The time is nigh. Long have we waited its arrival. The long sweaty nights tossing and turning under a sweltering midnight sun – the goodtimes were good, but there’s a hole that only the mercury can fill. Yes, it’s time for the pre-season.
As the spring season is dominated by Scanners/Norwegians, the pre-season run pretty much the same. We’ve already seen scenes of unpronounceable riders getting down to business in places like Saas-Fee, but don’t forget that you can get into the action as well. We promise.
Many of the spots on this list push the altimeter, so if you're looking to get those early season pow turns in, these will probably be your best bet. Early season turns are like getting one more beer after the bar has closed; there's satisfaction in knowing you've got the goods.
Whatever you decide to do, here are some spots scattered across Europe that'll help tame the lust.
Dachstein - Austria
Dachstein has historically kicked off the competitive snowboard season in Europe with the Pleasure Jam uniting the WST contenders for the first event of the season. In preparation for this task, the shapers at Superpark Dachstein get the park up and running around the end of October time (snow dependant).
With the PJ course taking the riders left line of the glacier, the crew push a rail line to keep the masses busy, as well as a smaller entry level park on the other inclines. Last season saw one of the most creative set-ups we’ve seen at Dachstein in a while, so we’re hoping for another season of creative box breaking from the QParks posse.
There’s a plethora of pre-season camps, courses and days to keep you entertained as well. Kalle Ohlson’s Blue Parks Euro Camp is back on hallowed ground from the 28th of November to the 3rd of November, whilst there’s the usual test days and freeride days run separately.
Stubai - Austria
Stubai has arguably been the home to world’s best riders, and one of the world’s best parks over the last few seasons when it comes to early season park riding. With a frankly mammoth course, riders flock to the glacier located about 45 minutes out of Innsbruck to get them winter legs back and lock in those rotations that might have got rusty over the summer (if they haven’t been throwing down in the Southern Hemi, that is).
From the 16th of October they’ll be opening their doors to the public again, this year with an additional rope tow servicing the park, which should cut down the queue for the lift at peak times.
They’ve already got their park plan up online here, and if you’re in any doubt as to the quality of the parks that they provide, take a flick through this gallery to see some of the heaviest players in the game getting down to it last Autumn.
The Stubai Premiere, which takes place from the 16th to the 18th of October, will see a roster of sessions, contests and enough Aprés activities to keep everyone busy into the early hours of the morning. If you’re keen to get involved, hit ‘em up on their website, or throw them a like on Facebook.
Hintertux - Austria
Another home of the Euroboarding pre-season is Hintertux, which is pushed, cut, and groomed by the 1st of October for 4 days of Hintertux Opening Madness. This year is the 11th edition of the renowned opening, and there’s already a roster of brands signed up to demo their gear at the opening.
In our opinion, if you’re after some early season powder ‘Tux is one of the better options out there. Obviously you’re going to want to make sure that you’re geared up with transceivers, probes and all the avalanche gear and knowledge before you venture out though.
If you manage to make it down for the opening, there’s a full timetable of events to keep you on your toes including the premiere of the new film ‘Eversince’ from Absinthe Films, and a chance to see some of the riders battle it out for some cold hard cash at the ‘Session of the Dudes’ err…session.
Kaunertal - Austria
Another Austrian outpost of the early-season shredding is Kaunertal and the now infamous Kaunteral Opening, which is in its whopping 30th year, is lit and ready to go off from the 9th to the 11th of October.
With one T-Bar servicing the park, and a network of chairs, gondolas and drags servicing the rest, you’ve got enough terrain to keep you entertained. Hell, spring laps there can be all-time, so it’s well worth checking out if you’re in the area.
If you’re feeling a little bit like Bambi on ice after the summer break, you’ll be glad to know what the crew at Elooa have already got you covered. From the 23rd to the 25th of October, Eero Ettala will be in town to help you tidy up those frontlips and tailblocks. Hell, we might even go…
There are a few different options of accommodation down in Feichten from pension to 3-star hotels, but if you give the Kaunertal Tourist Board a ring, they’ll be able to find you a roof to sleep under depending on your budget. Public transport from Innsbruck is a bit of a pain, so if you’ve got a pal with a car, it’s best to rope them into coming with you.
