From slush to pow in 24 hours

Just when I thought this season couldn’t get any stranger, on my most recent trip to the Alps I experienced the most dramatic turnaround in conditions I’ve ever seen.

Horses on piste

Horses on piste!

When we arrived in Morzine, mid March, it felt like summer. Temperatures were in the high teens in the town and people were wandering around in shorts and flip flops. It hadn’t snowed for three weeks and although there had been loads of snow prior to that, the high temperatures were starting to take their toll on the slopes, with bare patches starting to appear lower down. There were even horses out to pasture on a run that was still open to skiers!

Spring shredding is a lot of fun, especially on a board, and beers in the sun are an added bonus, but after three weeks of spring conditions already this season (in December, February and March!) we were craving a bit of snow.

24 hours later, at the same altitude. Photo: Chris Barrow

24 hours later, at the same altitude. Photo: Chris Barrow

Typically it was forecast to snow on the day that we were due to leave, and when it became apparent that it was going to be more than just a sprinkling, we were helpless to resist the urge to stay out, especially as our flights would only cost £30 to change and we were able to go and stay with friends in nearby St Gervais.

On the Saturday morning we left Morzine it was pissing with rain and we were starting to doubt our decision to stay, but consoled ourselves with the thought that it must be falling as snow higher up.

Sure enough, as we drove towards Chamonix later that afternoon the rain gradually turned to sleet and then snow the closer we got. It was still snowing when we got to St Gervais that evening and we went to bed early, excited at the prospect of our first proper powder day of the season.

Photo: Chris Barrow

Photo: Chris Barrow

The next morning we awoke to find winter restored and the landscape once again covered in a white blanket of snow. However, it was only when we got up to the ski area that we were able to appreciate just how much snow had fallen overnight. The snow was at least knee deep* in unpisted areas and it was still coming down hard. It wasn’t the lightest powder I’ve ever ridden but it was powder nonetheless, and after a winter of spring conditions, it was heaven.The slopes were also empty and we were still enjoying fresh tracks well into the afternoon.

It continued to snow for the rest of the day and most of the night, so the next morning we headed up to Les Contamines for first lifts. The snow was even deeper and up to waist deep* in places, which was awesome, unless you fell and had to dig yourself out! Visibility wasn’t great early on but by mid morning it had brightened up, allowing us to take full advantage of the conditions. Once again, the slopes were quiet and there was untouched powder in abundance all day long.

Photo: Daniel Leadbetter

Photo: Daniel Leadbetter

By the next again day it felt like spring again but the snow was still great, if starting to get a little heavy and tracked out in places.

We headed to Argentière in Chamonix for our last day where the snow was deep but chopped up off piste. It was fun but after nine full days of riding, we were definitely starting to feel it in our legs.

Sitting in the sun after our last run, beer in hand, we felt tired but elated after such an unexpectedly awesome end to our trip and possibly the season. I’m hoping to get out to Spring Break at the end of April, but if those turn out to be my last few days of the season, I couldn’t have hoped for them to be any better.

* Measurements are based on my diminutive 5’3 stature.

For more photos check out the Riding Switch Facebook page.

 Over to you…

How was winter 2013/14 for you?

Highs and lows in the Scottish mountains

IMG_5767Skiing and snowboarding in Scotland is like a bag of Revels (what box of chocolates doesn’t tell you exactly what you’re going to get?) You might get a toffee or it could be a coffee*, but more often than not you’ll get the whole bag. I’ve made the journey up from Edinburgh twice in the past few weeks and had so many Revels, I’m still buzzing from the sugar rush.

With all the snow that’s been falling in the Scottish mountains, I’d been desperate to get up there for a shred. Reports of more snow than Whistler and pictures more reminiscent of the Alps than the Highlands were pretty hard to resist. So, when Dan and I found ourselves with a couple of days to spare that didn’t appear to coincide with a tempest, we decided to head to Nevis Range where conditions looked like they were going to be best.

