There are two things I hate about flying: Actually being in the air in a million-ton hunk of steel is one of them. The other is the fact that I am breathing recirculated air for hours on end, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. Sometimes I wish there would be some kind of in-flight mishap so the oxygen masks would drop and I could enjoy a few breaths of pure air, giving me a nice high. But then again, by that rationale, the masks dropping usually means there is something wrong with the plane and we are plummeting toward the ground in a hellish fireball of death, leaving me right back where I started. I hate to fly.

For some reason it takes twelve hours to fly from San Diego to Quebec but only nine hours to fly from San Diego to France. As I sit in the airport in Quebec, waiting for TWS Photo Editor Shem Roose to pick me up, it eludes me why this is so. I ponder how much the world is changing just as a group of Hasidic Jews walks by, all talking on cell phones. Nothing is sacred. I haven’t seen that much roaming telecommunications since the last time I hung with a group of pro snowboarders at a trade show. And speaking of roaming roosters, where the hell is Shem? We were supposed to be heading to a small area by a big river otherwise known as Mont Ste. Anne, and we’re late.

Shem finally arrives to pick me up in what I thought would be a nice, warm, safe sport-utility rental car, which we could joyfully thrash and fill with McDonald’s refuse, not thinking twice about it, but instead he rolls up in a 1972 Volkswagon Squareback, a detail I must admit I was not too delighted about. I don’t know if you have ever been to the eastern coast of Canada in the winter, but it has a sort of icy planes of Hoth feel to it, and the thought of rolling around Quebec in the middle of February in a vintage car didn’t sound all that appealing. Shem’s “But dude, I’ve got a CD player in it” retaliation didn’t help my mood much either. Needless to say, the Squareback (a.k.a., the Beige Bean) got the job done quite nicely, and (much to my dismay) had a heater that could melt shoes, easily keeping my bitchy ass warm.

Regardless of the million-below-zero temperature blowing around outside of the Bean, the trip from Montreal to Mont Ste. Anne went smoothly. Our final destination, a 100-year-old farmhouse that is otherwise considered the home of the 418: a crew of French-Canadian snowboarders who are more like a family than a bunch of friends who ride together. We already know of the talent that has come out of Quebec, riders like Marc Morriset and J.F. Pelchat, so we were sure that all the new riders rising on the scene wouldn’t disappoint. Although the actual number of members of this group are not known, we came to the conclusion that it is in the ballpark of a hell of a lot.

Where does the name 418 come into play, you ask? I too was baffled by this seemingly simple numeric mystery title. Was it some secret-society code of truth and justice that only French-Canadian kids are privy to? Well, not really, it’s just the local phone area code. Clever.

The one guy out of the crew I’d known for quite a few years was Emanuel Krebs, otherwise known as Manny. He is pretty much the big brother of the whole crew and one of the originators of the 418. As it turns out, the 418 isn’t just a local Quebec group of friends: They have spread faster than ebola in a petri dish. Manny told us that there are members from coast to coast. Jeez, they kind of sounded like Amway reps but they weren’t selling anything

The house that the 418 call home-a place to crash when in town-is an amazing old farmhouse that sits on top of a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. From our past experience with snowboarders’ houses, we were expecting a mishmash of old beer cans and dust bunnies, but when we walked through the door we saw a completely different picture. The place is amazing: multicolored walls and incredibly clean as well … amazing-they actuallmake you take your shoes off every time you enter the house. They’re snowboarders? Where are all the empties? The rotting couch covered with dog hair that I’m supposed to sleep on? This house runs like a well-oiled machine with a board-tuning station to boot. Because Shem and I arrived as they were just sitting down to dinner-a dinner you’d normally have to pay a shitload for in some restaurant-they invited us to stay. Our timing was impeccable.

As we sat down to eat we were overwhelmed by awkwardness as all the 418 took off their shirts before starting in. Was this some French ritual or just us in the wrong place at the wrong time? Manny must have noticed the looks on our faces. He laughed while telling us it was only to prevent spaghetti sauce from splattering their shirts. I’ll have to remember that the next time I decide to eat at my local Italian restaurant. After an amazing meal, we all sat around talking, getting to know one another-allowing us to learn a little more about the 418.

The 418 is generally young-the average age of these guys is twenty or 21. This is shown best through their carefree attitude toward just having fun with their snowboarding. They are so into French hip-hop music-watching them all rap to it was sort of reminiscent of some NYC posse, but we couldn’t understand a thing they were saying. They are definitely a tight-knit group we imagine will be lifelong friends.

Growing up riding on the East Coast, the 418 is mostly subject to icy pipes and snowparks, but over the past few years they have been migrating over to the land of snow you can pick up without the assistance of a pick ax. These guys are incredibly agile in all areas of riding. We can only imagine how excited they must have been the first time they rode in a place like Whistler, B.C., where they could really push their limits without having to worry about cracking their noggins on the unforgiving French ice.

