Broken but proud is the best way to describe how you feel after the building of the 2nd Annual Himalayan Banked Slalom. I suppose the test of any good event is whether or not it makes past it's inaugural year. Well Andy and I came back to Gulmarg and had every intention of making that happen. However, mother nature had other ideas! When we wanted snow it didn't come, when we didn't need any more it wouldn't stop! As a man that loves the snow, I am aware I shouldn't complain about 'too much snow'. However, as an organiser of a snowboard event, which requires you to build a course, one would like to see snow up to the start of the build then a week of sunny digging, a little fresh the night before and then a bluebird event day. Wishful thinking! Before any of this 'too much snow' nonsense came along we still had the tough decision of where to build the course.
|Kahla, Sandy and the sledge|
Last year we identified and claimed first gully (Here on in and forever more known as Banked Slalom Gully.) on phase 1 as the prime location for our HBS. We had a decent base last year and got what we needed done. This year when we went up to scope the gully we were sitting far lower than the previous year. We knew we wouldn't be able to bank up the steepest part but we could push the start further up the mountain and still have the race up there. Unfortunately, the weather was not playing the game. The week we had to build was due to puke with the likely result of limited access to the course, resulting in all our hard work getting buried under fresh snow. A tough decision was made and we went to scope out some alternative locales.
|the course is set, lets DIG|
With the storm approaching and the location changing, we postponed the dates and figured out the new spot. Our options were limited to two areas on the smaller slopes of the golf course. Our first choice was shut down due to it's close proximity to the beginners slope. So we moved it onto the Harmukh lift, which is not being used this season. We stomped up there and took a few different lines before we had a good contender for this year. Now all we had to do was get our hands dirty and dig. So on a very snowy Monday morning we had everything in place to get started, all we had to do was get there.
Three of us went out; Andy, myself and Khala, one of our good local friends, who had the toughest job that day. While Andy and I broke trail for him, Khala dragged a Kashmiri sled through our chop with 20 poles and three shovels tied on board. The going was slow and tough. The snow was falling heavily and we were in a complete white out. Unable to determine the undulations of the snow, we were stumbling into snow banks, making the whole walk that much harder. Once up top we had to re-run our route and set up the poles for definition. We built a couple of rollers for speed and banked up the first turn. We ran the line and boot-packed back up each time. Once our legs were spent we called it a day. Safe in the knowledge we had the Pisten Bully, to do the hard pushing, in the morning.
We are still working at a grass roots level for the banked slalom, though we are getting support from the J&K Tourism department. One such way is the use of there Pisten Bully. This is a bit of a double edged sword; it's amazing to have the ability to move around so much snow, so easily, but there is a significant language barrier between ourselves and the driver. On top of which they haven't had much opportunity to use their machines beyond a piste-ing capacity. So when you're trying to describe to them and then direct them, a lot can get lost in translation and be open to interpretation. We didn't face this problem immediately, this year, as when we went to get the cat it had broken down.
|Kahla takes a break from the dig.|
After hanging out for a couple of hours, waiting to see what was going to happen, we were told someone was coming to fix it and they would come over in the afternoon. We took this as a sign we had better get digging just in case they couldn't get it running. The three of us headed back to the course, Khala had decided that floundering around in the snow with us two, was more fun than his normal daily grind. We had one corner that we knew had to be hand dug, as there was no way we could get a cat into the area, so we took it back to last year and dug our first berm. It was warm that day and we grafted getting that first berm dug. We also started to think of the immense task at hand of physically digging the rest of the course.
As we had been promised a cat we may have left it a bit tight to achieve the impossible and build all the other turns in just 2 days. But we are stubborn and thick skinned so could deal with the aches and pains, which we would have to endure, to get the course finished. Thankfully, we got the call that the cat was on the way and we should organise lunch. One challenge after another for us. After it arrived and we had fed the drivers, we could get down to business. We pushed up our start ramp with no issues. On to the first berm. This is where things started to get tricky. With a couple of radios and some hand signals we sort of managed to get the snow in the right place. The next berm was at the point of awesomeness right until the driver went half a metre too far and collapsed the thing. Four more piles of snow later and we had to ask them to stop. We needed to shape these berms so that we could figure out where we would build the final turns.
|The Pisten Bully arrives and we get serious|
|The end of a good day shapeing...|
Next up was registration and the main event but that will follow shortly........