Seems that writing a blog about building and hosting a Himalayan Banked Slalom takes longer than actually putting the event on! I was busy cooking up the perfect recipe for said event and was just about to jump into the meat of the dish. I reckon I’ve let the whole thing to cure for long enough now and should get back to it. Day one of the big dig was a sunny affair and Andy and I headed into our lovely roped off area to start work on turn one. We had a rough plan of where the course was going to go and there was nothing to it but to start digging. Having absolutely nae idea of how to dig a berm the first one took some time. We excavated way more snow than we needed to but the final result definitely looked like what we were trying to do. Part way through I started to calculate the time it was going to take to build the rest and by god it was going to be tight to get it all done in 5 days! Ever determined we moved onto the next one.
This was the south facing side of the course and the snow
was part frozen blocks, part slushy mess. Not the ideal building conditions but
we persevered, trying a different tact with the construction of this one. Like
a good cook will experiment with different levels of flavour to enhance depth
in a dish, we slapped snow here and there, scratched our heads and mused at our
work. The second berm finished we were both feeling the burn from man handling
the snow. But we had worked out it was much easier to try and shape the berm
out of the bank, rather than digging a big pile of snow and shaping that. Ah
the ‘eureka’ moment, which we hoped would make the whole process a bit easier.
Totally beat after the mornings work, to our relief our great friend, Tariq,
brought us lunch and more importantly a fresh pair of arms.
|the start of first Gully and the start of the HBS course.|
After our food we set back to it. Turn 3 was a great sweeper that dropped steeply away and I called it ‘YEE-HA’, due to the hollering it could potentially induce. Our slow-cooked first berm techniques were being honed into a more efficient methodology, not quite fast food standards but then who’d want to race something so uniform? We knew this year was going to be a bit rough and ready, possibly hard to digest in places, yet this didn’t dampen our spirits. We chapped on and got 3 all done. Back into the sunshine for turn 4 and our day was done. Tired and chuffed we’d got something resembling the beginnings of a banked slalom course. In absolutely no illusion did we think that it was going to get easier but we sure as hell enjoyed the first day’s celebratory beer.
|Turn 7 at the end of day 2.|
The next day was a struggle. The constant digging of two days and the ever increasing reality of what was left to do was fraying at my nerves. Andy, the ever outwardly calm one, was pleasant to me as I bitched and moaned and stressed. We had a really complicated section to prepare and the thought of it just being built with our four arms was daunting. We decided to shape up the top half of the course and make it good to go and allow us to rest. Even though we’d roped off the area we’d had a few people duck it and ride through. So on turn 4 when we saw some bodies come over the ridge we thought god-damn-balls-shit don’t ride over our berms! Then a few more heads appeared and we started to recognize some friendly faces. These weren’t yahoos trying to get some pow-pow, this was help! They say too many cooks spoil the broth; but when you apply that to digging huge quantities of snow, it’s the opposite. Turn 8 became an international affair. I think we had 9 different nationalities help build that corner and we’re truly indebted to them for coming to our aid.
|Shaping turn 4 after HELP arrived, thanks to all who lent some muscle.|
What had started out as a bleak undertaking became a fun venture with many hands and experience getting the linchpin turn in. With over ten people digging and shaping, it still took the best part of the day to get it finished. Had Andy and I been left alone that day, it’s doubtful to say just how that corner would’ve come out. Burnt, crispy and inedible is one way! So two days left and one more complex turn then it is bish-bash-bosh and the course should be finished. Turn 8 was going to be burly. Like sitting down to a giant ice cream and fighting through the cold pain headache to finish it in one go. Thankful for the help the day before we knew that this corner was probably best left to just the two of us.
The complications of trying to balance the following issues; not hurting anyone, making the turn suitable for most skill levels and still super fun, were massive. And we also have to factor in the near vertical section we’re trying to build it on. An hour or so of watching the snow roll down the hill we decided that starting at the bottom was probably a better idea! We managed to get it connected and round the tree in a way that was a little less than sketchy. I mentioned to Andy that most people are going to shit themselves, coming through this one and a little while later the ‘Super-Pooper’ was named. Some more friends came down that afternoon and helped us sure up the turn and make it a little safer. This one was definitely getting a safety fence. One more day of digging left and we had a few more corners to go. We finally had the use of the pisten bully to build the start ramp and help conclude course construction.
Friday was a big day. We had to finish the course and hold registration. Let’s call it desert and menu setting. But we have a big machine to help so hey it should be easy. Hmmmmm……how to put it? The cat certainly can move snow. Lots of it, in vast quantities, which sets like stone and becomes a really doozy to shape with our little shovels! Knowing that time was no longer on our side we had to cut the course a few turns shorter than we’d hoped. On the one hand we had no choice. On the other, if the competition is a success, we already know we can make it longer in 2015! So having not even run the course from top to bottom, we were off to register all the crazy people that wanted to be a part of the first ever Himalayan Banked Slalom. Again, thanks to the support and help of some more wonderful people, while Andy and I had been building the registration was all set up and we just had to show our faces and help out if required.
It’s a little daunting, having put so much time and effort into the preparation that perhaps, just perhaps nobody will give a monkeys and even bother to register. There was no need to doubt as we knew we’d at least have some locals enter the competition. It was the main reason behind this whole event. Give the local snowboarders a competition all of their own. No more racing a skier set course on a snowboard. A real opportunity to show the big wigs of Gulmarg that snowboarding is as big a sport as skiing. So when we closed registration and had 45 competitors, with almost 50% of them Kashmiris, we knew all the hard work was worth it. All we had to do now was host the event. So proof of the pudding is always in the eating and that’s what we had to do now. But I think I’ll leave you to stew a little longer for that one (definitely not as long as last time, I promise).