OK, so I’ve sorted out the flights for my summer trip – but where am I going to stay? As I mentioned previously, I’m going out for 8 nights, Saturday through to Sunday. Although this is great for getting extra boarding in, it kinda throws a spanner in the workd when it comes to accommodation. The problem being that apartments, chalets and some hotels are typically set up for blocks of 7 nights…
Last time I did this I cheated… we spent the extra night dossing down in my sister’s season-accommodation. So what are the options this time? Well, I heard about a really cool place called the Sick and the Mental Inn. It’s ‘budget’ accommodation during the summer to cater for boarders, mountain bikers, climbers… – and the best bit is that the atmosphere seems really chilled out. Bed and breakfast is 25 euros a night, and you can get an evening meal chucked in for an extra 5 euros.
I dropped a quick email to the guy running things, Lars, and with virtually no effort I was hooked up for 8 nights. 200 Euros. Sick.
The post should end here, but it doesn’t. Meanwhile, my boarding buddies were thinking along different lines. Renting a cheap apartment for two to three weeks with me staying there sometime in the middle. To be honest I was kinda set on the Sick and Mental Inn, but with an apartment booked, and for around half the price, I had to change things.
The accommodation we’ve gone for can be found through one of the main Deux Alpes sites – in the “accommodation” section. There’s a really good selection and it’s cheap. For example, you can get an apartment for 4 people, for two weeks, for 560 euros. It’s nothing flash, you know, the standard set up of a pull out bed and some bunks in the hall, but at the end of the day it’s 70 euros each per week…
If you’re interested and you go to the www.2alpes.com site be sure to check out the resort map. It’s a bit awkward – but the map does show the various apartments, hotels, lifts etc. As a result we ended up with an apartment right next to the main lift. Sweet.
All done, right? Not quite. My two summer-slacking riding friends, currently sunning it up somewhere in France can only commit to two weeks in the apartment, so I’ve still got to sort out my last night. I hope there’s room at the Inn
Anyway, I’ll let you know how those arrangements go, and I’ll probably do a review of the whole setup when I get back.
For many snowboarders, I’m sure, the idea of “doing a season” seems like a really good one; I know that it’s something I’d love to do. However, the closest that I’ve been to the life of a seasonaire is my sister – who spent the 2005/2006 season in Meribel, France.
I figured it may be interesting if I did a pod cast-style talk with Emma about her experience as a 1st time seasonaire; particularly to those thinking about doing a season, but also, hopefully, to anyone who just likes snowboarding
This production is deliberately not polished. I wanted it to appear exacly for what it is: me asking a bunch of questions I scribbled down on a sheet of paper. It’s just over 15 minutes, so if you’re interested in listening, download the file and enjoy.
Doing a Season (6.6MB)
If people are interested and want to more – I can collect any questions together and make part 2…
Ok, so I’ve booked flights with KLM and I’ve never flown with them before. This got me thinking about the airline’s rules for baggage allowance; how much is it going to cost me to take my snowboard? Now, I’ve got one of those swanky Burton Wheelie Lockers and I think a review of which will be of use to some people. Here goes…
First things first
I’m gonna start this review by saying that I love my Wheelie Locker. Remember that when you get to the end of the review. Here’s why:
- It’s huge. You can get so much stuff in there. I’ve packed three snowboards, my gear and half of my girlfriend’s gear into the thing. Everything kept in one place!
- It’s tough. The spiel on Burton’s website is true. It’s built to last and Burton back it up with their support (I’ve had a new replacement)
- The design is great. Separate sleave for the boards. Separate compartment for clothers. Tough external pocket for handy access. A removable bag for your boots and another for your bindings… If you’re a tidy freak it makes it easy to pack; if you just want to chuck stuff in, there’s loads of space. See my photos for more on the features
But is it practical?
Unfortunately I think you have to ask this question. I love the idea and I really like the design of the bag – but is it practical for lugging around airports? I’d have to say the answer is no. Read on.
Maximum weight allowance
I’ve found that most airlines (well, the ones that I have used) operate with a maximum weight allowance of around 32kg, for a single bag. That is, each item of luggage must weigh less than 32kg. I know this to be true as I was called to the front of the line on an Easyjet flight and asked to take stuff out of my wheelie locker. I ended up removing my boots (with their own dedicated bag, sick) which the stewardess insisted would be sent separately. You can imagine my frustration when waiting in Geneva airport, all of our bags collected except the boots…
So, the fact that the wheelie locker allows you to pack so much stuff becomes a little irrelavant as you’re constrained by 32kg.
What are you talking about? 32kg? That’s madness, you don’t need that much stuff!
