HOW TO: Ten essential items you need on a ski season

February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

You don’t need warm pants, extra scarves or photos of your dog. Trust me, I’ve seen enough emergency care packages get delivered to Cadbury’s-starved seasonnaires to know that if you’re off to work a winter, you require:

1. As many rolls of duct tape as you can stuff into your luggage. Invaluable for no-longer-waterproof snow boots and fancy dress.

2. Triple the amount of socks you think you’d need. In fact, triple that number again. In short, lots of socks.

3. Antibiotics. You are going to get ill, and then instead of sleeping and looking after yourself you are going to drink, dance and snowboard.

4. Condoms. They are so expensive in ski resorts that they become a second currency.

5. A beer jacket. Lovely expensive ski jackets tend to get stolen when left in corners of clubs – bring a cheap padded number you could live without and use it in the evenings instead.

6. Your favourite hangover cure, and lots of it. Mine is baked beans, but Irn Bru is apparently also a winner.

7. Peanut butter. It’s the food of the gods and it also gives you an instant hit of energy.

8. A bag of decorations, posters and fairy lights to sort out your inevitably dodgy seventies accommodation.

9. A diary that you should force yourself to use, recording the incredible soap-opera dramas and ridiculously drunken escapades you are going to witness. Otherwise your memory of your season will become a huge blur of snowy days and sloshed nights.

10. Extra alarm clocks: because you will need at least three, dotted around the room out of reach from your bed, to be able to deal with having to get up at 4am after a night out to go and clean toilets.

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Guest post: The UK’s Best Rock Climbing Spots

February 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

There’s some spectacular scenery that’s ideal for rock climbing in the United Kingdom, and wherever you live in Britain, you’re sure to have some fantastic cliff faces a reasonable distance away. Rebecca Hall sums up her favourite spots.

LAKE DISTRICT

Whenever you say rock climbing in Britain, people immediately think of either the Peak District or the Lake District, and with good reason too. The latter is England’s most concentrated area of mountains and fells. There’s a real range of routes available, from beginner 5a’s through classic multipitch 6a’s right up to the extremes of 8c, over lofty mountains crags and routes deep down into the valleys. Whether you’re an amateur or professional climber, the Lake District will have plenty to offer you.

PEAK DISTRICT

The Peak District is probably the most popular rock climbing destination in the UK and many consider its crags offer the most exhilarating climbs. Made up of the National Park in Derbyshire the northern area, known as Dark Peak, is mainly comprised of gritstone which, with its unique friction, makes for awesome climbing. The southern part of the Peak District, called White Peak, is composed predominantly of limestone. These faces are often a lot harsher, attracting the more ardent climbers to the steep walls that offer less handy crags. Stanage Crag is a firm favourite with both traditional climbers and sports climbers, but Birchen, Froggatt and Burbage North are also excellent locations often with fewer visitors.

SCOTLAND

Scotland provides an array of different climbs along its craggy mountains, often more peaceful with less visitors than the climbs found in England. However the Cairngorms with Dubh Loch and Creag have become world famous and Ben Nevis, being the UK’s highest mountain, also gets busy in peak season. The highlands have the Beuckle ridge which is a local climbing icon and offers hundreds of different routes for varying levels of expertise. Scotland also has some great sea stacks that present a challenging climb with an amazing view, such as the Old Man of Hoy in the Orkneys.

SNOWDONIA

Snowdonia in north Wales has been packing them in for decades. Another National Park, Snowdonia has a lot of great climbing points which are all located in close proximity of each other. In the southern area Craig Cowarch attracts a lot of attention while in the north the Llanberis Pass is the most popular. An extraordinary route called Gogarth definitely warrants a mention. Bold, steep and exposed to the sea, it is found just off the coast of Anglesey on Holy Island. However, during the bird nesting season access is severely limited so you must check ahead before you go.

Rebecca Hall writes on a myriad of subjects from fashion and street style, to rock climbing and extreme sports, especially tandem skydiving and bungee jumping.

10 Inevitable things that will happen to you on a ski season

February 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

As devised by myself and my lovely housemate Jillian whilst we were very hungover and in bed.

We’ve been working in the Italian Alps for two months now, in which I have learned that salopettes are perfect for après ski, as they are wipe clean, and that I have the strength in me to clean over 700 toilets. Who knew? I have also learnt that, as a seasonnaire:

1. You will at some point go partying in your salopettes and goggles. This is what will happen:

2. You will hook up with a fellow seasonnaire in your first month, whether or not you have a boyfriend or girlfriend at home. There are no exceptions to this rule.

