How to take photos on snow

How to take photos on snow

How to take the best photos for your upcoming snowboard trip.

You’ve been patiently waiting all year for the annual snowboard trip and it is just around the corner. You missed the best bails the year before or maybe your photos are too bright or not bright enough, the snow looks grey and everything is generally not right. If this sounds familiar then read on to discover our tips and tricks for taking photos on snow (snowboard & snowkite)

The right gear for the job.

Think carefully when choosing your camera equipment for your upcoming snowboard trip. You are always going to get better and more controlled shots from your DSLR over a point and shoot or action camera but the practicality is you need both to make the most of all situations.

Snowboarding with a GoPro

Advantages of action camera (such as GoPro)

  • Point and shoot – easy to pass around the group without the need to learn any of the modes or settings.

  • Wide angle – a big field of view means you can get closer to the action and step back to guarantee your subject will be in the frame.

  • Compact – small cameras are great for taking in and out of your pocket on the ski lifts without needing to worry about extra bags or gear.

  • Loads of mounting options – mount cameras on collapsible poles, helmet mount them or stick them on your board. You can stick a GoPro on anything and forget about it.

  • Crash proof – cameras such as the GoPro are basically destroy proof under normal use. Super tough external housing makes them both waterproof and protects the camera inside.

Disadvantages of action camera (such as GoPro)

  • Point and shoot – limited selection of settings and the ability to frame shots.

  • Wide angle – Although the wide angle lens is sometimes beneficial you don’t always want the warped images that a 270 degree lens gives you.

  • Framing your shot – Without optional accessories most small action cameras do not have screens for allowing you to check your field of view and see what you are actually filming / photographing.

GoPro Pole Mount Snowboarding

Advantages of a DSLR

  • Full manual control – with a reasonable understanding of your cameras settings and photography there is not a single situation your camera will be unable to handle.

  • Quality – most DSLR cameras feature much larger sensors than most point and shoot cameras. Combine the bigger sensor and large pixel count for brighter and sharper images.

  • Choice of lens – Want to shoot wide? put on and wide lens, want to shoot close ups? swap it out again.

Disadvantages of a DSLR

  • Durability – although higher end DSLR cameras feature weatherproofing on the lens and body you are never going to be in an ideal situation for carrying it around the mountain, on the lifts, riding with it and using it in cold/wet conditions.

  • Price – not everyone owns a DSLR and not everyone wants, or needs to either. They are more for the budding photographers among us and the cost of setting up a reasonable rig is easily 2.5 X the price of an action camera setup.

  • Size – The body and lens of a DSLR is quite large regardless of what lens you are going to be shooting with. You may also want to carry spare batteries, lens cloths, more lens’, tripod… before you know it you’re carrying around 15kg of equipment on your back.

Snowboarding in Powder

Top 5 tips for snowboarding camera equipment.

  1. Allow any of your electronic equipment to reach indoor / room temperature slowly before turning them on and checking your days footage. This will heavily combat the chances of condensation and something getting broken.

  2. Choose your lens for that particular day and stick with it. This will reduce the amount of gear you need to carry. Every time you are on the mountain swapping lens’ back and forth you are also putting your camera at risk (you will probably need to take your gloves off to which sucks!)

  3. Buy a telescopic pole for your GoPro. These poles come in loads of different sizes and models. Some come with a tripod adapter built in and some need one adding so make sure its all together and working before your holiday.

  4. Take your charger. Batteries do not like the cold, it is advisable to get an idea of how long your camera batteries work when you are at home as then you can adjust this time after your first day on the slopes and work out a rough percentage difference.

  5. Take a tripod. The mountains house some of the most scenic views you are going to see for the next year so make the most of it. Expect great sky’s littered with stars. Whether you are shooting on an action camera or DSLR you can capture time lapse scenes and star trails.