IMG_5768As we left the house at 6am(ish) I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling in my stomach that we were heading for disappointment, but tried to remain optimistic and put it down to the early start. That’s the problem with riding in Scotland. The weather is so unpredictable that conditions can change in the blink of an eye and even if it all looks good when you leave, by the time you get up there it can be a very different story.

As we drove north it started to snow and got increasingly heavier the further we went. However, as we approached Nevis range the snow ceased and cloud parted to reveal snow covered mountains bathed in blue sky and sunshine. We could hardly believe our luck and headed up the gondola as quickly as possible. Not long into our ascent, the gondola started to sway and the sinking feeling returned to my stomach. As we exited the gondola station we were hit by what felt like, and probably were, gale force winds, which were doing their best to wrestle our boards out of our hands.

Frozen fenceUndeterred by the breeze, we strapped on our boards and headed up the only couple of tows that were still running. Once we were headed downhill it was fine and other than a few patches where it had been wind blasted, the snow was great. The views were also stunning and we thanked our lucky stars that we were at least able to see where we were going. Sadly that wasn’t to last and the weather closed in after a few runs which lead us to seek refuge in the café.

Needless to say the café was packed but there were still plenty of hardy souls out there braving the winds, driving snow and bad vis; not least the ski school kids who were being ushered out into the wilds while their parents looked on from the warmth and comfort of the café.

IMG_5922The wind did die down a bit as the afternoon went on and we got some good runs in the limited area that was open.

The next morning it looked like it was going to be another clear day and when we pitched up at the ticket office we were told that there had been loads of snow overnight, the wind had dropped and the slopes were looking great. However, in the time it took us to get our gear out of the car, conditions had deteriorated so much that they’d had to close the gondola. It’s a frustrating scenario that’s been all too common this season.

Our trip to Nevis may have promised many a toffee Revel that turned out to be coffees but the opposite was true of our trip to Glenshee a week or so later.

IMG_5936Predictably enough the promise of light snow and a bit of sunshine that had been forecast the night before had changed to rain and fog by the morning, but as we were already up and ready, we decided to make the journey all the same.

We’d barely crossed the Forth Bridge when the fog started to set in, which didn’t bode well for the rest of the day, but we kept going, ever hopeful of the chance of toffees.

The fog lingered for the entire journey until we got to the Spittal of Glenshee where miraculously it lifted, taking our spirits with it. By the time we got to the car park it was drizzly and overcast, but it was at least mild and, most importantly, still.

The visibility wasn’t the best for our first few runs and we needed wipers for our goggles, but we were just happy that the snow was good, if a bit heavy, and the whole area was open.

IMG_5920After a few runs on the lower slopes we headed up to Glas Maol in the hope that the drizzle might be snow up there. As we suspected, it was loads better, and although we couldn’t see much on our first run, the snow was incredible so it didn’t matter.

As we rode up the Glas Maol tow for the second time, the unthinkable happened.  A glow started to appear in the sky and by the time we got to the top, the sky had completely cleared to reveal the huge bowl in all its splendour. The ride down was among the best I’ve ever had in Scotland and by the time we got to the bottom we both had massive grins on our faces. Sadly we only got a couple of runs like that before the cloud closed in again as quickly as it had lifted, but by then we knew where all the fun hits were and which bits to avoid. We did see a few people accidentally send themselves off the cliff half way down though!

IMG_5931As the afternoon went on, the cloud lifted and sun broke through again periodically but rarely stayed that way for more than a few minutes at a time. It did brighten up again right at the end of the day though allowing us to enjoy our last run in a spectacularly lit, empty bowl. It’s always good to finish the bag with a toffee although it always leaves me wanting to open another one straight after!

Conditions may be a bit hit or miss in the Scottish mountains at the moment but it’s going to be amazing when we get a period of high pressure and settled weather. And with the volume of snow that’s up there, we should still have loads of time left to enjoy it!

