We’re two hours, three beers and a preserved meat snack into the journey from Munich to Diedamskopf and as the German countryside gives way to the Austrian mountains, our excitement is building fast. This is the third time I’ve been back to The Rome Lodge in Diedamskopf in as many years, and it’s an annual highlight.
The Rome Lodge is Rome Snowboards’ reaction to the overpriced and stale trade show format that has dominated the industry part of snowboarding for decades, They decided that the money would be far better spent getting retailers to actually ride Rome snowboards, so they have flown their key accounts out and the shop guys are eager to get out from behind the counter and onto the mountain. The crew is made up of Tobias from Surfdome, Matt from Absolute Snow, Simon from Boarderline and Matt from Subvert – plus Rome Team rider Angus ‘Das Goose’ Leith – and we’re all frothing to get stuck into the kit and ride Diedamskopf, one of the best little spots you’ve (probably) never heard of.
After an over-excitedly excessive number of beers to celebrate our arrival, we wake on our first morning to the happy news that it snowed overnight, the sky is blue and the terrain is waiting for us. Rome have also flown some of their best performing US reps out for the event and they’ve already been here for a few fresh-free days, so the combination of over excited UK and US snowboarders sees us swinging the gondola cars in anticipation.
Europe is littered with ski resorts, literally thousands of them, but unlike many of the French mega resorts that were built to plan specifically for skiing, Diedamskopf is like most ski resorts in Austria – a mountain village that morphed into a ski resort after the sport was popularised in the ’50’s. And the mountain? Oh, the mountain. The piste terrain is fast, fun and open, and the park is built and maintained by the excellent Q Parks crew with a full complement of the boxes and rails you’d expect to see. The layout is fun and the crew are constantly changing things up, building new combinations and maintaining everything to perfection. But what you really come to Diedamskopf for is the off piste terrain. From the top of the mountain, the resort drops down on the wide open pistes, but in between them is a undulating natural terrain that looks as thought it’s been built for snowboarding, with windlips and natural halfpipes and mini hips everywhere. If it’s snowed you’ll want to hit these spots first before things get tracked out. Once that’s done you can access wide open pow fields directly off the cat tracks that spread out from the resort’s highest lift, just keep lapping it and dropping in a little further over every time. If you’re up for it and have the knowledge, there’s a ridge that runs right around the lip of the resort that offers a similar drop and ride approach, but is gnarlier. Basically, the more effort you put in the more you’ll get out here, but not of it is so gnarly as to be unattainable.
At the top we rush to set up our new boards – the more powder and freeride orientated boards get most of the attention and we’re out of the door, taking as many laps of sweet, fresh pow as our legs can handle. Before we know it, it’s lunch time and we sit on the balcony of a mountain restaurant as lederhosen-clad wait staff bring us traditional foods and beer. In the afternoon we switch out our boards for more freestyle and all mountain ones and shred the pistes and park as fast and hard as we can, getting the miles under our feet and the smiles on our faces widen all the time.
This is not the first time I’ve been to Diedamskopf, but it is the first time I’ve had a chance to shoot with a rider as good as Angus in the resort. He’s one of those snowboarders who can turn their skills to any situation they’re presented with – pristine halfpipe? No problem. A rainy session on the side of a sketchy hill? Goose will be hiking – and loving it – all day. Park? He’ll kill it. What’s most obvious is just how much Angus LOVES snowboarding and everything that comes with it – the travel, the adventure, the friendship and the partying. He’s down to shoot wherever I want to and we spend our time getting as many shots as we can. We session a natural windlip for an hour or so as the crew takes lap after lap on the drag lift that’s conveniently located right next to it, until the landing is bombed out and we move on. Traversing away from the top of the lifts gives us access to wide open powder that the whole crew shred down, whooping and laughing as we ollie, turn , fall and laugh. A short hike off the very top lift gets us to the highest point and a little smoke and mirrors with angles nets us a couple of shots that make it look like a much bigger resort.
We get into the park and run laps on the obstacles, filming and shooting everything we can. And then Goose and I dropped down through the lower part of the resort and ignoring the cat tracks home, we explored the woods around, getting a couple of unique shots before inevitably running our of terrain and adventure boarding down along snowless ridges, fallen trees and mountain creeks before finally finding the cat track and making it out in the dark: tired, and hungry but stoked.
One of the great things about having a brand’s entire range on hand is that you can just swap boards out as you feel like it, or as the conditions change. Angus normally rides the Artifact park board but with all the fresh snow decided to go out on the all new Blur, a cambered, powerful freeride board and not something he’d ever ridden before – and he loved it. Later in the week he tried the RK1 team board version of the Agent Rocker and got to grips with it quickly before returning to his personal favourite, the Artifact, once it arrived from the factory.
It’s almost impossible to read anything about Diedamskopf without a reference to it’s most famous son, Gigi Ruf. Gigi and his crew grew up riding here and you can see how the truly all mountain terrain helped shape the way he rides – fast and flowing, with power. Gigi’s family ties run deep, with his uncle owning a ‘secret’ mountain café/lodge that is a hike through a gap in the mountains, and then a long traverse in the dimming afternoon sun away from the main resort. As the sun set, we sat on the terrace, talking about the products we’d been riding, getting stoked on snowboarding all over again, toasting beers and downing shots as the sun came down, before we jumped on Austrian sledges – Rodels – for a high speed, high risk, drunken race down many kilometres of icy cat track. Gigi’s uncle loaded our gear onto the ancient one car gondola that supplies the lodge from the valley below and we hammered down the mountain to the bottom to pick up our boards and bags. We spent our last at the Rome Lodge he same way we’ve spent the other two: talking about snowboarding, learning about the Rome line, drinking beers, eating great food and reliving the day that we’ve just spent in the mountains with friends.
Fuck yea, snowboarding.