Ride like an Animal

Posted on Wednesday 29th September, 2010 Times Viewed: 3951
Most people have lessons when they start riding, then pick up the rest from their mates or trial-and-error on the mountain.

But last year I made a new discovery which has not only cut my trial-and-error injury rate, but changed my riding forever – the Animal Snow Camps. I'm almost a veteran camper now. Three times I've been away with the Animal pros – France, Japan and Austria – and three times I've had three of the best week's (or fortnight's!) riding ever. And I'm not making that up.
It all started in France – La Rosiere 2009. I turned up to the Green Rides chalet, and was met by 18 strangers. I'd never met one person there before, but within minutes I was offered a beverage, and the rest is history. I then met ten of the La Rosiere campers at Sapporo airport in Japan this February, as well as ten new campers on that trip. I then met another 15 more in Austria. No one had known each other before the camps but now I've shared some epic times with these buddies, new and old – times which I'd never take back for the world.

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La Rosiere was where I first met Steve “Cowboy Knees” Addicott. Within 20 minutes he had us all carving down the slopes like John Wayne, guns at the ready. As a regrettably self-taught rider, I've always had terrible posture, but whenever I'm on the slopes, I always think of Steve, and/or John Wayne. Steve's also got the ultimate freestyle reputation and if you ever want to know anything technical, then Steve's always got a following. He teaches you little trick tips with games and exercises, so you're having fun, then realise you've hit the jackpot when you can pull off the trick without thinking. My favourite was the Ninja-turns. Powder not always necessary. We learnt the secrets of buttering, backside- and frontside-180s, nollies, ollies, pops, kickers, rails, wall-rides, and plenty of other tricks I've never considered trying. And everyone was only encouraged – not put down, which is amazing when, like me, you're a slower learner when it comes to the slopes.

Although he'd been on the previous camp, Johno “Of Death” Verity revolutionised my riding in another direction – confidence. It was something he taught me on the epic weeks in Japan, and then carried it through to another level on the slopes of Austria. He would take you up to things you'd never dream of riding, convince you could do it, and then you'd do it. Cliff drops, tree gaps, rock drops and wind lips come standard with Johno, and even if you didn't land it first time, you'd have the confidence to ride it again. Yes, riding with Johno is some of the scariest world-might-end moments of your riding life, but now I'll never look back, and when I come to something that pushes my wits to the end, I just hear Johno telling me to just do it, and I dol.

Dom “Of Mild Peril” Harington lives up to his name by throwing you off things, but not making you feel like they are actually that big – even if they are. He's the most patient person on snow, and when he really believes you can do something, it makes you believe it too. Half pipe is Dom's speciality and now I have a love for the pipe which is something I'd never hear myself say. It was only down to Austria and the Animal Snow Camp at which I tried it – having denied it when riding with buddies before – and it was Dom's patience and immense tuition which made me discover a side to snowboarding I'd never seen before.

Animal Snow Camps has changed everything I believe in riding. Before I believed as long as you were riding with a smile, it didn't matter what you were doing. Now I believe that with that pro tuition, you can push yourself beyond your own limits – and meet new riding buddies along the way – while still carrying that smile all week. With end-of-week kicker building, nights in town, and plenty of apres-ski, all interlinked with long days on the slopes and daily new aims conquered, there's a reason all the snow campers come back year on year. It's like an addiction – once you've popped, you can't stop!

To check out the Animal Camps dates and further details click here.

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