We’ve just got back from Laax, Switzerland, where we’ve been lucky enough to spend the week at the BRITS 2018. The BRITS are the British Snowboard & Freeski Championships,, which bring passionate British skiers and snowboarders together with the best talent from the world of British snow sports, allowing them to demonstrate their skills on one of the world’s most famous freestyle stages. We had an amazing week spending time with pro athletes, rising stars and mountain-loving families and you can find our highlights of the week below.
The future is bright for British Snowsports
The incredible wealth of young talent taking to the slopes in Laax was what the BRITS is all about – allowing these young people the opportunity to do what they love, on one of freestyle’s greatest stages in the Laax snowpark. And boy, do they thrive here.
This year, the girls really shone, bringing some awesome talent to both the skiing and snowboarding fields. On Friday afternoon, Kirsty Muir stepped up to the BRITS podium. With her long plaited hair, jeans and a t-shirt, she looked like any normal 13-year-old. However, Kirsty was collecting her third overall British title this year, simultaneously bringing her prize money pot up to a staggering £1250.
16-year-old snowboarder Maisie Hill became the most decorated athlete of the competition after a win in the Halfpipe led to her leaving the BRITS with two overall titles, a silver and a bronze medal. When we caught up with Maisie after the final podium, she said she thought she could have done better. We’d say that four medals is pretty incredible, but this is just a mark of how much Hill wants to push herself to truly be the best in her field.
Meanwhile, the mini shredder that is Mia Brookes continued to turn heads. Aged 11, she is already incredibly respected in the British snowboard scene and her talent, as well as her passion for the sport, is evident all she does. Brookes scooped the overall title in the snowboard Big Air and also ended up on the Halfpipe podium, not bad for an 11-year-old! This is all part of the magic of the BRITS – where else do you get a champion debating spending their prize money on either a car… or lego.
However, by no means was the young talent limited to the girls. From 8-year-old Palmer Parish and 13-year-old Bradley Fry, the young men brought quite the show too. The GB Park and Pipe Development Team definitely brought their best. Chris McCormick pulled out all the stops to claim both the Picture Big Air and the Slopestyle titles. This Slopestyle podium was just one reflection of the positive influence of the GB Park and Pipe pathway, with all three medal winners debuting on the World Cup scene this season. This pathway is such a positive way for young people to develop as athletes and the BRITS is an awesome way to see first hand the success that the pathway promotes.
Battles were Fought
The world’s biggest halfpipe became the stage for an exhilarating battle between two of GB’s Olympians. Pete Speight and Alexander Galavatsky-Yeadon (or ‘Xander’ as he likes to be known) both brought their A-Game and gave the crowds an incredible show. The amplitude and showmanship of Galavatsky-Yeadon brought all the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ that a spectacular Halfpipe run deserves, while Speight laid down run after run, impressively clinical in his attempt to claim a third straight victory in the BRITS Halfpipe.
It was a fantastic contest, made all the better by the high level of talent across the pack, from the youngsters to the Pyeongchang pros. In the end, Xander’s stylish execution won out and he ended the day with the British national title. Pete took a well-deserved silver, while Sam Ward swooped the bronze after a fantastic performance in the pipe, demonstrating his huge potential.
The Masters Came, They Fought, They Conquered
One of the great things about the BRITS is that anyone can enter; age is not an issue here! The ‘Masters’ category is for anyone over 30. So whether you’re 31 or 61, you can try your hand at Big Air, Ski Cross or even halfpipe (if you feel up to it!). Anyone can enter – so long as you’re good enough to get down the course safely.
The atmosphere when the Masters podiums were announced was always electric and some of the athletes in these categories were just as inspirational as the younger skiers or snowboarders! Take 61-year-old skier Paul Webb. Last year, Paul suffered a major crash during practice, spending two weeks in the hospital. This year, he was back in action, taking a well-deserved silver in the Masters Big Air. Meanwhile in the snowboard events, Ski Sunday’s Ed Leigh and his wife Sian both became familiar with the podium, with Ed even taking the men’s overall bronze in the Halfpipe.
A Family Affair
Indeed, at the BRITS, there’s a real family feel. Both figuratively, in that by the end of the week, everyone feels like one big family, but also literally. There are whole families of snow sports fans here absolutely smashing it. Take the Leigh family, who went home with nine medals between them! Or the McNairs and the Blackwells, who also graced the podium time after time over the week. One of the things I absolutely love about the BRITS is how inclusive it is. Whether you are a 8, 18 or 58, there’s something for everyone to get involved in.
InTheSnow Took To The Ski Cross Course
This inclusive feel even led us to take to the slopes! Competing at the BRITS was something I never thought would even be possible for me. Like probably many others, I always assumed that the BRITS were for the best of British snow sports; someone like me would surely not be allowed to enter. However, this is simply not the case.
My decision to participate in the ski cross event was extremely last minute – I was convinced into it the night before by some fellow journalists who also bit the bullet to participate. However, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of my week.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was by far the slowest, but I expected nothing less, being up against two GB ski cross athletes… However, I still made it and was extremely chuffed to be able to say that I made the BRITS Ski Cross Final! Granted, I only made the final because there were only three other women in my age group (the Open women, between 18 and 30) – but I still made it down the course!
