According to the Daily Express (that most reliable and balanced news source) Ol’ Blighty is due to have ‘100 days of snow’ this winter, which will inevitably bring the UK workforce and economy to a grinding halt. That's what we've heard anyway; I think my skin would melt if I came anywhere near a copy of the Express and the outraged fury-fog that surrounds it. But I digress. Snow.
You might optimistically believe this, you may even be planning a rail-scouting trip to one of the continent’s snowier cities, but more than likely you just want to know how to make the most out of the handful of snowy days we get per year. And unless you live near Aviemore or Yad Moss in the Lake District, when there’s snow in the UK then urban jibbing is the name of the game.
Which in some ways is quite fortunate, given that most dome and dryslope kids have been in accidental training for some good old stair metal since day one. But unlike a trip to one of our fridges it’s not just as simple as rocking up and throwing some notes down for a four hour pass; there’s manual labour to be done and very little actual ride time.
But just like ‘earning your turns’ by hiking for powder, the real pleasure of snowboarding is in the journey. Hanging out with your bros, arguing over where to go and building something unique together is some serious fun that only dumb sports like ours can give. Plus the UK has awesome potential as an urban jib mecca if we ever get some long lasting snow, take a look at Jamie Nicholls' last season edit if you don’t believe me. Or I don’t know, ANY British skate video from the last 25 years. Now go play in the streets!
[part title="Spot Scouting"]
This video is from our sister mag Onboard's list of 11 things snowboarders do that regular folk don't. If you haven't read it yet, you should...
As well as snow and some able bodied buddies to help, you need a spot. But luckily this is where all those hours of finger boarding rails and ledges whilst riding the bus come in handy; snowboarders are natural daydreamers so all of us probably have some idea for a few hits in our local town.
But it’s worth being a bit more prepared than that, take a closer look at features for their snow day potential, maybe even stop taking selfies for five minutes and take a snap to show your newly formed urban crew. Geotag it and you might even be able to find it on the day, who knew iPhones were actually useful?!
When checking the potential for a jib feature you need to keep three things in mind; run in, the feature itself and the run out. You need all three to be at least passable. No use having the perfect rail underneath a pre-built drop in if it spits you out at high speed into a brick wall.
And it’s always advisable to take a close look at the feature itself; a few weeks ago we spent hours over two days moving snow and setting up a handrail perfectly, only for the first person to hit it to find that the rail was made of softer metal than his edges, the hard way. It pays to be prepared, noting worse than getting your mates hyped up for what will ultimately be a bust.
[part title="Bring the Right Shit"]
Only in the deepest backcountry is gear more important anywhere in snowboarding; when you turn up to spot having the right stuff to move and shape the snow is essential. Shovels are obvious, but you’ll want big sturdy ones that can carry a lot of weight rather than the avalanche variety that are designed to dig down fast, plus a couple of bins to carry the snow in.
Equally important is enough water, as much as you can physically get to the spot. This is used to ice and firm up take offs, vital as you want something to pop off rather than plough through. This might explain my you’ve been seeing your favourite pros spraying water out their faces on urban jib-flicks for years on end; if you’re super keen you could even invest in a gas canister and blow torch, melting the top layer of snow speeds up the freezing process.
Over the past few years bungees have revolutionised street riding, and with a bit of practice there’s no reason why you couldn’t split the cost of one between a few of your dome buddies; make sure you know of a few spots where it’ll actually be useful before you invest though, they need a long run up to work properly. Finally, it can’t hurt to have a few tools such as files for stubborn burs on rails, and maybe even a set of bolt cutters, not that we’d ever condone using them though...
[part title="Moving the Snow"]
Unless you’re lucky enough to be in somewhere like Quebec during a snow storm, where you can literally get pow runs down the street, there will never be too much snow for your purposes. Run ins and landing will need extra snow dumped on them but it’s always surprising how many shovel-full’s of snow you end up carting about. Much better to heap it up into the afore- mentioned bins or even on to the roof of a car to move it and dump it all in one big go. This way you can have one person moving snow whilst another shapes, speeding up your build.
This next bit might just go against everything that Whitelines stands for, but when it comes to shaping lips, powder sucks. Sorry, but it’s true. The fluffy stuff tends to vanish away rather than heaping up helpfully, plus it’ll never freeze solid. Its way better to use wetter, older snow like the stuff snow ploughs push into handy piles by the side of the road; it shovels better, compacts well and your freeze time will be minimal. Don’t say we’re not helpful.
[part title="Speed is Your Friend!"]
Don’t think about overshooting, but just like whilst riding park you can never have too much speed. Unhelpfully though, this is often the hardest thing to come by in ‘the streets’. As before, bungees are great if you have the room, ditto the more techy winches and car tows you might see in European and Stateside movies.
In Britain however, space is more of an issue and our architecture tends to squash everything close together, often eliminating these options. Most of the time you’ll just have to improvise, use every pallet, wheelie bin and rock you can find to sculpt your ideal drop-in, and if you find you’re losing too much speed on the way up too your lip add a cheeky ‘pump-hump’ or two to squeeze as much velocity out of the situation as you can. Again, you can always use more speed!
[part title="Making Shapes"]
Any park shapers reading this could probably skip on to the next page, but for most of us this skill remains a mystery art. In my humble experience there are a few tips everyone could learn. Snow parks tend to teach us that you have to get on right at the start of a rail, whereas on ‘real’ handrails this is often impractical; watch any serious urban rider and you’ll see most of the time they’re getting on to rails two or three feet down.
You’ll want your lip to send you on a gentle trajectory to this sweet spot, too mellow and you hook up under the rail, too whippy and you’ll either loose all your speed and roll over the end or get shot up in the air only to come crashing down on the feature plus whatever’s below. Don’t be afraid of bulking up the stability of your kicker with a few pallets or bricks either, if it crumbles straight away you may as well have not bothered.
[part title="It's Not All About Rails"]
Just to be clear, here at Whitelines when we say ‘urban’ or ‘street’ we don’t just mean rails, in fact if you watch most of this season’s jib movies you’ll see that it makes up barely half of what’s possible these days.
If we get the snow that we’re all secretly praying for who knows what new craziness can be uncovered in the UK; roof drops and gaps, wall rides and re-directs, tree bonks, pole jams, ledges, road gaps, step ups and downs, there’s limitless possibilities out there. All it takes is a bit of creative thinking and probably some big balls, so whatever you get up to this winter be sure to let us in on it too, pics and vids please.
[part title="Lastly, a Word on Good Manners"]
This will be obvious to anyone who’s skateboarded in the UK before, but you’re not always going to be welcome. First of all, be smart; don’t hit up your local town hall’s steps on a Saturday afternoon, it’s just not going to happen. Choose spots that are out of the way of crowds of Joe Public, both in time and location.
And if you do get hassled, try and see things from their perspective; for security guards it’s literally their job to keep you off their property and for most people having a crew or balaclava-ed youths rocking up with shovels and blow torches might just set off some alarm bells.
It’s always best to be friendly and open about what you’re doing, if anything it’ll give people a good insight to what snowboarding is all about and at best it’ll get you another couple of hits before you’re sent packing. Now get out there and get shredding!