On 30 January the Saas-Fee snow park was victim to a female invasion… Optimum teamed up with Surf Affinity for a day of all girl freestyle. Over twenty girls turned up for coaching from the Optimum ladies (Kat and Amy) and Surf Affinity’s Cozza.
From never-ever-park-goers to accomplished-pro-line riders, we were thrilled to see such a great turn out. Armed with enthusiasm, the girls spent the morning tackling flat land tricks and switch riding - which proved to be a whole lot more achievable than anyone first imagined :D After a quick briefing in park etiquette, the ladies launched themselves at the kickers and boxes.
Progression was the order of the day. With confidence boosted and humiliation eradicated, the girls threw down a host of spreads, grabs, grinds and spins for the jam session comp. Prizes were awarded for the most stylish tricks and the biggest improvers at an après party held in Saas-Fee’s Snowpoint bar, complete with sparkly pink cocktails.
Thanks to our sponsors: Tignes Spirit Community, SuperRad, Downdays, Planks clothing, Snowpoint and Nikita Clothing @WildONe Saas Fee, and to all the girls who got involved - hope to catch you in the park soon…
Fancy a girly surfing holiday on the beaches of Portugal, the Maldives or Costa Rica? Check out Surf Affinity.
This summer I finally realised my dream of getting my paragliding licence. I returned to Switzerland the first week of June to start the qualification, this should have only taken me two weeks to complete - much to my despair this was not to be the case. Torrential rain and gale force winds battered Verbier for the first four days, preventing access to the great blue yonder above the dank cloud cover. Finally, on day five the skies cleared and I was allowed my first solo air time, starting from 2,200 metres I flew all the way down to Le Chable at 821 metres, not too shabby!
Unfortunately the weather continued to be very hit and miss over the next 10 days meaning I had to return to Saas-Fee with my tail between my legs and no licence in my pocket. I started my new summer job, working in a kitchen in Saas Grund as a sous chef. Coordinating split shifts and flying time with weather windows proved to be a nightmare, but as the summer drew to a close my last chance to get the licence proved a success.
I managed to clock up a total of 25 flights over the course of the summer including a cheeky one in Saas-fee - along with learning the German vocabulary for every kitchen item known to man. Tip top! Voll Krass :-D
As the 2011/12 season was wrapping up in Saas Fee, I headed to Austria to complete my BASI Level 3 technical exam. It was unfortunate to miss out on some massive snow-falls and end of season festivities, however two weeks of riding on the Hintertux Glacier and staying in what turned out to be a very flash apartment in the Austrian Alps, was a worthy substitute and great fun. Passing my exam made it even better.
Now as I write this, another winter season is coming to an end. My season in New Zealand has been a busy one. This is my third winter working at The Remarkables, so Queenstown is beginning to feel like a second home. A new season brought a new job as a snowsports school coordinator, making me the guy walking around with a clipboard and a radio. It’s been interesting to work as a different role within a snow sports school, facing a lot of new challenges during one of the busiest seasons The Remarkables has had for a few years.
I still managed to find the time to get out and about; taking a few trips to ride at Snow Park in the evenings, and finally made it out to Ohau, one of the best club fields in New Zealand. After ascending the steepest and narrowest dirt mountain road I have ever driven, I was greeted by some AMAZING snow on steep, sun drenched slopes. Next on the calendar is a trip up to Mt. Hutt for an instructor exchange, to see how they operate and experience working on another mountain. Then I’m off for on some downhill mountain bike trips around Queenstown.
With only a few weeks remaining of the season, I’ve glimpsed a little snapshot of summer; riding in t shirts, long evenings sitting on the beach, end of season events like downhill cardboard pirate ships races - which I won! Hard to think that in two weeks I will be flying back to the beginning of another winter, hopefully with as much, if not more, fun and snow as last year.
As temperatures are dropping, days shortening and storms brewing, my pulse pumps a little harder. Winter is coming! However summer hasn’t been without it’s highlights and I have certainly kept myself busy this year.
After leaving the Swiss Alps I headed to the Isle of Harris in the Western Isles, Outer Hebrides, and discovered one of the finest, untouched locations in the UK. During days off I ventured to the summits of mountains, glimpsed stunning wildlife, ate the freshest seafood and witnessed just five rainy days in two months!