It was definitely adrenaline-inducing. Even at the speed I was travelling, I found the rollers and corners pretty terrifying, and did think I was about to wipe out on a few occasions. I didn’t though, and was elated when I got to the end. The other athletes, Pam Thorburn, Emma Peters and Angela Peaton, were all absolutely lovely and made me feel really proud of getting down the run, as opposed to the embarrassment I had expected to feel finishing so far behind! Keep your eyes peeled for a more in depth account of our first attempt at ski cross on InTheSnow.com over the next few months.
The Aprés Didn’t Disappoint
One of the other things that keeps this really great friendly feel to the BRITS is the après events. They really go all out to ensure that you are having a good time both on and off the snow. The undeniable highlight of the week had to be ‘Monsieur Poudreuse’s Mounting Quiz’, which saw Ski Sunday’s Ed Leigh donning a wig, a onesie and a questionable accent to bring a whole host of frivolities to Laax’s famous Indy Bar. After a children’s quiz earlier in the evening, the adult version kicked off to much anticipation. Teased as more ‘Celebrity Juice’ than typical pub quiz, rounds ranged from general knowledge, to the limbo, to some unspeakable things involving creme eggs… Our media team was storming ahead after the first few rounds (true/false, guess the shot, general knowledge), but slowly started to go downhill as the physical activities began. Unsurprising when comparing our athletic talent compared of most of the other teams involved!
While the competitions themselves were amazing to watch, I also really enjoyed having the opportunity to explore the area of Laax. Like many people, I have heard so much about this area but never had the opportunity to visit it for myself and see it lives up to its famous hashtag, #laaxisniceyo. In truth? It does. The ski area is awesome, stretching out to Flims and Falera, with some stunning views from the top of the glacier. The runs are generally wide, well-groomed and a lot of fun. With many red runs, it’s a great place for intermediate skiers and even at the start of April, the snow conditions were fantastic.
However, as it’s reputation shows, where Laax absolutely shines is for freestyle fans. From the accessible and well designed beginners areas, through to the longest continuous halfpipe in the world and the terrifyingly huge pro line, there’s something for every level of freestyle skier or snowboarder. Moreover, there’s also the infamous P60 run, complete with more rails, boxes, kickers and other features than anyone could possibly know what to do with. Riders can (and do) spend all day simply lapping P60 without ever getting bored. It’s also one of the only ski areas where you can find yourself unknowingly sat eating your lunch alongside huge names in skiing and snowboarding, such as Ståle Sandbech, Andri Ragettli and James Woods.
Plus, the fun doesn’t stop once the slopes are closed! The Laax Freestyle Academy offers a unique and hugely fun way to improve your freestyle skills off the mountain. Covering an area of 1000m², the Freestyle Academy offers a place for pros and amateurs alike to practice their jumps, flips and techniques. A freestyle playground with multiple trampolines, air bags, skate ramps and rock climbing, the centrepiece of the Academy is their huge kicker, which offers a realistic snowflex surface with a landing in the large air bag. It’s so much fun, and no trip to Laax would really be complete without a visit here! We’ll be doing a full feature on the Academy later in the year, so make sure you keep an eye out for that.
All Good Vibes
The inclusion of the BRITS stretches all the way from the grassroots to the Olympic medallists. It was really something to see ten-year-old skiers and snowboarders taking to the slopes alongside their heroes.
Snowboard Olympic medallists Billy Morgan and Jenny Jones were on hand, alongside Jamie Nicholls and Aimee Fuller, giving the younger snowboard fans a great insight into where their sport could lead them. James ‘Woodsy’ Woods showed exactly how much fun could be had in Laax’s famous snow parks on a pair of skis, while Pete Speight and Alexander Galavatsky-Yeadon brought their skills to the Halfpipe in a demonstration sure to inspire younger Halfpipe riders. Also around were Murray Buchan, Rowan Coultas, Mike Rowlands and the unfortunately injured Maddie Rowlands, all of whom were keen to engage with the athletes and the competitions themselves.
BRITS 2018 – Freestyle Ski Edit by Jack Wiliams
Posted by The BRITS on Tuesday, 10 April 2018
There’s something really special about watching the youngsters, from 8 to 18, participating in the same event as current GB athletes, as well as previous masters such as Ed Leigh and Lesley McKenna. It’s an opportunity for them to ski alongside and learn from their heroes. An experience to show what they can do on one of freestyle’s most famous stages. But the most important element of the BRITS? Everyone has been brought together by the love of skiing and snowboarding, getting the chance to shred together and enjoy the mountains. Here, everyone is on the same level. We come together as British snowsport-lovers, as opposed to as aspiring athletes, parents, Olympians or even media.
It was a vibe and a community that I feel extremely privileged to have been a part of over the week and I for one, cannot wait to return next year.
To top it off, the BRITS offer an absolutely awesome base for you to relax and recharge at the end of the day. The apartments in Rocks Resort are ideally located for the main lifts up to Galaaxy (where most of the action takes place), while you can ski practically back to your door. Modern, spacious and comfortable, with easy cooking facilities and a shower I could have lived in (honestly it is amazing), it’s the perfect base for a week at the BRITS.
Be sure to follow The BRITS on their social channels for all the photos and videos – www.facebook.com/britssnow and @britssnow on Instagram.
The BRITS would not be possible without its highly supportive Partners: LAAX, Picture Organic Clothing, SWISS International Airlines, Switzerland Tourism and British Ski & Snowboard (BSS).
Professional Photo credits: Snowboard – Motionstoppers.com / Ski & Podiums – Bluebird Photography
Main Image Credit: Tim Hughes