As the last chapter of the decade approaches its final, debauched paragraph, Onboard takes a three-part look-back at what 2009 had to offer the world of snowboarding. Here’s Part 1 for ya…
As we return to work still daze from a liver-pounding New Years, it’s a mere couple of days before we can escape the dozy confines of the office and get some fresh Swiss mountain air up us at the O’Neill Evolution in Davos. Apart from the retarded cold (male body parts were vanishing internally and beers would turn to Slush Puppies on the walk from the bar to where we were watching), what we were pumped on was the performance of the flatlanders and, as ever, the ability of the Finnish race to totally dominate a contest. Belgian Seppe Smits rode like a man possessed to bag second place in the slopestyle behind winner Janne Korpi, while on the 9m claw of solid ice that they called the O’Neill Evolution quarterpipe Dimi De Jong, Rocco Van Straten and Steve Krijbolder all made it to the last 16, with Steve making it to the semis only to be taken down by TTR leader Peetu Piiroinen. No shame in that, especially when you consider the airs were probably higher than the Netherlands’ biggest hill and Finns view bulletproof trannies the way regular people look at powder. Peetu would go on to beat fellow ice-lover Risto Mattila and though the gnarliness of the solid hunk of ice meant airs were only (“Only” – hah!) in the 6-7m range it was a good way to kick off the 09 contest calendar.
From Davos we made the short hop to Laax where the Burton European Open had donned its best party frock and was celebrating its 10th birthday in style. The traditional BEO pow never got an invite so the legions of snowboard media accustomed to sacking off a day or two’s work and letting rip actually had to do their job, but for the event organisers Big Mamma Nature couldn’t have brought a better gift. In the slopestyle Norwegian Lisa Wiik battles through the qualifiers to win the first major title of her career and Danny Davis pips Shaun White with a flawlessly smooth and technical run out of left field. With what looks like one of Lady Gaga’s hats crowning the drop in, lightning strikes twice in the pipe as Kevin Pearce repeats his last minute win over White while Kelly Clark goes bigger than many dudes to take the women’s crown.
Across the pond it’s X-Games time and while the pipe (Shaun White and Torah Bright) and slopestyle (White again and Jenny Jones) are relatively straightforward affairs, some clueless exec at ESPN decides to dispense with judges and implement a text message voting system. In a whirlwind of controversy Travis Rice wins the X_Factor Big Air as his sketchy landed double cork 10 and all-American heritage prompts more SMS votes than some random Euro whirlybirder. Well, random if you’ve not seen Torstein Horgmo’s consecutive closer and opener in the last two Standard films. And whirlybirder if you consider the best switch back 12 ever to be lame-o. Another nail in the coffin of the X-Games’ credibility as a snowboard event, but damn did we want some Taco Bell and a big-ass Jeep after that.
Back on Euro soil, with the Munich kicker event pulling a no-show last December due to Nokia jumping ship, attention is on the Bergisel for the Billabong Air&Style Quartepipe. As ever with quarter pipe contests, we’re gripped with terror, awe and occasional bouts of boredom, but the finals are memorable for rookie Swiss rider Colin Frei defying expectations to bag first place with a six-and-a-half metre McTwist above the skies of Innsbruck. Peetu Piiroinen not only comes second but mans-up for the highest air at 8.8m and is starting to look odds-on favourite for the TTR title.
Europe also received a bounty of white gold through December, with many resorts banking record snowfalls. Tales of t-bars out of action as the cables are buried, riders getting it on in downtown Marseilles and film crews battling to be productive in the weeks of greybird dumpage filter in to our office.
The badly air-conditioned industry orgy known as ISPO opens its doors in Munich, allowing us to glimpse for the first time what 09/10’s snowboarding gear is all about. Following Lib Tech and K2’s lead, board brands from A to Z go bananas for reverse camber and there’s plenty of chat about the ‘current economic climate’, ‘budget freezes’ and ‘our investment banker just turned into a human pizza.’ It’s not all doom, though. After getting the boot from the B, DCP, Romain de Marchi and JP Solberg regroup and establish YES Snowboards at the end of 2008 and proceed to have their slogan shamelessly ripped off by Obama’s PR team. We have a first look at the gear on their stand and chuckle at their jocular ‘Rumour of the Day’ board. Burton bought by Microsoft anyone?
We also run into Jeremy Jones after he’s signed on the dotted line for another stint with O’Neill outerwear and he tells about his 2-year film project Deeper. Upon hearing this our ads guy takes him out the back of our stand, re-enacts the famous Alan Partridge/Tony Hares scene and emerges with the deal to covermount the movie.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Red Bull Snowscrapers brings an ambitious hip set up to the Big Apple for the first time, which promised explosive fireworks. Sadly the design of the run-in was flawed and the “throw down of epic proportions” was about as volatile as a damp squib in the practice session. “At one point we were going a massive 32 inches high,” wisecracked on rider to the TV. With a bit of MacGyver-ing the organisers somewhat saved face for the contest-proper, which saw Shayne Pospisil see off Torstein Horgmo and pocket the lion’s share of the $50 grand purse, but the general consensus was one of missed opportunity.
