Archive for December, 2008


What’s the difference between SNOWBOARDS and MOUNTAIN BOARDS?

December 29, 2008

I think you know all you need to know about snowboards, but what do you know about mountain boards? and how many of you are keen and avid participators of this sport?


This photograph was taken two years ago as our son disappeared 7kms up the beach in Mozambique to join up with some friends – useful things mountain boards!

Back to the discussion…

Mountainboarding is also known as dirtboarding or all-terrain-boarding (ATB), and is a well established extreme sport. It started in 1991 when Jason Lee and Patrick McConnell started making boards to help snowboarders cross-train during the summer months. They subsequently set up the company MBS Mountainboards which is still the industry leader. Almost 18 years later the company is still going strong selling boards into over 30 countries around the world. Many of mountainboarding’s key innovations have been developed by them.

Mountainboarding has developed into a sport in it’s own right with it’s own culture and history which includes racing, freestyle, freeride and kiting disciplines and it is one of the most exciting and fastest growing board sports.

From the early days there has been a competitive element encompassing racing and freestyle. Competitions have been organised in USA since 1993 and in the UK since 1997.

This was posted by humour50 and gives you a very good idea of what mountainboarding is all about.

As you can see from the video,  mountainboarding is snowboarding but done on all-terrain –  grass, dirt or pavement.

It is quite easy to learn particularly for anyone who has good balance. In fact, they say it is much easier to learn than snowboarding. Within one hour most people can carve in both directions and in total control. You only need a 5 degree slope to have enough speed in which to carve and it goes without saying that grass hills are an ideal place to learn! Anything for a soft landing…

It is adviseable to wear protective clothing as you will fall. If you want to go for the whole protective package, mountainboard suppliers have it all: helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards, leather gloves, long pants, knee pads, sturdy shoes, eye protection!

One of the fastest growing areas of mountainboarding is combining the board with a kite or sail. Thanks to fredstem for this video.

Mountainboards range in price from $150 for an entry level kids board with brake system to $550 for the ultimate downhillers board and there are, of course, many price models in between. There are more expensive models too, but beware that you are not being ripped off, if  MBS Mountainboards say the price should be between 150-550 then I think they probably know what they are talking about!

As with any sport that we talk about, mountainboarding can be as extreme as you want it to be. Of course you can go and leap off a cliff within 5 seconds of strapping on a board… but it is adviseable to know what you are doing before you go xtreme.

And if you don’t have enough slope to get the speeds you want, you can always turn to an alternative source of power…


and this one…



An up-to-date Snow Report

December 28, 2008

Having done an article on more great places to ski and snowboard yesterday, I thought I’d best have a quick look at snow conditions for you. I have heard a lot about the danger of spontaneous avalanches due to massive snowfall – but does this apply everywhere? And has the snowfall been widespread or has it been fairly localised?

Research shows that it is very widespread. In fact, by the end of November, resorts were opening early due to unprecedented snowfall – apart from France, of course, which remains extremely rigid with their opening dates, and appear to be unwilling to change them once they have been set … in stone it seems!

Record Snowfall At Baqueira Beret

Baqueira Beret today

Spain was the first region in Europe to open their resorts after spectacular early snow in the Pyrenees which has broken a three year-cycle of a slow start to the season. The 3 resorts with the most snow today, 28th December, are  Sierra Nevada with 250 cm, Baqueira-Beret has 225, and Formiqal 200 cm.

Switzerland‘s Crans Montana opened at the end of November with a remarkable 270 cm (nine feet) of snow on upper slopes and 170 cm (nearly six feet) on lower slopes. It joined many other Swiss resorts already open and similarly bathed in deep powder including Engelberg, Lenzerheide, Saas Fee, St Moritz, Verbier and Zermatt. By middle December a lot of the Swiss resorts were sitting with a comfortable 2 metres (7 foot) of snow, and today the top 3 are: Disentis-Sedrun – 360 cm, Andermatt – 300 and Saas Fee – 290 cm.   Verbier, today, has 130 cm – machine groomed, whilst Zermatt (which I discussed a few weeks ago) has 260 cm – and powder conditions.

