Snowboarding at Snowboxx

Snow everywhere

This past week has been an amazing week. I’ve been doing one of my favourite things everyday, and met with a bunch of great people. This is how it went…

Unfortunately, I’m back from my one week holiday to the mountains. There were a lot of ups and downs, but overall it was an awesome week. It feels like ages ago since I headed to the airport with my suitcase, and it feels even longer since I last went to work. I’m not looking forward to it.

I’m going to try to remember as much as I can, without boring you with all the details, as we all know nobody wants to hear other people going on and on about their holidays. The only main downside to this trip is that I didn’t take my DSLR, because I don’t trust my snowboarding skills enough to bring it with me on the slopes, which means that all pictures were taken with my phone or similar devices. I did take my GoPro a couple of days, but I really don’t know how to use it properly, and I’m never happy with the end result. I think I should stop using it and ask other people to film me instead.

The trip started with a 2 hour long journey from Lewisham to Luton Airport, carrying a rucksack and a suitcase. We had planned on meeting early, at about 2.30pm, so we could enjoy some beers together as a group. The group consisted of Sarah-Jane, her friends Jess and Hayley, Steve, his girlfriend (and soon to be wife!) Ella, and their friends Lucy, her fiancรฉ Charlie (Dougie), Charlie (Kneen), his sister Katie, and me. Unfortunately, we soon realised we couldn’t check in because it was too early. Jess and Sarah-Jane arrived a bit later, due to missing their stop, and once we had all suitcases and boarding passes sorted out, we went through security and had the well deserved beers, only as half of the group, since the others had an earlier flight.

We got to Geneva airport, and here’s where we should have already figured out how Snowboxx was going to be, in terms of management and organisation. The coach transfers were running massively late, and although we landed at the expected time (right after 9pm), we didn’t get on a coach until after 12am. So, what do you do when you’re stranded at an airport, just starting your holidays, with a big bunch of other people going to your same festival? Yup, you get drunk.

We were chatting to a lot of other people headed to Snowboxx, playing games, trying yoga poses, and basically drinking. At some point, the gendarmerie realised that hundreds of drunk festival-goers stranded at the airport was possibly a recipe for disaster, and they made an appearance, just to make sure nothing would happen.

Finally, we got on our coach, and we kept on partying and drinking and making friends. It took forever to get to Alpe d’Huez, we even had to make a quick pit stop (all that drinking…), some guys got sick in the bus (all that drinking…), there was some kissing here and there… It was an interesting trip, I must say (although I was told that on another coach there was some toe sucking, so I guess our coach was quite tame by comparison!!).

When we finally reached our destination, it was not only pitch black in the wee hours of the morning, but it was so foggy you couldn’t see where you were going. Funnily enough, we didn’t really know where we were going either, and there was nobody waiting for us to show us the way (thank you, Snowboxx!). Somehow, we decided to walk uphill, because when you’re drunk and carrying a lot of luggage, you make decisions fast, even if they’re the wrong ones. A guy named Jack helped us out and carried one of our bags. It turned out we had gone in the right direction, even though we had to retrace our steps a couple of times. We finally got in our beds at about 6am or so.

On Sunday morning, we needed to sort out the girls’ rentals, I needed to attach my bindings to my board, and we had to get our ski passes and festival wristbands. It all took the whole morning, despite being out and about by 10am, we didn’t hit the slopes until about 1pm. There was a bit of a mix-up with where Hayley needed to get her rentals, and she ended up having to go to three different shops (thank you, Snowboxx!), and even losing her ski pass in the process. The fog was still overpowering everything, and it was difficult to get your bearings. I spent most of the day having no clue where I was, due to the lack of reference points.

When we finally hit the slopes, I realised how tired and hungover and stiff I felt. The girls were much faster and better at skiing and snowboarding than I was, so after a run, I decided I would be better off going back to the hotel for a nap. I walked back from the town centre to our hotel, still not really knowing if I was going in the right direction or not, due to the fog.