You’re probably right. So why have a bag that’s that big? Also, don’t forget that when you start adding your mates board to save on costs, the extra jacket, the waxing iron – things start to add up. To me, that’s the point of the wheelie locker – there’s loads of space.
Note also that you don’t save on the fact that you’re only taking one bag. Explanation. Your friend has his regular suitcase with an allowance of 20kg and he’s paid a flat fee to take a snowboard in a separate bag. They weigh this bag to make sure it’s not super heavy, but they don’t seem that bothered about its exact weight. You on the other hand have you single wheelie locker. Let’s say that you’re travelling light and the total weight is less than 20 kg. Do they offer you a discount? No. You pay the same.
Forget the airline’s weight allowance, the damn thing is heavy!
I’m not the strongest person in the world but I’m not the weakest either. When the wheelie locker is rammed full it is heavy. Simple as that.
So you’ve flown to Geneva and as usual it takes the board bags ages to arrive. It’s getting tight for the last train. Your wheelie locker finally arrives and now you’ve got to run to the train station…
It’s not easy! Dragging 30-odd kg while running is hard work! I’m not being sexist here: Ciara can’t lift the wheelie locker when it’s full. It’s heavy.
It’s not just the airport though. Not all apartment blocks have lifts. My first trip to Tignes, we were on the top floor. Having all of your gear in one bag no longer seems like a good idea when you’ve got to carry it up 3 or 4 flights of stairs. The length then also becomes a problem. Stairwells aren’t always wide. At 1.8 meters or so it can be hard to get the wheelie locker around narrow corners.
It’s worth adding though that the wheelie locker does have good quality hand holds on the top of the bag, and a shoulder strap.
- If you take the board out of the bag and leave the rest of the gear in (for whatever reason), pulling the bag on its wheels becomes a problem
- I’ve found that I don’t use the bag on road trips – it’s too big for the roof rack
- You can’t really use the wheelie locker in other situations, e.g. other holidays
Burton Wheelie Locker vs. Burton Wheelie Double Deck
So what’s the alternative? Well, take a regular shaped suit case and a separate board bag. Enter the Burton Wheelie Double Deck. Ciara uses one of these in combination with a board bag, or, sometimes she off-loads onto me and I carry her board as well. The Double Deck shares a lot of the clever design features of the Wheelie Locker and is made to the same high quality.
…And you can fit a lot of gear in this thing too! I’m certain that using a decent travel bag along with a board bag is a more comfortable, easy to operate solution. Also, overall you can probably take more gear (if you feel the need) as you’re not limited to 33kg. It doesn’t have to be the Double Deck, I’ve seen the Dakine Split Roller and that seems really good too. However my experience is with the Burton travel gear and I know that it ‘feels’ really good – that quality comes through.
Summary – So what am I using for the Deux Alpes trip?
I hate the thought of leaving my Wheelie Locker behind, but I’m gonna use the Wheelie Double Deck travel bag, and take my board separately. In comparison, the Wheelie Locker just seems to much of a struggle to move around. I guess I’ll let you know the final verdict when I get back.
Get hooked up!
If you’re looking to get hold of the Wheelie Locker or any other snowboard luggage for that matter, there’s a great selection of board bags at dogfunk.com. They re-stock regularly and have one of the best selections when it comes to different colours and sizes. Go check them out.
Yo dudes, it’s The Function here, back for the second slice of hot lesson action. (I said lesson!) Let’s dive in…
The second lesson
After my first fast-track session, I didn’t get to go back for my next one for nearly 2 months. I was bricking it that I’d be back at square one and I’d have to start over again. I needn’t have worried. The other 5 people in my group had also left it a while since their previous lesson, so I was unlikely to be left behind.
Once again, it was £72 for 3 hours’ slope time. Instructor this time was a guy called Dave. He was friendly enough, but a little less easy-going than Ollie had been. I suspect it all got off to a bit of a bad start when most of the people in the group couldn’t use the rope tow. This was meant to be a fairly basic part of the first two lessons and even I was a little surprised they coudln’t do it. I think they even said they’d not used it before. How they passed their earlier lessons is anyone’s guess.
Anyway, agenda this time was essentially:
- Proving we’d got through fast-track 1 & 2
- Toe-to-heel edge turns on the baby slope
- Heel-to-toe-edge turns on the baby slope
- Linked turns on the baby slope
- Linked turns on the main slope
- Linked turns from the top of the main slope
Clearly, a couple of people in the group were having difficulty with the first item there, but to my relief, I was fine. After a couple of jerky sideslips.
Turn, turn, turn
So, next was learning to turn. Obviously, we could already do this a little, as we’d just been traversing, but putting in a full turn was to be new. When it was explained to us, however, it just sounded so much more complicated — some thing about twisting the board by pointing one foot forward and the other back while rubbing your stomach and patting your head.