The TTR tour rolled on to Norway and The Arctic Challenge towards the end of the month, but heavy snowfalls means the 10m mark passes another year unbroken. Despite a strong showing of locals hand picked by Terje, French styler Arthur Longo bags the prestigious title with the Highest Airs award being split by Shayne Pospisil and Daniel Josefsen who both top out at 6.8m.
The middle of February was also when we started hearing rumours of Shaun White having a private halfpipe constructed for him way out in the backcountry somewhere in Colorado, the chat being how he wanted to have somewhere where he could train tricks for the Olympics without getting hassled. Hm. A few people called bullshit on the rumour but if anyone’s gonna have something like this pulled off, it’s Shaun. We’re wondering: can you test positive for financial doping by the FIS?
Following on from January, the snow gods take another great white dump on most of Europe. We arrive in Slovakia to spring-like conditions only to receive more snow than we can work with over the following days, and Austria and Germany are much the same. The southern French alps also get a nailing and in other news we hear that Jim Rippey is now a pastor in a Reno church. It’s a funny old game.
March saw yet more snowfalls leading the biggest powder grins most had had for a couple of seasons. Rather than having to get creative with a lack of snow, it was more a case of “will it ever clear” that was responsible for crews and shooters concerns. Getting creative on greybird was the call for many days.
In terms of events, the Wängl Tängl say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the TTR, which allows them to mix up the format even further and hold the event as a team challenge, to great success, before the weather decides to close in for the finals. As ever the skating was off the hook, as were the parties, and we left with fuzzy memories of the Forum Scallywags machine-gunning the super-creative park, Joonas Mustonen spinning the kickers with an open bottle of Jack, the Pirates Significuntz having the best team name, and Reini Rieser back in the game after a few years out and totally killing it. If ever there was an event truly embodying the played out cliché of ‘by snowboarders for snowboarders’, it’s the Wängl.
A mere one week later and we were back suckling at the Zillertal’s teat for the latest edition of the Oakley Jib-Vid. Onboard had come away with first place the previous year, but in 2009 the level of riding and filmmaking took a quantum leap forwards and there was some killer shorts created. After the 28-hours of riding, filming and editing it was the debutant Isenseven crew of Freddy Evensen, Andre Kuhlman and Alex Schiller who deservedly topped the podium. It’s worth having a look at all the 2009 Jib-Vids if you have the time. Course you do, it’s Christmas.
Just as the Wängl was winding down, it was business time for the aspiring TTR World Tour Champions as the tour-defining US Open kicked off, and from looking at the points breakdown it came down to a mano-a-mano face off between Peetu Piiroinen and Shaun White. Though Peetu had been consistently churning out results through the season, it’d be a brave man who’d bet White against home turf. But then, shock-horror, Shaun pulls a no show leaving the Mighty Mute needing 8th or better in the pipe to take the trophy.
Under bluebird skies, Danny Kass grabs headlines by taking an unprecedented 5th US Open pipe title, with Torah Bright overcoming Kelly Clark in the women’s. With Peetu placing second the TTR abacus is consulted and the numbers confirm him to be this year’s TTR World Tour champ. It is, however, unclear if his level of excitement was higher than when he won the Global Open Series the previous season (he was overheard on the phone to his mum straight after the win “Moi… hundred thousand dollari… moi. Click.”) In the slopestyle it was Chas Guldemond and Kjersti Buaas taking the bubbly. The women have to wait another few weeks as their TTR crown is decided at the Roxy Chicken Jam, with Jamie Anderson, Kjersti Buaas and Kelly Clark all in with a shot. But, hang on, Anderson (who’d led the tour for a chunk of the season) gets injured at the Open…
The US leg of the Roxy Chicken Jam kicks off in Mammoth where Kelly Clark deservedly lands atop the pipe podium, thereby stirring things up good and proper in the women’s TTR on the last stop of the tour. Though she’s only able to manage 21st in the slopestyle, the absence of Jamie Anderson and another injury to Kjersti Buaas means it’s enough to see Clark get her hands on the trophy.
Back in Euroland, we hear whispers from our French operatives of plans to hold a European X-Games in Tignes and hastily re-negotiate our cellphone contracts to get the best rate on SMS bundles, thereby ensuring our homeboys win and buy us drinks.
So that was January to April 09 in an HTML nutshell for ya. Check back on the 29th for part 2: Though the summer months are traditionally dull for Euro shredders, down under at the NZ Open pipe riding would rip itself a new exit hole…