For snowboarders and skiers, autumn is just the bit that gets in the way of their fun
One fateful day in 2000, Stuart Manley, the owner of a second-hand bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland, was sorting through a box of books he’d bought at auction when he discovered a rare motivational poster. Produced by the British government just before the outbreak of the Second World War, and intended to prevent panic in the case of large-scale bombardment of British cities, it featured a stylised image of George VI’s crown and the words “Keep Calm and Carry On”. Stuart and his wife, Mary, decided to frame it and hang it in their shop, and there was so much interest from customers that before long they’d started making and selling copies. Then other companies got in on the act, churning out everything from T-shirts and mugs to novelty chocolate bars, all emblazoned with the “Keep Calm and Carry On” logo. Now, 13 years and 13,000 parodies later, we’re thoroughly sick of the whole phenomenon and perhaps wish that the Manleys had put up the poster in their kitchen instead.
However, I did have a chuckle to myself the other day when various skiers and snowboarders started tweeting and retweeting yet another iteration of the Manleys’ famous poster, this one altered so it read “Keep Calm, Winter is Coming.” It was still summer – just – and yet here were the hardcore snow-lovers, already bored of long days and warm weather and looking forward to colder, darker times ahead.
There’s something about early autumn that has a strange effect on winter people. Like dogs catching a distant scent on the breeze, as the evening air starts to get just the tiniest hint of a nip in it they perk up, shake themselves out of their summer torpor and start making plans.
The ski and snowboard industry knows this all too well: that’s why Transworld Snowboarding magazine has already brought out its 2013/14 gear guide, and why some of the coming season’s big ski movie releases are set to premiere long before there’s any snow on the hills.
Take Valhalla, for example, the eagerly-awaited new film from Sweetgrass Productions which sees some of the best backcountry freestyle skiers on the planet doing mindboggling things in British Columbia and Alaska. A self-styled collective of “filmmakers, adventurers, dreamers and artists,” the Sweetgrass crew somehow manage to combine state-of-the-art cinematography with a thrown-together, down-home aesthetic in a way that feels completely organic – as if it were somehow possible to time-travel back to the 1970s and live the life of a free-lovin’ ski bum, yet still have access to all today’s high-performance kit. The intentionally cheesy trailer is already out, replete with psychedelic after-effects and trippy prog-rock soundtrack. “If you’ve seen the winter’s first great snow through a child’s eyes,” intones an voiceover, “then you’ve seen freedom”. Valhalla is due to get its big-screen premiere in Denver on 13 September and it will be available to buy on DVD from the end of the month. If you want to see skiers spinning off cliffs with fireworks attached to various parts of their anatomy, then this is the film for you.
In Scotland, the start of the winter season is usually marked, in mid-October, by the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival, which can always be relied upon to deliver generous helpings of ski and snowboard action alongside climbing, kayaking, BASE-jumping and the rest. This year, however, the festival’s director Stevie Christie has moved the event to February, so the first of the Scottish mountain film festivals will now be Dundee, which is scheduled for 29 and 30 November. Details of the programme will be announced on their website soon. In the meantime, the Scottish Ski and Snowboard show will take over the SECC in Glasgow on 18, 19 and 20 October, with live skiing and snowboarding displays and more shiny new gear on sale than you’d be able to wear out in 1,000 lifetimes.
Last year there was so much early snow that CairnGorm was open for skiing by 1 December. So keep calm – because winter might be here sooner than you think.