*My favourite Revels are toffee and least favourite coffee. Please substitute your own preferences accordingly.

For more pictures check out the Riding Switch Facebook page.

Sno-mad for Bulgaria

IMG_5505As soon as I heard the price of a beer in Bansko I was sold. When you’re used to paying nigh on 5 euros for a demi in the Alps, 4 lev (less than £2) for a 500ml bottle on the mountain seems too good to be true. But it wasn’t, and actually turned out to be just the icing on the cake for what was to be one of the most unique and memorable snowboarding holidays I’ve ever been on.

Like the majority of Brits who ski or snowboard, my trips to the mountains are invariably synonymous with wooden buildings, red and white checked tablecloths and seemingly endless ways to consume melted cheese. The plethora of “low IMG_5702cost” flights and “cheap” ski packages makes it incredibly easy for Brits to get to the Alps from the UK, but what the small print of your cheap ski deal doesn’t tell you is that prices in resort will massively increase the cost of your holiday. This is not the case in Bulgaria.

I was unsure what to expect from Bulgaria but as soon as we landed in Sofia and were greeted by one of our friendly hosts bearing homemade cake, I knew we were in good hands. We were there as guests of Snomads: a group of four British guys who run Chalet Levente in the village of Banya, just 10 minutes drive from the ski resort of Bansko.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther than the financial incentive, a massive part of the appeal of a snowboarding holiday in Bulgaria was the opportunity to visit somewhere completely different, and as we embarked on the two hour drive from Sofia to Bansko it quickly became apparent that my desire for new experiences was going to be satisfied. The landscape is peppered with reminders of the country’s communist past and statues of Stalin still stand in some of the villages. In urban areas, derelict old buildings sit juxtaposed beside modern concrete blocks, and cars cruise past horse and carts on the motorways. Outside the city the scenery is stunning and the rural villages exude a rustic Balkan charm, with none more so than our destination of Banya, named after its natural hot springs.

IMG_5568Chalet Levente sleeps up to 10 people and is run as an eco chalet, which means that they make every effort to minimise their impact on the local environment. A wood burning fire in the living area provides much of the chalet’s heating, as well as the hot water; the company van has been converted to LPG fuel; waste is kept to a minimum with any food wastage being fed to the local chickens, and any necessary packaging recycled. They also use the freshest locally and responsibly sourced produce to create the most incredible meals, right down to the herbs, which were gathered by the team themselves in the summer. All bread is handmade in the chalet and even the impressive array of jams and chutneys on offer have been produced by the guys.

With over 15 winter seasons’ experience between them, the Snomads crew certainly know how to run a chalet, and manage to strike the perfect balance between providing a relaxed and homely environment and outstanding service.

IMG_5688The resort of Bansko is a 10 minute drive from Banya but the guys are on hand 24 hours a day to take you there and pick you up again. The town itself is huge and much more commercial than anywhere else we’d encountered on our journey from Sofia. The main street that leads up to the gondola station is full of ski and snowboard shops and there’s a multitude of bars to hit when you come off the mountain. Bansko is the most popular ski resort in Bulgaria and during busy periods there can be queues for the gondola in the morning. However, the resort also runs buses up to the main ski area, which are often the best option. There are also plans to build a second gondola, which will help to alleviate queues further still.

IMG_5535Once up the mountain, any crowds dissipate pretty quickly leaving many of the slopes surprising quiet. The standard of local riding is generally not particularly high, which provides great entertainment when riding up the lifts and means that the more advanced terrain is left virtually untouched. Like the rest of Europe, Bansko suffered from unusually low snowfall early season but extensive snow making and a big dump of snow the week before we arrived meant that the slopes were in great shape, with plenty of soft stuff still to be found. There are some amazing tree runs between the pistes and loads of fun features to hit at the sides. When conditions are right the off piste is also fantastic and plentiful, with huge open bowls and even more trees. There’s also a park with boxes, rails and a decent-sized kicker to keep freestylers entertained.

