FWQ 3* St Luc Chandolin 2014 – sharky powder

Road tripping with Marko to St. Luc Switzerland was a great way to travel. We passed the hours by talking about everything you can imagine. After about 10 hours, give or take, we arrived in St. Luc in the Valais canton and parked next to our accommodations; a quaint mansion with friendly staff. We were splitting a 4 bed room with 2 other riders and shared a common living area and bathroom with the Italian crew in the dorm next to ours, pretty cool set up! On the 1st floor there was a common sitting/living room with a few French guests plugging away on their laptops. We joined them for an hour or two, fighting the super slow internet connection, before crashing into bed. Checking my emails, I saw a message from the contest organization saying we must have climbing harnesses with us…. Neither Marko nor I brought ours with; they had had months to inform us and said nothing. It was pretty frustrating!
We had a relaxing breakfast due to some serious fog outside. In these conditions it would be impossible to even find the face, let alone be able to face check! We spent the morning essentially lounging around between our room area and the common sitting area. I took some time to do some stretching which was really good and very necessary… I should be doing that regularly. Marko was motivated to go for a few runs around noon time. A French guest I had spoken to the night before a little, Laurant, let me have his week long pass which he didn’t need anymore. Thanks again Laurant, you rock! The lift tickets are quite pricey (welcome to Switzerland!), so I was even more thankful for the chance to use his pass and save some cash. I have to keep in mind that I have lost my job and shouldn’t be as carefree as I have been in the past. Marko and I walked over to the funicular to check out some tree lines which we heard should be powdery. As the bottom of the funicular, the Sweden vs Finland hockey match was on TV… with Marko a loyal Finn and me as an old hockey player, we were pretty glued to the screen while waiting for the train to depart. Laurant showed up in the train also and we headed on up the mountain. We took to the trees for our first run however it was hard to ride; the snow had a hard crusty layer on top of some sugary snow. I was usually able to kind of drift turn gently and avoided breaking through, but Marko was on skis and wasn’t as lucky. We bailed out of the trees and tried a pully lift up into the fog. The snow felt much better there, but we were riding blindly. We took a few runs and that was already enough for me, I really dislike riding in zero visibility. I set off for the hotel to catch up with some emails and see if the others had arrived.
The riders meeting was in the hotel we were all staying in, which was super convenient. At most of the other contests we have to drive somewhere else, even to other villages or cities, so this was a real treat. We live-streamed the final match, Sweden vs Canada, until the meeting began. Only a small number of riders actually attended the meeting, which is usually mandatory. Afterward, a group of us returned to the common area of our rooms for some beers, internet and face checking on the computer. It was the first comp I was riding in which had 2 days of qualifications with 1 run down each of the 2 starting spots. The combined score would determine the overall placements. The faces looked interesting and the snow was bound to be a dream, according to the contest organization! The excitement, anticipation, anxiety of competing kept me awake longer than I had planned.
Early, way too early, as always on a contest day, the alarm clock went off. I dragged myself out of bed, somehow, and got my race gear together. I went to breakfast for a small bite before doing a little stretching and getting ready to go. We had to take a chairlift up the Chandolin side of the mountain, to a hut where would be able to face check. I had one of the first starting numbers but no harness and the organization didn’t provide any for those of us who had already arrived before they bothered to send the email about it. I had to hunt around, begging people to use theirs. It took over 30mn before I could find someone willing to loan me his, I was shocked at how difficult it. Half of the riders flat out ignored that I was even talking to them (regardless of speaking French, German and English)! I had never before encountered that kind of attitude in the freeride scene. Extremely relieved to get the harness, I had about 10 minutes to face check before 2 Swiss snowboarders offered to show me how to get to the hike; as that was also not clear and I had never been there before. We first took a warm up run under the chairlift since it was only a short hike to the start. I was really thankful to have the girls letting me tag along because I would never have found the t-bar lift to the hike on time. There are loads of old fashioned t-Bar lifts in the French speaking part of Switzerland. It gives the resort a bit of nostalgic charm in my opinion, even though riding the various old lifts pretty much sucks as a snowboarder. We had to traverse across much of the resort to reach the t-bar we needed. We arrived at the first start and only had to hike about 2 minutes to the second start, which we were scheduled for on day 1. At the start I saw a huge windlip blocking the traverse to get over into the steep and tight far left gully I had planned my line in. That sucked! I would have to improvise today. I tried to find a central line down from the start, which I didn’t really take much of a look at. I find it hard enough keeping the one chosen line in mind, let alone the whole face. Looking over the edge of the start was not intimidating, the face looked pretty relaxed and the snow looked fat. I had an ok view of the line, at least the first few turns and jump possibilities… this could be fun! I was the 4th of the 4 women to start, I looked at dropping a bit of a windlip/rock at the top to get into the face, but Sara took that line first so I tried to look for something original. There was a