Poor visibility, angry locals and unbearable gas couldn’t stop us from the biggest storm Europe saw all year.

By Chris Coyle
Photos By Kevin Zacher
I’m not sure about you, but when I was growing up, Europe might as well have been on Mars-because my broke ass was never going to set down on either. That would require passports, visas, and other things I had no idea how to obtain. Now, if you told me one day I’d not only go, but I would also get to snowboard one of the sickest spots of my life, my reply would’ve been along the lines of, “Yeah, take another bong hit there, buddy.” But there I was, this last winter, getting off the plane in Zurich on my way to meet some of the hottest kids to step on the stuntplastic: Gigi Ruf, David Carrier-Porcheron, Iikka Backstrà®m, Chris Coulter, and Wille Yli-Luoma. The majority of them were filming for a part in the new Kingpin Productions movie Back In Black. Since Whitey and Brad Kremer are my homeys, they asked me to come along. Here’s what went down during my first journey to the other side of the pond.

What? Sorry, I’m Stupid
First thing I noticed is they’ve got a different word for everything over there. It’s like a whole different language or something. Turns out, in the rest of the world a good number of people speak more than one language. Luckily for us, English is usually one of them, so it’s not that hard to get around. One trick I learned for talking to the folks who don’t speak English is just to smile and shake your head until they go away or give ya something. Sometimes you can get away with pointing and grunting, most just stick to the time-honored tradition of yelling while adding “o” to the end of every word. Like that does a damn thing: “Whereo is the bathroomo?” gets nothing but blank stares in most instances.

Travel
Due to the “Shotgun Saas Fee” incident (see sidebar) we needed a new destination. Wille told us he knew of a little spot that he was saving for something special. It went by the name of Andermatt. He went to make a call to see about conditions and returned with stories of endless terrain covered with three meters of fresh snow. Now we knew where to go, but getting there would be another thing completely. You can hop a train to damn near anywhere in Europe-that is as long as you know where ya want to go. Since we were playin’ it by ear, our best option was a rental car. While maps are a necessity during travel in any foreign locale, it should be known that they can be very deceiving. See, the Swiss have a rather laid-back approach to road upkeep. So more than once, after driving for hours down sketchy-ass roads, we would arrive at an eight-foot wall of snow that was supposed to be our “shortcut.” It would seem that sometimes they just don’t feel like plowing. Being that we’re not that smart, the first time around we bit the bullet and drove all over hell’s handbasket for an additional four hours. During round two we pulled our heads outta our asses and asked somebody what the f-k was up. We were informed that there are trains that will take your car as well as its passengers directly through the Alps, which is cool since you get one hell of a view on the ride.

The Weather
For the most part the weather sucked donkey nuts. Not ’cause it was raining or windy or there were lightning storms, but ’cause it was snowing. Yeah, I said it-snowing. Here’s the problem: the trees are considered a wildlife reserve in Switzerland, so most resorts are built above the tree line. And it was puking. Not like, “Wow, look at the pretty snow!” More like you couldn’t see your own hand if it punched you in the face. Because we couldn’t rely on the trees to give some definition to the terrain, all snowboarding attempts were done by brail. This would in turn lead to “The Great Hotel Lockdown.”

The Great Hotel Lockdown
Okay, I’ve done some seriousotel time in my day, but this was nothing like any of that. First off, our room was located directly above the restaurant, which normally isn’t a bad thing, but judging by the smell that came out of that kitchen you’d think they were deep-frying corpses in there. Throw in the fact that everyone in the place likes to wash down their corpse with a pack of cigarettes and what you get is a carnival for the senses wafting into room number six. Oh, let’s not forget most of the European diet consists of meat and cheese, so the steady stream of gas flowing from our own bodies was enough to gag a maggot. By day five, cabin fever was setting in. David and I had started a mustache-growing contest. D.C.P. went for the sideburn/chinstrap/mustache, while I pursued the biker look. Iikka had submerged himself in a sea of top-forty music so deep it coulda drowned Carson Daley. Coulter was obsessively playing three-card monte by himself. The rest either watched CNN (which was the only English-speaking channel) or slept a healthy eighteen hours a day. The whole scene looked like an outtake from The Shining.