Saas Fee

I’ve already mentioned France‘s reluctance to change their opening dates despite their fantastic snowfall. Needless to say, the resorts are now humming, and, living in France, we have been made constantly aware of the fact that a lot of the ski areas are under orange alert for avalanches. So beware…An example of today’s  snow conditions are: Montgenevre – 270 cm, Valfréjus – 265 cm and Valberg 250 cm. Val d’Isere has 190 cm – and has good skiing conditions.

Austria’s glacier resorts open very early every year, but the lower resorts also received excellent early snow and have been open for more than a month now. The top 3 are: Molltal-Gletscher-Flattach – 330 cm, Pitztal – 280 cm and Obergurgl-Hochgurgl – 265 cm (the first place I ever skied when I was just a wee little thing!). Mayrhofen has 160 cm of very good snow and as a matter of interest, Hintertux (which I spoke about some weeks ago) has 210 cm – powder.

As with it’s neighbours, Italy, too, has received excellent snowfall. As an example of what conditions to expect today, Breuil-Cervinia has 320 cm of snow, Champoluc has 300, and Limone Piemonte (way down in the South) also has 300 cm. Livigno, remember I talked about this resort yesterday?, has 205 cm – machine groomed.


Finland, Norway and Sweden’s major ski resorts were all open by the end of November. Apart from Bjorli in Norway with 225 cm, the other Scandinavian resorts have less snow – averaging between 50 and 80 cm but with good skiing conditions.

And across the pond the news is much the same. By the end of November, Canada’s ski resorts were off to a good start. Banff opened as did Marmot Basin in Jasper – which had its earliest ever opening. The east coast, too, received their fair share. The top 3 snow reports thee are: Grouse Mountain with 175 cm, Castle Mountain – 152 cm and Powder King – 137 cm. Whistler-Blackcomb, discussed yesterday, only has 73 cm and the ski area is closed.

And down in the US of A things were much the same. The top 3 snow areas are: Silverton Mountain with 276 cm, Wolf Creek with 259 and tied third is Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain with 254.

I haven’t been able to get a ‘latest’ report on Japan, and Niseko in particular, but if the past is anything to go by then they will already have about 5 metres of powder! However, I was sent this link by Chris, who has just returned from skiing there (thigh-high in powder he said) and had read yesterday’s article. You might like to check it out to see the amazing quality of snow and powder:

Niseko seems an interesting place. The extensive lift system is fast, comfortable and uncrowded and includes about 30 covered chair lifts, gondolas and twins . The snow quality is remarkably light and dry. Daily grooming, consistent snow and low temperatures all help to create an unforgettable experience. The Niseko region receives incredible amounts of snow, apparently far in excess of most other ski areas anywhere in the world. The upper mountain receives an average of about 16m of snowfall each season. And the summit of the mountain is only 1308m! The base of the resort is at around 300m so you get a respectable 1000m of vertical. Basically if deep powder is your thing then Niseko is the place to go. During winter it snows most days and it’s not unusual to have well in excess of 20 days of deep powder each month.

However, a final cautionary warning for this year’s skiing… watch out for these things:

The chances are you won’t outrun, outski, or out-board one of these monsters and even if you do – the people below it might not… please heed this warning. This year is going to be particularly prone to avalanches they say.


More on 2009 Snowboarding and Skiing Hot Spots

December 27, 2008

From blue waves (yesterday’s blog) to blue snow…

That’s quite some snowboarding isn’t it? Thanks to Zanman819 for publishing it.

We were down on the famous St. Tropez beach yesterday, Pampelonne for those of you who know it, and had the most impressive waves… minimum of 12ft and thundering in, one on top of the other – that might not sound much to an avid surfer, but for us here in the Med, it’s HUGE. The gusts of wind were so strong that we were able to lean back into them at a 45 degree angle and still stand on our feet! We had a wonderful walk and then took refuge in one of the (tongue-in-cheek) wonderfully expensive beach restaurants to recover!

