Joonas Mustonen, Matti Kinnunen, Onboard Photo Ed Sami and myself have just had our first day's riding in Slovakia, as part of our 'maybe' Eastern European tour.
Now I say 'maybe' because we're kind of playing it by ear a little. The grandiose master plan was to hit up Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic in the space of 10 days or so, but reality may unfold a little different depending on the conditions and what we get done here in Slovakia. And at what speed we get it done too. Zakopane in Poland is an hour and a half from where we are, so that's do-able, but to get to the bigger Czech resorts means a 7 hour drive and a day's shooting wasted, so we'll see.
Regardless of the outcome we know that we have 6 days here in Slovakia, just outside the fabuously-titled Liptovsky Mikulas and on the road up to the ski resort of Jasna-Chopok, in the tricked out crib of the great guys at the Propaganda Snowboard Chalet (big ups to Paul, Esther, Wallace and Matt). Paul has been running a chalet business here for the past 3 or 4 years, knows how the whole place works, and a nicer and more helpful crew of people you'd be hard pressed to meet. If you're planning on coming this way, do your damndest to stay with these cats.
Speaking of coming this way, why did we come this way? Well, we were looking for something off the more well-trodden tracks in Europe, and what with this black hole deathpit credit crunch thing threatening to swallow the entire world into a flaming economic Hades, we thought we'd try head somewhere that is more affordable than Austria and France. And waay cheaper than Switzerland.
So we set off, road trip stylee from our Munich office yesterday morning and took it pretty easy cruising, trying to hook up with our Slovakian friend Basa Stevulova who was heading home from Innsbruck. Sadly she encountered traffic hell and we didn't have the Stevulovalova brighten our day, but we did dip into Bratislava to cruise around some crazy old Soviet bloc tower blocks and check out the old town too. Sami was so stoked on the ghetto architecture he wants to come back with just him, a day, and his Hasselblad. The big bald photo geek.
But finally we did arrive here and tucked into some well-deserved, and damned cheap, beers. Apparently a mere 4 years ago it was even cheaper here, and Wallace, one of the guys working at the Propaganda place, was telling us about how his mates were trying to spend £2 in the bar a few years back, but were so wasted after £1.40 they had to call it a day for lack of motor control...
Today we went up the mountain for the first time with no real idea what to expect. It was unseasonally warm and conditions were pretty much spring-like, but to blast around it was epic. Heaps of mini shred and a fun park with nothing too serious meant the editorial members had enough to play with, if maybe not Joonas and Matti. We were scoping out potential spots to shoot, but what is obvious is that if it were to snow it will make our job a hell of a lot easier. The potential here for riding pow, drops and backcountry kickers is there - not to mention a heap of jib stuff - but we need a dump to get properly involved with that. Word on the Slovak streets is we're due some overnight...
Tomorrow we get shown some spots by the local backcountry hed Meelan (sic), but for tonight I shall be finding virgin chickens and sacrificing them to whatever god I figure has the best track record for delivering.
We'll let you know how we get on mañana then.