Friday, 15 February 2013

Video footage

During my last trip to Alp d'Huez, my mate took his video camera and got a lot of footage, it is one of the contour models and some of the edited footage can be seen below:

I think the things I've realised having got back from the holiday and scoured hours and hours of footage are:

1) Shots of people in the distance aren't a lot of use, always try and film close up. Some of the best footage was taken riding right along side the other person.

2) For snowboarding, the best mount for the camera has proven to be the helmet mount. Mounting on a board didn't really work as most of the time the board is going back and forth. Hand-holding doesn't really work as you move your arms so much to keep your balance (though when stationary just filming someone coming over a jump etc. then hand holding is possibly better as it doesn't pick up every single head movement), reverse helmet mount doesn't really work either.

3) We have an awful lot of footage of my mate zooming off on his board with nobody in the frame - instead the camera man should probably aim to always stay behind everybody else and keep them in the frame, it's just more interesting!

4) The other thing we often did was my mate would pull up and wait for us to catch him up - we would slide up and stop next to him, far better would be for us to zoom straight past him and give him some footage then wait for him slightly further down the slope.

5) Though we never took one with us, another good mounting position I think is the pole-mount so you hold the camera at a distance and it is pointing back at you. This keeps the rider quite central in the frame whilst capturing great movement. (I will be taking my pole mount next time)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Alp d'Huez - 2013 Holiday

In early Jan 2013 we finally booked our next snow holiday - after a 2 year gap (and having only been on my snowboard once in that time which was over a year ago).

The destination of choice was a little alpine village of Vaujanay close to Alp d'Huez, picked because it was very cheap (approx £500 for flights, transfers, accomodation and lift pass) but also whilst being away from the slopes (as it usually the case with the cheaper holidays) it had a high speed cable car taking you right up to the top of the slopes in the Alp d'Huez area which meant avoiding the queues up in the higher resorts.

A week before the holiday I went along to the Tamworth snowdome with one of my mates who was part of the holiday party to have a quick hour on the slope. I had only been on a board once in nearly 2 years so it was good to get my feet back in and remind myself how it was done (also I was on a wholey new board). By the end of the hour we were raring to go (& sick of avoiding people on the busy slope!)

At this point I should mention SnowTrex (, the company we booked through - they did a good job of booking our flights, transfers (which included the traditional bens bus followed by a taxi up to the main resort), accomodation and lift passes and all went very smoothly. Additionally, one of my main gripes about a lot of the main companies is that they list deceptive prices on their websites, often a figure "based on 8 people sharing" - sometimes even in a place that doesn't have accomodation for 8 people. It really frustrates me whereas SnowTrex simply stated a price and didn't budge from it for the whole of the booking process! Bravo! They were also very quick to reply to any of our queries along the way.

We flew into Grenoble, took Bens bus towards Alp d'Huez and then jumped into a taxi for the last half hour journey. The accomodation itself was absolutely fine but I have to say, Vaujanay itself is not for the party-goer. Aside from what looked like a great swimming pool area, the town had: 1 shop, 3 bars, 2 restaurants, 2 bakeries and 1 pizza shop. Most of the bars/restaurants were closed by 8-9pm with the single exception of Stiefs bar which stayed open a little later. There was very little choice from the shop food-wise so being self catering we really struggled for evening meals. The village literally was dead on a night!

That aside, it was well located for the slopes. On a morning we made our way to the cable car (via esculators that ran between the top and bottom of the village) and were taken straight up onto the slopes of the Alp d'Huez area.

The Alp d'Huez area itself I really enjoyed, though equally it is a bit limited. The main slopes around the town of Alp d'Huez were largely beginner/learner slopes, self contained with their own drag lifts so we mostly avoided these. Outside of this close area, the main runs elsewhere were largely black and red and were good but there wasn't a huge amount of them.
The highest runs atop the glacier itself were closed for part of the week due to high winds.
Close to Alp d'Huez there was a board park which we really enjoyed - it was the first time I'd really been through one and we ended up going back 3 days in a row to play in it.
A further draw for me was the "photo jump" in the board park - a photographer sat taking pictures of people as they went over the jump and they were later available for purchase/download (for an extortionate price) from his shop/website - a few examples are below:

The weather also worked in our favour, at the start of the week there was a lot of fresh deep powder which proved a lot of fun and as the week progressed we got more and more sunshine. During the sunshine days we found that in the afternoon the lower valleys tended to fill up with cloud and boarding through this was like going through soup, you literally only saw the edge of the run 10 feet away and had no chance of making out the shape of the slopes so every little dip or drop had you struggling for balance - eventually we caved in and got the cable car back down to Vaujanay instead of battling through the poor visibility - but the tops of the slopes were still clear, bright and sunny!

