SCOTT PENMAN Vs the world.

Posted on Thursday 23rd February, 2012 Times Viewed: 4664
“Serbia declares a state of emergency as 11,000 people trapped in villages by severe snowstorms. Relief efforts are underway as temperatures drop to minus 37 degrees, and experts have warned that worse days are still ahead.”

Words by Kaz Willmer
Two hours after this headline landed, we were boarding a flight to Belgrade on track to one of the most crazy shred trips known to man. Just to add to what was always going to be a true adventure, we were alongside British pro rider Scott Penman, a film crew, and the guys from EA Sports to launch the new SSX Game.

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The aim was to let us experience the real side of SSX – 'trick it', 'race it', 'survive it', 'man vs the elements'... but what they didn't account for was the fact we literally would be battling the elements. But oh how much fun that turned out to be!

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SURVIVE IT
'Severe snowstorms' could only mean one thing – powder days – but what I hadn't prepared for was not only the sheer amount of snow, but how sweet the powder would actually be.

From the moment we landed in Belgrade, we were engulfed in the white stuff, but the five hour minibus ride through deserted villages sent us 'back seat crew' into a state of delirium we never seemed to recover from.

Intense blasting heat through the floor drained the last of the liquid from our systems as we watched flat fields of snow sweeping to the horizon, sporadically broken up by strange deserted villages, all painted in a thick white powder blanket.

As we neared our destination, we scraped holes in the thick ice which had formed on the inside of the minibus windows, and finally saw mountains in the dark, and the first signs of life through the continually-falling snow. But as much as you can read on the news that it's minus 37 outside, it doesn't quite slap you in the face until you jump out of a super hot minibus into knee-deep Serbian snow. It was cold. Fact. And, we decided, the reason limb-numbing alcohol costs less than soft drinks.

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It was softer than we could have imagined, and so dry. By the end of the first run down we were grinning like cats and gagging for more. The runs may have been mere mellow blues, but with the lack of anyone else on the slopes and the huge amount of snow, every run was fresh tracks.

TRICK IT
But as the true reason we were there was to experience the SSX game in real life, it was all about discovering the truth behind ‘trick it’ – and thanks to Scott Penman, we were able to do just that.

Scott’s the master of frontflips, but there’s far more to his box of tricks than that. Having spent the past three days cruising the piste and park with him, he’s been jumping off everything in sight – from epic roof drops to gapping fences at the side of the piste. The Serbians even built their first ever snow park for us, using the guys who build the Air&Style parks.

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I was stoked on hitting the wave box, but watching Scott hit the big kicker was just as awesome. Floodlit by two snow cats, they organised a night-time kicker session for the opening day – and that’s not something you often get the pleasure of watching. Scott took me on a few tracks of the park – lapping on snowmobiles as the lifts were being blasted by a blizzard. Despite the weather closing in, bringing the visibility down to almost none, and making almost every hit in the park too slow to hit (that’s my excuse anyway!), it was super fun watching Scott on the kicker line, and hanging out in our very own park.

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RACE IT
While in Serbia, we also had a chance to play the game. I put this under ‘race it’ as it did turn into a bit of a battle. I admit to not being the best at Xbox games, but have now developed an addiction to SSX, thanks to EA Games. With the direction of snowboarding turning into bigger, better, most awe-inspiring tricks, or heading into the deepest backcountry, there are no boxes that SSX doesn’t tick.

Whether it’s AK, Antarctica or the Alps, you can follow your idols on real mountains, pulling off some gravity-defying tricks. And just like on real mountains, the weather’s not always great, and you can get blasted by some pretty crazy blizzards – a bit like we were battling in Serbia! And what’s more the graphics are unbelievable – properly transforming you into the game.

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VISIT IT
Ok, so I’ve added one of my own, but had to sum up the trip somewhere – VISIT IT! It was one of the most unbelievable trips I’ve been on, and whether it’s a comedown from the local rakia shots, or from experiencing some of the best Euro powder I’ve ever laid my board on, I’m already missing Serbia.

Kopaonik is holding host to the Big Snow Festival in March, and since the country is home of the legendary Exit festival, there’s no denying it’s going to be a banging week. The word on the street is lift passes for the week cost just 39 euros (price of a couple of an evening in one of our snow centres?!) and accommodation just 99 euros for the week, plus there’s going to be parties through the day and night in the various mountain huts across the mountain. If that’s not a reason to go back to Serbia, then you’re reading the wrong pages!

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Thanks to the guys at EA Games and SSX for an awesome trip, as well as Scott Penman for showing me where it’s at!



Scott Penman is an ambassador for EA SPORTS' SSX. Click to view full image
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EA Sports' SSX is released on March 2nd. SSX challenges gamers to race, trick and survive the world's most iconic mountain ranges. Pre-order your copy from GAME at www.game.co.uk.
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