It's now been ten days since our German editor returned from this year's Austrian Rookie Challenge. Most other media posted their reports long ago, but our German ed wished to spend a little longer on his words (it also did not help that he had taken a few days off right after the event). Anyhow, here's his report, which contains not only plenty of pictures but also a real manifesto, which is a rare thing outside of crazy ideologies.
ARC 2011 - Take a Rocket Ride
It was Friday, 11 March 2011, and there I was, a snowboard magazine editor on his way to Damüls, a small resort in Vorarlberg, the westernmost part of Austria. Thomas Alton, who runs Alton's Skatehouse in Feldkirch, not far from the resort, had been working me to attend this year's Austrian Rookie Challenge. Now, there had been a few pros and cons related to going there.
Pros: Damüls is a fun resort, has a fairly good park, and I would get to see some of European's under 18 hopefuls.
Cons: With many internationally successful contest riders now being under 18s themselves, there would at least be some doubt as to the hopefulness of the rookies present. Also, I did not bring a photographer. Regardless, I decided to go.
The scenic drive through the enchanted Bregenzerwald lead me to the small settling of Damüls. I got there in time for dinner (which might subsequently be added to the list of pros), and after a peculiar sled race and a chat with the organisers and some media and rider friends I hit the hay quite early. This was a good idea as the event day itself was packed with a long jam session in the park, a rail session in the valley at the end of the day, and a heavy party to cap things off.
The day of the action
All media present doubled as judges, which was a good thing I found as we were seated on top of a tower construction with a great view over the entire park. I don't know if you have been following the weather and snow reports in the Eastern Alps for most of the winter, but with these temperatures and snow conditions having a park at all was nothing short of a miracle. And apart from some minor problems with the biggest jump things worked out pretty well, and in general the atmosphere was just about the right mix of a laid-back vibe and being competitive, and proved great for the young riders to gain some international contest experience. Of all riders, 15-year-old Forum Rookie Jesse Augustinus stood out the most with a clean front 9 over the kicker, and Marvin Salmina and Felix Georgii were on fire on the rails.
After a short break a fairly cool night session took place on a down rail and a straight pipe, which had been placed right next to a watering hole for the shockingly underaged locals. Regardless, it was once again Marvin Salmina who impressed the judges with the most technical tricks. Everyone met for free pizzas next door, and then it dawned on us that the aforementioned wartering hole was in fact the party location. I'd have to lie if I said that I spent a lot of time there, but at least Nitro filmer Pirmin Juffinger got our backs and represented the media all night.
On Sunday the organisers insisted on the 'backcountry' session, which seemed fairly ambitious considering it hadn't snowed properly in more than four weeks. I was put in charge of one team, and we spent the day shooting grass gaps and sessioning some pipes we'd found at the side of a lift station. I liked the spirit of my gang, everyone seemed motivated and pushed each other in a good way.
And then it was all about the prize-giving:
Felix Georgii - best style & overall winner. This kid has a smooth style over the kickers as well as the rails, and he is just fun to watch. He walked home with an all-inclusive package for the Pleasure Spring Session in Laax.
Luca Schranz - best trick. Oh well. We settled for the cannon box in the park for the best trick obstacle. With hindsight this was maybe not the best idea, but Luca killed it with a back rodeo 5. This also meant a wildcard for the "Wir-Schanzen-Tour" finals at the Stubai Glacier.
Marvin Salmina - best rail trick. hardway on 270 to boardslide 270 off, and this was only one of many sick moves he has on lock. (and scored him a Red Bull Mobile contract, whatever that means)
Jesse Augustinus - best youngblood. He stomped a front 9 over a slightly sketchy kicker, is a solid rider and has obviously some potential as he is only 15 years old.
Lea Baumschlager - best chicken. Despite the fact that she was the sole female competitor, at least she tried impressing the judges. Kudos to her. (wildcard the Kauntertal Opening comp)
The 'Youngblood' category seemed a little unfortunate with riders being '17 years or younger.' As initially indicated you have to be quite good AND young these days to have potential as a future Halldor Helgason, a combination only a few riders present could boast of, one of them being Jesse. I told this organiser Thomas Alton, and he had to admit that not enough riders around the age of 12 to 14 signed up for the event. Which is a shame, as the ARC has a great vibe and is a great opportunity for young riders to set their mark.
That's why - after reading these simple instructions - I decided to write some sort of Austrian Rookie Challenge manifesto:
This is the ARC manifesto.
This is important for the future of Central European snowboarding.
For the level of riding.
Because only if everyone - media, team management, riders, resorts - combine forces and work as a single team with a single goal can we overcome the current state of Central European riding.
This will be achieved by team managers sending their most promising under 15-year-olds, by media encouraging team managers to send their most promising 15-year-olds and by the ARC organisers to work hard to get team managers and media to do just this.
Once we've achieved this we will advance to a higher level of riding, a greater recognition from the rest of the world, and we'll have a ton of Austrian and German riders film American Express commercials.
Video footage to follow soon.