For the first time I got to really use my board in anger and at first was concerned that it was too unstable but after a bit of use realised it was simply more manouverable than my old board (which was what I had wanted) and I had a lot of fun on it. My boarding all came back to me very quickly and I progressed my jumping as the week went on and also started other simple manouvers like spinning 360 degrees in the snow - both of these things made me want to practise riding switch a bit more, particularly as I'd like to try 180 jumps next and so need to be able to ride out of them in switch.

All in all it was a very enjoyable holiday, I wouldn't put anybody off going to Vaujanay but you definitely should be aware of the total lack of nightlife and food shops!

Saturday, 31 December 2011

New board - Never Summer SL

Having had a busy year and not managing to get on my board in nearly a year since my last holiday in Jan, I finally encouraged myself with the purchase of a new board. Having ridden my mates boards in Jan - a Burton Custom and Burton Deuce, I sought a little advice from the Gone Boarding forum so that I could find something which handled in a similar way (compared to my old board which now felt like riding a flat plank of wood in comparison). 
One of the recommendations was a Never Summer SL, not being able to afford a brand new board I kept my eye on ebay for one of these along with several other boards and in the end it was the SL that won. 

Once the board was delivered I took it along to Tamworth for a quick try out and wasn't disappointed, it handled exactly how I wanted it to and felt great (despite nearly a year off) - going back again next week for another practise session and looking forward to getting another boarding holiday booked now!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

2011 Snowboarding holiday - Chamonix

The holiday this year never went quite as planned but turned out well all the same. We ended up heading to Chamonix and a 4-bloke trip in a car ended up an 8-person trip (by plane thankfully) staying in a self catering chalet in Les Houches. The chalet itself was pretty nice and spacious, could easily have accomodated another couple of people also. The group consisted of 5 guys who were all snowboarders ranging from several years to 20+ years experience, and 3 girls who had never tried it before (though 1 had skiied a lot).
After the inevitable drink-friendly first night we had an easy start on Sunday morning, heading for a few runs at Les Grande Montets before moving onto La Tour where the girls had their first lessons on the learner slopes. After which we played on the learner slopes for a while (great opportunity for messing about) & did a few runs up the mountain to the bigger red slopes up there.
On day 2 we went to Les Houches where we got a cable car up and the girls had another learner slope to practise on (with a travellator this time) whilst the guys went down the main slopes which included the Kandahar run (olympic thing) and also the DC board park which had some big ramps. We missed the return bus so decided to pub-crawl our way back around the valley which worked out quite well.
Day 3 we discovered the train and went back to Le Tour so the girls could play and we could go on the big runs. Turns out the train stop was at the bottom of a big hill so if you're visiting, get the bus up the hill! (though on our return we boarded and board-sledged back down the side of the road so that was ok. The train incidentally stops at most of the major towns, is far quicker than the bus, only has limited people on it (unlike the jam packed bus) and is free if you have the correct pass from your chalet (otherwise £4.50 each direction).
On day 4 some of the girls & guys took a day off to go sight seeing up the mountains, so the remaining 3 of us went to the Le Praz & Chamonix slopes which were great, some good open blue & red runs going along the valley rather than straight up / down, culminating in a nice little blue run giving plenty of opportunities for playing - which we did numerous times.
On day 5 the girls took the day off again, the rest of the guys joined us and we went back to the Le Praz & Chamonix slopes for a bit before heading back over to Les Grande Montets to the top of a quite steep red run - at which point one of the guys mysteriously lost his bottle and struggled to point his board down the slope! Got there in the end though. There was also a small board park here we discovered but by this point were too shattered to have a go.
The final day we went back to Les Houches, left the girls on the learner slopes and explored a bit more, there were some nice runs to be had around here away out the back of the main slopes & we finished the day by doing a small part of the Kandahar which turned out to be not too bad at all!

Favourite spot of the week I think has to be either the Le Praz / Chamonix slopes or the Les Houches slopes. Les Grande Montets seemed limited to a very punishing red or ungroomed blacks and Le Tour had a couple of nice runs but the only way from them across to the other side of the valley was a long windey ski-friendly blue which we avoided.
There was also of course Verbier (in Switzerland) & Courmayer (in Italy), each of these were a full days trip and the chalet people wanted to charge us £25 / head (so £200) to take us across to Italy so we decided against it.

In summary, it's not a bad place to ski at all, it's not overly expensive more than anywhere else (Courcheval was worse), and the slopes are fairly decent with a good variety, but the major major stumbling block for us I think was that the different ski areas were not linked, you had to do a fair bit of travelling either on a cramped hot & sweaty bus (no good for hangovers) for a good hour or so, or you had to time it right and get the every-two-hours trains. The total ski area is huge but compared to somewhere like the 3 valleys where you can just jump on a lift and have access to the whole place, Chamonix area was a pain in the backside - we felt like we only spent half the time skiing each day that we could have done, and a good hour each day walking in full gear with boards!

