Words: Joe Cavanagh / Photos: Steve McKenna and Ross Henrys
At about this time every year generally the future leaders of our industries at various higher education institutions across the country ring home for Mummy. They ring up for a ‘catch up’ about Christmas plans, dissertations and that money they need for that field trip they had mentioned last time they were at home.
After a bit of cajoling and the golden “I’ll pay you back in January" line, Mother will relent and call up Mr Barclays or Señor Santander and transfer some money over with the hope of a better present than socks for Christmas this year.
The student in question will then check their account for the money on a tri-hourly basis until they spot the 3 digits that take them from red back to the black. It won’t stay that way for long, because obviously “that field trip" is in actual fact the British Universities Snowsports Councils annual Dryslope Championships… and the only thing field trip about it, is that it’s held near a golf course.
Midlothian Snowsports Centre once again hosted the infamous inter-university BUDS competition on the 9th and 10th of November. Over 1,500 students travelled from the farthest flung corners of the country to compete for the bragging rights of being the loudest, quickest and most able to spin round the most times.
The Friday was a cacophony of tunes drifting across the hillside courtesy of Red Bull accompanied by the dulcet tones of Syndicate Clothing’s Sketch. Only the frequent punctuation of cheers and gasps of the Unis interrupted the relentless chat and gentle ribbing from the speakers.
With the £600,000 renovations still taking place at Hillend, the set-up of the Syndicate Slopestyle pretty much followed the same as previous years. However it was decided that the monster 20ft S-rail of death was just too ridiculous to make it into the course this year and so it was replaced by some spanking new German rails. Bitte schön!
Four heats split the 110+ competitors with a girls jam kicking off the action. An array of airborne trickery and tweaked-out rail action blitzed the judges. Newcomer Aneta Radomska impressed them with her flow and technicality but unfortunately couldn’t match the prowess of the Edinburgh trio of Breezy White, Lucy Mote and Sophy Howard who took the podium places with flips, spins and the occasional patella-crunching slam. The entire field of riders proved that with the rate that women’s snowboarding is progressing, we’ll be seeing some of these girls toedeo-ing their way to gold next year.
The men’s final turned into an eight person Scottish ceilidh. Last year saw Danny McCormick entering for the first time and emerging with the honours in both Big Air and Slopestyle. This year he had a bit more competition, with Stew Gairns actually deciding to ride and Pete Meadows making his first appearance on behalf of Strathclyde.
Throw in the usual suspects of Murray Koller, Kyle Wise, Hamish Livingston and Mitch Flynn, and the crowd was treated to a seminar on how to throw down.
Switch-ups, 270’s and the occasional gap-to-method were on the Freeze Pro Shop A-Frame curriculum for the boys. And despite austerity measure shredding being put into practice by the Syndicate Bank, the C box continued to split the men from the wee boys throwing more than one rider off into the lift queue.
When the hazy mist of water from the sprinklers settled, it was Danny McCormick who once again topped the podium with his patented tartan balance of technicality and style and ‘Disco’ Stew settled for the silver leaving Pete Meadows lugging the bronze back to Strathclyde.
With voices hoarse, shoes muddied and Danny Byrd beckoning; a mass exodus back to the hostels and onwards to City nightclub occurred. More than one shape was thrown down on the dance floor. Some call it dancing but we like to call it cross training…
Bleary eyed and probably still a bit drunk, the horde descended on Hillend once more for Saturday’s now infamous Rome Big Air, which never disappoints. Despite the now non-existent access road meaning the Red Bull truck couldn’t take pride of place at the bottom of the kicker, there were crowds a plenty to watch the barrage of riders hurtling themselves off Betty.
Once again, the girls got down to business in serious style. Alice Brookes from Birmingham prevented another Edinburgh clean sweep with lofty backside 3’s that would’ve make Peetu blush whilst Lucy Mote and Sophy Howard teamed up to take the top spots and trophy cabinet, lucky they live local and didn’t have to lug it too far to get it home.
The sun had set and it was time for the men’s showdown. Again it turned into a blitzkrieg of rodeos, switch cork 9’s and what we think might have been a 1080 attempt from the eldest of the McCormick clan. When you consider that a tasty underflip/nollie 540 combo from… that guy… in the red top… couldn’t quite tickle the judge’s from Freeze Pro Shop’s fancy, you have an idea of how high the bar was set for the riders.
But yet again it turned into a Rome showdown with Danny, Pete and Stew all gunning for the medals. It was a tight call with a mere four points separating the super-trio -Danny bought up the rear with a very respectable 63 points with Stew just pipping him to the silver spoon with 64. But it was Mr Meadows that stood tallest at the end of the day (lucky he could stand at all with the landing on Betty) with 67 points for his switch backside efforts.
Standing on that muddy and rainy hill in Edinburgh, as sleep deprived as I was, I knew that this year’s competition would be one to remember. BUSC finds itself in a difficult position in trying to please not only the die-hard competitors, but the die-hard partiers as well. This year’s standard proved the competitors are taking the power back and with this being the first of seven events this winter, this is only the first chapter.