Words by John SpelmanPhotos lost in cyberspace, coming soon.This past weekend it was down to “old” Europe for the 8th Mondial du Ski in Les 2 Alpes in France. This annual shindig kicks off the European ski season bringing together a bunch of big name riders, parties, contests and new product showcasing. With blue skies and the mercury hitting 70 degrees in the valley the snow conditions on the glacier at 3200 metres were a mix of crushed ice and afternoon slush but the snow hungry jibbers packed the lifts and headed up to do a little pre-season flexing.On the streets, the leading French ski magazine Skieur hit off the weekend on Friday with their 10th anniversary bash - though the promise of unlimited free drinks never materialized. Meanwhile outside the wheels rolled in and the bars filled up with everyone seemingly in a better mood than last year’s Mondial with it’s police dominated streets following a snowboarder riot, (yeah, you read that right – don’t ask).The main playground was high above the village at Le Glacier 3200 but complaints came down of long lines for the lifts, kinked rails and a ridiculously massive roped off area for the Crossmax crazies. But the village mood was good, with a friendly season warm up atmosphere, winter buddies meeting up and hugging and parties all round. The main highlight of the weekend was the Saturday evening Scratch Rail Contest which was a real crowd pleaser and wild fun for the riders on the excellent rail set up, despite the absurdness of the organizers leaving the snow lying around in the summer heat un-covered for a day resulting in a mud bath landing pad for the riders. All the best names in town turned out and laid it down. In the end a 270 in, 270 out on the box followed by an almost fakie 630 scooped the first place podium for rising star Andreas Hatveit who got the crowd’s loudest roar and who was super stoked with his performance.The bars and cafes were full of the familiar European ski scene faces as everyone chilled in the warm sun and exchanged gossip. The Dynastar team were out and after all the rumors of blood-on-the-wall hiring and firing on the European team last year, the mood this year was much more relaxed. A small injury kept Mathias Wecxsteen out of the contests over the weekend but team leader Nathanael Fresnois was in confident form on the back of last season’s good results and with this summer’s first place in half pipe and slope style down under secured by Dynastar's Loic Collomb Patton in New Zealand. The European incarnation of Nike ACG made an impressive mark this year with a solid team presence around town showing much promise with a bunch of new signings. And the gear is much improved as seen on ACG guys who were decked out in some pretty cool stuff burying the memory of the terrible early days of “wanna-be” colors and drainpipe pants. Oddly this is not replicated in North America where ACG pulled out of the snow sports market (though word is they will be making a tentative return in the spring in select stores across the States). The Rossignol European riders were also on the streets signing posters and hitting the rails. No big name changes, keeping the solid line headed by Candide fresh from training in Zermat and Saas Fee and soon to head out to Mammoth and touting some new ideas for backcountry madness. Team leader David Bouveir was everywhere and smiling, and why not, with solid European signings over the years and with the excellent Scratch label, Rossi are showing that you don’t have to be an alternative, change-the-world obsessive, blowing dad’s pension fund in a garage developing (yet another) niche ski brand to make the newschool kids happy. (The new Rossi web site is really sweet by the way.)On the subject of ski brands, you couldn’t get more old school in image than Fischer but things are beginning to develop for jibbers with the recent signing of Derek Spong and news from here of a strong presence among the teenage jibbers in Austria. And this was another much discussed topic in the café and bars, the rapid emergence of a newschool scene in the Germanic part of Europe. The French and Scandinavians have pretty much set the scene in European newschool over the past few years while Germany, Austria and Switzerland continued to enjoy the un-trammeled delights of racers in purple wet suits. Now there is a definite sense of shift and this was much noted around town. No more so than in the person of Roy Kittler a new kid from, of all places, Pirna (where?) 12 miles east of Dresden in Germany a place about as mountainous as JFK’s grassy knoll. This 17 year old new name kicked ass on the glacier and caught the roar of the crowd in the rail contest. His regular training ground is a local indoor ski hall full of the very best spray can fake snow which goes by the glittering name of “Skitropolis”. Fortunately in high winter he is spared the hall’s soap powder mush, traveling 2 hours each weekend to practice in the Austrian Alps.What was all round a super sweet weekend ended on a flat note down at the Avalanche bar with what was advertised as a Sex Toy party which predictably resulted in a bar packed with men - no self respecting woman went any where near, nor any dis-respecting woman for that matter, (they have their own toys). And the sex toys? Well, a few blow up condoms on the ceiling, and a couple of blow up dolls bouncing around the crowd was the sum total of the action (it’s called theming and it “justifies” the high bar prices). But why bother with this Vegas style trash? Guys hang out at the right bars anyway and Avalanche is well known and on the jibber’s map, but if you’re going to plan fun then come on, deliver, give the crowd something more than a trailer park raunchy night out. High prices - cheap thrills, really cheap, sextropolis cheap.


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