeurs will no doubt be keen to show off their skills early on, and with plenty of steep pistes to pick from, we’re predicting the course will run faster than merde off a shovel. As for the competitors, you’d be foolish to bet against the young Mr Bankes three-peating, especially as the Braincon-based rider will be competing on what is basically home soil (yes, we were suspicious at first too, but he does have a UK passport…)
THE BRITS BIG AIR
One kicker, three runs, best trick wins. The Big Air might be the simplest of all freestyle formats, but in many ways that makes it the most exciting. With riders needing just one monster trick to take the gold, Big Air often sees some dramatic upsets.
Previously in Laax: One of the biggest upsets occurred in 1999. An unknown first-time seasonnaire from Tignes rocked up in Laax and won the women’s Big Air with a backflip. Her name? Jenny Jones. In 2008 another unknown, Rich Hookes, took the title earning himself a place on the Vans team for his efforts. And two years ago, a lad who’s name we still don’t know very nearly did it again, but couldn’t quite hold on to his triple backflip…
The latest episode: Having taken the title for two years in a row, Billy Morgan had to watch this year’s comp from the sidelines, thanks to a fractured pelvis. That left the field open for some of the younger riders to come through, with Matt McCormick looking particularly good in the qualifiers. In the end he was bested in the final by Sam Turnbull, who stepped things up a notch by stomping a back 9 and a frankly insane double backside rodeo 10. Jamie Trinder double-corked his way into second, while Henry Shackleton got third. The women’s comp marked the coming of age of a massive new talent in Katie Ormerod. Despite the fact she’s still only 15 Katie absolutely dominated, with a smooth back seven that was far bigger than it had any right to be.
What the future holds: Interestingly the organisers have decided to drop the open Big Air as a discipline in Tignes. Instead they’re introducing a rails-only comp that they reckon will give British shredders (many of whom ride mostly indoors) more of a chance to shine. However, there will still be a single kicker spectacular. Tignes are promising to build a monster booter for a nighttime invitational sesh right in the middle of the village. That’ll beat watching boules eh?
"While Wakeham was pissing around on skis, his young protégée Henry Shackleton was taking care of business"
THE DARE2B HALFPIPE
Lifted straight from skating, halfpipe was the discipline that started all this freestyle malarkey off in the first place. With several British riders now double-corking in the pipe, the competition is always impressive.
Previously in Laax: Despite being unofficially the best halfpipe rider in the UK for years, Dan Wakeham has never actually won the national championships. After eight seasons of crashing out at the crucial moment, he went double or quits last year by sinking a few beers and strapping on skis to enter the two-plank comp too. Lad!
The latest episode: While Wakeham was pissing around on skis, his young protégée Henry Shackleton was taking care of business. A run that included back to back 5s and a massive front nine announced him as a serious contender and with the current great Olympic hope Ben Kilner out injured, it was more than enough to earn the 18-year-old the gold medal. Second went to the veteran competitor Jim Foster, whose sister Kate won her third British halfpipe final in a row in the women’s comp. She was closely followed by Katie Ormerod (yes, her again) and Becky Menday. Wakeham, meanwhile, had to settle for the men’s bronze. Not that he seemed too fussed about it.
What the future holds: With a clutch of Brits (including Ben Kilner and Dom Harington) gunning for pipe places at the Sochi 2014 ‘Lympics, the final national champs before the games should be exciting. It’ll help of course that the pipe in Tignes will be hosting the X Games the week before. Last year, rather than trusting the entire build to the gauloise-puffing locals, the X Games organisers called in the yankee cavalry, hiring Snowpark Technologies (the guys behind Shaun White’s private pipe and Burton’s massive B) as consultants. Can’t wait to see Kildog riding their latest creation!
THE PROTEST SLOPESTYLE
Regarded by many as the best test of all-round riding ability, The Brits slopestyle has seen many worthy winners over the years. The combination of kickers, rails and other random obstacles is now an Olympic discipline, making things even more competitive.
Previously in Laax: With Laax playing host to the Burton European Open as well as the Brits, the slopestyle course has always been first-rate. It’s set the stage for memorable victories from the likes of Scott McMorris, Nate Kern (twice) and of course, Jamie Nicholls, who’s rise has been charted in medals, from the kids, to the juniors, to the overall categories.
The latest episode: We arrived in Laax this year to find the slopestyle had moved. The new park made for a less steep, but more technical course. In particular the ‘rhythm section’ (two back-to-back kickers that replaced the traditional first hit) tested riders’ abilities, requiring super-clean landings and tricks that flowed properly. Unsurprisingly Jamie Nicholls (fresh from a strong performance at the X Games) dominated the men’s contest. But special mentions must go to young Matt McCormick who got third, and of course to Nelson Pratt who’s super-steezy run earned him second overall in what would tragically be his final British Champs. In the women’s contest, Katie Ormerod was given a run for her money by Becky Menday and India Stephenson, but in the end held off the challenge to take the win.
What the future holds: We have a whole bunch of potential Olympians in slopestyle, including Aimee Fuller, Jenny Jones, Billy Morgan, Andy Nudds, Jamie Nicholls and Nate Kern. Snapping at the heels of these seniors is a generation of talented younger rippers, including Jamie Trinder, Sam Turnbull, Si Cudlipp, Jesse Smith and Matt McCormick. With a line-up like that, the competition should be off the hook. Not that the locals would ever admit to being impressed by a bunch of Rosbifs…
"And then the naked moshing began..."
Yes we know partying isn’t strictly speaking a competition, but the amount of serious preparation and effort people put into it each year means it’s surely worthy of inclusion alongside other disciplines. And anyway, as Brits, it’s something we do particularly well.
Previously in Laax: Where do we start? For the past eight seasons the Crap Bar, Indy, Riders Palace and Casa Vega have seen more pint pouring, more jaeger-bombing, more fancy dressing, more drunken coupling and more vomiting in a week than you’d get in an entire year’s worth of Newquay stag dos. Memorable moments include appearances by DJ Yoda, Pendulum and Jamie Lynn’s band Kandi Coded. And then of course there was the time when Whitelines bought their very own gimp to the party…
The latest episode: With the fancy dress night adopting the appropriately jubilee-related theme of ‘punk’, this year’s Brits-goers really went to town. Homemade t-shirts and tats were soon eclipsed by some seriously impressive Mohawks (stand up James Thorne), but even these paled in comparison once the naked moshing began... Don’t ask. Christian Stevenson was involved. Elsewhere, Bristol best live drum n’ bass band Dr. Meaker played a stonking outdoor set to a big crowd at the top of the mountain, Switzerland’s finest reggae soundsystem was cranked up at a piste-side BBQ and mixologist DJ Cheeba wowed with an audio-visual set. Google him, it’s worth it.
What the future holds: No acts have been announced yet, but given what’s gone down in recent years, we’re sure the line-up will be suitably “enorme" for the first year in French soil. And come on, how cool is it gonna be getting down in the likes of the legendary Loop Bar or Couloir? Putain alors!