Tips for photographing snowboarding & landscapes

Landscape photos:

To make the most of your landscape and scenic shots whilst you are away I would suggest using a tripod or similar piece of equipment. If you do not have anything to hold your camera in place then improvise with your surroundings, a car roof, wall or bench will make a good start.

Things to remember:

Keep your horizons straight. Use something in your photo as a point of reference to frame your photo correctly before you press the shutter. If you find it difficult to frame the photo with the horizon accurate then shoot the photo slightly wider (zoomed out) to allow a margin to crop and rotate the photo later digitally.

Depending on your light conditions you will want to select the right settings on your camera. For landscape we tend to want to grab as much depth and detail as possible from the foreground all the way back to the horizon. To do this select a smaller aperture of F5.6 or less. You may be able to go up or down a few stops depending on the situation. The lower the aperture the more detail you will get into your final shot. Next up is to set your ISO and shutter speed. It is always best to use as low an ISO as possible. Most cameras start at 100 ISO and go over 1000. Depending on the quality of the body and lens you are using photographs shot over 400 ISO tend to generate a lot of noise on the image. If you are in bright light then shoot with a high shutter speed to reduce the amount of light which can enter the lens. If your photos are too dark then reduce the shutter speed. If your photo is blurry because you cannot keep the camera still enough for the selected shutter speed, increase the shutter speed and also increase the ISO to compensate.

Photograph stars snowboarding

Action Photos:

Time for the fun stuff. Due to the fact this is what most riders want to achieve I will keep this section as easy to follow as possible. If you are struggling to capture the action then try shooting on burst mode or interval mode. For a GoPro shoot a photo every 0.5 seconds for the best chance to capture something interesting, the joys of digital allow us to delete excess photos easily. Most DSLR cameras have options of 3+ photos a second when holding down the shutter button in the correct mode.

How to use a GoPro

Sunny conditions:

– high shutter speeds (1000+) The faster the shutter speed, the crisper the photo.

– mid range aperture (F3-5.6)
– low ISO – lower the better, should be 100 in bright light.

– generally it is best to shoot with the sun on your back with a well lit subject but by using the right mix of exposure, aperture and iso you can get some great results.

Flat light:

– mid / high shutter speed (800+)

– shoot at a higher aperture, the subject should remain in full focus but the background detail will be less. Due to flat light the background is probably not very exciting anyway. F3.3 >.

– If your subject is blurry then the shutter speed is to low. Make it higher and compensate using the ISO.

– fill flash, use your flash on a low setting to bring your subject to the front of the image and separate them from the dull background behind.

Dark:

Shooting in falling light with action shots is never going to be a great situation to be in without a flash.

– use a flash to light your subject or the area around them. using a flash to capture an exact moment will also allow you to shoot at a lower shutter speed (more light) to capture more of the surrounding.

– maximise the use of artificial light coming from lights or buildings in the area to give your photos an extra glow.

Snowboarding in the dark

Top 5 tips for photographing snowboard conditions.

  1. Wear thin gloves. If you are going to be spending a lot of time behind the camera you will be in a much better situation leaving on a pair of thin gloves all day and being able to navigate menus and buttons rather than taking on and off a thicker pair which in turn will just end up as soaking wet dead weights.

  2. Shoot in RAW. If you are lucky enough to be shooting a DSLR or prosumer camera you should be able to shoot in RAW instead of Jpg. This will allow you much more control on losslessly altering your photos meaning you won’t loose any quality when you export your image. ie. correcting your white balance from blue/orange tint to white.

  3. Set exposure on neutral objects. Use the sky or something other than the snow to set your correct exposure.

  4. Test and charge all your kit before you leave. This is very important for cameras such as the GoPro. The more you understand the focal length and what is is in your frame the better. This will allow you to effectively shoot your GoPro blind. Point it in the right direction and at the right distance without seeing anything through an LCD screen or viewfinder.

  5. Shoot video. If after reading this guide you are still not getting the photos then maybe just video the action instead. It is not ideal but you can always grab still frames on your computer later.

