Like Glastonbury but trudging through crackly fresh snow instead of gloopy mud to get to gigs, I spent a weekend skiing all day and partying all night, Snowbombing, is a haven for pre- and apres-ski snowsport souls alike.
Every day began the same. Upon awakening the first thought that slithered through my brain was I’m knackered. I feel sick. Every bone, muscle and nerve in my body is on fire.
I’ve got molten lava running through every pore, solidifying in my muscles so that they feel like bricks. I’ll just lay in some more and then spend the day chilling. I’ll go skiing tomorrow.
Within the hour I’d be on the slopes just having one more run. Energy sapped at the end of the day, there was no way I was going out that night.
Knackered and hungover from the previous night I thought I’d just have a quick one and then retire to bed early so that I could get through the week.
Six hours later I’m mullered, sodden with vodka orange and confident that, yes, tomorrow I’ll have a quiet one. Welcome to Snowbombing.
A press trip invite to Villars in Switzerland described the event as “boarding by day, beats by night”, sounded awesome but was all a bit last minute and we only knew we were definitely going just two days before the event started when the flight tickets to Geneva arrived.
I hadn’t been skiing since the eighties and my business partner and partner partner Matt had never been skiing in his life.
Pre-departure we had a magazine to finish so that left us with one day to sort out the various equipment needed.
Matt was amazed at all the equipment I was throwing at him (he definitely wasn’t keen on the thermal leggings), but he didn’t have any ski gear so we dashed down to local Bournemouth business Just Add Water who had promised that if we ever needed to borrow anything, to come on down. I don’t think they meant at their busiest time at lunch on a Saturday but still.
Our flight was at 7am from Heathrow and we were at my parents house near to the airport by 11pm.
Standing aghast over a range of 1980s ski suits I plumped for the least awful – a lurid purple number complete with fluroescent yellow, green and burgundy bands.
What the heck – I’d just remind everyone that the eighties were indeed making a comeback – even on the slopes.
With heavy lids and queasy stomachs we arrived in Geneva having completed a particularly hairy flight which involved plucking our bread rolls out of the air and wringing tea out of our hair.
A couple of hours later and we were pulling up outside the sumptuous Hotel Le Bristol situated on the Rue Centrale (High Street to you and me), which was to be our home for the next few days.
A quick glance down the valley confirmed our trepidation about this late season jaunt – a distinct lack of snow.
In fact, worse than that, there was not even a pretense at snow on the lush green grass speckled with the unmistakable signs of Spring – bright yellow wild flowers.
However, the surrounding panoramic mountain view from our balcony confirmed there was indeed snow, it was just a case of how long it would take us to get to it.
Strolling down the main street running like an artery through the village, the staple mountain cafes, hotels and ski hire shops accommodated newly erected stands and stalls dotted with Radio 1 logos sitting temporarily like bits of food stuck in the teeth, promising something a little different than your average ski trip.
The first night we got absolutely wellied, obviously, in a rather expensive manner with a round of four vodka orange’s costing £25.
Us press types converged on an open terrace in zero degrees at an event held by the Swiss Tourist Board.
Representatives from the likes of Jockey Slut, DJ magazine, GQ and our good selves tucked into the free-flowing beverages.
Following a hearty meal it was down to Le Live to catch up with The Boutique crew who were putting on Freq Nasty, Adam Freeland and Midfield General.
A lot of effort was put into the DJ line up each night, but quite frankly, the DJs could have played anything and the crowd would have been up for it. It was that sort of vibe.
Next morning and the GQ boys set the early pace by being on the slopes by 8.30am. Unfortunately, we couldn’t even make it down for the 10am breakfast.
Despite the late start we rocked up the mountain fashionably late, if not so much fashionably dressed, taking a short train ride from the town centre and halellujah, through the mist we reached the snow.
Not to say that the main slope, the Petit Chamossair was swamped with snow you understand, but there was enough to go around.
Matt had pencilled himself in for a private lesson (approx. £25) with the dour Bruce, which helped him get started.
After an hour he was on his own and, as is the bane of all beginner snowboarders, spent an awful lot of time on his knees or his arse, the rather delightful shapely red painted nude lady on the sole of his board making numerous appearances.
