Last week I was on holiday in St Anton, a ski resort that seems to have been created with the sole purpose of making the Oktoberfest look like the Betty Ford Clinic in comparison. Austria may get a fair amount of bad press due to a Fritzl here or a Hitler there, but they know how to have fun.
Even their Jagerbombs have an element of physical comedy, replacing the shot glass with a small bottle specifically designed to remove your front teeth. Additionally all of their music, every last song, is improved immeasurably by being drunk. It’s enough to make you want to down a yard of lager and stick some Mozart on. Alcohol is just embedded in their sonic DNA.
Skiing itself is a funny sort of deception. I mean it is, notionally, a sport and as such you rid yourself of any dietary guilt while there. All of which is pretty odd, as in reality wolfing down half a kilo of meat, potato, eggs and cheese twice a day is hardly justified by what is essentially standing and occasionally bending your knees, before getting on grandma’s Stenna Stair-lift. It’s the only type of sport where you come back considerably less fit than when you left. At least on a darts holiday your diet would be restricted to McCoys and Nobby’s Nuts.
Alas, my biggest problem on holiday was not my ensuing dental bill, nor that my arteries are now furrier than kitten in a cashmere jumper, nor even was it the fact that my head was so full of catchy Bavarian “Oompa pop” that I was tempted to slam it repeatedly in the door. No, the biggest problem on holiday was the scourge of the slopes. The oafs of the piste. The vermin of Verbier, the assholes of Aspen, the scum of St Anton. I speak, naturally, of snowboarders.
At this stage, I think it’s probably best to say that I am not 100% against snowboarding. The antics of Shaun White at the Winter Olympics is always fairly entertaining, while the Snowboard Cross event is not only totally insane, but also brought us one of the all-time great moments of sporting schadenfreude in 2006 with the plight of Lindsay Jacobellis (well worth watching below).
There are undoubtedly great moments that the snowboard has brought to the world of entertainment (although even at it’s best, it’s not a patch on the likes of Shane McConkey), and I would never try to deny that. But, much like an alien invasion or an eighty foot tall gorilla, I would prefer that my exposure to them was restricted to the screen.
For starters, there is a disproportionately high number of snowboarders who are, lets face it, a bit shit. And when snowboarders are shit, they are really shit. A bad skier, for example, carries a trademark warning sign in the form of a snowplough turn and possesses the turning circle of a medium-sized oil tanker. You can avoid them with consummate ease. A bad snowboarder swings wildly and erratically down a piste, tumbling in whichever way their ill-formed sense of balance takes them. They are also spectacularly bad at getting on lifts. You know that moment when you’re hanging on a lift in blizzard, or dangling stationary on a T-bar? Yep, you can most likely thank a snowboarder for that.
Then there’s the whole gracelessness of them. The vast majority resemble nothing of the sleek speed machines that you see on the television. No, instead they slide sideways down the piste with that horrific Kkkkrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr noise, clearing any fresh snow that might be carelessly lying around into nice, neat piles between the icy sheets that remain. When not systematically clearing the fun off the piste, they tend to just sit on their arses in the middle of it. You know, just hanging out, man.
I remember when snowboarding really hit the mainstream in terms of serious numbers, you sort of thought it was a bit of a fad. It was the cool young trend that unleashed the rebellious little Bart Simpson in everyone. It was, essentially, skateboarding down a mountain. However, unlike Pogs and other crazes of the time, it sadly doesn’t seem to have disappeared.
If you saw a grown man on a skateboard, you’d probably seriously question their sanity or self-respect, so I fail to see why removing the wheels should make any difference.
Frankly, in my opinion, all non-professional snowboarders can go to hell. Then if, as the old adage goes, it freezes over, they can all “board-up” and have a really “rad” and “gnarly” time sitting on their arses in the middle of it.
By Harry Harland