But, we were here to talk about SNOW not WAVES, so back to the mountains…

Where are the REALLY FUN places to go skiing and snowboarding this season?

Whistler must be somewhere at the top of everyone’s list, despite their recent unlucky lift accident – where happily there were NO casualites. Where Whistler has been so clever is in its constant improvements and progressions to stay ahead of the game and cater for all new fads. Its funparks are the best in the business, its pistes are always corduroy in the mornings, its freeriding terrain is easily accessible and – due to the proximity of the Pacific – often blessed with powder. This year’s newest offering is the Peak-To-Peak gondola which will directly link Whistler and Blackcomb mountains for the first time and further increase the scope of the place. This is not the gondola which collapsed on 17th December – that one was on the Blackcomb mountain side – not that that should worry you now… they will be making damn sure it doesn’t happen again!

Whistler is also the site for the 2010 Winter Olympics, so the forward-thinking park shapers will be experimenting with their snow shaping tools in readiness for the upcoming event.

Whistler’s highest lift is 2,284m. There are 40 pistes for beginners, 110 for intermediate level and 50 for advanced.

Check out our Interactive Trail Map:

Explore over 8,100 acres of terrain, Terrain Parks and Half Pipes, Tree forts, Kids Adventure Parks, 200 marked trails from beginner to advanced, restaurants and chair lifts. Trail Map

That’s one destination for Canada.

How’s about America? Well, there’s Mammoth Mountain in California. The highest lift here is 3,369m and there are 19 pistes for beginners, 63 for intermediate level and  53 for advanced. Mammoth offers a very long season – lifts open at end of October and continue until early to mid-June. Some of the best riders come here to get ready for the forthcoming season – there’s cheap accommodation, three world-class parks and two fully-maintained superpipes. And, most importantly for Mammoth’s credibility… Shaun White has a yearly season pass. What further credentials do you need, hmmm?

Mammoth Mountain's Unbound Park


pdf_iconDownload Trail Map (2mb)

Now, across to Europe.

The choice is enormous and an individual’s opinion of the ‘best of…’ in each country will vary enormously. Enormously. However, I’m going to go for Val d’Isere. It’s high. It’s varied pistes are wonderful. The aprés ski is second to none. It’s season is long. And for a little more precise detail… Val d’Isere shares its ski area with Tignes. Tignes offers a fabulous choice but it is a modern purpose-built resort. Val d’Isere, on the other hand, has managed to retain its old world charm with wooden chalets in abundance and high-rise apartment blocks are definitely not ‘de riguer’. The highest lift is at 3,450 m, and there are 80 beginners’ pistes, 35 intermediate runs and 16 advanced. Between them, the two resorts share an incredible rideable area, complete with two fantastic funparks, the most well-maintained half-pipe in France and some unbelievable off-piste. Tignes is cheaper than Val d’Isere… for the moment. This is a dream skiing area accessible to everyone… from 1550 m to 3456 m, 300 km of slopes, 2 glaciers and 94 ultra-moderns ski lifts.

Interactive ski map (Lifts opening conditions)

Switzerland. Oh Switzerland. How to choose a resort here. I suppose I would have to plump for Verbier although it’s a difficult one. Switzerland has so much to offer – it contains dozens of worthwhile ski resorts, but Verbier is the premier ski resort of French-speaking Switzerland, with an unpretentious panache and a fun-filled atmosphere, but don’t get me wrong here – as my memory recalls… it’s not cheap, and if you want to know what the chic-est of the chic will be wearing this year – go to Verbier. However, that said, it lies at the heart of a sprawling, high-tech network of cable cars and gondolas that will connect you to such relatively unknown satellite resorts as Veysonnaz and La Tzoumaz. The resort is favored by world-class athletes for the difficulty of many of its slopes and it has two snowparks.The skiing in and around Verbier can be broken up into 4 areas, namely: Verbier, La Tzoumaz/Savoleyres, Bruson and Mt Fort/4 Valleys. All areas are quite distinct from one to the other, offering different types of terrain of varied difficulty. Passes can be bought for each of the areas individually or one pass that covers all. It lays claim to 94 lifts in the Four Valleys, accessed via a fancy electronic hands-free pass system. There are 410km of pistes.