I felt much better in the afternoon, but I still decided to stay indoors. The girls came back after, and had a nap. We went out for dinner afterwards, and decided Monday was going to be the official day 1 of the trip.

On Monday, once the fog had lifted, I managed to see where our hotel was, with regards to everything else, which made everything much easier from then on. It turned out that the airline had lost all of Jack’s luggage (remember, the guy who helped us the first night?), and he had only just got his board back, but didn’t have any clothes.

I spent most of my first day alone, because I didn’t want to push myself to the other’s level and risk injuring myself, and I didn’t want to slow them down. That was fine by me! I also bought some insoles for my boots, to prevent my feet moving so much when snowboarding. What should have been a very easy trip to the shops, turned into my whole morning trying to get the insoles from the other side of town, due to being given the wrong directions by a very good looking French shop assistant. However, hopping on a couple of free shuttles gave me a really good sense of direction of the town and where everything was. The guy at the last shop I tried, helped me get the insoles and explained how to get back to Les Bergers, where our hotel was, by means of chair lifts. That was a lot of fun, even when I ended up falling over on a cute snowboarder at the end of the first lift!

I met the girls up at La Folie Douce, and we had some lunch together (I didn’t really eat, just picked off Sarah-Jane’s food), and a couple of beers. If anything is going to define this trip is the amount of alcohol drunk.

I kept a hawk eye and when I saw some guys about to leave their bean bags, I jumped right in. I started chatting with one of them, Duncan, while he was getting his ski boots ready. We stayed at La Folie for a while, and once again, I set off alone. I wasn’t disappointed or upset by being on my own, much the opposite! Riding alone meant that I could focus on practising my turns, setting my own pace, and enjoy a really epic snowboarding playlist on Spotify (seriously, here it is!). When you do a trip like this with people you don’t know, it’s a bit difficult to know or follow everyone’s pace. I don’t like feeling any peer pressure on me, so I rather stay on my own than feel uncomfortable.

That evening, I explored town a bit more trying to find a nice jumper to wear in the evenings (I hadn’t brought any with me, and I wasn’t going to wear my snowboarding hoodie all day long, every day, that would have been gross!). When I came back, the girls had decided to go to the pool party we had tickets for, so we all walked to town.

The pool party was fun, even if we arrived a bit late and only enjoyed it for an hour or so. Sarah-Jane asked some guys if they wanted to play volleyball, and we had a small competition. We won, of course, although my guess is that it was due to the guys being more interested in flirting than playing, but hey, a win’s a win!

After that, we just decided to go across the road to O’Sharkies, an Irish pub. There, as you can imagine, we kept on drinking. The girls played some table football (foosball?) while I mostly sat down, chatted to people, or danced. At some point, the other half of the group joined us, and soon enough, people learnt my birthday was the following day (some I told myself, others were told by Sarah-Jane and the girls), and I got a bunch of free drinks.

At around 12am, 50 Cents’ In Da Club started playing, and everyone started looking at me. They stopped the song and suddenly, Sarah-Jane appeared with a drink in her hand while everyone at the bar started singing Happy Birthday, and I mean everyone. It was quite embarrassing, but also very cool! After that, it was more free beers and a couple of shots too. We left when the bar closed. It was a lot of fun.

The following day, Jess brought me a strawberry tart when she came back from her usual pain au chocolat and baguette run. They gave me a birthday card too!