Come July my work took me to London, to lead a community development program aimed at 15 to 17 year olds. Each wave of sixty teens lasted three weeks and saw the young people (and staff) facing new challenges in the outdoors, team situations and fundraising endeavors- each day was hugely rewarding.
A short break at the end of August by the side of Loch Tay in Scotland was much needed. Watersports, walks, and big dinners. Fishing, log fires and cold beer: About as good as it gets for me without snowy mountains!
Shaping up for winter on my new bike is fun, as I aim to begin giant slalom race training in November in better shape than ever.
This summer was a bit of a mixed bag for me… The lifts in Saas Fee didn’t open again until the 14th July due to routine maintenance, so that meant my annual spring/summer trip to the UK was longer than usual. Luckily, I had lots to keep me busy whilst there: I went on holiday to Alvor in Portugal for a week in May, of course it was hotter in the UK than it was in Portugal! Typical. I met up with some old friends from the nearby dry slope, where I used to coach racing. I try to get involved each time I am in the UK, it’s great to see how they are all developing as racers on the dry slope circuit. Some of the younger kids are going to be fantastic racers in a few years to come, definitely a few names to look out for.
The rest of my time in the UK was largely taken up Hog Roasting… I have been doing this off and on for the past few summers, it’s hard work but can be good fun. Not a job for the squeamish or vegetarians! I got back to Saas in late July and have been skiing a few times a week up on the glacier, the conditions have been awesome so far, it’s been great fun to still be on skis, even in August.
When I’m not on the mountain, you’ll find me in the office getting everything ready for next winter. I also got the chance to FINALLY do the Adventure Forest, something I have been meaning to do for the last three summers. It’s a lot of fun, and also a little challenging in Zone 4.
My highlight of the summer so far however, was climbing the Jagihorn I Saas-Grund. At 3206 metres high, I got quite a sense of achievement when I reached the summit.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though… Monster Scooters are available to ride down from the base of the mountain, unfortunately 20 metres from the rental shop I pulled the front brake instead of the back brake too sharply and went over the handlebars… It was quite embarrassing as there were lots of people about!
The temperature has started dropping here in Saas now and so thoughts are definitely shifting towards winter, not long until the Optimum Team are all back together and the good times of winter can begin again.
This summer, Amy has been working as an intern with Backcountry Magazine in Vermont, USA. She has been proof reading, fact checking, researching and writing, and even went to a cover photo shoot. This work has helped her to learn more about the magazine publishing process and a great deal more about the world of skiing. When she’s not got her head buried in a pile of papers she has been enjoying the delights of New England… a bit like England, but sunnier. Hiking, climbing and swimming in watering holes is the order of the day, every day- but it comes at a price! Imagine reading, writing and learning about skiing daily, but not being able to ski?! She’ll be back next winter ready to explode onto the slopes.
The Backcountry Gear Guide comes out next month, get savvy and stylish for next season and purchase your issue now!
So it’s goodbye snow and hello sunshine for the Optimum Team… except for sneaky Colin, who’s en route to shred it up in New Zealand… grrrrr! Wistfully the rest of us pack away our skis and boots for next season but not without remembering what an ACE time it has been;
living in our own wintery bubble and timing our lives with the moods of the snowgods, meeting and greeting clients and friends old and new, and ultimately, imparting our ski wisdom on you… we really hope you had fun, we certainly did! So until next winter, tschuess x
Yesterday, on Saturday the 24th of March, our very own Aaron McLean participated in the fully bonkers Saas-Fee Glacier Mountain Bike Downhill Race. The race begins at the top of the Metro Alpin lift with a Le Mans style start (an all elbows, running race to get to your bike). It continues down the glacier, onto the Panorama run that leads you into Morenia area; by this point the riders were hitting some incredible speeds and taking some serious air as they hit run 10b above the Morenia chair. The riders came tearing down past the Morenia restaurant, then onto the red below, followed by a short breather past the chair before hooning it down the the very bottom of Saas-Fee resort. The race saw over 180 riders, 6 of which were British, descend a monstrous 1700 vertical meters in less than 8km. Aaron finished in 71st place, he said “…it was fantastic and seeing such a huge community of riders in one place was awesome. A huge rush!”. Maybe we will see some more Brits there next year :D