Snowkiting in France

The Loose ends.

Composition – When taking your photos try to diversify the shots from just being super white. Shoot low to close to see more of the board or skis to brighten up your image. Shooting across from your subject and capturing mountains or trees off the piste is another good example.

Freezer bags – If you want to keep your equipment dry and don’t have the budget for specialist bags wrap your camera and spares inside re-sealable sandwich or freezer bags.

The natural reflector – Remember that snow reflects a super amount of light. This allows for some photos which would otherwise require extra hardware or a flash to make.

If you have anything you want to add or have some more specific questions then drop us a line on the contact form or post a comment below.

Happy shooting.

Massive thanks to Never Summer snowboards and Flysurfer kites.

Snowboarding Boots

BUDS 2011 – Dryslope, Dancing and Double Frontflips!

BUDS 2011 – Dryslope, Dancing and Double Frontflips!

The Oxford Cambridge boat race is probably the most prestigious and well know inter-university sporting event in the world. It’s the ultimate test of strength, stamina and skill for the rowers taking part. And maybe watching the offspring of Citibank CEO’s with names like Rupert and Tarquin, swan about on the Thames is your cup of tea, but I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and presume that it’s not.

I reckon that because you’re reading Board-Mag.Com you’re more into powder slashing, rail slaying and freestyle snowboarding, right? Good. Well forget about the Oxbridge boat race. There’s a much more exciting student event in town, and it involves a shitload of snowboarding.

The British Universities Dry Slope Championship is the highlight of student snowboarding in the UK. Over 2000 students from across the UK descended on Edinburgh to snowboard, party and hopefully end up in their hostel with a member of the opposite sex. This year BUDS took place on the 11th-12th of November at Hillend dryslope and the standard of snowboarding on display was better than ever before. Check out the video and then read the article to find out what went down!

Things kicked off on Friday with a bit of old school slalom action. No baggy pants, gangster steeze or gnarly rails, just good ol’ fashioned turns, slalom poles and lycra cat suits. Birmingham’s Andrew Logsdail soul surfed his way to victory claiming the title of best-student-snowboarder-at-turning-around-poles-real-fast-on-dryslope.

Although the slalom was good fun, most people were at BUDS to enjoy the slopestyle competition, and this year no one was disappointed. The course consisted of Hillends famous snowflex kicker, an A frame battleship rail and then a 20 foot S box which even the likes of Jed Anderson would find tricky to nail on dendex. During the qualifying heats it was obvious that the standard was higher than ever before. Backside 720s, corked fives, huge backflips and backside rodes were a common occurrence. If riders had any hope of getting into the final they had to stomp their kicker trick super clean and get gnarly on the boxes at the bottom.

As the Red Bull DJ’s got the crowd dancing, the riders in the final were throwing some insane shapes of their own. Andy Flynn threw down a backside 540 stalefish and hit the A frame box with a switch nose switch up front board and rode off into the distance with a bronze medal. Edinburgh local Kyle Wise went all kinds of upside down with a massive corked backside 540 mute and stomped a switch tail to 270 out on the A frame, then hitting the S rail switch. Despite stiff competition, it was up and coming UK shredstar Danny McCormick who stole the show and was crowned BUDS Syndicate Slopestyle champion 2011. Danny went into outer space with an absolutely massive, uber corked backside 720 stalefish to a super stylish switch run on the boxes. In the ladies category, Clare Bevis just slid out on a 360 and had to settle for third. Breezy White took second after going for a huge frontflip and not quite sticking it. It turns out that she broke her wrist in the process but that didn’t stop her from front boarding the A frame and S box! First place went to Anne Beswick from Bradford who stomped a backside 360 super clean on the jump and shredded the rails better than the boys.