I joined the other half of the group to visit one of the mountain tops. We had to take a gondola and a cabin lift, which freak me out a lot. Once we were at the top, I took a couple of pictures, and then I was glad to hear Ella was riding the lifts back to the bottom. The slopes looked too scary for me, and I didn’t want to go on the cabin alone. I didn’t mind having the group joke a bit about my fear of heights, as I know they did it in good heart, but seriously, even walking on the sort of metallic deck to get to the lift is terrifying and makes my knees weak with fear.
Group at the top
I spent the morning with Ella on some green slopes, wearing a lot of Hawaiian-style necklaces, and then we went to have a beer at a bar by the main stage. I saw a guy sitting at a table on his own, and went to ask if we could share his table. As soon as I sat down, I looked at him and asked him if we had spoken before. He said yes, and added I had pretty much kicked him off his bean bag at La Folie Douce the day before. He then said he could see a pattern here, and we laughed about the fact I seemed to be following him around stealing his tables. His friends were lost trying to join him and when we were leaving to meet Ella’s half of the group again about an hour later, we told him to join us.

For most of the first half of the week, the whole group were excited about watching 2 many dj’s, who I had never heard before. They got me excited about it, going out to this great gig on my birthday. We ended up going for dinner, and then most of the group were too tired to go out. A few of us, Steve, Ella, Hayley and me, went to the main stage to have a look, and see if we could find Jess and Sarah-Jane, who were partying and dancing like crazy. However, the gig finished before scheduled. It seems one of the decks caved in, and they decided it was unsafe to keep partying there (another miss by Snowboxx in the planning, I guess). We walked back to the hotel.

The next day, I wasn’t feeling well (not hungover, mind you! I was only hungover on Sunday!) and decided to stay in the hotel pretty much all day. We ate in, amazing pasta that Jess cooked. We went out quickly to get our retro onesies and have a beer.

On our way out, we saw some guys had got stuck in the lift. They had managed to get the doors cracked open a bit, but they weren’t going anywhere. We laughed and joked with them, and headed out to the Tiger bar, where the guys from Retro Rentals had set camp. The Tiger bar, I’m sorry to say, but it was an actual s***hole (the guys from Retro Rentals were great, though!). It stunk of piss and the staff didn’t give a damn. We got our onesies and decided to play pool. As soon as we set the balls on the table, a red one was missing. Jess went to ask the bar staff and they grumblingly gave us another one. We kept on playing, and at some point, someone pocketed the white one, which never came out. Again, Jess went to ask for a replacement, and pretty much had to argue to get one, the guy’s reasoning being that if he gave us another one, it was going to get stuck again… Finally, we got it, and kept playing. Sarah-Jane and I lost, but it was fun anyway. Guys over there were pretty drunk, and some of them were idiots, so as soon as we finished our drinks, we left.

When we got back, the guys were still stuck in the lift. They had been there for over an hour now. One of them was having a panic attack, and the engineer could do nothing to get them out. Two Snowboxx reps came in, not speaking any French and doing nothing to fix the situation. Seriously, I really don’t know who chose the Snowboxx reps, but they’ve been pretty useless all week (thanks, Snowboxx!). The resort security came in, and spoke to the guys to try to calm them down. I went back to them and brought some water and sweets, for whenever the guys got out, since we couldn’t get it through the door anymore. The lift was now one floor below (did it drop, or did they make it go down?) and we were told we shouldn’t try to open the door because it was dangerous, as it could make the lift drop farther.

I met Steve, Charlie K. and Charlie D. on my way back, and they tried to convince me to go out with them for a drink. I was very tempted, since I was feeling much better, but declined. The way Thursday went for me on the slopes, I’m really glad I made that decision!

On Thursday, I tried on my retro onesie and realised that it wouldn’t fit me when I was wearing my padded pants. I considered not wearing the padding for about a second, but then decided my bottom was more important to me than taking part in a world record attempt. I went back to Tiger bar, this time in the morning, and exchanged the onesie for a jacket. It was awesome, because it was quite horrible.

