Saturday, May 8, 2010

Song for Sunday

Here's a nifty number from French MC Hocus Pocus featuring the Procussions who have sadly now split up. They've left a pretty sweet catalogue behind them especially when collaborating with Hocus Pocus. Dig it

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April Highs and Snows

Apologies for my complete inability to post anything for over a month. As I sit here now I can't really think of an excuse other than that I've been crazy busy. Days turned into weeks as I moved non-stop from shred to work to bed with the occassional piss-up along the way. Recently I noticed how long it's been as Duthie churned out the posts and so I figured I'd sort out an update. So here goes...

When I last blogged, my family were about to arrive. They duly did, and an epic 10 days was had with plenty of fine dining, rediscovering the joys of tourism and hitting the slopes almost every day. It was a nice easy week that allowed me to get back into riding since my shoulder had healed-up. My family left and it was time to get back to work and less full days of riding.

I've decided that rather than write an endless post documenting everything I've done this month it would make more sense to do a primary-school book style 'picture blog' with a super-simple accompanying storyline. Don't worry you will not be hearing anything about 'Spot', or about seeing him run either for that matter.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Since my last post...

I went to Calgary

I did some ice-fishing

I got a new snowboard (stoked)

It snowed (lots)

It got really hot for a week...

and just recently, when it looked like the snow was on its way out, it snowed crap loads again! I had some wicked untracked chute lines in Sunshine's Delirium Dive only a few days ago! The weather has been crappy the last couple of days but I have my sights set on the park for the next 3 weeks. Hopefully there will be plenty of sun.

Lake Louise closes this weekend and until they do they have Canada's version of the airbag set up under their XL kicker in the park. The design is even better as it is set up on the down of the landing and thus allows riders to stomp tricks like real and even ride them out if they can control the board down the slidy plastic coating. Heading there twice this week to try some new stuff so I'm super-excited about that. Here's a video of the Katal landing pad to give you an idea

Katal Innovations - The Landing Pad from NuuLife Cinema on Vimeo.

I hope this post gave you a reasonable idea of what I've been up to recently. As the season winds down over the next month I'll have plenty more to show you. As riders all over the northern hemisphere pack up their boards the season at Sunshine rages on. It has really made me understand why so many people come back to this place year after year. The season is a good month longer than anywhere else and, once the snow is gone, there is plenty of kick-ass stuff to do. I may be getting closer to my 2-month riding hiatus, but I'm not dreading it at all.

I'll sign-off for now, but to keep you entertained here's a video of me making a hash of taking freestyle to the backcountry in the Lake Louise powder bowls. 3 hours of hiking in the baking heat and next to nothing to show in terms of landed tricks. It was a good test for my newly-recovered shoulder though.

Till next time Unbezzers!


Back Bowl Bails from Ally Gray on Vimeo.

Duthie's Diaries: It's all over now, baby blue

Even when blessed with great conditions, the Meribel season seemed to end with a fizz rather than a bang. With over a week left, half the lifts were already closed, and the Moonpark had been demolished for weeks. It was all pretty depressing, so we headed over to Val Thorens where they were still in full swing. A long-overdue trip to their park was the plan: I had got word early on that it was the best in the Three Valleys, with a budget reportedly five times as big as Meribel's. The only problem is that it's not very handy for Meribel residents to get to, whereas the Moonpark is only one chairlift away. After finally sussing it out, I really wished I'd made the trip earlier.

Val Thorens' park is well stocked for beginners, but the red and black lines are where it really earns its reputation. Each jump is better than the last, with mellow transitions and long, steep landings. Add to that the column, hip, wallride and barrel tap features down the bottom, and a flawless rainbow and S-rails up top, and you've got all you could ever ask of a park. On only the second lap, the excitement of it all got the better of me:

sheeeeit clarence....

After a quick dust-off, it was back to the kicker line for a few laps. The next day was the same, and yeilded some of the best times I've ever had on a board. A lot of this is down to just how much better the features are, but the biggest difference was the atmosphere. The riders in the Val Thorens park weren't there to pose, and just about everyone was stepping up their game. Much like the Meribel park, skiers dominate, and only one boarder was joining them on the black line. Still, he made up for the rest of us with countless variations of 7s, each smoother than the last. The flow worked better too: the Moonpark was plagued with ESF instuctors and misguided parents leading their barely-snowploughing kids over the knuckles and down the landings, but there was none of that here. The last day's blizzard with zero vis was devastating; it's a truly awesome park, surely among the best in Europe.

having too good a time to worry about shots, but Kyla grabbed this from beside the park. back5 stale over the red

But that was that: it was back over to the Brides bubble for one final descent. The last day's fresh was like a kick in the teeth, especially once the vis had improved, but generally we were ok with how we'd finished the season. Still, it's hard not to think about Val Thorens, open til 9th May with plenty of snow, and that park.