I also discovered whilst playing on the other guys boards that I want a new board and bindings! Toe cap bindings seem to be the way forward to avoid some foot pain, whilst the guys boards had a much better profile than mine which meant they turned more easily and were easier to ride - there's an expense I don't really need!!

On top of that, my boots have had a couple of bits come loose on them (though they'll be good for at least another trip yet - I may even be able to repair them) and one of the studs on my helmet came off (having rusted) - again its still usable at the moment but I was a bit disappointed with these 2 items suffering as they have done!

Another thing I will be investing in I think is a new board bag and suitcase, both with wheels! Carrying my gear for the short time from plane to transfer and transfer to chalet was a nightmare!

My boarding went well enough, only had 1 real fall and that wasn't too bad (thanks largely to my helmet). Managed to do plenty of popping on flatter ground so will be moving onto 180's soon enough, didn't get much opportunity for off-pisteing (or just-at-the-side-pisteing) due to the lack of snow, I also seemed to have some sort of mental block when it came to lift exiting and fell over numerous times, though I put it down largely to the lack of decent stomp pad grip so I'll be remedying that with some spikes soon enough!

All in all, it was of course a good holiday, don't think I'll be returning to Chamonix anytime soon - though if it was an only choice or very cheap option I would happily go back and just try to find better located accommodation (or time the buses better).

Friday, 10 December 2010

Beginners board night

I attended the beginners board night at Tamworth tonight, with a mixture of success, failure & pain! :)
First off I wasn't overly impressed with the setup of the slope, there was only the kicker, box & gas pipe that are usually out during the day anyway but with a lot more people using them there was quite a queue for them.
That said, the instructors & fellow boarders were all very friendly offering advice every time I hit the deck!

So my experiences of the box weren't quite as great this time as last, I slipped off it numerous times either backwards which was ok or once was forwards which hurt/scraped my knees! I managed to land it several times though so that was ok.

I also had a breakthrough with the ollie, or more technically the pop, I managed after a couple of tips from my mate to pop off the flat ledge - next step is to work on larger pops and then eventually popping off the kicker.

Another benefit of last night was that my mate realised my board was set up wrong making it off-balanced and therefore less stable. We adjusted it and the difference was obvious straight away!

Looking forward to my next session now, may invest in some knee pads though!

Friday, 3 December 2010


Another session at the Snowdome today, I have identified an area I need improvement - I cannot olie! When I try to jump I end up pushing my feet out a bit and risk losing balance. Definitely something to work on.

This session did bring some advances though, I finally got to 50-50 a box. I'd been planning to try it, all accounts were that it is very straight forward, and I have to say, it is! I just straightened up shortly above it and rode straight over it, came off the side but that's no problem as you just ride off.

Next week I'm going to the beginners ramp night so I'll report back either with broken limbs or some success!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Better video footage

I managed another session at the Snowdome in Tamworth again, only 2 months since my last session and felt like I'd been on the board just yesterday. Got to wear my new sals - TJ Sessions signature pants, not a lot to say really, they work!
I took the Muvi camera with me again and this time adjusted the angle of it slightly so it pointed a bit lower down and caught more of the slopes than the ceiling!
Again the kicker, box & pipe were out so I used the kicker on nearly every run with no problems, it was a little larger than before as well so was good for practise.

The video footage was better this time, and also I've uploaded it at full resolution rather than compressing it like I did last time and the results are much better. I realised the compressed version did nothing to show the quality of the camera so was a little pointless.

Anyway, see here..

Friday, 24 September 2010

Back once again...

Well, after 9 months off (for no other reason than being too busy) I was determined to get back to the snowdome so having waxed my board again ready, I managed to fit an hour in and head along to Tamworth. I also took my video camera with me (Veho Muvi - see previous entry) to finally give that a trial on the white stuff.

First off I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it took only 1 or 2 runs before I got my legs back and was tearing down the slope like I'd not been away - this is great, I was hoping I wouldn't be set back too far!
There were also a couple of pipes/boxes out and a quite large (for me) kicker - I avoided the pipes / boxes this time but went over the kicker a few times. I didn't ollie over it (that's the next step) because it was quite large, but just riding over it & dropping down had no problems.

The video camera fared well, I attached it to my helmet and just filmed a couple of runs (it's amazing how quickly an hour goes while at the snow dome!) - next time I will try strapping it to my arm or leg or something for an alternate view because obviously strapped to your head it keeps sweeping around as you're looking around along the way. Also I think the mounting point could do with some adjustment as it was clearly pointing up a little at the lights so when you looked down at the ground it couldn't adjust the exposure quickly enough. The video quality itself though is ok, I've uploaded it to YouTube - see here:

(it is actually better quality than this but I compressed it a little for YouTube)

I've got a taste for it again, going to try and go regularly on a Friday afternoon as, with a bit of luck, the kicker and stuff will be out every week - so I can progress onto riding them more.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Caught on camera...