Ok, maybe not the last two, but the whole twisting thing just sounded too much to think about whilst not falling over. Consequently, I just listened to the other bit of advice about keeping your weight on your front foot. Hey presto, you’re round the corner. Job done.
By the time I’d got onto the linked turns, progress in the group was becoming increasingly varied. In fact, by the time we took our mid-lesson break (not sure why we have a break — it’s hardly exhausting), I was ready for the main slope, but others were still struggling to put a single turn in. This was making it a bit awkward for Dave to teach us together, but at least it meant I got to do whatever I needed most practice on.
After the break, out to the main slope it was — by myself. The Castleford main slope has two different gradients on it: the bottom half at 10%; and the top half at 15%. Up both sides of the slope are poma lifts, although there was only one operating on the night of this lesson. Initially, I was just taking the poma half way up and then trying to put in 5 or more turns before the bottom of the slope. Dave pretty much left me to this while he went back to the rest of the group, but this was fine by me. Wilka and Mark were both on the main slope, so I still had someone to share the craic with.
From here on, things just started becoming more and more natural. Sure, I took a couple of gentle falls, turned into another boarder (ooops!) and was wasted by a skier, but I was just concentrating on getting some kind of flow going. Soon enough, I’d moved onto doing the full slope and, despite getting a bit wobbly at first with the extra speed, managed to stay upright for the rest of the evening. With half an hour of the lesson still to go, Dave marked my lesson card as passed and let me get on with it. Result! As a bonus, I now have a free hour’s slope time to spend at a later date. Could well be this coming Sunday.
Overall, I have to say that if you’re thinking about trying out snowboarding, or want a head-start before your first boarding holiday, these lessons are excellent. Granted, a lot will depend upon the group you’re in as to how much time the instructor can devote to you, but I doubt you’ll ever be left wanting. I was only left to myself because the instructor figured I could manage ok alone *grin*.
Plus, when you factor in the equipment hire, £24 per hour really isn’t that bad a deal. Certainly beats the £60 per hour I pay for my karting shenanigans. The XScape in Castleford even has a railway station right outside, so transport there needn’t be a problem. Go on, give it a try. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Well I’ve been away for the bank holiday weekend, giving me time to relax and make some preparations: consequently my head is bulging with information I thought I’d share…
The main theme is Deux Alpes. I’m excited to say that I’m one step closer to my fix of summer riding… I’ve booked the flights! I ended up going with KLM – but working out the best way to travel from Newcastle to Deux Alpes wasn’t straight forward (more to come).
I’ve opted for the sneaky 5-days-holiday = 8-days-riding. Eh, what do you mean by that? Well, normally when you go for a week of snowboarding you travel out Saturday and return the following Saturday. Thus you ride the six days in-between, Sunday to Friday…
Earlier this year Ciara and I pulled off an 8-day-riding trip in Meribel. We travelled out on Saturday as usual, but booked a late return flight the following Sunday. Immediately you get the extra Saturday riding; if you’re on the ball you can ride for the majority of the Sunday too! You get two days for free. When it comes to riding on a glacier the snow only lasts until just after lunchtime, so packing the Sunday’s riding into your holiday is easier still.
It’s a time saving, not a cost saving. It’s good for those people (like myself) whose snowboarding is constrained by their annual holiday entitlement. The holiday itself does end up costing more money. But 8 days snowboarding is like 33% more than than 6… if you haven’t tried it, it’s worth giving it a go.
Anyway, I’ve been side-tracked there. Keep an eye out for new stuff about the Deux Alpes trip, and I hope you enjoyed Mal’s post about getting back on the board, the second part is coming soon!
…or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Board: Part 1.
Hey people, it’s Mal here. Gav’s been kind enough to offer me a guest review here on afterbang. The topic? Boarding lessons at Xscape in Castleford.
A bit of background
For starters, I’d better come clean and point out that I’m not a total novice. I went boarding with Gav for a couple of weeks in Feb 05. For a variety of reasons – mostly pain-related – I didn’t get the most from the holiday and spent half the time in the chalet. I left feeling kinda put off and with my confidence completely blown. That, I figured, was that.
By some fluke of laziness, I failed to sell my boarding gear on Ebay and, at the start of this year, promised to take a friend for lessons. Given how much I feel I’m missing out when Gav and the gang swap boarding stories, I decided to give it another go myself too. It was to be a slippery slope. Boom boom!
The first lesson
As it turned out, my friend couldn’t make it, but I still took the lesson. I went for the Fast-Track 1 & 2 option, lasting 3 hours and costing £72. I figured the fast track stuff was right for me and it meant I’d only need 2 visits before I qualified for recreational boarding.