From now til next season, Brides-les-Bains is the go-to town for French salad-dodgers looking to slim down with the help of the local spa pools and health workshops. Ski rental stores are now summer fashion outlets catering for the rotund, and walking around town is comparable to being on the spaceship from Wall-E. The town may have changed drastically, but it's as hospitable and friendly as it was all winter. We may have landed in Brides because it was the only place we could afford, but it turned out to be just what we wanted. We can't recommend it highly enough.

The Three Valleys as a whole is an incredible range, but there's no escaping the big let-down of the season. Sorry to go on about it, but it's a thorn in my side. It's no surprise that the Meribel park was never firing when the overwhelming majority of its seasonaires have no real interest in riding, even when presented with so much amazing terrain. Everyone's entitled to their own way of enjoying their season, and the party side of things should and will always be a part of it, but the balance isn't right in this resort.

The biggest surprise of the winter ended up being how much I missed the dry slope sessions back home. At the mat you're guaranted to ride with folk who are truly stoked on it, and don't take any part of it for granted. Just a glance at Will Nangle's stuff from Morzine and Mayerhofen shows that there's plenty of awe-inspiring progression happening on snow as well, but at the mat you'll find it in its purest form: just the other day Barry Parker and Kris Bell raised the bar yet again with this Garthdee box session, easily more impressive than anything I witnessed in Meribel. I'll be back to the mat soon, to ride with them and the others who, for me, have the right idea; more thrills, less Jack Wills. Can't wait.

That's all from Brides. It's been an awesome five months, with more highlights than I can list here. Thanks to all those who read Unbez over the winter. Thanks especially to Kyla, for everything. The last word must go out to the good people at Sire de Beaupre, to whom we are both eternally grateful. We'll miss you.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Duthie's Diaries: Beep Day

up to no good from Andrew Duthie on Vimeo.

Cheers again to Ben and Coz for another awesome Tignes trip, this time featuring Nicol Paton. Got a good wee shred in with him before he and Ben headed off to Morzine for the Lowrider grom camp.

Back in Brides, the conditions have stayed as good as we could have hoped for. With the slopes getting quieter, and the park demolished, the Meribel season is almost over. Before it was too late, we had to tend to some unfinished business...

If you look at a 3 Valleys piste map, you'll see fifteen lifts ("beeps") marked with a special symbol. Ride all these beeps during your stay, and you get a certificate. It's a device aimed at getting holidaymakers to really appreciate the size of the place, as well as providing an incentive for complacent seasonnaires to explore. We had seen first-hand how it had inspired some to head out on a miserable afternoon, stinking hangover to boot, just to get to the far side of Les Menuires and tick another beep off the list before crawling back to bed. What intrigued Kyla and myself, though, was talk of people hitting all fifteen in a single day. Daunting but not impossible, the only way to reach the far-flung beeps would be to melt it down every run, from first lift to last. Last Saturday, the conditions were just right to have a crack at it....

8.25am: We're at the bubble in time for first uplift, but there's a problem. No-one is being let on while the lifties try and get it sorted. We don't have a lot of time to spare, so it's the last thing we need.

8.55: Finally, we get onto a bubble and make our way up the hill. Time will tell if the lost half-hour will make any difference.

9.30: The Roc De Fer, overlooking a bulletproof race piste, is the first chair of the day. Conditions are perfect, and we're both stoked to get going.

9.37: #1, the Olympic Express. 1 down, 14 to go. It's a good one to start with, seeing as the next one is 900 vertical metres down in St Martin de Belleville, and the run is a beaut. We're the first ones to ride it, joined only by a pistebasher finishing off the groom.

The count starts

After the depths of St Martin, next stop is the hights of Val Thorens. 70 minutes and 5 lifts later, and we're at #4, the Moraine. It's another wide, even piste, ripe for holding onto your hat and pointing it. The epic conditions mean that runs like this might help us make up the lost time.

11.48: #5, Peyron. Over in the 'fouth valley' of Orelle, the Peyron is maybe the most remote of all the beeps. Having only headed over here once before, we're stoked to be back. It's a definite upside of the whole plan.

A drawback, though, is that those other beeps aren't going to get themselves, and we don't have the time to hang around and enjoy more of Orelle. There's a lot of runs still to do, and most won't be as good as what the morning offered. It's back over into Val Thorens, and on to Les Menuires.

12.30: #6, Plan de l'Eau - Sure enough, we just rode down the 3 Valleys' shittest run to get to the 3 Valleys' shittest chairlift, only to do the same shitty run, but for longer. With the snow really starting to soften up, the back feet come out on the flat sections.

13.10: Masse 2 (#7), over the far side of Les Menuires. We're eating into the afternoon with less than half of the beeps covered, so we're not optimistic. Almost an hour later, we hit #8. With so much left to do, we lower our expectations.

14.33: Finally on the Pas du Lac bubble headed to Courcheval. 9 down, 6 to go. The danger now is that in our pursuit of the more remote beeps, we might miss the lifts back over. One eye on the clock from now on.