IMG_5668Other than some unusual mountain etiquette, such as removing snowboards to ride the chairlift and descending the slopes on foot, the overall mountain experience really isn’t too dissimilar to the Alps. That is until you stop for a drink or lunch and realise that you can pay for it with the change in your pocket rather than having to sell a kidney to settle the debt.

Once you’re done on the slopes you can either take the ski road or gondola back down to the town. The ski road can be carnage when it’s busy – think lots of poor skiers and boarders weaving around unpredictably – but successful negotiation will be rewarded by a stop-off at a great little rustic bar in the woods which serves up even cheaper beer, great food and an authentic Bulgarian atmosphere.

IMG_5508Après ski is pretty similar to the rest of Europe and generally involves beer, live music, and in certain establishments, a spot of cage dancing. After a couple of après drinks we’d generally give our hosts a call on the mobile phone they provided us with at the beginning of the week and within minutes we were headed back to our peaceful retreat just down the road, to chill before dinner.

Dinners at the chalet are largely inspired by the local cuisine and are nothing short of superb. They are accompanied by unlimited beer and wine, and there’s also the opportunity to sample the local tipples of rakia and mastika. The option to head back into town after dinner is always there, but it’s also very tempting to curl up in front of the fire.

IMG_5586The team’s day off mid-week provides the perfect opportunity to head into Bansko to sample the evening entertainment. The guys booked us a table at a restaurant in the old town, promising great food and a lively atmosphere, and it certainly didn’t disappoint on either count. Being serenaded by a five piece band, and massive skewers loaded with barbequed meat all seemed to be part of the local dining experience and definitely made for an evening to remember.

Another highlight was a trip to the local hot springs. One of the many advantages of having such attentive hosts with a wealth of local knowledge was the opportunity to experience elements of the ‘real’ Bulgaria that most tourists visiting Bansko don’t get to see. The hot springs were a prime example of this. It was a truly magical spot and we only had to share with a couple of friendly locals IMG_5653who were desperate to tell us all about the local history. The temperature of the water was unbelievable and just the thing to soothe our weary limbs. Lying there in the serene setting beneath the stars, cold beer in hand, was just heaven.

A ski/snowboarding holiday to Bansko with Snomads is so much more than just a cheap alternative to the Alps, although it’s undoubtedly true that you will get a lot more for your money. If you want great riding, superb hospitality and a truly unique experience for a fraction of the price you’d pay to stay in a box in the Alps eating tinned ravioli, then it’s definitely the place to go. And beer tastes so much better when it only costs £1!

Snomads still has some availability for the remainder of the season and is currently offering 15% off all prices. Check out their website for more details and get booking!

For more photos check out the Riding Switch Facebook page.

X rated weekend

Smooth style and a sweet board!

Danny Davis: smooth style and a sweet board!

Like most other snowboarding enthusiasts I spent this weekend following the X Games in Aspen. As one of the biggest events on the snowboarding calendar, it always delivers some awesome riding, and this year was no exception. There was upset and excitement across the board with hardly anything going as expected.

One notable absence from the proceedings was Shaun White who has competed in every X Games since he was 13 but decided to sit this one out in order to focus on the Olympics. This left the playing field open for one of his many rivals to step up and steal his crown.

However, just who that would be was far from predictable with close fought battles resulting in surprise victories in both the Slopestyle and SuperPipe. In the Slopestyle Canadian Max Parrot snatched gold from fellow countryman and favourite, Mark McMorris, by less than a point with 2 super technical runs, which included back-to-back triples.

There was also a crazy amount of spinning going on in the SuperPipe final but it was Danny Davis who took gold with his super smooth style and perfectly executed tricks, proving that it’s not all about the number of spins you can cram into a run. Fellow American Louie Vito took time out from hosting the games to win silver.

