True Grit and Snowsports - The Corona Story

Words by Milo McSenderson



Coronavirus, Covid-19 or the Big ‘Rona as the kids are calling it has ended lots of things we used to hold dear, not to mention a huge amount of lives. Pubs, festivals and any sense of normality has been decimated and we’re still a long way from being out the woods. Things have been shifting recently and we’ve been able to have a socially distanced pint… that means long arming it right? Nevertheless, skiing has taken its hit along with everything else. Seasons were cut short. While a few resorts in the Baltics managed to keep their seasons going a little longer; mid-March spelled the end for skiing as we knew it. Rather than enjoying lengthening days on the terraces of our favourite bars, or dialling those tricks in the spring slush we were forced to repatriate or face lockdown in resorts with no lifts or bars.


While we’ve been sitting in lock down, getting more and more frustrated by the gorgeous weather and becoming excellent at online quizzes, the ski community has done what it can to keep the stoke alive, look on the positives and somehow keep skis on your feet or some level of stunt based entertainment. We’re a creative bunch and here’s a little recap of how we’ve all been repping snow sliding from the safety of our homes.


Instagram chains were one of the early boredom breakers to come out of the global pandemic. I thought these were long gone, and I’m still alive and unhaunted from all those emails I never forwarded on back in the day. Nevertheless, they have made a strong comeback, best tricks or crashes in Instagram stories, tag ya friends, everyone gets a healthy dose of bails in their screens. We love a good crash, especially when we dust ourselves off and can have a good laugh at ‘em. This was a good chance for us to dig into the archives, or more recent footy and pull out slams we’ve since recovered from or flex the tricks we want to show off again.


With more time than ever to dream of mountains many people have pulled out the toolkit, grabbed some timber and some astro and put in the elbow grease to get a good home set up off the ground. Relatively simple builds can yield a good rail set up for dialling those switch ups at home. With a little more work even a functioning chairlift can keep the young ones entertained, gain millions of views and get shared by thousands. This one from Steve Cross was an absolute belter in terms of craftsmanship and ingenuity. If you were ever intrigued, this is how you go viral:



Staying rad and giving the kids their ski holiday. That’s what we like to see. Steve’s camping chair and pulley construction went viral early on in lockdown (we’re talking 13.5m views on this version of the vid alone). I caught up with Steve to find out what gave him the idea to build such a set up:


            [Steve]: We were due to go to Tignes as a family over Easter but unfortunately due to the lockdown we couldn't go. The kids were really disappointed as they love skiing so I decided to try to give them a ski holiday experience in the garden.  I'd been keeping myself busy in lockdown with various projects and had the idea of building a ski lift out of a camping chair and various ropes and straps I had in the garage, I didn't really have a design, just made it up as I went along, fortunately it came together really well. We already had the slope, it was part of a tree house we'd built a few years back. The surface came from a revolving ski slope like the one at Skizone in Basingstoke. I was able to rescue some old surface that was being thrown away. The kids would use it for sledging but we'd never used it for skiing before. When we opened the garden ski resort we gave the kids lift passes and played Oompah music to add to the experience!


It looked like quite an intricate build, how did you find the building process and how long did it take?


[Steve]: The lift took a day to set up and a day of tweaking and testing to make sure it was safe. The hardest part was getting the ropes and straps secured up in the tree and also fending all the questions from the kids trying to guess what it was. Once the kids had figured it out they were really excited and helped me finish it off.  We kept it up for the 2 weeks of Easter but took it down to use the parts for other lockdown projects after that.


How did the virality of the video affect you?


[Steve]: It was a huge surprise when the video went viral, we really hadn't expected it. Suddenly friends and family from all over the world were messaging us saying they'd seen it on social media and even on TV. We had enquiries from TV companies in the US, Australia and even Taiwan and Japan. Photos made it into the national press and even the likes of Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White shared it on their feeds! As there was mostly a positive response to it we all enjoyed our 5 minutes of fame and fortunately I had been furloughed from work so had the time to field the hundreds of messages we received!


Our very own Justin Taylor-Tipton took over the AJ ‘gram last month to provide a too hot to handle instabanger. Laying down all your (weird and wonderful) requests on his own home set up. We’ve seen a few things like this, even pre rona times, and they are always a fun watch. Scotland’s Matty McCormick has been on the home set up hype with Samuel Ålander also ripping hard on a backyard set up over in Sweden. It’s weirdly comforting to know even the top-flight riders like JTT have been going stir crazy and their content keeps us going. Alongside this, Level 1 had a vlog compilation of their athletes sharing their stay at home activities and reminding us all that we’ve gotta make do in this trying time.

Competitions drive a huge part of the ski scene. We may end up with triple 1440s in the X-Games but what’s more fun to watch is people getting creative for prizes at home. Be it using bedsheets and stop-motion to recreate those backcountry days or trying to stomp some standing backies… did you see one of the AJ founders almost break his neck trying that one? Some of us like resident AJ DJ FortySept just found a hill and stuck his skis on anyway… free basegrind, or something. AfterJam’s stunt at home was a big one and pulled lots of creativity out of the woodwork from the people. Bang this link and hit the story highlight labelled stunts comp!


Home stunts for competitions (or just to pass the time one way or another) have been a huge part of lockdown for many. Our very own Mason and Justin were swapping the skis for the wood and wheels and stacking skate clips all over the place. I have been sending it down at my local as much as possible and it has very much filled the void left by spring skiing. Sunny days spent primarily in the park, swap the slush for concrete and it’s basically the same, right? Although falling when skating will always suck. Those of us lucky enough to have trampolines have been getting those axes dialled and futurespins on lock.


Many of our favourite ski movies will be lacking the big spring session enders we know and love and not much can bring that back. But the big names in ski movie production have been doing their bit. NateJam & McSenderson productions debuted its seminal work Nuns, Guns & Ski Runs, with talks of a sequel dropping in the near future too. Armada skis have been doing Armada Homeschool and digging into the archives to upload content free on YouTube. A bit closer to home; the UK collective FridgeBangers had been holding live streams on Sunday nights with the greatest collection of UK based films, Q&A’s and some entertaining reaction videos to boot. Attending the UK church of send has been a good addition. The Level 1 movies are all still free on Vimeo and their podcasts relating to each one still on SoundCloud and has been an excellent way to entertain and learn. Level 1’s new podcast Another Level recently kicked off and is well worth sticking in your ears.


This lockdown, coronavirus and the global pandemic has really stiffed much of the world's plans. With any luck, it’ll kickstart a green revolution and slow the glacier melt so the summer sessions can stay sendy. It really isn’t all doom and gloom.


The ski community has responded excellently. Rallied together and brought each other up in these hard times. The future is bright. Summer skiing glaciers fought for its return, Fonna in Norway has been firing, Switzerland’s Zermatt has been producing all the heaters. Daniel Hanka has brought his signature style to the ‘horn.


The biggest news of all was that the AJ summer camp on the Les Deux Alpes glacier managed to go ahead as planned! We might’ve even managed to sneak it in the only little window of permissible holidays this summer. Jammy sods us lot! With a few extra precautions on lifts, in the accom and in bars plus some pesky paperwork on the return journey, the English and French powers at be said we could send and boy did we! Full recap video, photos and NateJam & McSenderson Production to follow. Don’t sleep on that!


Stay safe and enjoy the relaxing of these measures. Keep sending where you can and make some plans to ride that summer slush!