Prepare the cowbells: ski and snowboard competitions are back

Marion Haerty from France competing in the Freeride World Tour event in Verbier in 2021 PIC: J Bernard / Freeride World Tour

This Monday, as fans of baseless pseudo-science already know, is “Blue Monday” – supposedly the most depressing day of the year for those living in the northern hemisphere. The concept was first concocted in 2005 by a PR firm and a travel agency, for reasons we couldn’t guess (but some say might have something to do with whipping vacations ). The day in question would be the third Monday in January, based on factors such as bad weather and exorbitant post-Christmas debt levels, although the ‘equation’ underlying all of this has long been debunked.

Of course, even if there were such a thing as Blue Monday, skiers and snowboarders would be immune to it anyway, because the cold, dark days of the northern hemi winter bring the highest probability of snow. . While the rest of the population shivers at the prospect of icy sidewalks and blocked roads, the snow sliding community is starting to rub their hands and check ski resort webcams.

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Mid-January is also the time of year when wheelchair skiers and snowboarders can settle in to enjoy some of the biggest events on the calendar. Alpine skiing fans have a few action-packed weeks to look forward to, with this weekend’s downhill and slalom races in Wengen, Switzerland, followed by more World Cup events in Kitzbühel (January 22-23) and Schladming (January 25) in Austria. Those who prefer to watch winter sports athletes spend more time above the snow than on it will tune in to the finals of the Laax Open slopestyle and snowboard halfpipe events tomorrow, then the 21st X -Annual Games in Aspen, Colorado, which run from January 21-23. Meanwhile, those who prefer to watch skiers and snowboarders take on steep, rugged mountain sides can’t wait to catch the Freeride World Tour, which kicks off in Baqueira Beret in the Spanish Pyrenees on January 22. And after all that, of course, it won’t be long until the Winter Olympics kick off in and around Beijing on February 4.

Here in Scotland too, the competition calendar is starting to fill up. Thanks to covid restrictions, the last two years have been canceled for Scottish winter sports competitions, but all is well the next few months should see something of a return to normal. The Scottish Schools Alpine Series events are now confirmed, with qualifying races taking place in Cairngorm, Glencoe, Glenshee, Nevis Range and Lecht on January 26-27, and the finals taking place in Glenshee on March 9-10 , while the Scottish Ski & Boarder Cross Championships will take place at Glenshee on February 26-27.

For understandable reasons, the folks who run Scotland’s ski mountaineering series, SkiMo Scotland, are only risking one event this year – the Dynafit British Championships at Glenshee on March 12-13 – and that on condition that more race information to be released “later in the winter season, when we are more confident that it will happen”.

However, the Scottish Freedom Series – Scotland’s answer to the Freeride World Tour – hopes to return to a full schedule of events, with competitions scheduled for February, March and April. Firstly, taking place somewhere in the Ben Lawers Range in Highland Perthshire on the weekend of February 12-13, there’s the Lawers of Gravity – a proper hike and ride event that could see competitors s tackle one of the many feature-strewn mountains near the titular Munro. Then on the weekend of March 5th and 6th there is the Corrie Challenge at Nevis Range, held at the beautiful off-road playground of the Back Cories, and the series concludes on April 2nd and 3rd with the Coe Cup to Glencoe, which is traditionally contested on and around the face so steep you really don’t want to drop your goggles from the Flypaper.

Thanks to a new widget on the Scottish Freedom Series website, it is now possible to see who has registered for this year’s events, and at press time around half of the 195 available slots had been taken . Former men’s snowboard champion Robbie Paton will be one to watch at all three events, and it’s also good to see skier Euan Larter in the mix. In 2016, he suffered one of the most heartbreaking failures in series history, after a huge air on a ledge at Lawers of Gravity saw him lose a soft-landing ski and halfway through the contest. face. If anyone has any luck at the 2022 event, it’s probably him.

This assumes that one of these events takes place, of course. Even in a covid-free year, ski and snowboard competitions often fall victim to everything from monstrous storms to thawing hair dryers. Considering what’s happened over the past two years, however, those racing will feel very special indeed.

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