There was just as much excitement in the women’s events where we witnessed some of the most progressive women’s riding ever seen. There was upset in the Slopestyle when Norwegian Silje Norendal stole gold from queen of Slopestyle, Jamie Anderson. Aimee Fuller also put in a solid performance, managing to land her double backflip and finish in 7th place.

One of the biggest shocks of the games was 13 year old American Chloe Kim who took silver in the SuperPipe with a couple of incredible runs, making her the youngest X Games medalist ever. Kelly Clark won her 12th gold medal making her the most successful female in X Games history, and the only one that I would have won any money on at the bookies!

Over to you…

Did you manage to catch any of the X Games? What was your highlight?

A strange season

Finally, fresh snow in the Alps!

Finally, fresh snow in the Alps!

It’s been a funny old season so far in Europe, and not in the laugh out loud sense of the word. Loads of early snow in November got people excited about the prospect of another great snow season, but other than a dump over Christmas and New Year, conditions have been pretty spring-like on the whole.

Forecasts for fresh snow have kept coming, only to be pushed back or diminish in substance. Things were starting to get pretty desperate but fortunately the Alps received a big dump of snow on Monday night, which has revived not only the slopes but spirits too.

Dan Tignes Jan 14 rockThe mister is out in Tignes at the moment and the fresh snow has quickly turned his grumbles into gloating. Not sure what’s worse! I am, of course, just jealous as it looks amazing, and certainly a far cry from the footage of sketchy conditions that he was sending me a few days ago, which was infinitely more bearable.

However, it’s not all good news. Unfortunately this cycle of snow followed by prolonged periods of thaw that we’ve experienced so far this season, combined with a weak layer of hoar frost that formed in November, has resulted in an extremely unstable snowpack and one of the highest avalanche risks in years. There have already been at least 20 fatalities and as many injured in avalanches throughout the Alps and we’re only a matter of weeks into the season.

Dan Tignes Jan 14

Today in Tignes

There has been much debate over whether or not people should be venturing off piste at all this season, and while it may seem a little extreme and premature to be making such sweeping statements, there’s absolutely no doubt that any forays off piste should be treated with extreme caution.

Until yesterday, with such little fresh snow around, the off piste hasn’t really looked all that enticing anyway, but it’s when fresh snow comes to snow starved slopes, not to mention snow starved riders, that the real danger arises. The temptation is to hit the fresh pow hard to make up for lost time, but it’s easy to forget that under that fresh stuff is a layer of bullet proof snow, and lurking further below that is particularly unstable layer that’s already been responsible for an inordinate number of deaths. As avalanche expert Robert Bolognesi described it: “It is as if there are ball bearings under the more recent snow. The layers have not adhered to each other”. For more info on this check out Peter Hardy’s article in the Telegraph.

Breck Jan 14

Current conditions in Breckenridge. Yeah, whatever.

The overriding message is be very careful out there. If you’re determined to venture off piste, make sure you know what you’re doing; are with people who also know what they’re doing; and that you’re all properly equipped. And there’s no point just carrying a transceiver – you need to know how to use it! Lecture over.

Of course, on the other side of the pond they’ve got the opposite “problem” of extremely low temperatures and shed loads of snow. Great if you’re in the mountains, but possibly not so much if you’re trying to go about your daily business in New York.

And Scotland’s actually not looking too bad either. It’s the resorts on the west that are faring the best (that bit closer to North America, I guess!) and there are some stunning pictures emerging from Nevis Range. The Scottish mountains are no stranger to strong winds but recently they’ve taken a real beating. Storms have caused damage, prevented uplift and blown away precious snow in the ski areas, but fortunately it seems to have calmed down now and is looking pretty good.

Nevis Range Jan 14

Nevis Range looking awesome

I’m planning to get up there soon, but in the meantime the relatively mild weather in the lowlands has meant that I’m managing to get in plenty of mountain biking, which is helping to curb my cravings to shred.

