My Snowboard Bucket ListSome snowboarding adventures I'd like to tick off...

Katie Blundell


1 week ago in News

First of all, don’t worry, I’m not planning on popping my clogs just yet. I’ve just been having a think recently about things I really want to do in life, mainly to do with travelling. I’m not so bothered about owning a fancy car, expensive jewellery, a 65” TV or a cordless Dyson. For me, experiences and adventures trump everything. 

I’ve started to notice a lot of my “bucket list” revolves around snowboarding, surprise surprise. So I thought I would share with you the more wintery side of my list……. My Snowboard Bucket List

1) Heli-Boarding, Alaska

On the top of my bucket list (as I imagine is on the top of many snowboarder’s bucket lists) is the ultimate dream of Heli-Boarding in Alaska. Alaska has thousands upon thousands of acres of untouched, unlimited, unreal, helicopter-accessible, mind-blowingly fresh, beautiful, fluffy powder. The majestic mountains of Alaska are both breathtaking to look at and even more phenomenal to snowboard down. You are taken by helicopter to access terrain that very few humans have even seen, let alone snowboard on. A total contrast to busy lift lines and crowded slopes of most mountain ski resorts.

What a view!

Alaska’s terrain is varied with steep faces, large bowls, cliff drops, wide-open shuts, glaciers; basically, like the best snowboarders playground ever. Something for everyone and for different abilities. Imagine getting dropped off by a helicopter at the very top of one of those mountains, just you and your snowboard (and a few mates, and a guide!). Adjusting your goggles, doing up your helmet, strapping your feet into your bindings (double-checking/ tightening your ratchets), putting your favourite tune on, taking a mega deep breath and getting ready to drop into the BEST ride of your life. That feeling just before you drop must be absolutely insane. Then the buzz and the adrenaline rush as you cascade through the magical snow down. It would be like your best powder day ever x1000000!!! Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s one of those “once in a lifetime” opportunities; making a snowboarders dream a reality. The only thing that worries me about this is that any snowboarding after this will seem rather tame in comparison??! There are lots of different places in Alaska to do this and many different packages on offer varying from a 1-day-experience to a full week tour etc. Spoilt for choice. 

 

2) Japan

Again, I seem to be in search of that beautiful powder, that ultimate ride. Japan is known as the “holy grail” of powder riding. Its fruitful, deep, dry powder engulfs the tree lines and mountains of Japan, making it one of the top choices for keen snowboarders around the world. Japan is blessed with so much snow due to the cold Arctic winds in Siberia picking up moisture off the Sea Of Japan, then dumping it straight onto the Niseko mountains. Scoring that life-affirming powder has become a dream for me. However, it’s not only the snow that entices me to Japan, it’s the whole mysterious culture itself.

The country is so traditional in its customs and culture, but yet modern and technologically advanced. The culture is unique and vibrant, the people so warm and welcoming. And Geishas, now they just intrigue me. I would love to chill in a quirky roadside bar (after a hard day riding vast amounts of fresh snow), eating Sushi and noodles, perhaps catching a glimpse of an iconic Geisha gliding by. Then maybe check out a temple, do some night riding (most resorts stay open until 8.30pm) then take part in a tea ceremony. Then round off the day with an Onsen (the Japanese tradition of bathing in natural hot springs….naked!! Not sure about the last bit though?!). I feel it would be a totally different experience to anywhere I have snowboarded before and this would enrich the whole trip. Niseko and Hukuba are the most well-known resorts, but I would be up for checking out one of the smaller, quirkier ones. I would even like to venture out of the ski resorts and check out the rest of japan; unwind under the cherry blossom, catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji, stroll through Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, watch the sunset at the Golden Temple, travel by bullet train……… Maybe this is why I haven’t made it to Japan yet, I want to do ALL of Japan so need a good chunk of time and money! Although I have heard it’s not actually that expensive compared to Europe. I have also heard that the toilets are crazy in Japan, buttons for everything and very confusing!! I am intrigued, but I can assure you I want to go to Japan to score my JaPOW, not check out the loos!!          