With the riding over for the first day, everyone headed out to party. Record amounts of Jager, Tenants and cheap wine were drunk and needless to say on Saturday everybody was feeling a little worse for wear. However, that didn’t stop the boarder-cross racing from being as epic as ever. Bails, riders pushing each other over and some super speedy riding entertained the crowd of hung over spectators as Glaswegian local Andy Flynn held on to his title for the second year in a row. The racing didn’t end there though and as the day went on the dual slalom got underway. Teams of 4 raced each other down the dendex slopes and after months of serious training regimes, early morning jogging, board waxing and edge sharpening, Birmingham stormed to victory.

The Rome Big Air is the highlight of BUDS for obvious reasons. Everyone loves watching people throw themselves around in the air and even the most die hard of lycra clad ski racers (yes, they have events for skiers at BUDS too!) can appreciate a good bail or backflip. For the first time in history the weather stayed nice for the Big Air final and the riding was taken to a whole new level by the riders who qualified.

Anne Beswick won gold by raising the bar for the ladies after stomping a no grabbed backside 5 with more style than you’ll ever have. In the Mens category Benn Venn took bronze with an impressive back 7, but Matt Simpson went bigger and snatched silver with a back 7 mute. Once again Danny McCormick was on fire and had the crowd going mental for an insane array of tricks which included a cab underfilp 720. Rightly so, he walked away with the gold and the glory.

With the snowboarding over, everybody headed to the BUDS ball where Scotland’s biggest sound system kept everyone dancing into the early hours. Another year, another epic BUDS where the standard of snowboarding has been pushed to dizzy new heights. Who knows what we’ll see in 2012, double corks perhaps?!

As the government takes access to affordable education away, I’m sure that those snowboarders who do pay the nine grand to go to university will still rock up at BUDS and throw down. If Braveheart was around nowadays I’m sure he’d be screaming “you can take away our education, but you can never take our freedom to shred and party hard!” All whilst downing a pint and stomping a seven on the snowflex kicker at Hillend. Or something like that.

If you’re a snowboarder and a student make sure you go to the BUSC Main Event in Saalbach-Hinterglemm this March. If you’re not a student then check out the video from BUDS 2011. I promise you, it’s way more exciting than watching Tarquin, Rupert and Harry row around on the Thames.

Check out the BUSC website!

Words by Rhys Crilley

Video by The BUSC Media Crew

Photos by Stevie Mckenna, Rich Bennet and Ross Henrys

Jamie Nicholls Wins Freeze 2012!

Jamie Nicholls Wins Freeze 2012!

Board-mag.com has used the latest in statistical-future-forecasting-methods to bring you the hottest snowboarding news from the future. After coming 7th in the FIS Big Air at London Freeze 2010 and 4th in 2011, Jamie Nicholls has won the FIS Big Air at London Freeze 2012.

We can’t reveal exactly what Jamie will throw down in 2012 but we reckon it will involve going corked three times, stomping the landing and riding into the arms of some hot babes. Needless to say, Jamie and his sponsors Salomon, Red Bull, Nike 6.0 and Sterling Socks will probably be pretty stoked.

Untill Freeze 2012 actually happens, enjoy this video of 2011’s event from our friends at Gonzilla.tv featuring Jamie Nicholls, Billy Morgan, Dom Harington and Scott Penman who nearly stomps a triple frontflip!

High tech statistical future analysis conducted in a secret lab atop a mountain by Rhys Crilley

Photo from Salomon Snowboards

Video by Gonzilla.tv

An Interview with Jack Johnston – Board Sport Filmer and Editor

An Interview with Jack Johnston – Board Sport Filmer and Editor

Jack Johnston has been making board sport videos since he was a young teenager. Starting out filming mountainboard videos in his mate’s field, Jack went on to film, edit, direct and produce the two largest mountainboard DVDs ever made. Nowadays, you’ll find him filming some of the top snowboarders in the world at various events when he’s not working for a professional production company.

