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London Freeze Festival 2011

My first trip to a city Big Air.

On Friday and Saturday Londoners made the difficult journey to Battersea Power Station for the Relentless Freeze Festival. Billed as "London's biggest apres ski party" the Freeze promised live music and Skiing and Snowboarding from some of the world's top riders.

Despite the usual press hype I have to admit I was a little sceptical. As iconic as Battersea Power Station is it is as painful as new ski boots to get to. Secondly, it always, always rains at the Freeze which means the slope falls apart, the riders can't get enough speed and we all get wet. My final concern was that as structurally impressive as it is a large scaffold does not really represent what skiing and snowboarding means to me. The tricks may well be thoroughly impressive but is this the X-Factor of extreme sports? Has it been sanitised, commercialised and packaged for an audience of twenty some-things looking to fill a Friday night?

Well with Oyster card in hand I set off to find out. After a tube and two buses I realised that it's not that Battersea is hard to get to, Tube to Victoria follwed by train to Battersea as I learned on Saturday, it's just that I don't know my way around London. As the sun was shining and I could see the station's towers from where I had wrongly got off the second of my unnecessary buses I decided to walk along the river and make my way to the festival on foot.

So far two of my concerns had been put to bed. The sun was indeed out and despite the Autumnal colours and the clock going back in a few short days the temperature was warm enough for just a t-shirt.

Once inside Freeze does feel like a summer festival. All be it one in a city rather than a field.

The kicker took pride of place and was even more eye-catching than the power station. Covered in real snow and standing some 32m high and 100m long it was truly impressive and as the kicker had been redesigned to be whippier the riders were getting more air time than in previous years.

The first contest was the Battle of Britain. The top skiers and snowboarders from the UK going head-to-head in a knock out comp to crown the UK's best riders. With X-Games medallist James Woods skiing and British Big Air Champion Billy Morgan in the starting line up it wasn't hard to guess the outcome. What I wasn't prepared for was that both guys would spin double corks off the kicker. A few years ago only a handful of riders in the world could do this trick but here we were in the middle of London seeing them cleanly styled and landed by two guys who learned to ride on plastic slopes.

After the Battle of Britain I went to watch some of the bands. "True Ingredients" were playing all weekend in the Desperados tent and were a personal favourite. A great range of vocal styles from the two singers and one MC made them a surprising band who I will definitely be learning more about. Over on the main stage, the cheeky lads from Rizzle Kicks put on a very high energy show that left them more than a little out of breath. Funny, charming and with some catchy tunes the boys look set for great things.

Day two of the festival dawned bright and clear and with my new understanding of the London transport system I made the much easier journey back to Battersea. This was the day I was most excited about as the FIS snowboard competition would answer my questions as to whether this was a sporting event or a circus show.

The qualifiers were the first big part of the competition and it soon became apparent that without a double corked 1080 you were not going to make the finals. Despite this high bench mark and the level of international talent TWO Brits made the final with super-clean backside double-corked 1080's. Jamie Nichols and Ben Kilner, a slopestyle and pipe rider respectively, kept the crowd on their toes as the riders that followed them threatened to knock them out of the spot in the finals but the boys on home turf had done enough and both made it through to the final against the likes of Seppe Smits and Janni Korpi. Both Jamie and Ben gave it there all but Ben struggled with his landings and although Jamie had a couple of clean runs they weren't enough to podium.

Those who did make the podium did so in incredible style. The level of riding was so high that first place went to Janni Korpi from Finland with 184 out of a possible 200 points. The best two of Janni's three runs counted towards his final score and they were a Frontside Double Corked 1080 and a switch backside 1260. IN LONDON!!

My concerns had been quashed. The weather had been great all weekend, I had mastered the London transport system and the standard of riding and skill shown by both skiers and snowboarders means that even if these events don't capture the soul of our sport they certainly show it's balls.

Our video from the event, including interviews with Colby West and James Woods will be up later. In the meantime here's the official highlights from the Festival.

 



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