Saas Fee - Switzerland
The Scandinavian outpost of pre-season shredding might be a little less popular this year – with the CHF having the doors blown off it, we’re sure the income elastic shredders amongst us might have to look elsewhere. Nestled above Visp, and just to the east of the infamous Matterhorn, Saas Fee is one of the gems of Europe.
The glacier is actually already open, with Norwegian young gun Fridtjof Tischendorf, already giving his best invert hucking a go. Last season alone we saw a DIY store of hammers being sent by the likes of Niklas Mattson, Mats Tambini, the ShredBots, Markus Olimstad and a whole host of others.
Saas-Fee’s park crew create a hefty line of booters to keep the aerial cats happy, whilst there’s a smattering of rail based madness to be had as well.
There are a few downsides to Sass-Fee though – the lift times are pretty harsh, so you need to keep an eye on when the T-Bar that services the park closes. Otherwise it’s a long hike out, ya bish?
Saas Fee is already open and pumping. Check their Facebook page for a heap of updates from the park.
Les Deux Alpes - France
At 3200m and Les Deux Alpes is widely recognised as the home of one of the best summer terrain parks in France, but it’s all geared up for the pre-season as well. Kicking off on the 24th of October, there's a whopper test event booked in so you can dial in all the gear you had your eyes on over the summer.
With a huge array of kickers and rails to hit (around 70 features in total), as well as two halfpipes served by their own dedicated lift, you’ll have no shortage of features to progress on in the summer slush. There are also a whole bunch of camp options available, with most (and rightly so, considering the setup) being catered towards freestyle riders.
Down in the resort you’ll find a skatepark, pool, loads of bars and many other activity options to keep you busy when you’re not riding your snowboard.
Check out their website for a full park plan, pricing and all the other information your curious wee brain might have.
Zermatt - Switzerland
With spectacular views of one of Europe’s most iconic mountains, the Matterhorn, and over 22km of pistes up on the glacier, there’s no shortage of decent terrain.
The terrain park is located on the Plateau Rosa and has a wide range of kickers and jibs to suit all abilities. This past summer, the Burton posse set up camp with Burton riders like Wojtek Pawlusiak, Ludwig Lejkner and Max Zebe heading up to stoke out the kids.
If you’re on a really tight budget, Zermatt is perhaps best avoided altogether, although you can save a few extra bucks by staying in the slightly cheaper town of Cervinia, across the border in Italy.
At a dizzying altitude of 3899m, be sure to be generous with that factor 50 suncream. The UV levels are pretty intense at that altitude and landing a mean sunburn and resulting goggle/sunnies/balaclava tan just ain’t that sexy.
Kitzsteinhorn - Austria
Kicking off in mid-October, Kitzsteinhorn is another Austria outpost that'll have a snowpark up and running from the off.
The sunny, snow-sure location between 2.500 and 2.900 metres, the decent lift connections and the work of the Snowpark Kitzsteinhorn shape crew makes it a solid choice for autumnal laps. The 160 metre long and 6.6 metre superpipe is a unique addition to the park, and makes it one of the few on the continent.
With its sick set-up and the amount of snow there is to use for creative projects, it doesn’t come as too big of a surprise that events like Marc Swoboda’s Hippie Jump, Volcom’s Banked Slalom or even our very own Send Off Session have chosen the Kitzsteinhorn glacier to host events. So next time you riot through the parks, keep your eyes open for Terje, Longo and the likes.
Les Diableretes Glacier 3000 - Switzerland
The Glacier 3000 is hidden away in the western most corner of the cantons of Switzerland. Sandwiched between Gstaad and Leysin, it’s an oft forgotten, but all-time place to get your early season groove on.
In years previous, the Swiss Audi Snowboard Tour has kicked their season off on the glacier for a slopestyle comp. This year they've got a slopestyle and big air penned in for the 19th of November, so if you're looking to kick off your competitive season, you've got something in your diary.
As far as we can work out, there's nothing planned for the grand opening yet, but if you're looking for more info you can head over to their website here.