Words by Martin Lisle, Photos by Steve McKenna
Recently the good people from SNO!Zone dragged a load of the white stuff to a park in central Glasgow and put on a show for the public to remember! Martin Lisle was there and sent us this match report.
All in all, it was a gamble that paid off. But a gamble it certainly was, and in a number of ways at that.
Any events planned to take place outside in Scotland, regardless of time of year, have the odds stacked heavily against them. Our fair nation is not known for being kind to those who venture outside.
It’s like it wants you to know that you’ve got it good when you do, just to force the point. It wants to make you so nervous in advance that when it comes to the big day you are exploding with gratitude that it isn’t absolutely pishing it down. When you think about it, the Scottish weather is an egotistical bitch!
The 16-day advanced forecast was for the weather to turn, on Saturday the 3rd of July, from beautiful sunshine to overcast with heavy downpours. Nevertheless the events team at SNO!zone Scotland forged ahead with plans for their third annual Kelvingrove Park Session. Faith and blind optimism were employed in equal measure as the final plans were pulled together for what would be their most ambitious event yet.
Despite the previous two events being great spectacles, award winning, with massive amounts of snow and excellent riding, out of season, in the busy city park; a change was required in order to keep the event fresh.
From the uninitiated watching public’s point of view, the most impressive aspects to the previous year’s event had most certainly been the upside down antics of Andy Wilson and Angus Leith on the gap kicker (a kicker which was but an afterthought both years, merely something to do with the extra snow). Despite the fact that there was some mind-melting rail riding from the likes of Jamie Nichols, Johnny Russell & co. it was the same old story – the general public just wanted to see someone going upside down.
But however much we might all enjoy tech rail skills (and know that they’re much trickier than hucking a backflip!) at the end of the day, these events are all about opening up snowsports to a wider audience. And if upside down is what that wider audience wants, upside down is what it shall receive!
Thus a plan was hatched to create a kicker for this year’s event, not a London Freeze-style scaffold monstrosity but a kicker that would make use of the natural lie of the land. At least, that was the idea…
The natural lie of the land happened to be pretty tight, adding to the next phase of the gamble that was Kelvingrove 2010. Was there enough of a drop-in? Was the landing steep enough? Was there enough set up time between drop-in and kicker to allow the riders to throw down? Could it be constructed in the given timeframe? Would the box/rail features still be accessible in a multiple-hit run?
In all honesty, nobody really knew the answer to all of these questions until about 1pm on Saturday the 3rd of July when the event was due to get underway. There was a lot of time and money riding on the answer to all of the above questions being yes. And, thankfully, as the first rider flew through the warm, dry, Glasgow air and virtually landed at the bottom of the landing the answer was confirmed.
Yes, the run-in was sweet, with plenty of speed and set-up time. Yes, the kicker was big enough, with plenty of pop to allow everyone the airtime to throw down their best aerial stunts. And yes, once you’d stomped your phattest back 5 you had the momentum to choose between either an A-frame or flat box, followed by an almighty stall at the run’s end. Safe to say, everyone was stoked.
And so, to the action. Where to start? Some well-known big guns were in attendance – although a slightly late Dom Harrington appearance was all that the North of England could offer in terms of big boys. Also absent were stalwarts of the Scottish scene Mark Watson, Craig Howie, Pete Weir and Dan Breen. It was therefore up to the old faithful and the young pups to step up and keep the west coast public entertained.
Messrs. Leith and Wilson were early into the inverts and their crowd-pleasing ways once again. Angus was joined by his Rome homies Stuart “Monkey” Horsham and Will Smith, who both had some quite staggeringly big backside rodeos to add into the mix, the latter opting to stomp them switch (when not landing on the bottom of the landing on his head, that is). Freeze Pro Shop riders Marc McClement and Michael “Frenchy” French were both riding strongly with big flips and steezy grabbed 3s and 5s between them. Despite being the oldest rider in the field, Colin Andrews was throwing down some really solid tricks and showing the kids how you get to be the highest placed British rider in the King of S.N.O.W. vid competition.