Back at La Folie Douce, where the record attempt was going to happen, and seeing that none of my friends were coming, I sat next to a couple, and we started chatting. Sarah and Steve, really cool people! They invited me to hang out with them, and after all the record attempt business was done (it seems we beat the previous one on most people dressed in onesies on the slopes, or something like that), we skied and snowboarded down the slopes together. We had similar levels, so it was a really fun day. Steve told me he had issues going on flat-ish bits because he didn’t know how to change edges quick, and I told him the trick was to do salsa hips, to get those hips loose and relaxed, and he got it. I told him my goal was to manage some ollies while moving, which piqued his curiosity, so he started trying too. By the end of that run, I had managed a couple of ollies and he had moved onto smaller air to fakies. He tried to nudge me to try those, but nah, I wasn’t ready yet. We met with their friend Joe, and kept on going (stopping for a beer here and there!).

We did the run from La Folie to the bottom of the Marmottes 1 lift a few times, before finally stopping for lunch. I had an amazing tartiflette. Unfortunately, I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of it! Once again, after lunch, we went back to the slopes. We were now managing to do that same run in almost half the time, so it was a lot of fun. One of the times though it was so foggy, that Steve and I lost Sarah and Joe, and we didn’t really know where we were going (Steve almost snowboarded off a cliff at some point!). They caught up with us later on, they had been waiting for us for ages, before realising we had probably just passed in front of them (that’s how foggy it was!).

We were really tired that day, but we still went out to watch Jungle, who were playing that night. I spent the late afternoon having beers with some of the group in their room and then the girls and I went out for dinner. I was so hungry that I decided I needed another tartiflette, that my calorie intake of the day hadn’t been near enough. We went to the gig, the main stage moved now to the car park in front of our hotel, and after ages trying to get in (not enough women searching ladies at the door, thanks for that too, Snowboxx!), we headed over to get our drink tokens. Hayley and Jess wanted to be at the very front, but I stayed a bit behind with the rest. It was fun and I got some videos and photos out of the evening. The sound went off when Jungle had still two songs left, and the couples decided to leave. I went to try to find the girls, but Hayley was somewhere else trying to find me. In the end, we both ended up going back home, while Jess was out with a bunch of the new friends we had made over the past few days.
Friday was a cool day. My back hurt a lot, as did my arms and left wrist. My neck was a bit sore from falling badly on my bottom three times, but I really enjoyed it. I got to snowboard with Ella and Steve in the morning, and we even went all the way back to the hotel. I fell a few times on the flat parts around the tunnel, so it took me a while to get back on track. At the end, just the last bit arriving at the hotel, there was a small but steep slope, very narrow, and it freaked me out, so I steered left a bit to avoid the drop on my right, and ended up riding into a patch of mud. My board came to a sudden halt, and I fell over, in the mud. They invited me over for lunch, which we had with the rest of that group, and in the afternoon, we went to the slopes again. Most of them went to the snowpark, and Ella and I kept to the green slopes. After a while, I realised my back was still hurting, and that I needed to get back to the hotel to meet the girls and clean, so I left.

We were all having dinner together that night. We went to a nice restaurant we had gone before, Pizzeria Pinocchio. On our way there, we were enjoying some honey rum shots that I brought. The food in that restaurant was amazing, and affordable, and the staff were really nice. We had a lot of fun, and it was a great way to end the holidays as a group. The other half of the group know each other for years, so they have a really cool dynamic between them. We were joking about each other all night, and laughing a lot. At the end of the night, we got given some shots on the house, and we ordered Irish coffee (just remembering that part is making me laugh), and when we finally figured out how much each had to pay (another laugh), we went over to a bar across the road.

This bar had that sort of system in which the prices change every 100 seconds or so. I wanted to drink Diet Coke all night, and I had to be very careful when I was ordering, as that was the difference between paying 1.50โ‚ฌ or 4.00โ‚ฌ for a glass! The best was that there was a toboggan next to the stairs to go to the toilets, which we all tried straight away! Once the bar closed, we walked over to the hotel, people very drunk! Somehow, we decided to have a party at our room, as we had plenty of alcohol left, and a few of the guys came over. It was a crazy, fun night that involved a lot of beer drinking (our alcohol wasn’t drunk in the end because some of the guys brought beer), a lot of dancing, a lot of freestyle rapping, and even attempting some yoga poses!