What surprised Matt most about snowboarding was a) the fag of having so much equipment; b) that it was actually more difficult to get up the slope on the button lift, T-bar or chair lift than it was to actually get down; and c) how much his arms ached the next day. Yet he was completely bitten by the bug.
In a short time he was already making it down the slope with reasonable style and few falls.
Personally, I’d forgotten the joys of flying down the slope with the fresh mountain air blowing cobwebs from your whole being – an indescribable freedom. It is this unspoken ‘joy’ which bonds the Snowbombing group.
Top snowboarders, DJs, press and punters all merrily mixed in a very happy stew, whether it was on the slopes or in the bar.
Despite the snowboard competition, the Bomb Comp, for which the snowboarders and skiiers had turned up to compete, there was no pressure usually associated with such high level competitions.
Where else, for example, would you settle a draw on the slopes with a drinking competition?
Just a few months previously British snowboarder Lesley McKenna had competed in the Olympics. Unfortunately she stuffed right up and was vilified by the British press for being a bit of a waste of time.
Having been to Snowbombing I can quite understand the totally different environment in which Lesley found herself.
From the laid back, fun style to the high pressure, competitive nature of the Olympics, there couldn’t have been anything more extreme.
Lesley confirms, “The main difference between an event like Snowbombing and the Olympic Games is that a lot of people haven’t been to a snowboarding event before the Olympics.
“A lot of people may have been to big sporting events but they know nothing about the actual spirit of snowboarding.
“The coaches and other people on the tour are under a lot of pressure and it was there that it really showed.”
Under no pressure
At Snowbombing there was no pressure of high level competition, there were no coaches for competitors, they could do whatever they wanted.
A course was set up on the main slope which incorporated the best jib, best run, multi-player and big air so we could enjoy watching as much as the athletes enjoyed performing.
Kids were bombing down the mountain and it must be for these pellets of fast moving form that the surf snow wear label No Fear was created.
Snowbombing is the handiwork of a group of Manchester lads who set up the event three years ago and although the corporate opportunities will inevitably arise they are adamant they will never make the event so big that the current atmosphere will be stifled.
The boys chilled attitude pervaded the whole event with no stressing.
When I interviewed Gareth Cooper he was pretty much comatose after a heavy night with Freq Nasty. No dashing about worrying that everything was going well.
He did manage to explain that the capacity in Villars is 5000 people which would be the maximum amount of people they’d go for anyway to make sure they kept the ‘pub on a slope’ theme.
Gareth explained that Switzerland feels a little ostracised from the rest of Europe as they are not in the EU, and they see this event as one way to become more involved.
The local residents looked pretty bemused at the sudden influx of well up for it party people who descended on the village for one last-gasp party.
End of season
Usually end of season is a time for a wind down after the hectic three months of ski season so having the town pretty much to ourselves was fantastic as we didn’t disturb anyone and walking down the streets you soon got to know other people and giving it a home town feel.
Radio 1 became involved after seeing a documentary on the event when it first started and were keen to put their name to it, incorporating six live shows and broadcasting live from the clubs with Giles Peterson, Tim Westwood, Fabio and Grooverider, and from the slopes with Jo Whiley.
Live bands played, people lounged around drinking beers, munching food or sliding off inspired down the slope to catch the chair-lift to the top.
At the end of a hard days skiing meeting up with some of the gang in the Jacuzzi at the hotel, weary limbs were gently pummeled by jet sprays.
Amusingly brown wrinkled faces sat atop pasty sinewy bodies complete with protruding beer bellies looking like a weird creature from Beetlejuice.
A trip to the nearby Thermal Baths in Bains De Levy was an absolute dream too.
Open late, the baths are about an hour from Villars, housing a variety of naturally warm pools featuring whirlpools, pressure jets, neck showers, water cascades and underwater massages.
You can have a hot or cold dip, go clothed or naked, all within the surrounds of the fantastic mountain ranges, the snow just a foot away – an absolute dream to soothe your weary body and soul.
DJs play whatever music they like, the boarders are just up for a party.
If you don’t know your back grab from your switchback, it just doesn’t matter, it’s all about hurling yourself down the slope within the stunning setting of jagged snow capped peaks.
You’re totally cut off from the world, high up in the mountains, with like-minded souls. What’s not to like?
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