To Liberty & beyond

On 26th August I arrived at the Liberty University Snowflex Mountain having been up for 44 hours (I had to do a full day of work on the 25th before starting my journey) and travelled from Chelmsford to Lynchburg, VA via Hemel Hempstead, Manchester, Paris & Washington. As part of what has been referred to by the media “a group of UK Pro riders” we travelled out for the Grand Opening of the new Snowflex slope, the first full size outdoor slope of it’s kind in the USA, and I have to say a huge thank you to Brian & Terry of Snowflex and Wayne Taylor (AKA Snowskate) for inviting me along on what I can only describe as my best snowboarding trip ever! Not only did I meet a great bunch of new friends but I got to introduce Snowflex to people who’ve either never ridden it or have only just started. I also met a bunch of my Humanity team mates and collected my new snowboards so it made for a great week.

I admit to totally wussing out of riding on the day we got there, both Katie Summerhayes and I decided to leave the guys to it, 44 hours with hardly any sleep screamed “accident waiting to happen to me” so I just walked around the slope watching and just chatting to the people who had come up to either watch their friends or just see what was going on at this new slope. The slope is amazing and currently consists of 3 kickers (a knuckle, a 3 foot and a 6 foot kicker) all of which can give you massive air. It was great to see that the locals were already getting the hang of it, with a young lad (the size that Jamie Nicholls used to be) of 9 year old giving 360s a try off the knuckle. There are also 2 boxes, a straight box & a down flat down kink which are placed on the intermediate slope. The slope is also going to be expanded as part of Phase 2 and so the riding area is going to pretty much double and they’re bound to add more jibs to the collection over time. There’s also a nursery slope for beginners to make their first turns on or to tube on.

After a late start on the Thursday we spent the afternoon playing ball and sunning ourselves in the uni pool (after a drive around town to find the outdoor pool with waterslides was closed as school had started) before heading to the slope to ride. I picked up my 150 Humanity Plastictastic, got my bindings screwed in and hit the slopes. After a couple of runs down the main slope to get the feel of the Snowflex and the new snowboard I was ready to start pushing it.

My first reaction to the new snowboard was that it perfect, it’s got plenty of spring and pop for ollies and is a lot flexier than I’m used to but without feeling soggy. I headed up to the kicker drop in and had a chat with Wayne Taylor about drop in speeds for the big kicker. I’d decided to go all out and hit the big one first off because I knew if I hit the 3 footer I’d be too scared to step it up, especially if I stacked it.   So after a couple of ride -throughs over the knuckle to get the hang f the drop in and feel the gradient of the run out I went for it. Dropped in, quick speed check and straightened up for the main 6 footer….up the kicker, in the air and I landed! I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised that the 150 handled the landing without any problem at all, and even more importantly there wasn’t any chatter on the run in either. I spent the rest of the evening working on various grabs and just trying to go bigger each time.

Friday saw us riding again and I was even brave enough to give a FS180 a try on the 6 foot kicker. I landed cleanly, but girly legs took over half way down the landing and I sat down. That was my only spin off the big kicker of the trip (it just felt a little on the large side for me to keep spinning on it) but I did get some good spins off the 3 footer while I was there.

Saturday was the big opening ceremony and it was seriously hot out there! So hot in fact that I put my riding shirt in the bucket of ice with the water in it to cool it down before we hit the slopes in the early afternoon sun. After the sky-diver had landed on the slopes and skiied down the hill I was the first over the kicker….it seemed like a good idea to volunteer to go first initially as it meant that when we started doing named tricks I’d be at the front to do a straight air (rather than being at the back and getting stuck with a 1080!), but as I was waiting to drop in it dawned on me that I was going to be the first person that the waiting crowds (of around 3,200 people) would see. All went well though and although I had a hand down on landing I managed to stay upright and not stack in front of everyone watching or get squashed by the riders who were following me in in quick succession.

After some “Trickology” to show the various tricks possible on skis and snowboards we had a quick team comp. I was part of UK 2, consisting of myself, Will Smith, Matt Macwhirter and Wayne Taylor. Unfortunately UK1 (Jamie Nicholls, Andy Nudds, Woodsy & Katie Summerhayes beat us in the crowd vote and went through to the final against on of the US teams. UK 1 were amazing and won the crowd vote overall. Their run can be seen in this video shown on the local news (in which I also feature!).  It was also great to have Dragon Goggles Team Manager, Sam Nelson, acting as half of the MC crew, it meant that there was someone there who knew our names and what we were doing and made sure we got plenty of shout outs and support from the crowd.  Russ Shea from Dopeshots was also on hand with his trusty camera so hopefully there’ll be some shots from him of us doing our thing.

We rode again on Sunday and as it was after the opening I think everyone was pushing it a little bit more, the pressure was off and people were less worried about hurting themselves. I used the time to keep working on big hits and grab variations and I had a great time. Katie stepped it up to throw down some massive 720s on skis and all the guys were putting in some huge spins. Everyone who hit it agreed that it’s the best kicker we’ve all hit and certainly the best kicker on Snowflex.

Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end, and  so we left Lynchburg on Monday morning and headed to the airport following a quick tourist stop off in Washington, where we saw the White House and the Washington Memorial. Arriving back in the UK yesterday it was great to log in to Facebook and Twitter and catch up on the buzz of the opening and the excitement of all our new friends. It was great to meet everyone from Liberty, the US Team and my boys from Humanity! We were all made to feel so welcome and I can’t wait to see how everyone progresses over the coming months.

Thanks again to Brian, Terry & Wayne for making this trip possible and for taking an old girl like me along with the kids. It meant a lot to be included and I hope I did you proud!

Here’s another movie from the team at Liberty University, great work from Hannah & Ena, I can’t wait to see what else you come up with.

And here’s my Flickr set of the trip

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