My latest purchase has been a Veho Muvi camcorder, the plan is to use this to capture a but of boarding action on film. I opted for the Muvi as it is absolutely tiny at just 55mm high which means you can clip it onto your helmet, clothing or even your board.

Despite the tiny size, the 2 mega pixel camcorder records at 640x480 at up to 30 frames per second which gives a pretty decent picture. Initial findings are that the sound quality isn't fantastic but that's to be expected with such a tiny microphone and largely the only thing to record will be board scrape noise anyway. 

Bundled with the camcorder was the "extreme sports pack" which basically consists of an armband, helmet strap and a couple of other mounting options for handlebars etc. - the versatility of the mounting options means I can attach to my helmet, clothing, board, arm, anywhere I can think of really.

I'll be testing it out at a snowdome as soon as possible and post up the results to YouTube.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

La Tania, Courcheval, The 3 valleys

For our holiday this year we headed to La Tania in France, part of the 3 valleys.
We flew into Geneva and then had a 2 1/2 hour coach journey to get to La Tania, you can optionally fly into Chamberry which is a more local airport but they suffer with delays when the weather conditions are bad or they are very busy.

La Tania itself is only a very small resort with a handfull of bars & restaurants & just a few runs of it's own so realistically you always buy a lift pass for either Courcheval or the full 3 valleys - we opted for the latter and hoped we could get as much done as possible.

The route out of La Tania is a bubble followed by a chair lift, from that point you can either ski down to Courcheval or into the next valley to Meribel.

Day 1 was spent in Courcheval valley getting our ski legs back which didn't really take too long before we were right back into form.
The very next day we instead opted to head out into the Meribel valley and beyond, I'm so glad we did because (IMO) the runs out that way were so much better than the courcheval valley (which is pretty much all pisted).
There are a lot of red runs a
nd all of the runs vary from their designated colour to "considerably steeper" than designated so I found blue runs and even green runs a lot of fun.

Day 3 we had a heavy covering of fog giving poor visibility, & it snowed most of the night / morning which was great as we had a lot of fresh powder like I'd never seen before - having never been off piste before this was pretty much my first experience of boarding in powder and I absolutely loved every minute of it!

From that point on the rest of my week was spent trying to go off piste as much as possible. As a complete beginner I didn't want to stray too far from the piste, especially as there was only me & my girlfriend who skies and didn't want to go off piste. So I spent my time just going off the edge of the piste into the powder but where I could see other people had been so I knew there weren't any nasty surprises waiting - this proved to be a lot of fun, uneven terrain & a few jumps here and there made the already interesting pistes even better!

My riding was vastly improved over last year (thanks partially to the practise I'd been getting at snowdomes throughout the summer) and I found myself bombing down the steeper runs with no problems.

One thing I will say is that Courcheval is very expensive, in fact most of the 3 valleys is. One day we stopped for 2 drinks & a single burger & chips and the cost was 36 Euros. There were one or two cheaper places if you can find them, but the best option which we used on most days was a packed lunch provided by the challet at a cost of 5 euros for sandwich, drink, crisps, friut & chocolate.

This time we opted for a catered challet rather than self catering like last time. I have to say it made a big difference for a couple of reasons, firstly because you had a cooked breakfast then just headed straight out and later got back from the slopes to tea & cake then just relaxed or had a bath while someone cooked for you, and secondly because in a challet of 16 people, we got to know everybody who were really friendly & we looked forward to sitting down on an evening for a few beers and to discuss which runs we had done during the day.

I think compared to last time, I wouldn't go back to Les Deux Alpes now, having done most of the slopes in a week I think I'd be a little bored if I went back again. The 3 valleys on the other hand is huge, and whilst we got across all 3 valleys and did numerous runs in each one, we could easily spend at least another week there without running out of runs to do - and some of the runs were so good we repeated them 2-3 times during the week. I'd probably go back to one of the other valleys next time just so you have easy access to different slopes.

So in summary, the 3 valleys is great, offers a huge variety of runs, but certainly isn't cheap!
Something else I learnt whilst out there was that it is easy to get injured! One of our friends slipped over whilst walking on the ice & dislocated her knee and another person in our challet who was an acomplished skier managed to fall on his last run back to the challet on the last day and shattered his hip!
When you buy your ski pass you can buy optional insurance for a very small fee which is called "carte neige" - this often overlooked option means the medical teams will take you off the mountain and to a hospital without charging you, otherwise you need to pay them there & then on the slope and reclaim it from your insurance at a later date - not a hassle you want with a shattered hip!!