Jack has recently been travelling to various snowboarding events in Europe and has filmed with the likes of international pro riders such as Hampus Moesson, Tyler Chorlton, Tobi Straus and Peter Konig. He’s also filmed some of the best UK riders like Jamie Nicholls, Billy Morgan, Nelson Pratt and Angus Leith. Rumour also has it that his footage of up and coming rail destroyer Denis Leontyev might find its way onto the next Forum video. Board-Mag.com caught up with him to find out what it takes for filmmakers to kick start a career in the world of board sport filmmaking!

Hey Jack, how’s tricks?
Hang on, Let me get a hob-nob.

What flavour?
Chocolate obviously! Anyway, I’m not bad thanks, apart from my front door key snapping off in the lock this morning….fun day!

Nightmare! Did you make it to work on time?
Nope! I had to call in late and fork out my last £70 on getting it half fixed.

That sucks. At least you can afford it now you have a sweet job! But before we get into that, let’s talk about how you got into film making. How old were you when you made your first film?
Lets see, I must have been around 13 or 14 when I was first getting into mountainboarding, I was lucky to have a good group of friends and we all started riding together. I had a really old camera that was my Grandads and I started to film us building ramps out of old doors and stacking all over the place!

Ah cool, so when did you start to take it seriously and think about making a career out of it?
I suppose it was when I was applying for University that I realised that the only thing I really enjoyed doing was filming and editing things. The media industry seemed like the best way for me to do that, and I thought you might as well do something you love! But I guess it was when I started doing the BFC films I really started to realise how much I enjoyed doing it.

Yeah, so the BFC (mountainboard media and events crew) came about in 2006. What were your goals with that?
My goal was to try and show people, mostly people getting into the sport how fun mountainboarding can be. Mountainboarding is often seen as a hardcore sport that’s far too dangerous for most people. I don’t agree with this and it annoys me how some people portray the sport and it’s probably put off a lot of people over the years. I hoped that with the BFC DVDs people would be able to see how much fun you can have with the sport. When you first buy a board it takes a bit of getting used to, but if that board comes with a DVD showing a higher level of riding it might spur that person on to stick at the sport.

All three DVDs seemed to go down well, but with the rise of the internet and cheaper, better video cameras, board sport movie making has become more accessible and there seems to be fewer DVDs and more youtube videos. Do you think that the future of board sport films is with feature length projects like DVDs or is it all about 3 minute go-pro edits online?
I honestly don’t know. If you look at snowboard films this year, more proper length films are being released on Itunes as well as DVDs. A lot of sites like Mpora, youtube, vimeo etc offer a fast easy way for people to access vast quantities of action sports films. And with the DSLR revolution we are seeing more and more amateur videos with really good quality images. However, I really like having a collection of DVDs, I have a pretty nice collection of snowboard DVDs, it’s nice to have something solid.

Yeah it’s good to hold something proper in your hands and get excited about putting a DVD on and watching it with friends.
For sure, and while we are seeing more small edits from lots of different people who might not have been able to make videos before, there are a couple of bad points to it. More people have a voice but maybe it’s getting harder to find the good stuff?

Yeah, I guess that’s one of the points of Board-Mag.com, to get all the good stuff together in one place. Speaking of web edits, you recently did some work for Method Mag, what exactly did you get up to?
I spent 2 weeks in Austria with the Method guys going to a variety of events to film content for their web videos. I was based in Innsbruck but headed off to Garmisch in Germany after day 1 to film the Ride Shakedown which was pretty awesome. It was my first proper snowboard event to film so it was exciting. I then followed Flo Achrainer and  Denis Leontyev up to Serfhaus just outside Innsbruck to film at the awesome park there. Denis has exploded onto the scene this year and his rail skills makes most people want to hang up their boots and just quit, it’s not worth trying to compete when it comes to tech tricks. I then went with Denis to the Sane! Rail jam in the small village of Rinn outside Innsbruck. I went to Wangl Tangl after the Sane! rail jam and it was an amazing week filming some of the best know snowboarders on the planet.

