It seems like Japanese snowboarders have got it dialled at the moment, with Yuki Kadono the first to land back to back Triple 16’s at the US Open, and Miyabi Ontisuka taking out the win at the World Snowboard Champs with a cab 9 to start her run.
A lot of the Japanese athletes have been training in a ‘reduced risk training environment’ and I decided I need to check out the technology for myself! Basically, the idea is to mimic the environment of a snow kicker, but with reduced consequences if you get things wrong. This allows you to try new tricks without the fear of crashing, meaning you can get used to how the trick feels before it comes time to step it up to snow.
These facilities are all over Japan, but I heard rumour that one had sprung up in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia so, I decided to head out on a mission to check out this new creation. My good snowboarding friend Basa Stevulova, lives in the City, so it was a great opportunity to go on a 2.5 day mission to see her, and check out the new technology at the same time. I arrived at what literally was the most basic looking set up. As Brits, we’re used to a good dry slope, but this stuff was different, a harder plastic, 400-500m of steps, with ghetto dry slope matting and a huge airbag with a landing run out.
At first it was scary
I don’t remember the last time I rode dry slope, but this stuff was fast, so perfect for an in run if you want to practice a bigger explosive trick. It gave you the time and speed you needed.
Most air bags that we see in the Alps are flat, but this is how the new set ups are different – it’s flat to an actual landing, so once you’ve got it down here you can replicate the trick on snow because there is an actual landing. Of course, it’s not the same as landing on snow – it’s more like a giant bouncy castle in the shape of a landing, combined as a water slide. You get soaked, literally drenched, but it’s super fun and perfect for taking the sting out of those bigger tricks you want to learn. Hands up, it’s different, it is unique, but if you want to go and prep tricks for snow, right now I think there is no better place to go and give that new trick a rip. With three different size kickers, it’s perfect to learn the correct take off and you can physically land and ride away, plus get an absolute soaking! Thanks to Lesley Mckenna from GB park and Pipe for accompanying me on the mission.
Stay tuned, hopefully one springs up in the UK soon, because it’s a lot of FUN!