A couple of weeks back a whole bunch of the UK's shop-monkeys, pro-riders and industry types descended on the tiny Austrian resort of Kaunertal for The Snowboard Test - a week that involves a bit of snowboarding, a lot of beer-drinking, and a hell of a lot of pork (don't ask!) Well used to this annual invasion of Britishers, the locals locked up any daughters they weren't already keeping in their basements and braced themselves for the worst. Of course, the worst never happened, because, being British and abroad, everyone behaved impeccably. ;-) Occasional drunken antics aside though, a wicked week was had by all.
As is now traditional, the whole thing kicked off with the Whitelines Rail Jam, giving riders a chance to show off the latest silky rail skills they've acquired over the course of the season. In previous years the event has relied on the willingness of a friendly Austrian farmer to lend us his field, his shovels and his tractor to cart the snow around in. This time, said farmer decided that he'd rather use his land for the keeping of cattle - leaving us to hold the jam outside the mountain restaurant up on the Kaunertal glacier instead. While this meant that the cheap beer of the Pfiff-Alm bar wasn't within easy crawling distance as it had been before, it also meant that the jam started earlier, while everyone still had their riding legs on.
Another bonus of the arrangement was that the rails were more, well, rail-like than last year's box: With a down bar and a donkey-kink rail, the stage was set for some seriously tech shredding. As well as the bragging rights, the top three finishers would be awarded more than 100 euros-worth of free bee between them, as well as a whole host of sick prizes from the event sponsors Quiksilver, Gnu and Lib Tech. And with that, the competition, which kicked off with a free-form 45-minute jam session, began.
As the likes of Chris Chatt, Angus Leith, Andy Nudds and Lynsey Ashdown tore into the setup, a large crowd of spectators gathered to watch them at it. Thankfully, for those amongst them who were missing the soothing taste of Pfiff-Alm lager, crates of beer had been brought up the mountain, and as the music started pumping, a proper party atmosphere began to form. This of course was helped (if not created!) by the services of FBBB's Mikee Chen, doing a sterling job on the microphone. When that eventually packed up, Mikee didn't let it stop him, instead whipping out his megaphone to keep the crowd and the riders pumped.
Jonny Russell was one of the early standouts, board-sliding the whole length of the donkey kink. The pint-sized Rowan Coultas wowed the audience by showing skills that no kid his age should be allowed to possess! Meanwhile Little Will Smith was spinning every which way off the down rail, while Simon Cudlipp was also throwing down. The likes of Katie Blundell and Faye Young represented for the ladies.
Judges Col Mytton and Will Hughes somehow managed to whittle down the massive field into an eight man final, leaving Chris Chatt, Jonny Russell, Rowan Coultas, Andy Nudds, Si Cudlipp, Matt Higson, Gazza Andrews, and Will Smith in the competition. With a field like that, the result was always going to be close fought. In the end, Chatt's smooth front boards and tech 270 combos earned him third place, while Will Smith took second. But it was MK local (and relative newcomer) Gazza Andrews who impressed the most, whipping out all sorts of crazy combos to take the overall title, and earn himself (and his mates) the right to a proper party later that night.
There was all sorts of drunken chat later at the bar, as Whitelines' Craig Scrivener did the honours by distributing tray after tray of filthy Jaegermeister shots. But sore-heads and foggy memories aside - most people agreed the next morning that the event had been a banger. Certainly as people were piling back into their cars and the easy-up tents were being taken down, there had been talk of it being the best jam yet. Well, at least until next year...
WHITELINES KAUNERTAL RAIL JAM 2011
1. Gareth Andrews
2. Will Smith
3. Chris Chatt
1. Lynsey Ashdown
Massive thanks to Gnu, Quiksilver, Lib Tech and Kaunertal for sponsoring the event, to James Heggarty and Sean Miller for filming the highlights and to the good people of Feichten for putting up with the party!