Sounds awesome, how did you get the gig filming some of the biggest snowboard events in Europe?
I started speaking to the guys at method after an advert on the website looking for interns. After speaking to them for a bit and showing them some of my work they offered me the chance to join them out at Wangl Tangl in Mayrhoffen and then the trip grew from there.

You also filmed the British Universities Ski and Snowboard Championship out in Tignes right?
Yeah! That was a cracking two weeks filled with, sun, slush, beers and slashing! It was actually a really heavy schedule. The first week was a bit more laid back but once the events started it was lots of early mornings to get up to the event locations like the X Games slopestyle park and set up. Then we had to film the night events till 2-3am as well, so I was pretty tired!

I bet, I guess all your experience paid off! Got any tips for people wanting to get into the board sports filming industry?
Don’t expect to get paid! I’m still to make a penny out of filming board sports! Do it because you love it not because you want to make money from it. Keep shooting as much stuff as you can and practice different styles of editing to different styles of music. Watch lots of other content and look at how different people film things. Keep at it and you will develop your own style and try and keep your shots steady! Oh, and always make sure you have enough batteries / tape etc!

Tape? What do you film with? Betamax?
I wish! I currently film on the Canon 550d (as with everyone else) and gopro at the moment. I think for shooting board sports, tapes are dead. It’s much easier and practical to get out and film with something like a DSLR.  However, learning how to use them is very important rather than just sticking them on the auto settings. Change it to shooting at 50fps so you can get some decent slow mo and change your settings to best match the light conditions. Also the right lens is important. They cost a small fortune but I was lucky enough to use some really nice ones out in Tignes and it makes such a difference!

Wise words! So what exactly are you doing work wise at the moment?
I just started working at TwoFour Productions down in Plymouth as an Edit Runner. It’s an entry level position but it’s good as I’m learning a lot about the television industry.

Are you still going to be making board sport videos?
Let’s hope so!

Did you mention that the company you work for made deal or no deal? Have you met Noel Edmunds?
Haha…nah we don’t make deal or no deal unfortunately. They made “Are you Smarter than a 10 year old?” which  Noel presented!

oh well, fingers crossed you’ll meet him one day! Anything else you want to add?
If you’re just getting into filming….keep at it!

Cheers jack, looking forward to seeing some more board sport stuff from you!

Interview by Rhys Crilley.

The Analog Party at the Snowboard Test 2011

The Analog Party at the Snowboard Test 2011

After a hard week of testing out all the lastest snowboards, boots and bindings. There’s only one way for the top UK riders to relax; by having a great big party. Who better to organize it than the lovely people at Analog Clothing, who decided on the theme of a right royal knees up to celebrate the recent royal wedding. The beats were provided by DC pro rider Seb Kern’s alter ego, DJ Socom and the free booze was dished out by the Analog crew all night long.

Things got off to a great start. Who doesn’t love free shots?!

The beer bong soon came out and Rome rider Angus Leith just couldnt say no.

If you could do double corks and had represented your country in the olympics, you’d probably want piggy backs from other, younger riders like Will Smith as well.

And If you’d been giving Dan Wakeham piggy backs all night you’d probably want to have a beer fight too.

 

Seb Kern was playing a banging set of underground party tunes.

And photographer James North was throwing shapes like he was possessed by the drunken spirit of Micheal Jackson.

Whilst other people weren’t having such a great time.

Even the GB freestyle team was feeling and looking a bit worse for wear towards the end of the night.

By the end of the night loads of free booze and free Analog gear had been given out, unfortunatley this was the closest I got to getting some sweet stash.

Oh well. Theres always next year!