The next trip is to Bansko in Bulgaria in a couple of weeks, where I’ve been invited by British run chalet company, Snomads. Unfortunately they’ve also been cursed by a slow start to the season so I’m crossing fingers for a miraculous turnaround in the next fortnight! Who says it’s all about powder anyway? ;)

Over to you…

How’s your season been so far? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

The early season gamble

Early season snowboarding trips are always a bit of a gamble, as you never know what conditions are going to be like. It could be dumping with snow one year and St G Dec13barren the next. However, by the time December comes around I’m always desperate to get out to the mountains so am prepared to take the chance, especially as the number of people who’re not means that it’s invariably cheap and quiet.

I’ve just returned from five days in and around St Gervais in the French Alps and conditions were strangely spring-like. Despite the fact that the season got off to a great start in early November with heavy snowfall across the Alps, sadly it wasn’t sustained and by the time we arrived on 13th December there hadn’t been any Les Contamines Dec 13substantial snowfall for around three weeks. Sunny days and mild temperatures had also accompanied the lack of precipitation although cold nights had allowed for plenty of snowmaking, which meant that the slopes were in surprisingly good shape considering.

During our stay we rode St Gervais, Les Contamines, Argentière and Flaine, and conditions were pretty similar across the board. Most resorts had only opened recently and had limited terrain, but low numbers of visitors meant that the slopes hadn’t taken too much of a beating. Minimal snow cover meant that loose rocks and exposed patches were fairly common lower down, but rock hopping was quite fun and our boards emerged relatively unscathed!

That cloud means snow's on its way!

That cloud means snow’s on its way!

However, higher up the snow was pretty good and we even got a few turns in what could loosely be described as powder. On the whole though off piste was either not really worth venturing into or, in the case of Flaine, very dangerous. This wasn’t necessarily due to an unstable snowpack but rather massive holes everywhere.

It was a far cry from the same week last year when we were out in Courchevel. It had already been dumping for ages by the time we arrived and continued all week, providing us with deep fresh pow for the duration. It was undoubtedly the best early season conditions I’ve ever experienced if not the best ever.

Snow the day after we left!

Snow the day after we left!

By comparison, this season’s early conditions may have seemed a little disappointing, but in reality they really weren’t that bad. It’s not unheard of for there to be next to no snow until well into December. Two years ago there was a worrying lack of snow at the start of December and everyone was freaking out, but then it started to snow and didn’t stop for weeks! You just can’t predict how it’s going to pan out, but in my mind it’s always worth a punt.

Needless to say, it started to snow the day after we left and delivered 20-25cm in the St Gervais area over a couple of days. And the good news is that there’s even more forecast over Christmas, which hopefully bodes well for the next trip out in the new year!

Over to you…

Have you had your first turns of the season yet? Are you lucky enough to be out there for Christmas or New Year? How is it? Feel free to share your photos on the Riding Switch Facebook page and make us jealous! I’ll post more of mine there too…

HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Nike Snowboarding: Never Not always awesome

On Thursday night I was lucky enough to attend the London premiere of Nike Snowboarding’s eagerly awaited, first full length snowboarding film, Never Not.

Never Not popcornI’d been in two minds about whether to make the journey down from Edinburgh for what would have to be a brief 24 hour trip, but as I’m a sucker for a media event and managed to get a cheap plane ticket, I couldn’t resist.

Nike had been kind enough to offer me a pair of VIP tickets so Dan and I headed along to the Soho Curzon Picture House for pre-movie drinks and canapés with a small gathering of usual suspects from the UK snowboard industry and stars of the show: Gigi Rüff, Ethan Morgan and Jamie Nicholls.