One report I read claims that Verbier is spiritually positioned somewhere between Zurich and the Fulham Road. That says it all!

Veriber Piste Map

Now here’s a resort I don’t know – in Austria. Mayrhofen. The highest lift is at 3,286 m and there are 45 runs for beginners, 90 for the intermediate level, and 22 for advanced. This is a resort for those of you who are young, hip and slightly cash-strapped. The Zillertal Valley near Innsbruck is rapidly gaining a reputation as Austria’s hottest snowboarding spot. Mayrhofen is the main resort and is the biggest draw thanks to a world-class funpark that sits next to a super-fast four-man chair and is serviced by the biggest shaping crew in Europe. But if that isn’t enough to hold your attention for a week’s trip, the next-door resort of Kaltenbach is rapidly turning into one of Europe’s best freeride spots. Zillertal is also one of the cheapest destinations in the Alps and for this reason it is  popular with hordes of young seasonnaires and gap year riders.

Mayrhofen  piste map

and for a better idea, go to .

Livigno, Italy is next in line. Note here that I am doing one resort ONLY per country. If you feel there is a better resort than the one that I’ve written about please, please do tell me! Back to Livigno – the highest lift is 3000 m,  and there are 28 beginners’ pistes, 36 intermediate, and 10 advanced runs. It is said that it’s Italy’s best resort with an incredibly well-maintained funpark, a huge area to explore (with few crowds), and with a very vibrant snowboard scene. An added advantage is that, due to an ancient law, the whole valley is tax free… and any help you can get against the strong Euro this winter should be fervently embraced!

Livigno  piste map Website

And finally, here’s an off-the-wall one – Niseko, Japan. It doesn’t have many runs, but it is supposed to be the second most snowiest resort in the world. Which one is the first? Mount Baker in Washington… but it doesn’t offer what Niseko offers. Niseko’s  highest lift is only 1,308 m, and there are not that many runs:  22 – beginners, 0 for intermediates!!! and 17 for advanced skiers. However, it has got two funparks, a pike, a rail park and incredible arctic conditions which ensure perfect powder. The slopes are open from 8:30 a.m. through to 8:30 p.m. every day through the season. And then of course there is the cultural diversity – après ski noodle bars, saki and hot onsens, and a volcano in the background of your photos. Now that’s different. Plus they have an ice bar which, apparently, is one of the places to party.

Click image for full sized version of the Niseko Hirafu pistemap

Wherever you go, I hope you have a wonderful winter holiday.


Big Waves to think about this weekend…

December 26, 2008

Another Christmas has been and gone – I hope you all had a wonderful time and although the forecast is bleak, let’s hope we can all prove it wrong and have a wonderful 2009… best wishes to everyone.

And whilst we’re on ‘bleak’… it’s a bleak midwinter day here, so to cheer ourselves up I thought I’d tempt the senses with some big wave videos:

This one was off the Billabong Odessey, the biggest wave ever surfed! Thanks adrenalinerush99 for posting it.

and another… with thanks to marcomaui.


Adventure racers might like to know about the JANUARY RACE at Anisimovka, Russia.

December 22, 2008

We’ve talked quite a lot about Adventure Racing over the past few months, and browsing through upcoming events we came across this Russian race which might interest you.

Held in the Anisimovka area on January 9, the January Race will be organised by the Primorsky Territory Federation of Mountaineering and Rock Climbing.

