'Mayrhofen. Les Arcs. Cairngorm'
It might have looked a little odd seeing a Scottish mountain listed amongst these Euro super resorts, but the final leg of the new Vans Hi Standard Big Air Series did not disappoint.
"The best kicker I've ever ridden in the UK," was the verdict from eventual winner Danny McCormick. "It's like they took the Bearsden [dryslope] jump, scaled it up and covered it in snow."
Danny and the rest of the assembled scene from north and south of the border certainly couldn't have asked for better conditions: yet another chilly British winter had brought plenty of snow cover, while Saturday dawned with blue skies and barely a breath of wind. As Vans' previous annual event the Dawn of the Shred proved, it's always special to enjoy a session on UK soil, but when you throw in such great weather - and possibly the sickest park seen on these shores - this year's gathering was next level.
The format for the Hi Standard series is all about style. Tricks over 720 aren't allowed, and creativity is encouraged. For those who've grown sick of 'spin to win' contests and the rise of double/triple corks this was a refreshing change; it would be back to backside 180's, smooth 360's and maximum tweakage all round. If a rider stoked out the judges with their steez they would wave a foam hand to indicate a spot prize of £20 - nay bad.
The regular Highland crew were out in force, including Angus Malloch, Colin Andrews and the ever-steezy Neil Cruickshank - owner of a Devun-esque front 3 indy nosebone. But it was fellow Scot Jamie Trinder who set the early, ahem, 'hi standard' with some slow motion methods and rodeos over the main jump that saw him pick up a veritable wad of cash. Jamie has spent this season in the 3 valleys and the Team GB rider is killing it right now.
Unlike many comps, where riders end up queuing for ages to drop in, the organisers here had things spot on and folk were lapping almost at the pace of the lift. Other standout moments from a morning's busy shredding include Jesse Smith's double frontflips (always a crowd pleaser) and Andrew Goodenough's front 5 shifty à la Halldor Helgason, while the McCormick brothers continued their friendly sibling rivalry all day. Danny is at art college these days but has lost none of his unique style; in fact student life seems to be encouraging his creative juices and his rocket air 180's had the judges sticking their hands up faster than a US immigration officer.
After a civilised lunchbreak (forget tartiflette, we're talking chips and gravy) it was back on course for the jibbing session. By this stage the clouds were rolling in but the riders were unphased. Ian Ashmore, holding it down for Yorkshire (and the rad dads), threw down some trademark gap to front boards on the down-flat-down; 10-year-old Will Gilmore again impressed after bursting onto the scene at the Brits last week; and Vans' own Will Smith - fresh off the plane from filming with the Grindhouse crew in California - was on a programme all of his own that included laybacks through the tractor tyre. Again though, Trinder and McCormick senior were quietly cleaning up on the cash front.
When the vis needle went from 'poor' to 'properly Scottish' things wrapped up and the assembled masses piled down the hill and into the Skiing Doo bar. The rest of the evening is a blur of oversized cheques, snakebites and group choruses of Don't Stop Believing; suffice to say British snowboarding had returned to its spiritual home, and the soul is alive and well.
Thanks to Vans, Dragon and the whole crew at Cairngorm Mountain for making it all happen. View the full photo gallery below.