IMG_3989As Nike had released Part 1 online for a 24 hour period a couple of days previously, closely followed by Part 2 on iTunes, I’d already seen both films, several times, but this just made me even more excited about seeing it on the big screen. My excitement was warranted, as the film that had wowed me on the small screen of my laptop reached new levels of epicness on the big screen.

First up we were treated to Part 2, which was introduced by Ethan Morgan as being a film about what it is the be a snowboarder, rather than merely a behind the scenes documentary. In many ways Part 2 is a more powerful film than the high-octane show reel that is Part 1. It focuses on the highs and lows experienced by very different riders as they strive to achieve the ultimate run, shot, or simply sense of stoke. The film has four sections: Adaptation, Ambition, Exploration and Celebration, which focus on street riding, competitions, freeriding, and what it all means to the riders, respectively.

Gigi Ruf Never NotIt also offers an insight into the rider’s personalities, backgrounds and varying motivations. However, whether raised on urban rails or deep in the mountains, whether they thrive on competition or prefer the challenge of choosing their own spots to ride, they all share the same passion and determination to push themselves to their absolute limits in order to nail the trick, in spite of countless slams, broken boards and bones.

After a short interval to grab another drink and some popcorn, we headed back in for the main feature, which was preceded by the first showing of Jamie Nicholls’ awesome 12/13 online part, which received a rapturous applause from the audience. Although Jamie doesn’t have a part in Never Not, he’s a highly esteemed member of the Nike Snowboarding team, and this technically brilliant edit demonstrates exactly why.

Sage Kotensburg - Never NotNever Not Part 1 is 32 minutes of beautifully filmed, jaw dropping action, which leaves you longing for your next powder day, and the ability to be able to ride just a fraction as well as these guys. The film manages to strike the perfect balance between epic free riding and awe-inspiring street riding, set in locations as diverse as the peaks of Alaska and the streets of Moscow.

The freeride parts come courtesy of Manuel Diaz, Nicolas Müller, Austin Smith and Gigi Rüf, with highlights including Nicolas Müller bouncing through powder stashes on his “daily commute”, Gigi gliding down near-vertical precipices with the grace of an eagle, and the heart stopping moment when Manuel Diaz rides out an avalanche.

Halldor Never NotJed Anderson, Ethan Morgan, Sage Kotensburg, Justin Bennee and Jess Kimura take street riding to another level with an array of tricks so good that the soundtrack to their sections were accompanied by endless whoops and gasps from the audience. Jed Anderson provides one of the most consistently good parts, making light work of some sweet urban spots in his hometown of Calgary, but it’s Halldor Helgason who steals the show with one crazy stunt after another, all culminating in THAT backflip.

But it’s not all rails and wall rides for the “street riders” as we see Halldor, Jed and Ethan looking just as at home throwing massive airs off backcountry kickers, disproving that old adage that you can take the boy out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the boy.

NeverNot_NikeTrailerThe riding is accompanied by a sublime soundtrack of largely classic tunes from the likes of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Elliot Smith, with the odd hip hop track thrown in, with great effect.

It’s hard to fault a film that showcases such an overwhelmingly high standard of riding throughout, and my only criticism would be that it is perhaps a little disjointed at times. That and the relentless gratuitous boot-fastening shots, which is disappointing from Nike, who are usually a lot more subtle about crowbarring their logo into every shot. But, if the whole is equal to the sum of its parts, with parts this good, the film cannot be deemed to be anything short of awesome.

Me and GigiAs we reflected on the film’s stand out moments over a few drinks at the after party it became apparent that there were way too many to list, all of which are just as impressive after several viewings, if not even more so.

Almost exactly 24 hours after I’d touched down at Stansted Airport we were setting off on what would turn out be an 11 hour drive back up north. Was it worth the trip? Absolutely.

Massive thanks to Nike Snowboarding for not only producing an incredible snowboarding movie, but for inviting me along to celebrate its launch in style.

Never Not Parts 1 and 2 are now available to download from iTunes.

Over to you…

Have you seen it? What did you think?