Glacier Riding Europe With Team CAPiTA
The dictionary describes the word “team” as “a group on the same side, as in a game.” But in all reality, a team in snowboarding is more like a random bunch of riders thrown together on the grounds that they get a paycheck from the same place. If true camaraderie happens at all, it happens naturally-so it’s actually kind of a big deal that the CAPiTA team is a team in the true sense. They’re real mates, old-time friends, with similar beliefs and a shared custom of championing the underdog.
Anyway, it’s this rare, cool thing about CAPiTA that made a big summer-camp, van-tour journey through Europe with these boys a real family experience. We flew into Geneva, Switzerland and drove deep into the looming French Alps to a town called Les Deux Alpes. Here, we shredded the Big A Snowboard Camp facilities for a few days, and then it was off to the heat and sweat of Torino, Italy to visit the European CAPiTA distributor and chill on the shores of balmy Lake Como. Next, it was a brutal all-nighter climb onto the Italian side of the Matterhorn to a resort called Cervinia-another Big A Snowboard Camp location. We soaked in Europe like big sponges and only got in a few snags and haggles along the way. We were a family for our time there-a family of snowboarders, all with our own weird personalities that, like a real family, somehow fit together into one funny, beautiful thing.
Basic information and unsolicited observations about my fellow van passengers.
Lives: Truckee, California
Likes: Cold beer on a hot stomach
Lives: Calgary, Alberta
Likes: The band Tilly And The Wall
Hates: Food that looks wet
Lives: Vancouver, B.C.
Likes: Baked goods of any kind
Hates: Wearing deodorant
Lives: Portland, Oregon
Hates: Being called a sexual predator
Lives: Breckenridge, Colorado
Lives: Whistler, B.C.
Likes: Beer and Red Bull (together)
Hates: When people get drunk and say the same thing to him over and over again
Likes: Snus (Swedish chewing tobacco)
Hates: Being separated from his Snus
Lives: Seattle, Washington
Likes: Seeing his CAPiTA teamriders break a piece off
Hates: When people make fun of his name by calling him “Green” or “Red”
Those Dramatic European Mountains
I can’t decide if the Alps are more stunning as the snow-caked, death-defying teeth rows of winter or the brilliant patchwork of meadows sweeping up to dark, craggy rock piles of summer-but either way, they’re amazing. The village of Les Deux Alpes sits in a hanging valley halfway up one of these rock piles, and there’s a bench at the “end” of town where you can sit and breathe in the warm wind blowing up off the valley floor filled with strange fragrant flower scents of southern France and something more dry and earthy-the rocks themselves, I guess. Cervinia, however, is the highest resort in the Alps and the summer air there is cool and thin and makes your head buzz. You’re in the shadow of the Matterhorn, and swollen blue glaciers press in from all sides. Both towns are unlike anything you’ve ever seen this side of the Atlantic, I promise.
Glacier riding is glacier riding, but nothing compares to the experience of the true European liftline. According to Corey Smith, “I think I had twelve-year-old girls pushing me out of the way to get on the lift.” It’s a wonderful, chaotic mess of skis, poles, snowboards, and feet all moving with urgency toward the load-on point-if you don’t push, you’ll get pushed … nothing personal, that’s just how it is. Lift mazes do not exist, Europeans don’t go for that sort of organization. Why bother?
In keeping with this theme, every one of us experienced riding up the T-bar with three or four other passengers aat once, some of whom grabbed on a quarter or halfway up. It don’t matter-as long as you can keep your balance and hold on, then everything’s perfectly fine.
In our entire crew of seven riders, one team manager, one writer, and one photographer, three whole people had never been to Europe before. That’s actually kind of a lot in this day and age. And let me tell you, the trip was well worth all the jet lag, pain, and suffering of my weary bones to see Corey Smith’s prowler efforts get repeatedly thwarted because his rock-and-roll/artist schtick somehow didn’t translate into French or Italian; or watch Ryan Thompson accidentally say, “Thank you” in Spanish because it was the only foreign language he knows and then, realizing we were in France, get all flustered and embarrassed; or witness TJ Schneider urgently trying to find a nice vegetarian meal on a menu full of cured meats.
“I liked that some of the people were amused by us,” says Ryan. “I’m not sure if it was because we were trying to fit in and seem like natives or if it was because I would let out the occasional Spanish gibberish.” Either way, the cultural exchange of stoke that went on during this trip was a real thing of beauty.
Follow In Our Footsteps
Big A Snowboard Camp has three European locations: Les Deux Alpes, France; and Cervinia and Val Senales, Italy. Check out big-a.it for more information and make your own damn pilgrimage to the sunny glaciers of old Europe.