This is one of the 2 jumps I landed. 270 degrees completed and only the last 90 to go to land on my feet!
Boys club was off again on its annual snowboarding trip, but this time the number of Basingstoke originals had dwindled and new recruits Bennett, Diamond and Tommy has swelled the ranks so we were back up to eight people.
Given the dire snow reports from around Europe for the whole season, we'd left our booking late and gone for Les Arcs, a high altitude resort stretching up to well over 3,200m with decent snow conditions virtually guaranteed on these upper reaches. The chalet was the now required self catering option, but this time we'd gone for a chalet apartment type vibe, a self contained 8 person chalet within a much larger chalet building with shared communal facilities such as the sauna, steam and swimming pool (which were most welcome at the end of each day!!).
Once again we'd managed to get an amazing chalet host, this time it was Kim who joined in the banter and served up the most amazing three course meals every day. Our chalet was literally 30 seconds walk from a tiny button lift that gave access to the main set of slopes so it was absolutely perfect.
Out of the guys, Tommy and
Bennett had never been before so had arranged private lessons to get them started. Diamond had snowboarded all of his life and was a dab hand, and the rest of the guys who had been before were improving again so that this time the group had no problems taking on the reds as well as the blues, opening up an extra level of runs for us to tackle together.
The snow conditions had been pretty decent in the morning, but post lunchtime and especially in the late afternoon the temperatures soared and things got very, very slushy from about 2,200metres downwards. It became obvious the piste bashers were working their socks off overnight to get things perfect for the morning, and this worked brilliantly on, I think, the fourth day as after a relatively quiet night out the previous night and a fresh few inches of powder, Nug, Diamond, Sam and I were on the slopes ahead of first lifts – actually having to wait for the big cable car up to the higher slopes to open at 9.30a.m!
What followed was probably the most amazing morning on the slopes I had ever had. With Diamond being far
and away the best boarder, I had to push myself incredibly hard to hang onto his coat tails – just trying to follow in his board trails brought my level on in leaps and bounds. We decided to take on the black run right from the highest point at Aiguille Rouge (3,226 metres). Having been on the first lift we had the privilege of making fresh tracks, and we had been hurtling down at such a pace that no one was near us. On the few occasions that we stopped, both of us had those flushed red cheeks from the wind bite of travelling at that kind of speed, and the knowing smile that all the conditions had come together perfectly to allow us to smash down a slope that was pretty special!! Definitely a morning that I'll not forget!!
Again the night life in Les Arcs was decent, but nothing special. However, on an organised pub crawl on the first night one of the venues had been a bowling alley/bar/indoor sports mecca and from the the idea of “sports night” began to germinate. The premise was simple, we'd split into two teams the Stokie born and breds (me,
Shaun, Nug, Moss - Team Basingstok), taking on the rest (Team Other)! There would be a series of sports to be played, and each match won would earn a point for their team! It sounded a little corny, but through plenty of beer and a bit of competitive banter into the mix and it turned out to be an absolute gem!!
We'd figured we could play darts, pool and bowling, and then go from there depending on how the beer flowed and things went. Darts was first up and was shared 2 points all. Then pool came along and after some topsy turvy games Team Other won 3-1 and stretched into the lead. Next up was the bowling which was an absolute highlight. The Basingstoke boys showing that if you grow up in a town where a bowling alley in considered a major attraction, you're likely to become reasonably handy at it! Team Baso took this down 3-1, with Shaun's worm celebrations proving an absolute highlight!!
Deadlocked at 6-all and well fuelled with pints, we needed to find some more games to play, so we moved over to the arcade games. First up was a kick the ball
as hard as you can thing that Team Other dominated (despite Shaun’s dancing gangsta efforts!), next was doubles air hockey where the points were shared, and we also found one of the fairground smash the button with a giant mallet which somehow Team Baso sneaked victory on! The mallet game had ended up taking ages, and we had been joined by a guy who stood silently watching us, his friends and girlfriend leaving to go home. After we eventually finished he put his Euro into the machine, gave it a smash and recorded the highest score of the day, and with the classic line of “That's how you do it boys”, left and went home!! Cock!