Getting Our Jib On
With on-hill activities brought to a screeching halt, we sought refuge in the surrounding towns in search of handrails or ledges. The first object to feel the wrath was a rail we’d spotted on the way into town. It was located right in front of some sort of army base. In the States we probably would have left with a felony conviction instead of a photo. Here, they not only didn’t care, but some uniformed men came out to cheer Coulter on as he did every trick in the book. A couple of days passed before finding a kinked ledge located in the world’s most friendly apartment complex. The tenants didn’t care, either-actually, they moved their cars so nobody would land on them. We wouldn’t be as lucky when D.C.P. tried an impromptu cat tracky/cliff drop through an elderly man’s yard into what we found out later was his garden. Good thing David spoke French or he wouldn’t have known that the man was about to let his dogs loose on us. Exit stage left.

Thank God!
After about seven days of lockdown, the boys awoke toD.C.P.’s French-Canadian accent booming: “It’s bluebird up dare!” He’d said the same thing every morning since the trip started, but I’ll be damned if he wasn’t serious this time around-kinda, anyway. It wasn’t exactly blue, more dark gray, but it sure the hell wasn’t totally socked-in like before. Zacher couldn’t take photos because it was so cloudy, meaning it was a freeride day. This would be the first time the top tram was open since our arrival. Not a soul had been up it since damn near seven feet of snow fell. Immediately, we found our way to “The Extremo Zone.” It was filled with enough cliffs, pillow lines, and chutes to keep just about anybody happy. But strangely enough, it would only have to keep us happy. Ninety-nine percent of the fools on the mountain stuck to the groomers like it was a law. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining, it was just weird: Wide open cliff bands with perfect landings, all to ourselves, inbounds, in plain view of the tram. Weird.

It only got better from there. The next two days were clear and cold-freezin’-ass cold. Wille had told us the backside of the resort was rumored to be chock-full o’ goodies, so off we went.This was the point when we realized that the people skiing this mountain had no clue about its unlimited potential. As our posse dropped off a cat track, a collective “holy shit!” was gasped. Sprawling out directly in front of us lay hundreds of lines and not a single track. It was damn near nerve-racking, making us think there was something wrong. “Is this illegal or something?” Iikka wondered out loud. “If it is, I don’t wanna be right,” answered Gigi. The rest agreed while scurrying off to the top of potential lines.As Brad Kremer set up his camera, a man skied up with a bewildered look on his face and asked, while pointing to the completely virgin ridgeline, “What’s so special about that which would make you want to film it?” Brad looked at me, and we both started laughing. Not a clue.

Over the next two days we did as much damage to the landscape as humanly possible, every ridge better than the last. The beginning of the end started when Iikka tried one of the biggest frontside threes anyone had ever seen, only to set it down about fifteen feet past the landing. On impact, his knee was introduced to his face, pushing his teeth through his lip. Nothing all that bad, but the combo of that and another storm on the way got our bags packed. That turned out to be a great idea, because two days after leaving an avalanche took out the only road between Andermatt and Zurich, which could make getting to the airport a little hard.

Outro
So there it is, my first trip overseas. We got completely lost in the Alps, vibed off an entire mountain, locked down in a hotel for days breathing noxious gases, chased by an elderly man screaming in French, and watched a friend bash his face open. It couldn’t have gotten any better. These are things I’ll take to the grave, not hundred-dollar shirts or gold watches. If it were all over tomorrow, I would still have memories of these two weeks snowboarding in Switzerland with my friends. And it was easier and cheaper than I ever imagined. So stop reading this garbage and go out and do it for yourself. Go on-get.

