Last year, Jamie Nicholls rode from above Hemel Hempstead’s Snow Centre, through the scrubland, into the snowslope, down into the warren of production tunnels then back out the bottom to slide down the car-park handrail. It was, essentially the snowboard equivalent of Hugh Grant in Notting Hill condensing a year into that walk down the street. But whereas Grant realises that he wants nothing more than to relentlessly bone Julia Roberts (maybe with that prescription lens diving mask on?), what Jamie Nicholls did was to condense his snowboarding career into a top-to-bottom shred through one of blighty’s best-loved indoor snow fridges.
It went viral. Big time.
“I didn’t even come up with the idea,” laughs Jamie at the top of that same Hemel scrubland, “it were him,” he says in his Bradford accent, pointing at UK snowboarding legend Joe Rackley, “he made me do it.”
Rackley nods. “I just thought it’d be a pretty funny thing to see, and the Snow Centre were up for it, Jamie was up for it, so we did it.” And as the views clocked up on Facebook, Joe and Jamie giggled away like schoolgirls. “It were like; ‘refresh it again, it’s gone up by a hundred thousand! Noo way,” says Jamie of the night they put the film online. If you’re one of the few people in the UK not to have seen the film, here it is.
And as sure as Grant and Roberts getting together for a happy ending, the idea of the #HemelRun number 2 (as it shall be forever now known as) was almost immediately conceived. It is after all, just an indoor snow slope, standing in front of a pair of snowboarders, asking to be ridden down again.
So it’s Monday the 27th April 2015 and we are stood at the highest point of Hemel, overlooking the Holiday Inn Express, the old printworks and the green corrugated roof of the Snow Centre as Jamie prepares to go bigger, more inventive, and to film with way higher production values. Even Ski Sunday are here to grab a piece of the action. “This is madness,” says BBC’s Tim Warwood, presenting the Ski Sunday edit. “There are cable cams, drones, follow cams, and someone with an iPhone on that travellator.
That someone is me, unapologetically at the bottom of the production pile with my humble phone camera and a notebook that will stubbornly remain in my pocket throughout. It’s colder than you think in that there snow slope.
It’s 5:30am and there are already ten or so snowboarders riding the main slope. “They’re local kids who’ve been asked to come in so it looks like the slope is open like normal,” days Duncan Carr, wearing a ‘Jamie Nicholl’s team hoodie. “But yeah, it’s well early innit?” The shapers haven’t been to bed yet, and will finish the shift having done 30-hours of moving snow around to make the production happen. Maybe because of this dedication, or maybe just because they are obviously a massive group of mates, Jamie is happy to take advice from the crew, with loads of discussion about what tricks to do on what obstacles. Take after take Jamie nails each feature, until a complete run is in the can and he’s happy with the results. It’s a pro affair (everyone has to sign health & safety and non-disclosure forms) mixed with a brilliantly British common sense approach. The day seems to be fuelled with tea and piss-taking. Jamie is the butt of virtually everyone’s jokes, and laughs each one off, joining in himself when he can’t land a trick. “That was sooooo shit” he laughs, smashing into a concrete wall. “Those kids here to make it look like a normal day love him,” says Duncan. You can see why: any slam is dealt with instantly and he gets up, realises what has gone wrong and goes back to nail it.
Throughout the day the camera operators and filmers (including Ross Welch, Rowan Biddiscombe and Will Nangle) move around the centre, capturing some amazing snowboarding. I’d love to tell you what he did, but am sworn to secrecy until the main film comes out this autumn.
And so the day finishes at 12-noon on the dot as the final trick is nailed (I can tell you that it’s Jamie flying out of the snow centre into a specially-constructed landing area). As the snow is being scraped off the landing, there are massive holes in the wood. “We were at Wickes just as it shut last night,” says Joe Rackley. “They only had 9mm chipboard left and the digger has gone right through it.
All good though – Jamie didn’t kill himself and you’ll be stoked on the results of the shoot.