The competition consists of three different events:

  • The “Sprint” is the 5km race which starts in Gribanovka ski resort and has a steep ascent,
  • The “Ring” route is 12 km long. It has a gentle ascent and falls off towards Gribanovka where the route starts, and
  • The “Traverse” route. This event is 30kms long and is for experienced sportsmen who will not only have to stand the extreme cold of a Primorye winter, but will have to ascend two mountains – Pidan (1332m)  and Falaza (1232m). The route starts in Lukyanovka, ascends, descends and traverses the two mountains, and finally descends again to the ski resort, Gribanovka.

Everyone who can walk, loves nature and is ready to climb the mountains is invited to take part in “January Race 2009”.

Looking to do something different next year??? What a way to start it: a ski holiday at the Gribanovka Ski Resort timed perfectly to take in a nice little extreme adventure on the way…

It’s location alone is fairly extreme  – the Primorye Territory is located in far southeastern Russia on the shore of the Sea of Japan. Vladivostok is the capital  and it is 9,259 km from Moscow – 6 days by train or 9 hours by plane!


Something to think about…

Apparently it’s an ‘awesome’ region and ‘awesome’ in all seasons.

I have had a lot of difficulty tracking this area down. It came down to one of 3 – Anisimovka region in the Ukraine, Gribanovka ski resort in southwest Siberia on the border of Kazakhstan or the one near the sea of Japan… and since the article telling us about this race came from a newspaper in Vladivostok I hope I have hit on the right one!!! Good luck and check it out carefully beforehand if you plan to go!


Full speed ahead for Cape Horn

December 21, 2008

The leading boats in the 2008 Vendee Globe are now passing to the south of New Zealand and heading out into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

The next land to be seen will no doubt be the sothern tip of South America where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet at Cape Horn which has a fearsome reputation.

And there is still about 12,000 miles to race so there is plenty of time – another 30 to 40 days at sea – for events to unfold. Heading toward the New Zealand gate Michel Desjoyeaux in Foncia has a 60 mile lead over Roland Jourdain in Veolia Environment with Sebastian Josse – BT – a further 100 miles (approximately) behind Veolia Environment and Jean le Cam in VM Materiaux in fourth place.

Of the 30 boats that started the race 12 have now had to retire leaving only eighteen still in the race. For those that don’t know the Vendee Globe is a solo trans global race for open 60s – and what is an open 60? Read on:

Open 60s are one of the fastest boats in sailing — built in carbon fibre using the latest hi-tech structures, they are designed to be as light as possible (for speed) but strong enough to withstand the worst the seas can throw at them.

They are designed from the outset to be sailed by just one person. There are very few comforts aboard, and the skipper will spend most of the time in the ‘crash’ seats in a cuddy that separates the open cockpit and deck from the navigation work station. This is the nerve system, packed with electronics and computer equipment to help navigate, check performance, and communicate.

The boat has a number of different sails to suit various conditions — not as many sails as a boat designed to be sailed by a 12 strong crew, but enough to keep the solo skipper working hard all the time matching sailplan to wind and sea conditions. There are three types of sails — a mainsail, headsails on furlers (rolled up around the stays) and a spinnaker — although alone, the spinnaker is only used in very stable conditions (to be caught in a squall with this huge balloon of sail could mean disaster — end of race).

The boats also have to prove their ability to turn themselves the right way up if they become knocked down or turn upside down. This is part of the latest IMOCA safety rules which require the boat to right without the assistance of waves by the skipper taking some action to turn the boat over.

The video below from yachtpals will give you an idea of what can be expected in the southern oceans – kind of tough.


Snowkiting, snowboarding and kitesurfing???

December 20, 2008

Did you read our blog two days ago? … How similar (or otherwise) is snowkiting to kitesurfing on water?

We have shown some classic instances in the past of when one or other (snowboarding and kitesurfing) goes wrong – well, snowkiting is relatively new on our blog and here is another classic … although happily no-one appears injured, and thanks to BUZZZZ101 for posting it.

Although a bit noisy I think you can put it down to fear, concern and relief!

I’ve been into a forum re. this video and the general opinion is that it is genuine – there are no no edits and no sped-up digital moments! Lucky he held on!!!