It's almost criminal how underappreciated Laax is outside the EU bubble. It’s a beacon amidst a sea of iron-fisted ski tradition in similar parts of Europe. Laax isn't just a spot on the map; it's a vital pulse in Europe's snowboarding scene, a centralized, vital heartbeat.
"What are you doing at the Laax Open?" was a question I got a lot of last week. Like I'm some kind of wandering soul instead of the editor of a snowboard magazine. Their questions hit me with the same absurdity as asking a librarian why they're scurrying off to the library. Sometimes, they wonder if I'm there to announce the contest or just to “soak in the vibes.” These questions about why I would be at the biggest snowboard contest in Europe as the editor and lead writer for a snowboard magazine make me ponder the existential crisis of writers in this age of instant info and endless scrolling.
But let's cut to the chase – The Laax Open. To the American crowd who only skim the surface of snowboarding, I describe it as Europe's version of the US open. They might cringe at the comparison, but hey, it paints the picture. Winning Laax? It's a monumental feat, a badge of honor. There's a bit of drama since last year, of course – the addition of skiing stirring the pot. But that's a soapbox I'll sidestep; my interest lies elsewhere.
Back to the story, right. I was on this mission more specifically, thanks to Knut Elliason from Nitro and Luca Crivelli, the Swiss lens wizard,and easy victor of the “the most cigs smoked” award. Somehow, I've found myself in business class en route to this adventure on Swiss air. Call it going soft, but man, dodging jet lag feels like a drug in situations like this.
The Laax adventure kicks off with a classic Luca Crivelli text – a beer-over-urinal snap with a warning of his inebriated state. “Not going to be able to pick you up from Chur.” Luckily Switzerland's public transportation is efficient and timely - a logical reality for a country who so proudly makes so many wristwatches.
GUIDE POINT: NAVIGATE THE NIGHTLIFE
1. Drink of Choice:
The first night is all about finding your cocktail identity. You're either team Aperol Spritz or gunning for the basil spritz, a concoction reminiscent of boozy pesto. Pro tip: Skip the club on night one. You'll end up there every other night anyway.
2. The Homie Ebb and Flow:
The contest's rhythm is a dance of energy – riders and journalists alike waxing and waning in stamina. Don’t fret if you need to mix your crew up. The lucky riders who have made it all the way to finals emerge like nocturnal creatures on the last night, while the others who didn't make it to semis out of qualifiers join the ranks of the night owls, night after night.
3. Crowd Management:
Indy Lounge is definitely ALWAYS more crowded than the rider's hotel, and if you are dead set on drinking here, it’s best to stake out some reality in the beginning of apré. Its a dangerous reality considering the place can easily stay open until 3 am.
4. Unhelpful Hint:
If Henry Jackson offers you a chili shot….Do it. Thank me later.
GUIDE POINT TWO: INDULGE IN CONTEST DRAMA
1. Who Are We To Judge:
The men’s slopestyle contest's real drama? The judging.That old classic. It's a wild guessing game, a topsy-turvy world where pleasing the judges seems more crucial than the ride itself. Favorites fall, underdogs rise. Ryomo, in my eyes, should've taken the crown. I always advise taking part in conversations about judging drama with your peers, it provides a fun element
2. Halfpipe was a Beast:
Breaking some, while others like Scotty James and Valentino soared. Chloe Kim and Ayumu Hirano, notably, faced its wrath. Sometimes the favorites fall, another fun reminder that all of us professional “pundits” oftentimes have no idea what we are talking about.
3. Not Their First Todeo
Slopestyle Judges love todeos. Just check the scores!
GUIDE POINT THREE: THE POST CONTEST BLUES
1. The Soft Landing:
Give yourself an extra day in Zurich to have what we call in the biz, a soft landing. It’s the drinks you have on your final day before the flight to try and regulate your body back to normal after a week of destroying it.
2. Keep it (Business) Classy
Fly business class at all costs. The layflat on the way home is like a little hotel room where you can wallow in what just happened. Shout out Swiss Air for that LAX>ZURICH direct flight.
- Nooba gave people some sort of sickness.
- MOP, the headliner, really only has “Ante up” as a notable song
- Always ride the mini pipe. People claim the best halfpipe in the world is at Laax, which I would agree with. With this considered, we would argue the Laax mini pipe is the second best halfpipe in the world
- You can convince the right bartender to give you a pitcher of Basil Spritz