The Royal Shredding – The Snowboard Test Uncovered

Posted on Monday 16th May, 2011 Times Viewed: 2823
Just because the Royals wanted to steal the May Bank Holiday limelight, it didn't mean the UK snowboard industry would have to face any less of a climax to the end of the snow season. In fact, with the chance to shout out about being British, the Snowboard Test actually embraced this little Royal shindig, and gave us a mountain recipe for an all-round sick week on snow. The main ingredient this year was an insane injection of sunshine, a fine recipe for a right Royal Shredding.

Kaz Willmer goes behind the scenes at the 2011/12 industry snowboard test in Kaunertal, Austria.
Photos: Will Lake and Kaz Willmer
With 200 snowboarders from the UK's snowsport scene bathing under Kaunertal's Austrian bluebird skies, it was guaranteed to be a good time, even before the parties started.

The British Snowboard Test, run by industry guru Ian Sansom, is an annual event run at the end of the season where over 200 pro riders, brands, media and stores gather to test all the following season's boards, boots and bindings – riding by day, party by night. Simple.

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It's a week where you battle a viscous circle of energy drinks – mixing them with Jagermeister through the night, then attempting to counteract the caffeine comedown after-effects with more throughout the day. It's this week each year that the small Tirolean village of Feichten doesn't know what's hit it – a true Austrian farming village where locals groom their vegetable patches, while cows and rabbits frolic in the lush green fields.

But after a daily wakeup call from the singing church bells (no need to snooze, they go off every 15 minutes, day and night!) and a tune-fuelled 30km drive up the spectacular mountains, the glacier resort of Kaunertal is our base for the day.

This year the Kaunertal Monster Energy Spring Classics Series had shaped a dribble-worthy park, with a pristine pipe, smooth kickers, boxes and rails, gleaming at us under the spring sunshine. 2012 boards were put through their paces through park, pipe and spring slush, alongside some sweet, long, uber-fast trails, bordered by fun little natural lips and jumps. Once you'd reluctantly handed the boards back to the brands, you'd fill out a test card, rating the board's performance and writing a few words, while working out ways to somehow get that board in your life. Then you'd head to the next brand, and repeat. With all the top brands and boards at your fingertips, it was obviously a difficult task.

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This year's board test added a twist of something extra, taking advantage of the sunshine by starting the parties early, up the mountain. Whitelines held a rail jam on the Sunday afternoon, where some of the biggest names in UK riding were throwing down their moves on two rails, while the rest of us started on the cold beverages. On the Monday, Bataleon took over a skate ramp in a forest clearing off the mountain, complete with a bonfire, cupcakes, and more beverages. By Tuesday, Never Summer had built a mini ramp by the mountain base building, with more prizes-for-tricks and mountain-fun had. If that wasn't enough, a slush-pond evolved at the bottom of the mountain, putting riders and their boards through the water-clearance test.

Early morning hangovers were eased by more energy drinks, alongside some much-loved Westbeach bacon sarnies and the Volcom Sausage Fest.

But by night, the parties truly took hold, with the Whitelines afterparty (where local police ended up storming the bar, leaving us wondering why they'd need so many police and guns in such a tiny village!), Westbeach and The Reason's pub quiz in the Pfiff Alm, and the party to end all parties – the infamous Analog 'Right Royal Knees Up' party. For us, this signified the end to an already-insane week. Greeted at the door with Analog-stickered Union Jack items, Royal family facemasks, and free beer tokens, we were led through the now-blurry night with free schnapps, alongside sweet beats dropped by pro rider Seb Kern, aka DJ Socom.

Standing in central Innsbruck the next morning, only the pounding head reminded us we'd had such an insane week, and not just dreamt it all up. For us, the filming and photos were over, and with goggle tans gleaming, we were left only to look back on the footage of the great week. Plenty of slush, riding, sunshine and beverages made up this year's snowboard test, and there's no doubt we'll be back next year. For the test crew, it's not over yet as they have to get through that massive wad of test data, so that we and the mags can give you the lowdown on what boards are hot in time for next season.

With the 2011 season now over, I'm already stoked up about 2012, with new boards on my hit-list thanks to the Snowboard Test. Now all that's left to do is find a way of hibernating til next season.

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Thanks to Ian and everyone behind The Snowboard Test - www.thesnowboardtest.com

Thanks to Kaunertal for another year and another sweet setup - http://www.kaunertaler-gletscher.at/en
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