3. You will do many a morning shift hungover – much harder is attempting one still drunk and successfully fooling your superiors into thinking you are capable of serving breakfast without being sick.

4. You’ll be sick or have sex in a cable car. Manage both at once and you are the stuff ski legends are made of.

5. The ratio of ski time to drink time you’ll enjoy will be roughly 30% / 70%.

6. You’ll lose any sense of sartorial know-how you ever posessed, and wear flipflops in the snow and pyjamas to the shops and think you look cool.

7. You’ll feel massively superior to anyone in the resort who isn’t a seasonnaire, and resent the pesky presence of clients getting in the way of your fun, asking you questions and generally daring to think that they pay your wages and therefore deserve some attention.

8. You’ll get snow-based cabin fever and long for the day you see grass, dirt and concrete.

9. Payday will finally arrive, and after a month of scrimping and borrowing you will spend the entire whack in a day on a new snowboard/pair of boots/sexy goggles.

10. You will cry with exhaustion whilst cleaning a toilet or washing dishes. It won’t matter, though, because those toilets are the price you pay to do this:

HOW TO: Ultimate seasonnaire’s guide to waxing snowboards and skis

February 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Waxing guide! That’s boards and skis, not legs.

Snowboard wonderkid and fellow seasonnaire Simon Andrews kindly took time out of shredding the crap out of the Cervinia backcountry to compile this fantastic guide to waxing your snowboard or skis for The Girl Outdoors.

So you have just dragged your boards out of the garage after a summer of neglect: there’s rust on the edges and the base is looking like a snow badger attacked it. Did you really put it away like that? Do you have to throw your board away and get a new one? The answer is no! Follow these simple steps and restore your board to full shred health again. And by continuing to maintain your board properly throughout the winter you can make it last for many winter seasons.

First, make sure you have a suitable work space and tools. A warm garage with a good work bench and a bright light is ideal. You will need:

Waxing tools


-Waxes (available at all snowboard and ski shops).
-Scrapers – a metal or a plastic scraper are ideal
-Stiff brass brush
-Polishing stone/gummy
-Wax remover
-Rags for cleaning
-Waxing iron / old steam iron
(with the steam function turned OFF!)
-Board tool (ideally a large Phillips head)
-P-tex (for repairing gauges)
-Edge files
-Apron
(recommended because waxing, like all the best jobs, is a messy one)

Since most of what we will be doing will be to the base of the board, it’s best to take the bindings off before we start. A top tip is to use a marker pen to mark where your bindings go, so you can put them back on nice and easy.

STEP ONE: Edges

Take your edge sharpening tool and have a look at it. It will probably have two different angles marked on it, usually 90° and 88°. 90° will give more grip and faster edge to edge on harder snow, and is often chosen by racers . 88° will give a more forgiving ride, and is better for freestylers and cruisers.

Start off by running the edge tool down the full length of the edge of the board, from tip to tail. You should keep the pressure even the whole way. Count the number of times you do this, so you can make sure each edge gets the same sharpening. A edge that has been sharpened properly should be able to peel the top layer of your thumb nail. Finish the edges off with a polishing stone to remove any rough bits.

OPTIONAL: Repairs

Sometimes when out riding you will hear that heartbreaking sound of base meeting rock or bark, or worse, skier standing on your board. If these disasters have left small gouges in the base of the board, you can fill them in using strips of p-tex. Make sure the hole is clean and dry and any hanging bits are nicely trimmed down, then light up a p-tex candle and carefully drip it into the hole. Let p-tex cool for a good four hours before smoothing out the surface using a metal scraper.

The equally terrible problem of peeling top sheets can by resolved by sticking them back down and clamping them in place whilst they set, using two part glue Araldite. Follow the instructions on the packet (and try not to stick your fingers together).

For more serious issues such as edge damage or core shots, take your board along to a professional workshop and see what they can do. A professional repair can often bring even the most crippled boards back to life.

STEP 2: Cleaning

I like to start off by giving my board a really good brush down with a brass brush, working on it until no more old wax comes off. Then spray some citrus-based cleaner all over the base and wipe it off with rags. Then stick the kettle on and leave your board to dry out for about half a hour.

STEP 3: Waxing

First, choose your wax. There are loads of different types out there for different temperatures and snow conditions, but being rather lazy I like to go for a mid range, all temperature wax.