smaller drop next to the one Sara took with no tracks I went for. I fought a confidence battle about starting the run off with a drop but as soon as they counted down, I was ready and stoked to go. I could see how fluffy the snow looked and wanted a piece of that! I dropped in, landed the first jump cleanly and felt the sweet sweet powder under my board. I spotted the next rock to pop off of, took one heel edge turn to line up a fresh landing spot. I felt the front edge grinding along the rock I wanted to pop off of… the snow was just barely covering this monster up. Rather than going up over to the left like I wanted, my board was forced to the right scrapping along, what turned out to be, a big rock… My upper body scrapped along it as my board was being channeled to the right. That would surely count as a crash. I continued down the face, the snow was GOOD and I got a little carried away with some spray turns in the middle section until I uncovered another rock. Butt check and back up on my feet. I gingerly took the next few turns expecting more rocks but it was back to deep powder again. I dug in and slashed the snow spraying, somehow, snow up into my googles… the next few meter were blind but I was down out of the rock section with only open field below… or so I thought. I hit a small windlip with a flat landing under it. Landed pretty well stretched out on that table. Butt check. WTF! Finished the run off utterly devastated but confident to put a much better run down tomorrow. I spent the rest of the day face checking the next start for tomorrow. There were already a serious number of tracks after the skiers were done with it. I was hoping to find a line which was still untracked. There was one cool looking line that only 2 skiers of the whole group took and I wanted that one. It would be a bit tricky to navigate into, but I thought it would pay off with good snow. The evenings results had me not surprisingly ranked in last place. The evening was pretty uneventful, the riders pretty much spent the evening eating, face checking on the computer, blogging and hanging out. We turned in nice and early to get a good start the next morning.
Day 2: An early, early wake up and quick breakfast before some stretching again, was my morning program. We drove to Chandolin’s lift and rode back up to the mountain hut where I had to beg for a harness again. Luckily I had more luck finding one. I had to hurry as I was the very first rider on day 2 thanks to the last place finish. I took one quick warm up run under the chairlift as I had done yesterday. It was pretty choppy snow but that got me all kinds of warm, before heading over to the start. Trying to find the face start, I ended up riding past the peak that I would have needed for the original line I chose. Being first, I wouldn’t have enough time to get back there, so had to improvise again. I found a steep short face into the main gully that had a small drop right at the top. I was able to see the rock and the landing very clearly from the opposite side of the little bowl it formed, so felt pretty confident about being able to hit it. Memories of uncovering every possible rock yesterday, lingered in my mind. I chose a line pretty much straight down the main gully specifically hoping to avoid any further unplanned geological encounters. Here’s to the second day of throwing my planned line out the window and ad-libbing from the top… Ready to drop in, the starter gave me the countdown. The adrenaline cleared my brain for a change and I went for it. I took one set up turn to check the snow and popped up over the rock into the steeper face. I actually don’t really remember much about it other than landing it cleanly and looking down the face. I took some wide, fast turns in the sweet, fluffy snow. I aimed for an opposing face to try to allie-oop on it, but the snow was too deep and I was too slow to get any clearance, in the end it looked more like a butter than a jump. Keeping the momentum up I continued down the face. I’m not actually sure if I dropped any more small rocks or not, but approaching the final long left hand turn out of the gully I did it again. I scrapped some more rocks free. I butt checked super fast not losing momentum. I hit one more rock but stayed on my feet, before just riding straight down to the bottom. This was a MUCH better run than yesterday. I got to watch the others come down the lower section of the face (it wasn’t possible to see the top section from the bottom). The local who won the comp threw a huge cliff as a sort of double and made it look easy. Her boyfriend was cheering her on from where I was watching. The rider who finished 3rd after day 1 looked like she had stopped in the face several times, normally a huge deduction in points and I hoped to move forward a spot in the rankings. In the end, I was basically awarded the same terrible score as on day 1, which felt like a slap. But what can you do. Its all subjective and that’s the name of the game. Regardless of the results, I still felt OK with my 2nd run all things considered. I spent the rest of the day taking runs with a few of the riders which was a great note to end on. Marko returned to the hostel to pack up and I ventured over an hour later. Trying to return to the hotel from the contest area turned out to be challenging. I had never seen the St. Luc side of the mountain other than in that thick fog the first day there. The signs to get back to St. Luc were non existent. I managed to take a wrong turn somewhere and had to hike to town carrying my board. I felt bad making Marko and Tove (who was riding back with us) wait on me. We quickly checked out and headed on back towards Austria. The return trip was just as enjoyable if not even more so since we had the delightful company of Tove, a crazy Swedish skier who just rocks! In no time flat I was already back at my car and the trip was over again. Why does it always have to pass so quickly?! To sum it all up: crappy results, wrecked edges, cool people and good times – seems to be my motto this season!

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