Snowboarding Scotland

The Life of a Scottish Snowboarder. Introducing Matt Bradley.

Hey everyone, thanks for taking a look at our blog. We are really pleased to introduce you to our new blogger for all things snow related Matt Bradley. I’ll leave Matt to introduce himself below but we would just like to say a big hello, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for his bi-monthly posts from now on. . . . . . . . . . . So here goes!

snowboarding scotland

The author sliding down the east face of Carn Mor Dearg, near Ben Nevis. Photo: Cameron McIlvar

Life’s not fair I’ve been told, but this is pure, unadulterated evilness. 56° north: further north than any ski resort in America, and climate change’s grasp is growing ever tighter on the Scottish skiing industry. The US had a colossal season in 16/17 regarding snowfall. Scotland? As Alex Yoder points out in Patagonia’s new short on Scotland’s Right to Roam, 16/17 was one of the worst in decades. The upcoming season is already looking dubious: Old Man Winter has played his first hand, and we’ve been fooled for the second time. So what do you do as a snowboarder living in the Highlands of Scotland, where the promise of snow is as thin as its base depth in December last year? Curl up and cry? Done that. Purchase an all-inclusive trip to Les Arcs with the university in January and fulfil your powdery dreams? Fat chance Matty boy, you’re already going abroad next year, so good luck financing that second trip. How about buy a splitboard setup which in fact costs twice as much as a trip abroad so you can sweat buckets as you amble up a mountain for 3 hours, just to jigsaw together a descent through protruding rocks and patches of snow? Yes please!

Winter, has already been and gone for Scotland. This year it arrived on November 5th, and departed our shores on the 14th. Unfortunately history has a nasty habit of repeating itself, and if we were to base

Snowboarding Scotland

Ahhh, the not so good method of jumping that Scottish flavoured cheesewedge. Photo: Connor Whittaker

that upon last season, it’s looking to be a bit of a disappointment. If you weren’t Stateside, you weren’t in the right place. That’s how I certainly felt, watching videos of the ManBoys crew and other professionals ripping up fresh powder daily. Meanwhile, a mournful Matt sobbed as the rain thundered down outside his window, removing the hills of their white winter coating. More often than not, the winter hills in Scotland were offensively scantily clad, laying bare their rocks and thick green skins at just the most inappropriate times of the year. The stuff of nightmares, I’m sure you’ll agree…

Unsurprisingly however, as a adopted Scotsman, and self-proclaimed enthusiast of sliding down mountains sideways, this lack of snow hasn’t affected my optimism about the upcoming season. If anything, the dire season left me clinging onto hopes for the next one. The slow and similarly wet summer gave much opportunity to daydream of white powder fields, untrammelled by man and board. Absinthe Films, Teton Gravity Research, Patagonia, as well as a myriad of other production crews released movies, for the umpteenth year in a row. And for the umpteenth year in a row, I’ve watched the same privileged professionals jumping off the same cheese wedge in Whistler; inspected Jeremy Jones technique while he continuously slays those vertical lines in those out of reach time-zones, and marvelled at Nicolas Muller, the contortionist on a snowboard, as he throws mesmerising method after mesmerising method.

So whilst I may not be out shredding all the time due to the Gulf Stream chopping my days out on a

Snowboarding Scotland

Skinning across The Aonach (pronounced oonuk) Mor plateau, looking over yonder to CMD and Ben Nevis. West is most definitely best. Photo: Matthew Bradley

board down to single figures, I still manage to snowboard vicariously, that is, through others. This is somewhat reflective of the funny British snowboarding culture, where a lot of the participating is done behind a laptop screen or from above the flicking of a magazine page. ‘Consuming’ snowboarding is just as prevalent as ‘doing’ snowboarding on this small island in the North-East Atlantic. It all contributes to the industry which we love: We purchase the equipment from the companies; who sponsors the athletes; whom sell the equipment through the films we watch; which persuades us what to purchase. And then we go and use this equipment in a whole alternate world which the brands wouldn’t ever dream of. The big fridges, the obscure dry mats, and the raw mountains of Scotland are our peculiar playgrounds.

My particular playground is the latter: Scotland. I’m currently studying my fourth and final year at the

Snowboarding Scotland

Product testing backfiring on my first true love: the Sims FR600, FR standing for Freeride, or Frail. Photo: Matthew Bradley

University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) up in Fort William. The Outdoor Capital of the UK, Fort William has hosted the mountain bike downhill world cup for 16 consecutive years, is home to the UK’s highest mountain, and has numerous rivers north and south for which paddlers travel from afar. The main reason UHI was chosen however was because of its astonishingly close proximity to some of the best lift accessed steeps in the UK. Nevis Range, situated on Aonach Mor, two mountains East of Ben Nevis, offers this superb lift access.

Do I feel lucky? You bet I do.

Snowboarding in Scotland is a peculiar activity, where only time will tell of its qualities. Splitboard adventures will be shared. The suitability of hard and soft goods will be put to the test. Various Scottish resorts and regions will be delved into. Welcome to the ebb and flow of a student’s snowboarding life in the Scottish Highlands.

Ian Hughes

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