Words by Scalp
Ah, snowboarding… what a joy! All those beautiful mags with their glossy pages (sorry, I mean recycled), full of amazing photography shot by distinguished lensmen, capturing the most mind-blowing moves by the best riders in the world at spots buried in metres of fresh snow. What more could you want?
That said you may have asked the question why magazines don’t depict snowboarding in a more realistic light that’s closer to your everyday boarding experience. Why are the pages of the magazine always reserved to a privileged happy few whose level of riding is so high that it no longer even resembles your own, with 50-metre kickers and 50-step handrails? It’s this question that prompted me to write this piece. That and the article we published in Onboard magazine last year (N°84, October 2006) which documented the lives of a group of seasoneers in Avoriaz. Everything finally came together to dedicate a few pages to my local crew of snowboarders who, in so far as their passion for snowboarding, merit their place in the mag as much as any TTR star, and are closer to your average Jo snowboarder than, say, Eero or Antti.
For a long time now I’ve wanted to speak about the faceless, real enthusiasts, the ‘hard core’ dare I say: those who have decided to spend their lives in the mountains out of their passion for boarding, without money, proper equipment or real sponsors, far from the limelight, out there whatever the weather and snow conditions in the knowledge that, as the surf bums before them knew well, it’s only by living on-site that you really get to score it good. That said, my aim here isn’t to compose some heartfelt philosophical analysis on the life choices of these guys. No, Onboard hasn’t turned into some weird sociological review, don’t worry. The idea was simply to bring together a gallery of beautiful snowboard photos with my friends, all done with the same technical means and time used to document pros normally, which is what magazines generally refuse to do out of fear of losing their readership. So many thanks to Onboard! As a snowboard photographer for the last 17 years, I can guarantee that you don’t necessarily need the best riders in the world to capture beautiful pics. It’s an added bonus, that’s for sure, but not an essential ingredient. The only thing you really need is a common passion, which neither my friends nor I are short on!
The above-mentioned article from last year gave plenty of space to lifestyle photos. In my case, I’ve chosen more of an action approach. And they ride pretty well too! In addition, these snowboarders pay for most of their equipment like most people, or at the most might receive a free board per season through local shops. Everything else (spare board, clothes, boots, lift-ticket, repairs, accommodation and food) comes out of their own pockets. The only thing that motivates them in all this is to go ride between friends. They’re not in the least bit interested in doing the job of a pro rider and all its compromises. Nearly all of them hold down jobs that tie them to the mountains, but not in a career sense – just to be able to go ride as much as possible.
Alex Kasmareck 25, Savoie, France
Number of season in Les Arcs: 10
Job: During the winter I do odd jobs here and there, and in the summer I work full-on in construction: masonry, carpentry etc.
Why Les Arcs? Because it’s the best French resort there is, along with Chamonix, and all my friends live there.
Typical day: A lot of snow, hang out with friends (although not too much otherwise it’s hard to get anything done), sun, and a beer or two to finish the day!
Do you plan to push your snowboarding any further? Looking at the level of the pro riders and kids that rip from the age of 16, it’s going to be hard. I’d rather hang with my bros and just have fun.
How do you view life as a pro snowboarder? Cool but sometimes a little tainted by pressure from sponsors.
What are your plans for this winter? Lots of boarding and partying. That’s not a bad start, is it?
Éric ‘Julio’ Debruyne 34, Parisian suburbs
Number of seasons in Les Arcs: 10
Job: I’ve done a few different jobs over the years, working in shops and restaurants, but always taking jobs that have allowed me to go board, which isn’t always that easy actually. In the summer I work on the I’île de Ré, in a restaurant right next to the beach.
Typical day: This depends on what kind of job I’m doing. But basically I try to go ride every day, whether it’s windy, raining or snowing. This might mean skateboarding, snowboarding or snowskating.
Describe life as a seasoneer: Each to his own rhythm, for me it’s all about riding with friends. I don’t go out much. Living in a tourist town can be a little tiring sometimes, for me winter is all about going riding!
Do you plan to push your snowboarding any further? I’m going to continue riding that’s for sure, but I’ll probably be taking it a little easier every year seeing as I’ve already suffered a lot of injuries and I am now part of the “old" crew here. I’d like to coach kids, pass on what I’ve learnt.
What are your plans for this winter? I’m going to ride as much as I can. It doesn’t last forever so you’ve got to make the most of the time you have! Snowskate, skate and snowboard if there’s any snow (you just don’t know these days) with all my friends, the old crew and the new up-and-coming rippers.
Romain Ponson 25, Chambéry
Number of seasons in Les Arcs: 7
Average day: Make myself a coffee and walk the dog in the morning, go to work and then take the dog for another stroll in the evening. Like everyone else, no?
Describe life as a seasoneer: It’s tough! You’ve always got meetings when it’s dumping, people are pretty relaxed… it can be a real nightmare!
Do you plan to push your snowboarding any further? I feel pretty happy with where I am right now and have a few other ideas for future projects.