Massive hippy note: Keep it green and keep it white! There are lots of eco-friendly waxes out there made of things like soya bean. Normal wax contains paraffin, and if everyone is out riding on a plank covered in paraffin wax, that’s not going to be very good for the mountain environment.

One Ball Jay wax

Set your iron to a temperature at which the wax melts easily when pressed against the iron but doesn’t smoke. If the wax smokes, it’s too hot. Watch your fingers! Throw your apron on, as things can get messy and burny. Drip wax all over the base of your board and work it in with the iron. Don’t be a numpty and let the iron sit still on the base. Keep checking the top sheet of your board for heat coming through: if it starts to get hot, stop waxing immediately and let it cool.

Once your board is nicely waxed, stick the kettle on again and leave your board in a warm room for at least two or three hours. This gives the wax time to really penetrate into the base and give the board a long lasting wax.

STEP 4: Scraping

Keep that apron on and make sure you have a dust pan and brush ready! Grab your plastic scraper and scrape the board nose to tail. Do this until no more wax comes off the base, as any wax you leave on will only slow you down. What’s going to make your board fast has already penetrated into the board.

Step 5: Scouring

Steal a new green pot scouring pad from the kitchen and use it to polish the base to a shiny finish. This is very important, as it puts a ‘structure’ into the base, and leaves tiny channels for water and snow to flow along the surface.

Step 5: SHRED!

If you’re riding regally, I would try to wax about once a week. It really doesn’t have to be a chore: get some mates around and crack open a few beers. Experiment with different waxing and have fun: home brew wax mixing can produce some very interesting results!

At the end of the season, give your board a thick coat of wax and leave it on before it gets put away. This will help protect it over the summer, ready for next winters adventures.

INTERVIEW: Pro freestyle skier and UK champion Becky Hammond

February 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Girl Outdoors loves a good girl sports hero, especially one as fearlessly cool as Becky Hammond, UK freeski champion and part of Team GB. The 25 year old took time out of training halfpipe in Breckenridge, Colorado, to chat about the highlights of her sporting career and what the ski scene is like for aspiring pro girls.

What’s the best competition you’ve ever entered?
Making finals for World Cup Halfpipe, then representing Team GB at the World Championships in Japan. It was such an experience skiing with all the top athletes in the world and everything was shown on live television.

What do you do to keep yourself occupied on a whiteout day?
I like to keep fit and spend a lot of time off the mountain in the gym. Apart from that, I really enjoy cooking and baking.

What’s the worst fall you’ve ever had?
It was catching an edge into the pipe at the European Open. I went head first into the pipe wall in front of all the big name pros. After a bit of concussion, I realised how silly I must have looked.

How important is gear and looking the part for you? What do you think of skiing fashions in general?

Becky has designed her own shoes for sponsor Cushe

It is imperative that clothing is practical, warm, waterproof and protective more so than looking great. That said, I’m sponsored by Animal Clothing and BawBags underwear so I never have to buy shoes and clothes. I especially love the Fireside WP and Wildtrip WP boot from Cushe footwear. Cushe sponsor me so I get lots of free shoes and boots, they go great with skinny jeans and keep your feet warm and dry.

If you couldn’t ski, what would you like to be doing career wise?
I’ve always had a passion for sport and fitness and I wanted to start my own personal training business. I think I would have followed this through, and even will follow it through when I retire from competing.

If you could change one thing about professional skiing, what would it be?
I think it’s a pity that there’s still such a big gap between girls and boys, but the girls have really started to push things in the last few years, which is great.

How could the current female skiing scene improve, then?
The girls really need to be strong doing this sport, so training is really important, and helps prevent injury. You have to have the strength to stick your trick and ski away.

Do you ever encounter rivaly amongst freestyle girls, or is it a friendly environment?
We have loads of girls coming onto the scene now. All the experienced girls make new freestyle girls welcome, so don’t be intimidated girls, get involved!

Do you have any advice for any girls aspiring to go pro?
Having great family support is crucial as you’re often away for long periods of time. And always make sure you’re enjoying yourself when on the hill!

What are your own goals for the next few years?
Definitely training for the Winter Olympics 2014 and I also have the Aspen Open coming up in February, The Brits in March and some FIS Halfpipe competitions soon.

Finally, what’s been the biggest high in your skiing career?

Becky in Japan

I have to say the same as before – making the finals for World Cup Halfpipe, then heading to Japan for World Championships. I had my all time coach, Simon Ashton, who taught me to ski, and my great boyfriend Andy Bennett there to support me, and it was an amazing, crazy experience!

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