Whitey’s Ass
If by some chance you’re vegan, Switzerland is not for you. The majority of the diet over yonder consists of meat and dairy of some sort. Most of the crew had no problems with the selections at hand-except for Whitey. The problem is that he don’t eat red meat and, to top it off, he’s very lactose intolerant-he could eat cheese, but the smells emitted from his body afterward were like he had been eating fireworks. This made sharing a car ride with him, not to mention a hotel room, downright unbearable. At least in the car you could roll down the windows. In the room, we just sat and wallowed in the air that had just been inside him.So, please, if you share any of the same gut troubles as The White Dude, be courteous to your fellow travelers by planning ahead. Bring some food or hit the local grocery store upon landing to stock up. ‘Cause no one should have to go through what we did.

Shotgun Saas Fee
The crew was to meet up in Livingo, Italy for the last couple days of the European Open and then figure out where the hot-powder action was. We decided that Saas Fee was our best bet. The only problem was that another film crew had the same idea. Any other time this would not have been a big deal, but they take that shit seriously in Europe. I’m not going to use anyone’s name-let’s just say after a heated argument with a certain photographer in the hotel parking lot, we were on our way to Saas Fee only to receive a phone call two minutes later from an irate team manager telling us we were not allowed to go because another teamrider “was filming his whole part there.” Whatever the hell that means. It seems if you pay thousands of dollars for a trip to a foreign land you should be able to go wherever you want. But to some people it’s more about the dollar than anything else. Snowboard politics suck. Be thankful you don’t have to deal with them.

d asked, while pointing to the completely virgin ridgeline, “What’s so special about that which would make you want to film it?” Brad looked at me, and we both started laughing. Not a clue.

Over the next two days we did as much damage to the landscape as humanly possible, every ridge better than the last. The beginning of the end started when Iikka tried one of the biggest frontside threes anyone had ever seen, only to set it down about fifteen feet past the landing. On impact, his knee was introduced to his face, pushing his teeth through his lip. Nothing all that bad, but the combo of that and another storm on the way got our bags packed. That turned out to be a great idea, because two days after leaving an avalanche took out the only road between Andermatt and Zurich, which could make getting to the airport a little hard.

Outro
So there it is, my first trip overseas. We got completely lost in the Alps, vibed off an entire mountain, locked down in a hotel for days breathing noxious gases, chased by an elderly man screaming in French, and watched a friend bash his face open. It couldn’t have gotten any better. These are things I’ll take to the grave, not hundred-dollar shirts or gold watches. If it were all over tomorrow, I would still have memories of these two weeks snowboarding in Switzerland with my friends. And it was easier and cheaper than I ever imagined. So stop reading this garbage and go out and do it for yourself. Go on-get.

Whitey’s Ass
If by some chance you’re vegan, Switzerland is not for you. The majority of the diet over yonder consists of meat and dairy of some sort. Most of the crew had no problems with the selections at hand-except for Whitey. The problem is that he don’t eat red meat and, to top it off, he’s very lactose intolerant-he could eat cheese, but the smells emitted from his body afterward were like he had been eating fireworks. This made sharing a car ride with him, not to mention a hotel room, downright unbearable. At least in the car you could roll down the windows. In the room, we just sat and wallowed in the air that had just been inside him.So, please, if you share any of the same gut troubles as The White Dude, be courteous to your fellow travelers by planning ahead. Bring some food or hit the local grocery store upon landing to stock up. ‘Cause no one should have to go through what we did.

Shotgun Saas Fee
The crew was to meet up in Livingo, Italy for the last couple days of the European Open and then figure out where the hot-powder action was. We decided that Saas Fee was our best bet. The only problem was that another film crew had the same idea. Any other time this would not have been a big deal, but they take that shit seriously in Europe. I’m not going to use anyone’s name-let’s just say after a heated argument with a certain photographer in the hotel parking lot, we were on our way to Saas Fee only to receive a phone call two minutes later from an irate team manager telling us we were not allowed to go because another teamrider “was filming his whole part there.” Whatever the hell that means. It seems if you pay thousands of dollars for a trip to a foreign land you should be able to go wherever you want. But to some people it’s more about the dollar than anything else. Snowboard politics suck. Be thankful you don’t have to deal with them.