If pictures speak a thousand words, then check out the gallery for a more detailed depiction of what went down…

Words and photos by Rhys Crilley

Round 1 of the Southern Freestyle Series

Round 1 of the Southern Freestyle Series

According to American preacher Harold Camping, the world was meant to end on May 21st 2011 and as people all over the world prepared for the impending apocalypse, a group of UK snowboarders had other plans. This dedicated bunch of keen folk decided to spend what could have been the last day on earth shredding rails, hitting kickers and winning prizes at the first round of the Southern Freestyle Series at Swadlincote Dryslope.

Riders from all over the UK descended to the perma snow slope where an array of kickers, boxes and rails awaited them before the rapture was due to begin. The set up had features for all abilities and the competition was to be run in a relaxed jam format with the top riders going through to the finals. The judges were ready, the sun was beating down, the music was pumping and after a mellow practice session riders were ready to get stuck into the competition.

There were a bazillion more skiers than snowboarders, which was a bit of a shame. I guess that kids start skiing with their parents and now that freeskiing is “cool” again, kids don’t feel the need to grab a shredstick and rebel against their folks by being the cool freestyler snowboarder kid. There was also an abundance of skinny jeans which was refreshing compared to the factory produced style of tall tees and baggy pants which seems to dominate the freeski world.

Anyway, that’s enough snowblade chat for one article. Despite it being hotter than hell, Doug Johnson was holding it down for the snowboarders, stomping his tricks with style and ease. Super tech tricks such as a backside nose slide tap 360 out on the gaspipe saw him qualify in first, representing for his Grindhouse brethren.

Riders were treated to a spot prize giveaway where some top quality stash from various sponsors was given to whoever could land the tricks the MC called out. There weren’t many big name UK shredders and the event was suited to all the up and coming supergroms where the focus was on progression and pushing yourself rather than serious competition.

The chilled vibe continued once the finalists had been announced. As riders were ready to drop in for their 2 runs it felt more like a session with friends rather than a serious competition. However, this didn’t stop the riders from holding back.

13 year old Becky Menday rode with her usual style and stomped all of her tricks including a huge frontside 180 off of the kicker to claim first in the girls category, leaving Sam Rogers and Melissa Brandner to settle for second and third respectively.

In the males snowboarding category Doug Johnson was unlucky to fall on both of his runs and was pipped to the podium by youngster Curtis Taylor Tipton who took third place. The youngest rider in the final, Tomski Robinson, rode with more style than most of his peers and walked away with second place. It was Jack Labbett who claimed gold after hammering down two solid runs which saw 270s on and off of most of the rails and a crowd pleasing frontflip over the kicker.

The event was a great success and saw loads of up and coming UK riders getting involved in the competition scene. The features at Swadlincote might be a million miles away from the hard pack groomers of the X games slopestyle parks, but everyone’s got to start somewhere right? The Southern Freestyle series is a great, chilled out introduction for younger riders to compete and gain a bit of competition experience, so if you fancy having a bit of fun and maybe winning some prizes then get on it!

Luckily fire and brimstone didn’t consume the earth in a fiery Armageddon, so get down to the next two events at Chatham on the 4th of June and at Bracknell on the 18th of June.

Big shout out to all the sponsors, the organisers and the crew at Swadlincote dryslope for making the first round happen despite the prospect of impending doom!

Words and photos by Rhys Crilley

Beginners Guide to Riding Off Piste

Beginners Guide to Riding Off Piste

Ask any snowboarder what helps them sleep soundly at night and it’ll be the promise that when they wake up it’ll be a bluebird powder day. I’m happy to say I’ve had many a sound sleep dreaming of rooster tails, face shots and slashes that tomorrow will bring.

Avalanche flagsRiding powder isn’t a difficult feat, even for beginners. The thing is to take small steps and not throw yourself down the nearest couloir. As long as you follow a couple of simple rules, you should be fine.

  1. Firstly, never ride off piste alone, even if it’s just off the side of a marked run. Always ride with friends (even the best insurance will stipulate this).
  2. Always check the avalanche warning. It’s marked on a scale of 5, with a level 3 classed as considerable risk, where even a light load can trigger a slide.