15.10: Chapelets (#11). Pointing it down every run was beginning to take its toll on the legs. At the start of the day chairlifts seemed to take forever, and we couldn't wait to get off them. Now, having just reached the furthest side of Courcheval by beating our way through choppy slush, they were over far too soon.
#12, and with only ten fingers I needed help with the count. Telling Kyla that Take That are shit did the trick.

16.04: with only 3 to go, we head back to Meribel on a lift we hadn't planned to be on. It was a low moment when we decided not to head down to get the one in La Tania, but we were out of time. The worst part was that, had we the 30 minutes that we'd lost at the start, we could have probably have made it. Now, though, it's anyone's guess as to whether we can get the last remaining beeps in Meribel.

16.43: Dent de Bourgin (#14). With seven minutes to spare, we make it to the last beep of the day. Having ticked off the Golf down in Meribel Village, it was two tense will-we-won't-we chairlifts before we reached the Dent, but we got there. By the time we reached the top the hill was all but deserted, and there was nothing for it but to take an easy cruise down the home run under the motionless lifts.

now don't be sad, cos 14 out of 15 ain't bad

Last shredder standing; Kyla heads home

17.15: On the bubble back to Brides, exhausted and a bit bewildered. After 31 lifts and 40-odd runs, it turned out to have been decided in the first half-hour. We may have failed, but still we're confident that we'd have made it to la Tania had it not been for the delay. For us, that was a good enough reason to celebrate.

Even if we hadn't come as close, it wouldn't have mattered. The day was a stormer, up there with our favourites of the season. Sometimes all you need is an old-fashioned burn around to have a good time. 3 days left before the bubble closes, stay tuned for one last post.


The full shebbang. Orange = our lifts, purple = our runs, red = what we missed, yellow = detour.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Duthie's Diaries: Good things come

An uncharactaristically upbeat post this time around. Anyone who's been following the weather in the Alps will already know why. The rest of you, read on....

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was hard to get excited about the 3 valleys recently. Even with my newfound drive to make the most of the time that's left, the continuing hot spell was a problem, and from 10am onwards the whole area was a sun-baked slushfest. Not too different from what you'd expect for the time of year, and normally we'd have welcomed it without fuss. The only problem was the weeks of thaw that preceded it and left the mountain struggling to cope. Park sessions, usually the standard for this part of the season, have been few and far between; slow snow meant that the black jumps were fenced off, and even the last red hit was often off-limits due to rocks poking through the landing.

The Avalon boardshop got enough of the slush down to put on a rail jam in Meribel, and dozens of riders headed down to have a go at the flat-down box. Despite a fairly sketchy drop-in, the setup was mellow enough to give less experienced riders the chance to compete while still allowing the seasoned shralpers to step it up. Entrants ranged from the bearded French superstar of the Moonpark to an eight-year old girl with a fine line in backside boardslides. It was a good event all round, despite only offering enough time for three hits before we had to leg it to the Brides bubble.
hit #3: salvaging a failed switch back 1 on with a front board

Despite the conditions, I had reason to hold out hope for an improvement. I've been on the mountains at Easter time for the last twelve years, and during that time a pattern has emerged: odd years bad, even years good. Whether it was Cairngorms in 1998 and 2000, or Tignes in '02 and '04, or the freakish out-of-nowhere dumps of Courmayeur and Saalbach that followed, I always seemed to be in the right place at the right time (every second year, at least. The less said about 'gorms '99, Risoul '05 and the rest, the better).

Sure enough, last weekend the temperature plummeted, and it was snowing for only the second time in over six weeks. Not just snowing, but dumping like it hadn't for months. Before long the pistes were covered in fresh, and the snow line was right back down to Les Allues.

Kyla gets over-excited at the unfamiliar sight of falling snow

The next few days passed in a whirlwind of fresh tracks and new discoveries. Having had only a tiny taste of riding powder before the heat wave, Kyla was stoked to try some more. By the end of the first day we had claimed plenty of virgin lines, with the overnight dumps giving us the chance to do it all again the next day. And the next....

Nae vis? Nae bother.

Yesterday was the best day yet, maybe even the finest of the season. Blue skies, sun, cool breeze and at least a foot of fresh, fluffy pow on-piste as well as off. It's on days like yesterday that the Three Valleys stands up to any other resort. The terrain is ridiculous in its quantity, variety and ease of access. All the steep, deep, trees, hits, drops and gullys you could ask for, and most of it right off a lift. These last few days, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

Fellow Brides resident Alex Young switches it up

Today the temperature shot up about 17 degrees, and the slush is back. Even so, to get a few more days of pow has made all the difference to our season. Just got back from another trip to Tignes, more on that later this week.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sketchy Saturday

Song for Sunday

So this is a bit late but these guys are a sick little treat for your ears! Check out their myspace,
The XX.