Hello everyone, how are you? That’s nice. I could be better, thanks for asking. I ache all over, i have the posture of a He-Man figure and… wait, come back, this will be interesting, I pinky swear.
Let’s start at the beginning, Snozone, the people who do the real snow ski slopes at XScape in Castleford and Milton Keynes held a fancy Sochi inspired event, to inspire future Olympians. In attendance were Ben Kilner, double Winter Olympian; and Katie Summerhayes, winner of the silver medal at the World Freestyle Ski and Snowboard Championships in Kreischberg (turn left at the post office, follow the signs).
I was invited along to report on the event, like a proper respectable lifestyle blogger (no, stop laughing) with the opportunity to interview Ben and the incentive/punishment of a three hour snowboarding lesson, in an effort to make the slopes appeal to newcomers, and to make programs like The Jump, with it’s irritating lummox celebrity goons falling over, a distant memory.
So, first things first, a few issues with my interview with Ben Kilner. I would share the video with you, but not only was my phone camera aimed in almost completely the wrong direction, and upside down, there was also a really loud tinnitus noise going on in the background and I’m sure you’d hate listening to that. So instead, I’m gonna do a transcription and make it look pretty with all the photos of my incredibly inept snowboarding skills (more on those at the end)
Without further ado, my lacklustre attempt at interviewing a proper famous person…
I was fairly nervous about the whole snowboarding experience, so I thought I’d begin by asking for some handy hints to stop my inevitable sore bottom (it’s still sore BTW)
Fudgecrumpet – So, Ben, thanks for the interview. What sort of tips can you give a newbie snowboarder so they don’t die?
Ben Kilner – Right, tip number one. Keep your gravity very central, so you want to be even weight on each leg. You’ll be starting off sideways, most likely on your heel edge (FC – Going downhill backwards, for all you non-Olympians). It’s very hard to find your balancing point, it’s all very alien and you’ll never have felt it before. Just expect all these weird things, and you’ll be fine. What they’ll do first is get you to learn to stop, and then they’ll let you go, each time getting a little faster and then eventually you’ll do what they call ‘the falling leaf’ where you slide down the slope the way a leaf falls, putting your left foot over to the left hand side of the slope and then your right over to the right hand side. After that they bring in the turns, eventually pointing your board downhill and then you’ll go onto your toe edge. (FC – forwards, yeah.) That’s probably one of the biggest steps in progressing, once you can turn from heel to toe edge, that’s pretty much where all the fun starts. There are going to be a lot of sore bruises in the morning, and your body will take a bit of a battering.
With my nerves abated, I decided to ask about the more glamorous and fancypants lifestyle of the Olympic snowboarder, surely he gets up to more on an evening that starting a PS4 party called ‘in my pants’ and inviting everyone to join in?
FC – So how far do I expect to progress by the end of this session?
BK – I think you’ll have accomplished the very basics of snowboarding, I’m hoping you’ll have got a feel for it. The small steps, are quite gruelling, but you do get a lot of enjoyment out of it. As soon as you leave the slope you’ll be wanting to come back, I think.
FC – So, how many hours would get me to a level that is, shall we say competent?
BK – I took about five lessons, I think, before I was left to my own devices. I ended up getting so friendly with my instructor that he ended up say “Oh, let’s just go snowboarding.”
FC – Great. So, if this three-hour session goes well and I’m the best ever at it. What sort of lifestyle can I expect?
BK – You can expect lots of parties, getting loads of friends. You go everywhere, France, Switzerland, impress all the locals, all the local girls would be flooding in, you’ll be getting them to line up.
Well, that’s great. Gem won’t be letting me snowboard again if THAT’s gonna happen. It’s bad enough that they line up on twitter because I have a beard.
FC – What about when you’re not snowboarding, what do you get up to?
BK – When I’m not on the hill, I’m either in the gym, in the kitchen eating… you tend to find we’re either snowboarding, in the gym or eating and doing nothing else. If we do have downtime on a bad weather day, it’s a nightmare in the house, we’re all very bored, twiddling our thumbs. So, we’re basically living to snowboard or ski.
So, back to humble beginnings…
FC – So, how did you start out in snowboarding?
BK – My first experience with a board was age 9, I was sledging with my dad at the local golf course. There was a couple of snowboarders there, so I sort of decided to, instead of sitting down on my sledge, I decided to go down stood up. I did that a couple of times, and I remember my dad being there and he obviously went back to my mum and said I think we need to get him a snowboarding lesson. They took me up to the local slope up at Glenshee and I started just like you’ll start, working on my heel edge, and trying to slip down very slowly.
So, with the interview over and done with, I said my goodbyes (to both Ben and my loved ones, should I not return) and headed to the Snozone reception to get my gear to begin my adventure into having a cold bottom.
For starters I used Snozone’s really handy clothes rental service, and got myself a nice rented waterproof coat and trousers (£6.50 if ordered in advance, £8.50 on the day) and went about the task of getting dressed.
Next is getting the boots and board, the boots are a sight to behold; a mixture between the boots from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and armchairs.
As for the board itself, it’s much bigger than I expected, and contrary to popular belief, isn’t just an ironing board without legs.
After a short wait, and brief instructions about safety and such from Phil, the lovely instructor, it was time to, as the snowboarding people say ‘hit the slopes’. Unfortunately, this actually means hitting it repeatedly with your buttocks, but it’s still an accurate phrase.
I think the photos below pretty much sum up my experience, being that I am indeed an uncoordinated lummox, and suffice to say, I still have some work to do before I even pass stage 1 (of 5, before you are allowed on the slopes without an instructor). That said, I’m going to be booking my next lesson this coming week, and I will be continuing to bruise my bum in the name of fat, unfit men everywhere.
So, yeah, if I can do this sort of thing, anyone can, and as you can see from the background of those photos (which you’re not really allowed to take, so shhhh) the Sochi Olympic themed event brought out the best in young and old snowboarders, chucking themselves around like utter nutters, doing spinny stuff and mad shenanigans that contrast quite well with my sliding down a hill backwards very slowly.
You can find details about Snozone, with their awesome real snow ski slopes (although it is some kind of special snow that you can’t make snowmen with), at their website HERE. They have slopes in Milton Keynes (which is down south somewhere, I think they have concrete cows or some nonsense) or Castleford (in Xscape, home of a giant cactus, the Pizza Express that ran out of cheese that one time and a gourmet hot dog shop that I am too scared will make hot dogs too posh for me to eat).
Lessons start from around £30 for a 90 minute session, although if you go and sign up to your newsletter, Phil the instructor reliably informs me that they run offers all the time, so you can get your slope skills improved without having to sell a kidney.
You can also get lessons for your kids through Snozone’s Snoacademy, including private lessons from as little as £39.99, and all sorts of group shenanigans available.
It’s a whole load of fun for both grown ups and kids, and while it has left me broken and achey, I will be returning to continue learning really soon. I might even blog about it again, although I suppose it’s not as funny for you to read if I’m actually good at something.
That said, if you do want to pop along to Castleford and take a first lesson and you need a wingman, get in touch and we can go together. That’d be fun. You can buy me a coffee too.
I’m sorry. I felt I needed to say something snowboardy to finish.