On the piste
Ferment's designer Adele takes on the slopes with our handsome new Beer52 snowboard
Monday 30 December 2019
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As Ferment’s designer, I spend most of my time tethered to my desk, trying to come up with creative new ways to jazz up photos of beer and men in plaid shirts. So, when editor Richard told me we were going snowboarding for the Alps issue, I was very excited. Where would we be heading? Verbier? Courchevel? Gstaad?
“Better than that,” he replied. “Adele, we’re going to Glasgow!”
Snow Factor in Braehead, just west of Glasgow city centre, is Scotland’s only indoor snow-sports centre, offering real snow all year round. There are two slopes for skiers and snowboarders, as well as an ice climbing wall and various other chilly activities. You can take your own kit, or use theirs as part of a session, and instructors are on hand to get you going.
Sadly, Rich has decided to save some budget by digging out his old ski suit from the early ‘90s, which is apparently a “classic”. Okay. More positively, the guys at Douk (www.douksnow.com) have sorted us out with our own custom Beer52 snowboard, so hopefully people will just focus on that.
The friendly staff at Snow Factor sort me out with boots and a helmet, and instructor Simon leads me to the slopes. It’s a chilly -4 degrees celsius in the cavernous ice room, and I’m suddenly not so mortified about the garish ski suit. There are a couple of other classes going on – mostly tiny children who are clearly going to show me up – and there are a handful of more accomplished skiers looking suave on the main slope.
My instructor for the afternoon is Simon, who does a brilliant job at talking me through the basics as a complete beginner, starting with putting the board on correctly. Once I’m attached, it’s time to climb a short way up the slope; this is easier said than done, as the technique for going uphill involves keeping one foot strapped in and using the long edge of the board to dig in and push up for the next step. This is as tiring and undignified as it sounds, but I’m excited to have gained a bit of potential energy for my first run down.
I’ve recently done a bit of surfing, so my first couple of runs feel a little odd as I'm thinking of what I learnt about surfing. Instead of keeping my weight low, I’m told to stand up straight, with only a slight bend in my knees. Simon diplomatically tells me my bum is heavy, so sticking it out by crouching will throw me off balance. Thanks Simon. Once I’ve got my head around this though, balancing on a straight path isn’t as tricky as I expected.
Stopping, on the other hand, takes a bit more skill, and it’s only as I’m crashing through the red safety net at the bottom of the slope that I realise Simon and I haven’t discussed this yet. Again though, this is relatively straightforward in theory – you just put pressure on the front foot and turn your upper body, so the back of the board comes perpendicular to the slope. Then push down through your heels until the back edge of the board bites into the snow. Easy right? This takes a lot more balance though, and I end up flat on my back/face a couple of times until I get a feel for it.
I’m pretty tired by this point, my legs and ankles aching in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. Snowboarding clearly takes a lot of strength, as well as balance, and Simon says the best way to build up those muscle groups is just through regular practice. I’ve got a taste for it now though, and will definitely be back for another lesson, perhaps with a different ski suit next time.
Of course, one vital part of any skiing/snowboarding adventure is the après ski food and drink, so we retire to Bar Varia (see what you did there guys), a Bavarian-style bier halle and restaurant overlooking the slopes. The food is really satisfying after an hour of lying down in the snow, and we go for a couple of sharing platters: sausages, wings and German bread, all washed down with cold, plentiful beer (or Coke, for my designated chauffeur).
We may not be rubbing shoulders with heiresses and movie stars in St Moritz, but it’s been a great afternoon, and I think I may have found a new hobby. Now, if I can just persuade Rich to let me keep that board…
Our awesome new Beer52 custom snowboard comes courtesy of Douk (www.douksnow.com) a Costswold-based craft ski and snowboard maker. Douk has been making boards by hand since 2012, tailoring every aspect of the design to customer specifications, and even offering lessons in board construction so people can whip up their own from scratch.
We’d honestly never given much thought to how these things are actually made, but the process itself is really interesting and deeply satisfying to watch. Check out the videos on Douk’s website for a taste. Thanks guys.
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