In his latest contribution to his swelling sack of Gossip from the GoodLife articles, Jon Weaver trains his keen eye on the phenomenon known to people not fortunate to be born at the foot of a mountain as 'doing a season', and recounts the tale of one seasonaire who went on to make waves in the scene.
"What you doing this winter?"
"Doing a season, innit!"
That expression, despite taking its cues from some pretty average British TV, is something which means a lot to many of us, especially those of us from the UK and our flatland bredren in Holland and Belgium.
In what is a yearly ritual many thousands of eager snowboarders pack up a car (which should preferably be older than some of the people in it), fill it to the brim with their crew, and head for the hills. It’s a ritual many of us know well and have various stories from it, one of my best being when driving in a Ford Fiesta 5 men (Josh Wolf, Nelson Pratt, Tom West and Mark Ruperelia) deep with BOB (boards onboard on the roof) only for the car to break down on the French highways on a stretch without hard shoulder, just as Josh was about to drop in on a good bottle of red. You can imagine the French repair man who came out to see our wagon, complete with Wolfy merrily swigging red wine, thinking his day couldn’t get much worse. It’s the precursor to one of the best times of your life – a season.
It’s a story that all snowboarders know well. Now when I was 18, I wasn’t in any snowboard school, wasn’t already on a fast track by a brand, and was pretty much still learning to snowboard so doing a season with like-minded people was amazing. Off we headed to Val d’Isere to work way too many hours and snowboard every spare minute, drink a fair bit, and sleep as and when it allowed. It was amazing, and sometimes seemed that the people “doing a season" have been consigned to people just drinking and not reall getting anywhere snowboardingwise. Now on the second season in Val d’Isere we would spend many a day building jumps and trying to huck something off them for the rest of the afternoon. On one such afternoon, when I was actually stuck in the kitchen, word came through from a couple of the other kitchen staff of a very good-looking English girl doing a season over in Tignes who was doing backflips left right and center. They were A) Impressed, B) In love, and C) Jealous beacause none of them could really land any of their tricks at the time.
Throughout the season this girl continued to turn heads with her amazing riding, and information filtered over to in Val d’Isere about her. It turned out she was working in a chalet over there - she was one of us! Remember, this was before Facebook, and pretty much in the early days of email, so information didn’t spread as quickly as today.
Fast forward a couple of months, and she cleans up at the Brits and very quickly we find out this girl's name is Jenny Jones. That’s right: the Jenny Jones. Her of X Games fame. She didn’t go to snowboard school, she didn’t get special coaching, she wasn’t on some fasttrack by any brands, she was, well, doing a season. That’s sometimes all you need as a snowboarder: not a coach, not some airbag, you just need time on your snowboard.
Jenny went on from there to then win a few more events and become a pretty big deal in the UK, with deals on Salomon and Oakley supporting her from the outset. After a couple of injury setbacks along the way, including one dryslope injury (yes, we hear you scream, why did she try dryslope?) Jenny really started writing her own history a couple of years ago with her first slopestyle gold medal at the X Games. People still say that they are surprised to hear of a snowboarder from the UK living the dream... damn, Jenny is making the dream her own. So a year later, Jenny goes back, and again walks away with a second gold medal in one of the most emotional finals ever. Good work EXPN.
Then with all the hype around an X Games moving to Europe, it was with baited breath that the industry traipsed over to Tignes, France, to check out our very small accommodation, and the 'interesting' slopestyle course. They always say, though, "the course is the same for every rider so get amongst it", and that’s exactly what Jenny did. It was a challenging course but she made it her own, and wrote history by becoming a threepeat X Games Gold medalist. An amazing achievement, which she made even more special by dedicating her victory to the gathered thousands of British Chalet girls on the hill that day. She was effectively saying to them: "Look, if I have done it, why cant you?" And she is so right. Jenny has become one of the most successful female athletes of our sport, and I know everyone from the British scene is so proud of her for flying the flag for us.
The only sour note of the whole thing was that the day after the X Games I was watching Sky News, waiting for the news report of Jenny's success... and it didn’t appear. There must have been a problem with the report, or there must have been a delay, so I waited. And nothing. Just more football. I tried BBC, and the same. Checked all the newspapers, and the same. Now I love football as much as the next man, especially when Swansea City are running the Championship as they are right now, but this, well, it was a a joke. We have the most successful female snowboarder in X Games history coming from the UK, and it didn’t make TV or the papers? Our media needs shooting. In Europe sometimes our media is so backwards, and they wonder why kids only want to play football – it's so damn impossible to get anything else any screen time. Either that or the PR agency for X Games and Jenny need a good prodding.
So what's the moral of the story? Well, I'm just saying that winter is here, we are mid-way through a recession, and jobs are hard to find. So if you're stuck for what to do and can't find work at home, just sack it off and head for the hills. You will make friends, snowboard a bunch, and have the best time of your life. You might even becomes the next Jenny Jones. It just takes time, and belief in yourself.
In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, he identifies what it takes to be one of the best in your sport or chosen fieled, and he found that you need on average 10,000 hours at whatever it is to be prolific. Well, I just think Jenny has probably done 10,001 hours, as she is in a league of her own.