How do you view life as a pro snowboarder? Which ones are you talking about? The riders that are pro because they rip or just the ones that go out on the piss?
Henri Fabing 24, Bourg-Saint-Maurice
Number of seasons in Les Arcs: I started to work last year, before that I was studying. But I’ve been doing seasons ever since I was a kid.
Why Les Arcs? Because I was born there and because my parents live there. Not to mention it being a super cool resort for riding. It has a huge out-of-bounds area and a park that gets better and better every year. And the vibe is always really cool during the season.
Job: I work as a ski instructor during the winter in Les Arcs 1800, and then during the summer as a landscape gardener between Les Arcs and Vallendry. Incidentally, there still isn’t a diploma to become a snowboard instructor! I had to go back to skiing to pass my instructor’s qualification! That isn’t really fair for young snowboarders who wish to become instructors. Hopefully this will change soon, though.
Do you plan to push your snowboarding any further? I want to continue to ride and progress as much as possible, but my job as an instructor does mean I have to be reasonable and stay away from injury. It’s how I earn my living! I want to teach snowboarding and really specialise in what I do best.
How do you view life as a pro snowboarder? For me, the pros continue to push the sport every year. The tricks and fashions largely depend on them. The pros are the brand’s ambassadors and represent their individual disciplines: they influence us as much by their riding as by their lifestyles. I think it’s important to focus on those that set a good example to up-coming generations!
James Phillips 27, Shropshire, England
Number of seasons in Les Arcs: 9
Job: I’ve done a lot of different stuff these last few years, financing my seasons by working in boardsport shops, ski hire, restaurants and hotels. Before that, I worked at Tip Top for a long time, a shop in Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Last year, I came back from New Zealand at the beginning of January with only 200 euros left to my name before finding a job in town. Being able to blag it has definitely helped me out. Sleeping on friends’ couches and being able to get hold of free ski passes, I’ve done it all! And when I can’t get hold of a pass, I take my snow rackets and walk up the mountain or to the park!
Why Les Arcs? I got to know the resort through the English magazines, with all the Brit riders who’d go over there every winter. And then there’s always been a big pro scene there as well, with David Vincent, Yannick Amevet, Axel, Youbi, Démir, Feugy, and Franck Screm of course. They were my idols! And a big British scene too, with Steve Bailey, Chris Moran, Stu Brass, James Stentiford, Danny Wheeler and Shasha Hamm. I’ve done a few seasons in New Zealand, Wanaka and Wellington, but in the northern hemisphere, I’ve always hung out in Les Arcs!
Julien Lacor 23, Paris/Montpellier
Number of seasons in Les Arcs: 4
Job: I look after the shop in Les Arcs, with my friend Kab. And the rest of the year I do whatever comes my way. For example, right now I’m in a good old English pub in Brighton drinking a pint while answering these questions!
Average day: Wake up at 8am. Open the shop around 9am (every other day for me, otherwise go riding). 12:30pm close up the shop and head to the park or powder runs – even if there isn’t much powpow these days, it’s always nice to talk about it! At 3pm go grab a tasty burger at Alex’s dad’s place. 3.30pm head back down to the resort to open the shop until 8pm and after that, who knows where the night decides to take us..?
Describe life as a seasoneer: It’s a good life style when you’re young I think. It allows you to make the most of what you enjoy. But I won’t be doing it for the next 10 years, I don’t think.
Do you plan to push your snowboarding any further? No, I’m happy with where I’m at right now. We’ve been trying to push the sport in the resort and that’s already enough work.
What are your plans for this winter? We’re moving to shop to another space (Galerie des Villard, Les Arcs 1800). And lots of other good things I hope, like lots and lots of snow for example!
Karim ‘Kab’ Bourakkadi 32, Paris
Number of seasons in Les Arcs: 10
Job: At the beginning all I did was ride, working like a mentalist during the summer. Then I was a skiman for two seasons. And for the previous two years, Julien Lacor and I opened and ran a shop called ‘Small Place’. I talk about it in the past tense because we’re selling the business this year to team up with another friend with whom we’re going to open a new shop this winter (if all goes to plan), still in Les Arcs.
Average day: I get up, have breakfast, open the shop in the morning, go riding at lunchtime and then back to the shop for the afternoon. In the evening we generally just chill at home with friends or party.
Why Les Arcs? I’d come here when I was small with my family. When I decided to do my first season with friends, was when all the Belgians used to hang out in Les Arcs (Youbi, Phil Lalemant, Axel, Demir…), so it was an easy choice. Then I met Pacôme Allouis and lots of other people, and it just went from there.
How do you view life as a pro snowboarder? There’s an ever-growing talent pool, the level is unbelievable, and it’s harder and harder to make a living from it. In any case, the guys I know have it pretty good, even if it isn’t always easy. It becomes a job, a pretty cool job, but still a job, with both advantages and disadvantages. But then again, I’m not a pro so I don’t really know.