The next morning, the room which had been cleaned the day before was quite messy again, beer bottles everywhere. I woke up very early and couldn’t get back to sleep (we went to bed at 4.30am or 5am, and I woke up at 6.30am) so I started tidying up very quietly. When the girls woke up, I informed them that we had acquired an interesting number of men’s shoes, and ten minutes later, one of the guys knocked on the door asking if we had seen his shoes. Another owner was found, and I brought the last pair over to the Charlies, finding their owner too (they were Dougie’s). At that point, Lucy asked if we had her boots, which we did, as it turned out. So basically, four people out of six had forgotten their shoes at our party, that’s a pretty cool, wild party!

We somehow managed to clean the room and get all our stuff ready and out of the door for our transfer coach at 9am. Once again, there was no Snowboxx rep to tell us where to go, and they didn’t really know which coach we had to get on, just whichever was going to Geneva airport. Again, poor organisation on their side.

We had to wait forever at one of the pickup points because some people had been partying hard the previous night and had overslept (amateurs…), and once we were on, everyone was asleep. I couldn’t fall asleep, so I listened to music and looked at the scenery. Our driver seemed to have missed the exit to the airport, and we had to circle back. In total, it was about four hours transfer again.

At the airport, we were greeted with the longest queue I’ve ever seen anywhere, theme parks included. EasyJet check-in was very busy, and their queue had taken over the whole airport. It was very early for our flight check-in to be opened, but we asked anyway, and they told us to go to the queue. While in the queue, we were tidying our luggage properly, like storing the alcohol bottles in the checked luggage and so on. We finally reached the front of the queue, only to be told it was too early to check in our bags, and that we had to wait an hour. We said we weren’t going to queue again, so they let us wait on the side. We set camp there and ate, went to the toilets, and sat down on the floor. Finally, we managed to check in our bags and got through security. We enjoyed a beer (of course) and then headed over to our gate. There, we met with the guys we had met on our coach to Alpe d’Huez, and who we had been partying with that previous night. We said bye, and finally boarded our plane.

An hour and a half later, we were at Luton and finally, at 9.30pm I got home.

It’s been an incredible week, and I can’t believe I’m back to normal now. I wish I could work at a resort for a while, either at a shop or a restaurant, and snowboard for half my day, even if the pay was not too much. I realised how much I really love snowboarding, even if I’m not good at it yet, and I can’t believe it will be a year before I can go to the slopes again…

I was worried about not fitting in with this group of people, because we were way too disconnected from each other at the beginning, not really knowing each other, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. It also showed me once again that you need to be cheeky and a bit courageous to get what you want… And it also taught me a few things about myself (some of which I’m not too happy about, as well).

Wow! This was a long post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it! I just want to end it by saying that the trip was great, but the festival itself wasn’t that amazing, mainly because Snowboxx failed us quite a bit. The reps over there felt like they were just mates of whoever was in charge, and they were all uni students who half of the time didn’t know what was going on, or how to fix issues. Snowboxx emailed to address some of the issues we’ve had, like the transfers, the slow rental process, or the coach transfers, but didn’t really take responsibility of any of the issues, they just blamed each different company they worked with. To be honest, I don’t care if the coach company failed Snowboxx, it is their responsibility I, the customer, am not affected by it. They should have double checked everything properly. When one thing goes wrong, is someone else’s fault, but when the most heard comment (not only from my group, but even from all the new people we were meeting) was this festival is so badly organised or given how Snowboxx has managed everything so far, I’m expecting this to go wrong, then I think you have to take your part of the blame.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. The slopes were great (a bit less so in the afternoon, but that’s mostly due to the lack of snowing), and the people I was with were fun. I met a bunch of cool other people, some of which I hope I’ll stay in touch with. I got to use my own snowboard for the first time, which was really cool, and was told I’m actually much better than I give myself credit for.

I can’t wait to go snowboarding again!