You can, however, do it in smaller chunks, if you want. There are 4 key lessons, designed to get you to the stage where you’re safe to play on the main slope. I just wanted to get through it quickly and the fast-track lets you take 1 & 2 together and 3 & 4 together at a later date.
All lessons at Xscape include equipment hire in the price, including the use of a minging, stinky helmet (no jokes, please). The price doesn’t include hire of any clothing, mind. This wasn’t a problem for me, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’ve got no cold-weather gear. Hire of jacket and pants will set you back only a few quid more (I suspect it’s a fiver, but I’ll check next time I’m down there).
Quick tip for those with bins: don’t worry about getting goggles. You won’t need them. I have to admit to being pretty clueless, mind, and nearly took mine along, just in case I took a dodgy fall. Glad I didn’t in the end, as I would’ve looked a complete dork and you’ll not be going quickly enough to knock your specs off anyway.
So, on arrival, I picked up my pass (which was never checked), got changed and waited for the instructor — a guy called Ollie (what a mint name!). With his assistance, the two others in my class and I got our boards, boots and helmets. Looking suitably lame, we were taken through the bindings and all the rest of the usual newbie stuff before heading out to the baby slope.
The lesson was all very basic stuff:
- Falling over painlessly
- Strapping in and not moving
- Side-slipping on the toe edge
- Side-slipping on the heel edge
- Toe-edge traverse
- Heel-edge traverse
And that was about it, really. It won’t sound like much to a veteran like Gav, but I was really grateful for the gentle re-introduction. When I first got back on the board after 14 months of abstinence, I was wobbly as all hell. It really did feel like Chamonix simply hadn’t happened at that point. I steadily got back into it, though, thanks in large part to Ollie. He made a great instructor – really patient, laid-back, non-judgemental and all-round helpful.
As for how I fared, well, I was star pupil. Somewhat slyly, I’d not told anyone that I actually had experience (even if no confidence), so I had an unfair advantage. I’d not meant to hide it; it just never came up and the longer I said nowt, the harder it became to let out the little secret. It made it a bit awkward towards the end, as I was desperate to put a turn or two in. However, we’d not been taught to do turns, so I didn’t bother. Last thing I wanted was to lose Ol’s respect by showing off.
So, at the end of the first fast-track lesson, I’d passed with flying colours. Only problem was that work was getting mental and I knew it might be a while before I could get back on the slope. I’d really enjoyed it so far and was keen to keep going. How long would it be before I could do it again? Stay tuned to find out.
I’ve been trying to set up a long weekend of summer boarding in Les Deux Alpes – but it’s proving tricky.
Originally the problem was “what can I do with 2.5 days holiday?” (which is all I have available). Take a half day on Thursday, and all of Friday and Monday? That would allow me to fly out on Thursday and then get a late flight back on Monday evening. The result would be 4 days of riding on the glacier (Friday through to Monday).
Then the problem became the flights. It seems that the best place to fly into is Grenoble, but if you can’t make that, fly to Lyon. Check out google maps, Les 2 Alpes is further down than a lot of the other French resorts – which seems to discount Geneva due to the problems of getting a transfer. No Geneva means no easyjet, so I’m finding it hard to get a good deal on the flights.
OK, so now I’ve found some half decent flights with KLM (via Expedia.co.uk) – for £163.70. It’s a connection in Amsterdam, but at least the return flight is late-ish, which would allow me to ride on the Monday morning, making four days of it. And apparently, once you’re in Lyon it’s an hour and a half train ride to Grenoble and then a bus ride up the mountain. Easy.
Now the problem’s money. I’m currently in-between jobs, which could turn out to be either good or bad. If I can’t get another job quick it’s bad because I need to be keeping hold of my money and not going on another snowboarding holiday. If I do get another job soon then it may turn out great as I could potentially have more than just four days – and won’t be rushing about with flight times. But then again, what if they want me to start straight away? There could be no time at all…
Either way I’m going to have wait, at least for the moment, to see what pans out. Damn! I really enjoyed last summer in Zermatt, and I was hoping to hook up with my sister and a friend, whom I’m hoping to do a rider profile on!
I’ll update this space, but there’s a good chance that it will simply be “ended up not being able to go” If I do go though, there should be some interesting stuff to write about
I’d like to mention another boarding blog that I looked at for the first time today – Highly Obsessed. I’d noticed that one or two people had visited this site via a link from said blog, so off I went to investigate.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be impressed by good, clean style and layout – which is what Highly Obsessed has. I haven’t read too much of the content, but of what I have read I do like the style. Oh yeah, this caught my eye – it looks fun and I’m loving the photo guy’s aviators!