Mont Ste. Anne is located about 40 minutes outside of Quebec City. It usually boasts a perfect East Coast halfpipe, but to our disappointment we saw something that resembled an icy taco, and when it comes to snowboarding, the word “ice” usually brings a glazed look of fear to most of our faces.

Amazingly enough, it didn’t faze these Frenchies much. “Icy pipes are better because you go faster,” one 418er declared in broken English. Yeah, right! The pipe at Mont. Ste Anne was supposed to have been freshly cut, but due to a week of rain prior to our arrival, the pipe couldn’t be re-cut. Instead, it looked as if it were ready to be entered in the local ice-sculpture contest held every year at Quebec City’s Winter Festival. To top it all off, it had started to snow, creating a deadly combination of mush-covered ice in the pipe. Ahh, Canada in February.

Normally when things look this bad on your first day it kind of puts a heavy damper on the situation. Manny upped the 418 morale by suggesting we head over to another resort that had a freestyle park. All in favor say, “aye.” The “aye’s” have it. Off we went for a 30-minute car ride to watch a huck session off some kicker.

Now, when I use the term “huck,” I am not referring to a character in one of Mark Twain’s most famous books. No, instead I refer to the fearless Frenchies hucking themselves off of a jump I normally wouldn’t look twice at. What is with these guys? Are they insane or am I just a pussy? No wonder East Coast kids rule-they have no fear! I sat in amazement watching the 418 do an air show that I thought was brought on by Kodak courage, but even when we put the cameras down they just kept going like we weren’t even there. And although it was somewhere in the neighborhood of a million-below zero, they just hiked the jump for hours, laughing and cheering each other on. These guys rule.

The 418 crew was proving to be more than we had hoped for. With all the prima donnas in the snowboarding world today, these guys are a breath of fresh air-it is obvious they just love to snowboard. Even when the pipe at Mont Ste. Anne didn’t soften up that much, they didn’t complain. They only apologized for what they said was bad riding. Are they crazy? If this was bad riding, then I can’t imagine what it would have been like if the pipe hadn’t resembled an ice cube. The whole time we were there I don’t think one of them did an air lower than way the f-k over my head. I’ve known East Coasters to be a little more fearless on icy pipes, but this was ridiculous.

After three days of solid pipe riding (come on, what the hell else do you expect in Quebec?), we were feeling pretty content with what we had on film, so Shem and I decided to load up the Bean and bid the French connection adieu. Besides, most 418ers were on their way to infiltrate Whistler for the rest of the season and the summer anyway-it was time to get out of Dodge. Shem was heading back to Vermont (a lot like Quebec but with rednecks), so he dropped me off at the airport, enabling me to enjoy yet another full day of travel hell.

As I sat in my plane, waiting to take off, I heard the captain’s voice come over the PA. “Sorry ladies and gentlemen, but we are reporting an electrical problem in our air filtration system, so we will have to return to the gate to have it repaired. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or so. Please sit tight. We should be in the air shortly.” God I hate to fly.

418 Rider Profiles

Name: Emanuel Krebs

Age: 26

Years riding: Thirteen

Sponsors: Limited snowboards, Arnette, Billabong, DLX shop, CTIZ, Da Kine, Swix

French fries or French toast: “Naww, French lover style.”

Music: Hip-hop

Halfpipe or freeride: “Doesn’t matter, all snowboarding.”

Celine Dion: “No, she’s fake.”

French tickler or French kiss: “All of the above. We do it all good.”

Props: “To all the Quebec Province OGs and rippers; Martain Gallant, J.F., Marc Morriset; all of the 418 and family; my mom, she’s the best; and all the kids who bought their first board from my mom and my shop!”

Name: David Aubry

Age: 21

Years riding: Nine

Sponsors: Ride, Oakley, Wintersteiger

French fries or French toast: “Both are good.”

Music: “Any kind.”

Halpipe or freeriding: “Any kind of snowboarding.”

Celine Dion: “What are you crazy?”

French tickler or French kiss: “The French kiss is better than any other.”

Props: “To all the 418 brothers, to my mother and dad, and to all my sponsors.”

Name: David Carrier-Porcheron

Age: 18

Sponsors: Burton, Oakley

French fries or French kiss: “Uuhhh, French kiss.”

Music: “Mostly French Hip-hop or Bob Marley.”

Halpipe or freeride: “Halfpipe, jumps, powder, whatever.”

Celine Dion: “No, no, no, no!”

French tickler or French kiss: “Both, that’s for sure!”

Props: “Thanks to all in the 418; everyone at Burton and Oakley; mom and dad; and to my bro, Manny-you rule!”

Name: Daniel Migneault

Age: Old enough

Years riding: Eight

Sponsors: Burton, Oakley

French fries or French toast: “I love French fries.”

Props: “To all in the 418 and Manny. All my sponsors and to my family.”