Do you need a powder specific board to go off piste?
In a word, no. Powder specific boards will work better than a short jib board, but it’s still workable. You may want to think about moving your bindings towards the back of the board (remember to move both in equal increments). This will relieve some of the back leg burn you may experience, but will make the board more difficult to ride once you return to the groomed pistes.

Once you have your buddies and have checked the avalanche risk is safe, you’re ready to lay down some fresh tracks. Start small, on some fresh snow near to marked pistes. Ideally you’re looking for a decent gradient so as to pick up some speed and create the float. Your turns in powder are slower, wider and longer than those on piste so don’t rush your turns. Ideally you’re looking to create a nice flow. The key to powder is speed and momentum. If you ride too slowly your board will sink. You need to shift your weight towards the back of the board so your rear foot becomes more active in steering and use the base of the board rather than the edges.

Beginners generally cope well with powder. As long as the slope is steep enough to gain enough speed to float over the snow you should be fine. Beginners tend to ride with too much weight on the back foot and with less flex. Whilst not ideal for piste riding, it does work in powder.

Common faults for failing in powder are:

  • Not enough speed, generally through over turning
  • Weight too far forward
  • Slope not steep enough for the snow conditions. The deeper the snow, the higher the gradient required.

The best powder riders seem to have a bounce and rhythm to their riding. This is often through retraction turns. They are basically the exact opposite of a standard basic turn. In a basic turn you flex at the beginning and end of the turn and extend in the fall line. The snow pack is largely made up of air. If you reverse the basic turn so that extend at the end of the turn and flex as you cross over you push the air out of the snow pack, often creating satisfyingly large rooster tails.

Beginners guide to riding offpisteAssessing the slope
Before setting off into an area of off piste you should look at the slope characteristics. Slopes in the lee of a ridge are likely to accumulate more snow and may hold pockets of deep snow, wind slabs or cornices that may trigger a slide. Convex slopes are less stable than concave slopes and slope gradients between 35-45 degrees are more likely to slide due to human influence than shallow or steep slopes. The rule of thumb is: A slope that is flat enough to hold snow but steep enough to ski has the potential to generate an avalanche, regardless of the angle.

When accessing any kind of off piste terrain, terrain and group management is key. Be careful not to undercut slopes, don’t travel over convex rolls, keep away from exposed rocks where the snow pack can be unstable and avoid any slopes than have terrain traps like gulleys or cliffs. Never move as a whole group. Ideally you should move across the slope one at a time, but also never cut above someone below you, exposing them to the risk of a slide.

Start riding offpisteThe Gear
As the itch gets greater and you want to venture further from the marked pistes, you should certainly carry safety gear. At a minimum you should have a transceiver, probe and shovel and know how to use them and at speed. Many people have died in avalanches simply due to witnesses failing to do the simplest of searches. You have a time window of roughly 15 minutes to get someone out alive and the longer it takes the less chance of survival. So just carrying the equipment is not enough. You need to know how to use it. Many people do early season tests, burying transceivers in an area and seeing how quickly it takes to locate the beacon. This is a great idea.

Safety gear isn’t cheap, but you can’t put a price on a life. If you can’t afford to buy the gear outright then the Ski Club offer a rental scheme for avalanche transceivers. As well as the 3 main tools, you can also buy avalungs and airbags.

If you are serious about backcountry riding, I would highly advocate an avalanche awareness course. This will teach you about the snow pack layers, how and why avalanches occur, what signs to look for and also how to use your safety equipment.

The main thing to remember is that you are in an extreme environment and should treat the mountains with respect. If it doesn’t look safe, back away to ride again another day.

This is a guest post by Pete Campbell of LoveSnow. LoveSnow offer ‘Simple Snowboarding’ courses for intermediate to advanced riders. Pete is also a moderator on the GONEBOARDING forum.