words and photos: Julien Mournier
Europe offers a pretty large and diverse choice of resorts. Whether you like big places with a huge ski area and crazy après-ski or tiny villages with hidden pow runs, you can find it all. But concerning the snowparks, let’s admit that the good old Europe is lagging behind America. But if I have to choose one resort who could mix the freeriding experience of the Alps and the quality of the north American parks, it would be Laax. This Swiss resort 1h30 away from Zurich is the European place that has it all. If Nicolas Müller manages to film his full part only around his home resort, you can guess that they’re plenty of great pow runs. But Laax has really built a great reputation around its park these last years. Home of the Burton European Open and the biggest halfpipe in the world, it’s no secret that Laax shapers know how to built big and perfect transitions. But, these kind of big features are not really accessible unless you’re Torstein Horgmo or Arthur Longo. But Laax also has a great park with a long run full of fun features, kind of Bear Mountain/Park City inspired. Put in the spotlight by their regular podcast The Crap Show, Laax Snowpark has been making us thirsty to glide on the Crap Sogn Gion (the name of the mountain) for a while. The same type of thirst you get when you look too much at Instagram hot babes. But instead of being frustrated snowboarders, we decided to touch those perfect curves for real.
After contacting the people in charge of the marketing with the help from our friend and videographer Alexis De Tarade, we got invited to come ride in Laax for five days. A great gift in these days, since the rate of the Swiss Franc is not advantageous if you’re earning your money in Euros. A single day pass is around 70 €, which is pretty expensive compared to the average ski pass in France which is around 25 €. We were to stay at a really cool hotel named Riders Palace, known for its night action at the bar and the club in the basement. I had to choose a crew of good students for this trip, so I picked some reliable people from the BangingBees entourage: Lionel Simon, rider and official BangingBees filmmaker, Anthony Brotto as the established rider and Pierre Scafidi, a 18-year0old up and comer.
It was time to check if those dream features were as fun in real life as they seem to be in the movies. We were expecting a really fun park, with a long run full of good spots. And our expectations were low, because it was even better! Every feature is perfect and smartly shaped to be ridden in different ways. You can definitely feel the Bear Mountain influence. Jib lovers will love it and the others will become jib lovers. Even if you’re not into technical jib maneuvers, you will still love this run. There is always a different way to ride. It seems that the shapers visualized how Chris Bradshaw would ride their park when they built it. Most of the time, you will find a little tranny to make a transfer, bonk something or jump over a rail. The atmosphere on the park is really mellow. More snowboarders than freeskiers and an official chill place with a view on the park call Café NoName when you can have a drink and a snack to get that extra energy you need. The average local level is pretty high for Europe, which makes sense when you look at the quality of the park. Our crew had a blast the whole trip, with perfect bluebird skies and warm days. Soft snow, no jackets, sunglasses–that’s the way we like it uh-huh uh-huh! We connected with some locals and we had a cool little crew to cruise the park. We shot an edit while still having time to ride for ourselves without any camera, which is usually the best part of a trip.
Laax nightlife is pretty fun, too, and you will find some action five days a week around the Rock Resort at the bottom of the slopes or in Flims, the village under. The only problem if you don’t have a Swiss salary is to deal with the high cost of living. Going out for dinner at some cheap restaurant to have pizza and a glass of wine would cost you around 30 €, so you better start saving money. But whatever kind of snowboarder you are, you will for sure find the type of terrain you like in Laax, so maybe eating overpriced pizza is worth it sometimes.
Read the full Dispatches: The Laax Experience with BangingBees article on Snowboarder Magazine.