Take it slow

3) A Snowboard Refuge

With the amount of time I have spent in the mountain, I have still not managed to do one of these. Maybe I was in the terrain park too much?! A Mountain Refuge is a little hut located high up in the mountains, only accessible by foot. They provide shelter for hikers, climbers and mountaineers. So a Ski/ Snowboard Refuge is the same mountain cabin but during the cold winter months. These are so remote and dotted all over the vast and treacherous mountain, often completely submerged in the snow. When I talk about wanting to do a “Snowboard Refuge”, I pretty much want to be Bear Grills but in the mountains. I would LOVE to go out into the backcountry with a group of friends, a backpack, some skins (for my board), my snowboard and some snacks (and a million other essentials of course, but that’s for another blog) and snowboard over the mountains from refuge to refuge. This would require hiking for hours and hours up steep and dangerous slopes and across steep peaks (fitness would have to be top-notch). Then defending down open faces, shuts and couloir. You would hope/ really really hope to eventually see one of these mountain huts like a mirage in the distance, then roll into bed, absolutely and totally exhausted and take shelter from the cold and snow for the night. You would then wake up early in the morning, often before sunrise and do it all again. Am I selling this to you yet??!! Sounds full on huh? So why on earth does this appeal to me? Well, there is something about being out in the “wild”, with all you need on your back, trekking and snowboarding where not many have ventured before, pushing yourself both physically and mentally to the limits. Weirdly, I would like to see what I’m capable of.  And the snow is ultimately what you are looking for. That beautiful untracked powder, dropping in on the fresh fluffy snow, that feeling is what every snowboarder searches for. The people are another reason to go. It would be important to pick the right group to go with. You would need a guide/ snowboarder with experience of the backcountry and technical knowledge and a very good sense of direction!! But also an awesome, inspiring, supportive, fun, motivating group of people, you could end trusting them with your life. If you get the team right, you could have the BEST time of your life, and come away with deep solid friendships for life. You have experienced an adventure together that no one else would understand. Wow, that’s deep! 

It’s worth the walk

Anyway, more about the huts themselves. They are run by Guardians, often on behalf of a larger governing body. You can now reserve a place in a refuge before you arrive, although if you don’t manage it, you’re not going to be turned away, just maybe have to sleep on the floor. The refuges are pretty basic, although they are getting a little fancier these days. They are dormitory-style rooms with bunk beds and are run like hostels. The facilities are basic, but with all the essentials you might need (toilets, showers, limited cooking facilities). During the summer, huts offer meals, some even give you a packed lunch the day. In the winter the Guardian might not even be there, but there will be a “winter room” left open with pillows, blankets and bunks, but you will need to bring your own food. This makes it even more of a challenge more even more of an adventure. You can sometimes get stuck in a hut during a storm, so make sure you bring some card games….and some booze. I’ve heard a lot of drinking goes down in a refuge!!

There are so many places around the world to do this, but I would love to do it in my home mountain of Tignes. This is where I did my first season (and 5 after that), where I met my husband, and where my kids first strapped on a snowboard. After so much time spent there, I can’t think of a better place I would like to do it. Plus I know for a fact it is epic there!

4) A Dedicated Rail Trip

There are so many different types of snowboarding, but one of my favourites is Urban Snowboarding. This is when you create your own “playground” out of the urban terrain. This can be in a city, a park, church, car park, library, train station, your back garden….literally anything. You set up obstacles to snowboard on, more like skateboarding I guess?! The scope for this is endless. That’s what really appeals to me about this type of snowboarding is how creative you can be; you can have a vision, then make it happen. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason (speed, wrong angles, wrong crew?!), but there are ALWAYS more ideas to explore. 

Street rail

What first inspired me into this type of snowboarding was an all-girl group called Peep show (now evolved into “Too Hard”). They were a group of gnarly chick shredders who rode purely street spots, no guys! It was just so awesome to see what chicks could do this all by themselves and it really pushed women’s’ snowboarding to new heights. 

Peep show

Now I think I’m probably too late to the game to be a member of Peep Show (married, 2 kids) but I would LOVE to do a sole trip dedicated to street riding; no mountains allowed. I have done a bit in urban riding in my time; road trips and hit up famous spots on the way through and had a couple of seasons mainly focusing on the street. But there has always been other kinds of snowboarding alongside. The urban riding was more of a sideline thing. 

Urban riding

I still dream of doing a total street riding trip, with a group of shredders (girls and guys, I don’t mind) and get some shots (video/ photos) on some of the iconic street spots I have seen in the snowboard movies. I have dabbled in Urban riding in Tahoe and Utah, and Europe so I’m thinking somewhere different. A few of my friends have done street rail trips to more quirky “off the beaten track” type places like Russia, Poland and Finland. Quebec is definitely on my list. 

Street riding

There are definitely pros and cons to street riding….

Cons: Often illegal and can get shut down by police quite easily-really frustrating when you have spent 2 days setting something up. You can trash you snowboarding by riding it on rough surfaces. It’s so gutting when you don’t get the shot and you have put so much effort in. You need lots of equipment ie. bungee, floodlights, ramps, shovels etc. It can cause arguments and interesting group dynamics when situations are stressful and relying on others. 

Pros:  Cheap-no lift pass required. You can do it anywhere. Good for bad weather days. Great bonding with crew ie. have to work together to set up spots. Good work out shovelling! The best feeling when you “get the shot”.

Tail press

5) Olympics

I know I have 100% missed the boat with this one so don’t worry, but was a dream a while ago ha!