Murray Buchan is a consistent go-to man for some of the most solid freestyle skiing in the UK scene and there was no change here, with switch spins aplenty. Fellow Edinburgh rider and winner of the jam comp in 2009, Jack Pepiette, was also back in attendance and riding strongly. SNO!zone Riders Gareth McLean and Cammie Nicol were both displaying some solid rail technique with the likes of 450 on 270 off the flat box, and frontside switch up to blindside switch up to 270 off the A frame, coming out of their collective box of tricks on the day.
A lot of unsponsored talent really shone through on Saturday. In the male freestyle ski category Strathclyde Uni volunteer digging assistant and all-round legend Iain Robertson impressed with big backflips and laid-out superman front flips on his skis. Fellow skier Ollie Powell was the surprise package though, qualifying for the 4-man final and seeing off a plethora of hooked-up riders in the process.
In the ladies board competition the surely-soon-to-be-hooked-up-if-there-is-any-sense-in-the-world Helen Fox was absolutely slaying the flat box and attempting super-tech tricks like switch front boardslide to Danish out. Both Helen and Ollie were clearly deserving of the title of Trespass Best Unsponsored Rider on the day and won themselves a jacket for their efforts.
Probably the most encouraging battle of the day was for the Best Grom crown. You’d have to check Facebook to pick the younger of the two youngest sponsored riders in the UK (I know because I did) who were both in attendance. It transpires that snowboarder Brandon Bow pips skier Hayden Fiori by a matter of weeks although at 9 years young, who really cares!? Brandon wasn’t carrying enough weight to hit the kicker with confidence so opted to get jib nasty with nollie 270s off the flat box. Hayden, on the other hand, was packing enough slide on his skis to give 720s a go on the kicker and did it with style. Local board shredder Matt Corry threw his hat firmly into the ring as well, but the plaudits would go in the end to up and coming SNO!zone rider Sam McGrath, who was spinning steezy grabbed 3’s and 5’s off the kicker together with technical presses and spins on/off the other features consistently throughout the day.
In the girls’ snowboarding Helen Fox was joined by her pals Lynsey Ashdown and Sophie Addison, who were putting down some nice grabs over the kicker as well as some press tricks on the boxes which were as natty as their dress sense. It was Claire Frost, however, that got the kudos and prizes for being Freeze Pro Shop’s Best Female with big front 3’s and smooth frontsides over the box.
In the men’s skiing final, Andy Wilson, Murray Buchan and the up-and-coming local Hector Barbour joined our unsponsored champ Ollie Powell. Andy and Hector were gripped in the battle of the cork 7, both throwing down massive efforts. However, it was Hector’s tired legs and Andy’s rail steeze that deserted them when it counted, opening up the way for Murray Buchan to steal the show with an unreal final run of switch 7, to a switch 270 on to the box, switch up, 270 off. Too good, just too good.
Last, but by means no means least, came the men’s snowboarding final. Jessie Smith had impressed all day with the half-cab underflip being a highlight of his repertoire. Connor Carey was also super-technical all day both on the boxes and over the kicker with some ballsy front flips thrown into the mix for good measure. Although he missed out on the final prize he did feature on the front page of the Sunday Herald the following day, which I’m sure he was delighted with. The final outcome was down to local wonderkid Danny McCormick and international man of mystery Angus Leith. Mr McCormick had the upper hand with his Best Trick-winning silky smooth frontside rodeo followed by some ice cold box work. But it was the big man Leith who snatched victory with a satellite-troubling underflip 5, followed by cab 1, 5-0, back 1 out on the flat box and some sort of mind-boggling three-fold stall manoeuvre to round it off. In the words of Q-Tip: Like butter baby, like butter.
Honourable mentions must go to Marc McClement, for doing his best skeleton bobsled impression down the mud at the side of the landing to win Best Slam; and to one of the sickest riders out there, Angus Malloch, whose infectious enthusiasm and backside 900 attempts won him the award for Most Stoked Rider.
And lo, it shall go down in the books of lore that the 2010 Kelvingrove Park Session “seriously went off” despite everything that geography, topography and meteorology could throw at it. The riding was top gun, everyone had fun, and we’ll all be back next year for another one.
… oh yeah, and it pished down on the Sunday!