Deadlocked at 8-all it all came down to the punching bag. One punch each and the highest individual score would win the games night for their team. Some efforts were good, some were pretty feeble, but Moss must have been working out as he absolutely smashed it and brought home the bacon for Team Baso!!
The banter wasn't over yet as when we stumbled out, a sandwich bar slash gift shop seemed to be holding a massive rave that all the locals
were absolutely loving. We dutifully got involved and danced away in one of the more surreal settings I've listened to house, ending a great night in the best way!
One of the main attractions of Les Arcs that we'd been eyeing up for the final day's entertainment was the snow park and the waterski challenge. The snowpark was pretty self explanatory, with various kickers graded from green to red to black depending on difficulty, a massive kicker with an airbag landing so you could practice anything you wanted without fear of broken bones, and finally the water ski challenge. Located outside a snowboarder's café where everyone had a perfect view, there was a steep slope leading to a 20 metre or so “swimming pool” a couple of feet deep. The aim was to hurtle down the slope, and jump onto the water with enough speed to surf safely across it. If you didn't carry enough speed or your technique wasn't up to it, the results were obvious – and very wet!
That final afternoon I had set myself the goal of landing a backflip on the airbag, a 180 off the green kicker, a jump off the red
kicker and completing the waterski challenge. Amazingly I achieved all four!
Firstly we took on the airbag. Diamond pulled off 360's and a 540, Sam had a genius faceplant, and I battled on with my backflip trying to get round the full 360 degrees and land on the board. Out of maybe 8 or 9 attempts I got 2 of them with proper landings board first (or I'm counting them as that!), in between there were quite a few that definitely weren't board first and must have looked very funny to an outsider. Special mention for artistic merit has to go to Moss and Nug for their attempts. Moss overbalanced on the way up the kicker and fell, his board reaching the lip of the kicker before he had the ignominy of sliding back down head first. Nug veered off to the right as he was going up the kicker and there was the brilliant sight of him falling rather than jumping off the side of the kicker and landing on the crashmat! Absolute genius!
We went for lunch at the snowboarders cafe and as Diamond and I were the only ones stupid enough to want to take
on the waterski challenge, we psyched ourselves up, and fuelled by a lunchtime beer we started the trudge up the slope. Paper, scissors, stone decided who went first, and Diamond lost so he was off. It was no worries though as he absolutely aced it, surfing gracefully over the water and even throwing in a 180 at the end! Tough act to follow!
I had seen that speed was a key part, but on the way down I bottled it a bit, scrubbing off too much speed and literally just making it across the water and coming to rest on the far side, my back foot soaked where it had started to sink. I had completed the challenge but I knew I had the technique to get across and just needed more pace, so I crazily decided to take it on for a second time and do it properly! This time there was plenty of pace and I scooted across without too much issue, throwing in the biggest tuck jump I could as I exited the water. Phew – what a buzz – Diamond and I were grinning from ear to ear, it had been an absolute hoot to
take on and conquer!!
We got the drag lift up to the top of the jump park and with the rush of having just completed the waterski still buzzing through me, it was now or never to take on the red kicker. The green kickers were very easy, but the step up to the red was huge, and then the black kickers were just intimidatingly big. However, I straightened it all the way to the kicker trying desperately not to loose my bottle and knowing that I needed to carry enough speed in the jump to reach the downslope on the far side if I was to have any realistic chance of landing. I hit the jump and the hangtime in the air was the longest I have ever experienced of any of my jumps on skis or snowboard. It felt brilliant, and then somehow instinct kicked in and I pulled off the landing. An absolutely amazing feeling, and on the way down I crossed over to the green kickers and landed a 180 off them. Mission accomplished!
What a great send off for another brilliant snowboarding trip. Taking on the jumps and tricks in the jumpark has
Backflip attempt - failure!
Didn't quite manage to get the board all the way round this time!
certainly added another dimension to my enjoyment of snowboarding, and a jumpark will definitely be on the shopping list for next year's resort destination!!
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