Big Bang in Britain

Bonfire Night is approaching in the UK. Traditionally fireworks are let off and a dazzling display of light and loud bangs are seen and heard across the country on 5 November celebrating the discovery of Guy Fawkes’s plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1604. However, a Big Bang was encountered earlier during the month of October when another tradition took place at several of the indoor snow slopes.

The Big Bang is an event which launches the start of the snowboarding season and offers people the chance to demo new hardware, get instruction, listen to seminars and meet pro riders. The event is one day which is repeated over several weekends at four of the indoor snow slopes: Tamworth, Snow Factor in Braehead, Castleford Sno!zone and Milton Keynes Sno!zone. It is a collaborative event between a number of partners including The Snowboard Asylum (TSA), Sno!zone, Snowboard Coach, Roxy, Whitelines and others.

I missed the Big Bang last year due to a late family summer holiday but was determined to make it this year, so decided to head to Castleford on 13 October as this is my nearest indoor snowslope. I wasn’t particularly interested in the new hardware as I had bought a new DC Biddy snowboard last season. I am so totally in love with it, that until the honeymoon period is over, I can’t bring myself to even look at the new boards as this feels too disloyal. However, the amount of hardware available to demo was pretty impressive and the reps and team riders were around to get all the info you needed. You could go backwards and forwards all day changing your board to see what suited and what sucked. The equipment was free to test and all you needed to do was get some slope time booked. And to top it off TSA were offering 10% discount on any boards bought that day. So although I wasn’t in it for a new board plenty of people were as the slope was busy all day and I saw a number of people coming and going with different boards.

In addition to the hardware to demo there was plenty of on slope learning to be done too as there were 3 sessions of two hours each throughout the day. Each had a different focus: freeride, freestyle and women only. You could pick two out of the three sessions and pitch up for some excellent instruction provided by Snowboard Coach, Definition Camps and TSA team riders and Mint Snowboarding and Roxy team riders for the Roxy Shred session. I wanted the freeride and women’s only coaching which meant an early start as I had to be on the slope for 10:00 am for my first two hour coaching session.

Snowboard Coach was established in 2002 by Ash Newnes and they deliver a variety of UK based courses at indoor snow slopes as well as mountain courses in Andorra. They train and certify snowboard instructors so they teach the teachers but all level of boarders were catered for in the session. It was a mixed group of 10 people with a variety of ability so instruction, after a couple of warm up runs, was tailored very much to the individual.

I hadn’t been snowboarding for a while so was a bit rusty which Mike, one of the Snowboard Coach crew, picked up on straightaway. I know I am not good at finishing my toe side turn off and rush to push forward into my next turn so I concentrated on this, along with not making a small dip on my heels just before initiating my heel to toe side turn. One thing we were all guilty of was not looking where we were going and turning to look down the mountain rather across in the direction of travel. As Mike says, there is a blind spot but we just have to learn to get used to it. The last thing I needed to do was to be stronger in my core which was evident when I got to the afternoon session.

Aimee Fuller and the Roxy Big Bang Session Participants

We finished at midday and the freestylers were already on the slope as their first session was 11.00am – 1.00pm and although it would’ve been good to watch I knew I only had two hours to get in some lunch and maybe a bit of window shopping. I had boarded with Definition in the past on a 2 day weekend freestyle course at Braehead in Scotland and knew their tuition to be excellent. Gav Learmonth who is behind Definition is the former coach to the British Olympic snowboard team and his vision is to give anyone the opportunity to learn freestyle. This session was aimed at those who had limited or no experience of kickers and rails through to those looking to improve and take their riding to the next level.

During lunch I also missed the seminar on taking the perfect snowboard film which was taken by Sean Miller of Gonzilla TV. This was billed as, “how to get the most from your snowboarding filming and how to edit it together to create snowboard footage that you actually want to watch.” I didn’t attend this session as I couldn’t fit it all in. However as my husband has a GoPro it would’ve been a great chance to offer him advice on the slopes rather than the other way around!

After my carbohydrate loaded lunch of yummy pizza and ice cream (getting in the spirit for my Italian boarding holiday in 2013) I headed back to the slope for the two hour Roxy shred session which started at 2.00pm. The session in Tamworth had been headed up by Tammy Esten, owner and head coach of Mint snowboarding based in Avoriaz/ Morzine, France whom I have boarded with on numerous occasions on a variety of educational and fun camps. I knew their instruction to be first class but Tammy was now back in France so understood it was likely to be a Roxy team rider but who would it be? Well it was none other than Aimee Fuller, a pro British female rider who has won and been placed in numerous competitions and is sponsored by Roxy, TSA and Vans.

In 2009 Aimee secured first place in the slopestyle and half pipe in the junior women category at the Brits and was invited to compete in the European X Games alongside X Games winner and fellow Brit Jenny Jones. Aimee put us through our warm up paces and made everyone feel relaxed. It was a full session with a number of women of differing abilities. We started with a few ollies on the flat and progressed to ollie-ing across the slope which I found much easier on my toe edge than heel edge. My DC Biddy board was much easier to work with than my old Rome Vinyl board as it felt lighter and softer and ollies felt less physically demanding.

We then moved onto 180s which felt okay on the flat but it was a different ball game when heading downhill. This was when I realised how weak my core was and how much I was trying to use my upper body to fling the board round hoping everything below my shoulders would follow but invariably it didn’t make it the full 180! Aimee then took those who wanted to across to the small box rail. I decided to wait and see how I felt as I was starting to tire and rails are not my favourite feature (give me a kicker anyday). The rail was on the steeper part of the slope and although getting on the rail was fine a number of girls fell on landing so I decided to give it a miss and practice 180s instead.

Fellow coach on the session, Rhiannon, came with me and we practiced both front side and back side 180s which she reassured me, once mastered on the flat, would be much easier off a kicker: certainly something to aim for. The two hours flew by and before I knew it 4.00pm was showing on the clock and it was time to leave the slope. However there was one final task – a team photo with Aimee.

So what was the Big Bang really all about? It was a chance to get some top class instruction, demo all the new hardware for the forthcoming season, learn some new cinematography skills to capture the newly enhanced snowboarding skills, hang out with like minded people and bag a bargain. It was a chance to get excited about the next 6 months and gear up for 2012/13. Although it is now over, there is always next year to plan for so when the days start to get shorter and the leaves are falling and summer clothes are being packed away remember; Autumn is the season for fireworks and loud noises so think Big Bang and checkout for a kick start to your season.

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