From WL issue 114, the 2014 spring edition. Chris Moran investigates the joys and pitfalls of summer glacier shredding.
Summer snowboarding is like squirty cream in a can: a delicacy that shouldn’t really exist, but once you’ve rammed a whole cap-full in your mouth and run into the streets pretending to have rabies, you’re a lifelong convert.
Of course I’m not talking about late-season riding – those April or even May sessions when a heel edge catch shovels enough slush down your bum crack to build your own full size Xscape replica (only with cleaner snow). And nor do I mean some late-season splitboarding, our new-favourite-sport that’s the missing link between cross-country skiing and Ikea cupboard building. In the wind. At the top of a mountain.
No, I’m talking about proper summer snowboarding: between June and August, on a glacier, in a t-shirt. For those who’ve never experienced it, here’s what to expect. You’ll have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch the small window of riding opportunity, and when you get up to the icy kickers and a bulletproof pipe it’ll turn into un-ridable slop with the ripening speed of a pear, on a dashboard, in Mexico. You’ll get burnt to a crisp by a stronger sun than Clint Eastwood in The Good The Bad and the Ugly, and you’ll likely have to buy sun cream that’s more expensive, ounce for ounce, than thoroughbred stallion semen.
But, on the flip side, you’ll also get to shred a small ski area with a load of mates: the closest approximation to a skate session that it is possible to achieve on a snowboard. Hit the park, hit the pipe, then join a t-bar queue with the orderly manners of a moshpit at a Marilyn Manson gig. It’s fun, energetic, and you’ll loop the same run enough times to nail your tricks and improve your snowboarding while the rest of the UK swelters in traffic jams.
And then there’s the whole ‘road trip’ ethos of summer shredding. Pile into a car, zip through Europe and head for the nearest town that’s full of river rafting companies, ice-cream vendors and ski teams training on regimented slalom courses. Those wishing to pull one of the thunder-thighed, catsuit-wearing gate bashers can impress them by removing your snowboard boots in the gondola and attracting your would-be mate with an impressive display of sweat steam evaporating forthwith, as if you’ve conjured up a mirage (though in fairness, I hear this technique has been used on midwinter BUSC weeks too). Of course you’ll have to rent an apartment for a week or two, and this will likely have artex ceilings, an old-school electric hob, and – if you’re lucky – carpet on the walls. I say carpet, but I actually mean a weave made from mammoth pubes.
Few things are as horrific as ragdolling down a freshly-salted summer funpark wearing just a t-shirt and some park gloves.
There are of course, further lows to contend with. Few things are as horrific as ragdolling down a freshly-salted summer funpark wearing just a t-shirt and some park gloves. So painful, so humiliating and so awful a spectacle to onlookers is this experience that North Korea are rumoured to use it as a torture technique on victims for whom being eaten by dogs is too lenient a punishment.
But then, what highs! Take the outdoor swimming pool in Les Deux Alpes – a.k.a The Catwalk. A place where be-speedo’d Italian hunks prance around one side like honed Mancunians having a slow-motion ‘Liam-off’. And on the other side of the pool, the snowboarders and freeskiers wear plus-four-esque board shorts and attempt to create some of the fiercest goggle marks in history. It’s a culture clash not unlike those pictures of Brazilian favelas next to multi-millionaire apartments. And in the middle: our lovely ski racers, freshly slipped out of their lycra and peering over their sunnies in unison, like a Diet Pepsi ad, before someone from Sheffield bombs the pool and the Milan fashionistas cover their cappuccinos with perfectly manicured hands. You could cut the sexual tension with an enormous, chrome, vibrating rabbit.
And don’t get me started on Les 2 Alpes’ concrete luge: a death-trap masquerading as family fun that’s as compelling to watch (and just as wince-inducing) as seeing an Olympic official take a shotput to the bollocks in the summer games. Is it really that dangerous? Next time you drive past Grenoble’s hospital check out the size of its skin graft unit.
Summer snowboarding involves not that much snowboarding, lots of death, lots of potential death, and 100% guaranteed sunburn. Yeah, fuck Christmas
So to re-cap: summer snowboarding involves not that much snowboarding, lots of death, lots of potential death, and 100% guaranteed sunburn. Yeah fuck Christmas, June is the month we want to be singing the classic hit: “It’s the most, wonderful time, of the yeaaaaaaarrr.”
Book a session this year – you won’t regret it, though you may develop a fetish for large thighs. Phwoaaarr!!!!