Snowboarding in Europe is the shit, and here are a few reasons why.
Now don't get me wrong here. Anyone who gets the opportunity to go snowboarding, regardless of where in the world it may be, has got it pretty good. From the countless hills that litter North America; to legit Alpine resorts at 3000m altitude plus; to the untamable Alaskan backcountry; snowboarding is fun wherever, and whenever you do it.
But being a European snowboard magazine based in Munich, just north of the Alps, I was thinking the other day just how rad snowboarding in Europe actually is. Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to snowboard in places across North America and as far flung as New Zealand/Australia, and while those locations have got some insane snowboarding to offer, it's the terrain and mountains on my doorstep that more often than not, takes the cake for me.
With that in mind, here are 7 reasons why snowboarding in Europe rules:
The Alps Are GNARLY
While there are most certainly bigger and more gnarly mountain ranges in the world (just look at Alaska or the Himalayas), the Alps are unparalleled when it comes to sheer scale, the number of resorts and accessibility to amazing alpine terrain.
Of the approximate 1200 resorts in Europe, more than a third are located in the Alps, which also contains some of the biggest shreddable expanses in the world (Espace Killy and the Portes du Soleil). The Portes du Soleil region for example, dwarves its North American equivalent - Whistler Blackcomb, with a whopping 650km of piste versus 160km.
Many of the resorts in the Alps lie above 2000m in altitude, meaning that any snow that does fall will stay frozen and powdery for longer. These high altitude resorts have the added bonus of increasing the amount of vertical that you can ride - the Sarenne run in Alpe du Huez, France is a whopping 19km in length from start to finish and extends over 2000m of vertical.
Why this may sound like leg melting stuff (it is), wouldn't you rather have longer runs to ride than be on the chair the whole day?
No Speed Nazis
If you've ever been riding in North America, you may have come across the peculiar breed of uniformed slope fascist known by many as 'the speed nazi'.
Snowboard too fast (even if totally in control) through a designated slow-zone and these safety-enforcing bigots will verbally shoot you in the face, smack you on the bottom and threaten to take your pass.
Thankfully, European resorts are way more relaxed on the safety front, and speed nazis aren't even close to existing in most of the places we've been.
You Can Do Every Type of Riding Easily
The sheer number of resorts in Europe, and in particular, the Alps, means that a in a relatively short drive/flight you can access pretty much any kind of snowboarding you could hope for.
If you're after the gnarliest backcountry freeriding head straight to Chamonix - Xavier de le Rue's backyard. If it's powder you're looking for, a 3-4 hour drive will bring you from the northern Alps to the southern Alps, so you can go where the snow is best.
If it's parks you're after there are certainly no shortages either (Laax would be a good shout), although we do have to hand it to our North American brethren for definitely outshining us on that front.
Euro Mountain Towns and Their Cultures Rule
While the imposing, purpose-built concrete hotels of Tignes may not exactly scream 'culture', there are countless other alpine towns and villages that live and breathe the mountains.
By culture we're not really talking about drinking at apres until you can't pronounce your own name anymore (we'll get to that later...) but rather the people that have lived and worked in these mountain towns all their lives.
If you pick the right spot, the sense of living alongside local people who belong in the mountains is a really cool thing to experience. We're talking about the families that farm the valleys in the off-season and the small-town shop and bar owners - all who'll have countless spawn who will have ridden the local hills since they were old enough to poop by themselves.
Ok, the North Americans have definitely got us beat on this one, but that's not to say that there aren't some seriously sick parks in Euro-land. Go take a look at Laax, Mayrhofen, Flachau, Kitzbuhl, Kitzsteinhorn, Livigno, Avoriaz (plus many, many more) and you'll find tonnes of well-groomed features with everything from mini-jibs to pro sized kickers.
Ridiculous Apres Complete with Eurotechno
It goes without saying that apres ski in Europe is off the chain. Think dancing on tables, schnapps, homosexual singers clad in leopard print leggings, more schnapps, boobie flashing, insane Euro techno and a whole load more schnapps.
If you ever get the chance to do Apres in Austria, do it. If you pick the right place there'll be fewer British students vomiting and more mental Austrians to marvel at in bewilderment as they chug their sixth beer while singing in the most voluminous and inspiring dunk Austrian voice that'll grace your ear drums all year.
Oh, and where else on earth would actually encourage drunks to play a game involving a tree stump, hammer and legit nails?
Powder For Days
Thanks to those massive ski areas that we were talking about earlier, the purely statistical chances of scoring freshies for days are way higher in Europe.
Also, rather than everyone flocking to one resort like in some spots in North America - where people will happily line up at 6am to be the first out onto the powder we might add - the countless small, hidden resorts across Europe mean that folk spread out way more. And unless you're in Chamonix or equally freeride haven, your every day European gaper-types just aren't as powder hungry as their North American equivalents. All of this, of course, adds up to way more fresh tracks and faceshots for you and I.
Yep, snowboarding in Europe rules.
We could probably rattle off another twenty reasons why snowboarding in Europe kicks ass but the truth is, it's the weekend and we're gonna get out there ourselves. Let us know if there's anything we missed in the comments section below. We'll add the best ones to this post.