Name: Etienne Tremblay

Age: 22

Years riding: Ten

Sponsors: Limited, Oakley, Special Blend, 32, Split, DLX, Drop

French fries or French toast: “French anything.”

Music: Country.

Halfpipe or freeriding: “All of the above.”

Celine Dion: “Oh yeah, I’m a huge fan.”

French tickler or French kiss: “Again, all of the above.”

Props: “To Manny and everyone else in the 418 crew. All my sponsors and my parents and everyone at Limited.”

Name: Sylvain Rheault

Age: 22

Years riding: Eight

Sponsors: Salomon, Split, DLX

Frbvious they just love to snowboard. Even when the pipe at Mont Ste. Anne didn’t soften up that much, they didn’t complain. They only apologized for what they said was bad riding. Are they crazy? If this was bad riding, then I can’t imagine what it would have been like if the pipe hadn’t resembled an ice cube. The whole time we were there I don’t think one of them did an air lower than way the f-k over my head. I’ve known East Coasters to be a little more fearless on icy pipes, but this was ridiculous.

After three days of solid pipe riding (come on, what the hell else do you expect in Quebec?), we were feeling pretty content with what we had on film, so Shem and I decided to load up the Bean and bid the French connection adieu. Besides, most 418ers were on their way to infiltrate Whistler for the rest of the season and the summer anyway-it was time to get out of Dodge. Shem was heading back to Vermont (a lot like Quebec but with rednecks), so he dropped me off at the airport, enabling me to enjoy yet another full day of travel hell.

As I sat in my plane, waiting to take off, I heard the captain’s voice come over the PA. “Sorry ladies and gentlemen, but we are reporting an electrical problem in our air filtration system, so we will have to return to the gate to have it repaired. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or so. Please sit tight. We should be in the air shortly.” God I hate to fly.

418 Rider Profiles

Name: Emanuel Krebs

Age: 26

Years riding: Thirteen

Sponsors: Limited snowboards, Arnette, Billabong, DLX shop, CTIZ, Da Kine, Swix

French fries or French toast: “Naww, French lover style.”

Music: Hip-hop

Halfpipe or freeride: “Doesn’t matter, all snowboarding.”

Celine Dion: “No, she’s fake.”

French tickler or French kiss: “All of the above. We do it all good.”

Props: “To all the Quebec Province OGs and rippers; Martain Gallant, J.F., Marc Morriset; all of the 418 and family; my mom, she’s the best; and all the kids who bought their first board from my mom and my shop!”

Name: David Aubry

Age: 21

Years riding: Nine

Sponsors: Ride, Oakley, Wintersteiger

French fries or French toast: “Both are good.”

Music: “Any kind.”

Halpipe or freeriding: “Any kind of snowboarding.”

Celine Dion: “What are you crazy?”

French tickler or French kiss: “The French kiss is better than any other.”

Props: “To all the 418 brothers, to my mother and dad, and to all my sponsors.”

Name: David Carrier-Porcheron

Age: 18

Sponsors: Burton, Oakley

French fries or French kiss: “Uuhhh, French kiss.”

Music: “Mostly French Hip-hop or Bob Marley.”

Halpipe or freeride: “Halfpipe, jumps, powder, whatever.”

Celine Dion: “No, no, no, no!”

French tickler or French kiss: “Both, that’s for sure!”

Props: “Thanks to all in the 418; everyone at Burton and Oakley; mom and dad; and to my bro, Manny-you rule!”

Name: Daniel Migneault

Age: Old enough

Years riding: Eight

Sponsors: Burton, Oakley

French fries or French toast: “I love French fries.”

Props: “To all in the 418 and Manny. All my sponsors and to my family.”

Name: Etienne Tremblay

Age: 22

Years riding: Ten

Sponsors: Limited, Oakley, Special Blend, 32, Split, DLX, Drop

French fries or French toast: “French anything.”

Music: Country.

Halfpipe or freeriding: “All of the above.”

Celine Dion: “Oh yeah, I’m a huge fan.”

French tickler or French kiss: “Again, all of the above.”

Props: “To Manny and everyone else in the 418 crew. All my sponsors and my parents and everyone at Limited.”

Name: Sylvain Rheault

Age: 22

Years riding: Eight

Sponsors: Salomon, Split, DLX

French fries or French toast: French toast.

Music: Hip-hop and punk rock.

Halfpipe or freeride: “Everything. I love all kinds of riding but mostly halfpipe.”

Celine Dion: “Hell, no!!

French tickler or French kiss: “I’m leaving this one alone.”

Props: “To all my friends and family, and to my sponsors for all the help. 418 rules!”B>French fries or French toast: French toast.

Music: Hip-hop and punk rock.

Halfpipe or freeride: “Everything. I love all kinds of riding but mostly halfpipe.”

Celine Dion: “Hell, no!!

French tickler or French kiss: “I’m leaving this one alone.”

Props: “To all my friends and family, and to my sponsors for all the help. 418 rules!”