Dear Newschoolers,I’m supposedly on vacation at the moment, which is why there haven’t been many news updates in the past week or so. But don’t worry, NS News never sleeps—it only waits. So I’m taking some of my vacation time to put in a little update from the world where the cars are small, Westerns are big and where it’s still cool to wear Stussy: Europe.Snow has been seriously lacking in the Alps this winter. In fact, it’s been so bad that Lufthansa, convinced that I didn’t really want to bring all my ski gear to Europe, decided to leave it all at the airport in San Francisco. When my ski bag finally did get here—two days after my ride left for Austria—it was minus one of my brand new Level gloves that some TSA official is probably now using as a more comfortable alternative to latex. Thanks, Homeland Security!The original plan was to hit up Austria, then head farther south to Sudtirol in Italy for New Year’s. When that didn’t work, my girlfriend and I decided to stay local in Germany and ski Garmisch, but after talking with Nico Zacek about how terrible the snow was there, that plan also got called off. With time running out on my stay in Europe, there was only one option left: Laax, Switzerland.If you didn’t know it already, Laax is one of Europe’s terrain park powerhouses, and so I figured even with mediocre snow, it’d be nice to have a good park and pipe to ride. And as it turned out, Mother Nature brought a little gift for the New Year, a few feet of fresh powder, to make things more interesting.Once in Laax, I snapped into work mode, and my time was spent as follows:
One day spent laying sick in the Crap Bar at the base. The only thing that’s crap are the prices. This is the place where a bunch of rowdy Brits rudely but effectively introduced me to the concept of après-ski last winter. Judging from the Crap Bar alone, you might think there are a lot of British tourists in Laax. But actually all the Brits are just lazy and end up filling the bar mid-day while the continentals are still out shredding.
After coughing my guts out in the Crap Bar for most of the day, the sun came out and we decided to make the most of things and get a few runs in. So we donned our ski gear and then started asking around for skiers who were done with their lift tickets for the day. This wasn’t working so well, as most people had either multi-day or season passes or were just too typically ramrod European to give a homie a hand. Finally Anja just asked the guy watching over the lift line if we couldn’t sneak in for a free run, and he shrugged and let us by. Sometimes all you gotta do is ask.The next day we skied what powder was left on the lower mountain, and I got a few laps in on the Laax park, which is still lacking jumps but has two fun box lines and a very nice pipe. I didn’t want to break my new skis in on the boxes just yet, so I hit up the on-mountain Test Center, where you can demo all the twins from Armada, K2, Völkl and Salomon for free.
On my last day in town I decided to get some real work done, so I hung out for a while in the little café above the park and looked for some jibbers with whom I could do some shooting. I was hoping that British pop sensation Paddy Graham would be down, but he managed to knock a tooth out earlier in the day (thanks for the photo Crees, hope you don't mind)—
—so I needed to find someone else. Luckily Laax is full of great skiers, and it wasn’t long before I ran into Olav, Gaute and Steinar from Norway, who were all more than happy to get out of the fog-enshrouded lower mountain and try to find some sun.
Luckily, Laax has a lot more to offer than just a park, although that's mostly what it's known for. A few lift rides later we were above the clouds and found a nice little cliff, just one of at least twenty easy to reach from the La Siala lift, and these guys threw down. I can see I’ve written too much already for the typical NS attention span, so here are the shots.
This is Olav Brusletto. He kills it.
Gaute Haker skis for Avalaan, and stomped the piss out of this huge 360. He hasn't gotten his Avalaan threads yet, which is why he has to ski with this Oakley camo one-piece for the moment. And this is why camo has gone out of fashion so quickly:
And this is Steinar Olsen, who's in town with Olav to train for the upcoming FIS Halfpipe World Championships in Italy. Apparently pipe skiing is not his only strong point!So that was the long and the short of my visit to Laax. A huge thanks to Olav, Gaute and Steinar for throwing down, to Britta for the tickets, and Danny for the hospitality (I very quickly regretted not accepting your gift!). If you're skiing Europe this winter and want to be in the middle of the newschool scene, Laax is the place to be.- Ethan Stone