Sochi pipe and the climate change : weather is not climate.

Onboard recently wondered if the problem in the Sochi pipe were due to climate change. I’m not against their implication on the climate subject and their answer is no, it was not climate change, plus there was a billion of things to consider. But the problem is not the answer, it’s the question.

There’s always gonna be warm and cold days, snowy or rocky seasons, moisture or dry air. If the competition had been held five days before, it would have been perfect. Perfect weather to be precise. It is the short term local effect. The one you feel when you ride, the one that made the pipe shitty.

Climate is a bit different though, it is longer term effect. It tells you what kind of lottery of you’re playing in term of weather, but it doesn’t tell if you win or loose on a specific day. So climate change basically tells you that odds have changed.

Now this is were it gets a bit tricky : if climate change already has noticeable effects*, which cold days have been replaced warm ones ? Well you can’t tell and you’ll never be able to. Imagine you play head or tail, but with a fake coin that has head on both side. Sure you will only get heads because it’s a fake coin, no question about that, just as there will be more warm day with climate change. But on this particular shot, did you get the right head or the fake one ? You can’t tell. Same with the olympic half-pipe : was it a normal warm day or  a new one due to climate change ? Can’t tell and we’ll never be able to. The answer is uninteresting because the question is pointless.

Keep it as a rule of thumb, whenever you start wondering “Is today’s weather due to climate change”, you’re asking a pointless question. If you ask “Is the snowfall of the last five season worldwide impacted by climate change” you’re in the right direction, but be prepared because it’s a super technical question. If you’re asking “what can I do to reduce my carbon footprint ?”, there you are, it’s the main question for random people like us.

So stop whining that your pow day has been ruined by China and drive less.

*I’m not discussing it here, it’s a very, very, very technical point. But we’ll know one day and even when we know it doesn’t change anything to the reasoning.

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No love for the mute grab ?

So it sounds like the latest cool thing to do is to bash the mute grab, because it has no style, because they make everybody look the same or whatever.

I’m all in for hipsters to do triple grabs (the third one is with your mouth) with 15 shiftys : do all you can with your board, that’s for the best (just don’t expect old schooler to like it). But a little historical point has to be made, upon why we came to this point.

At some point we got tired of this.

At some point we got tired of this.

Because yeah, Danny Davis didn’t invent the Kelly air* … and there was a lot of those funny grabs back in the days. But some people came in with a skate style, super smooth, super-boxed, no crazy tweaks and pokes. Ultimately, people like Devun Walsh or JP Soldberg  developed a style that was all boxed mute, lien and indy. And it was, and still is, fuckin’ stylish.

Why ? Because of really off axis roation and smoothness. They spinned in so many different ways, bs rodeos, misties of all kinds. And always super smooth like it was nothing, like they were rotating with no efforts although they were going a direction the kicker never wanted them to.

Way to make an indy look stylish (photo rockstarenergy.com)

Way to make an indy look stylish (photo rockstarenergy.com)

Now look at that kid with gold around his neck. The whole community is so happy to see «style winning». Holy crail or not, he was  not really what you call smooth and did the trick that was the closest thing to a double back full of the whole contest. Double grab or not, when he goes upside-down, that’s the way the kicker tell him to (and he his not the only one to do so).

As I said, I’m all in for all kind of grabs, including the mute. But I also want to see all kinds of rotations, not only triple-grab back flips.

*I feel like I have to mention that Craig Kelly did …

What an olympic slopestyle should be.

I said how much I like transition based, more skatepark like courses, with jam formats. But let say the olympics are not ready for this. But even with a feature by feature run, we could do much much better.

So here is my design of a 6 features run, skecthes are crappy and out of scale, but it’s just for explaining.

 Classic rails : long and not too steep and almost flat side enter.  Why not a full kink ? Why no kickers ? So that it’s not gapable. You’re looking for a solid slide here  with a good ollie not a 450 to left foot touch. A way to give points to lipslide and hardway in too. Also no need for fancy one million options rails : riders always take the same line anyways.rails

The Wall : The wall ride has been one of the main feature of street and parks those last years. It shouldn’t be an option, it  has to be a mandatory part of every run : if you can’t ride you don’t deserve a good score ! Both step down drop and side kickers. Made so that you have to slide the wall before eventually boardsliding the top.wall

 The hip :   One of our most typical jump, should be mandatory too. One each side of course, big, with steep landing and take off. Here you want to get a lot of air with a stylish grab. A big alley-oop or 270 can also score big here, and although some spins are possible it’s a gamble on amplitude. One important part is that it’s a flat take-off as opposed to edge take off on straight jumps, so different skills involved.Hip

The bonks : Cannon, bonk sphere, air rainbows. Here you’re looking for nose bonks, miller flips, big gap to rail, rail to spin etc. The «touch» feeling and the hang time would be the difference makers.bonks

The Jump : unleash the triple ! No step down here. It’s less spectacular on TV, but landing are cleaner with less step down and it’s possible to have the same hang time. Be sure to land clean, you’re gonna want some speed for the last one !jump

The face quarter : the big baddy. A unique kind of feature. You can go double, maybe even triple, or score as big with a method or a McTwist if you go big. Few riders are able to ride it well, but when they do …quarter

If I were to add features I would add a second straight jump before the first one . And a little jib after the quarter, on the way up, low speed/fun style.

Many other setup are possible but you get the point : mix skills and jump styles as much as possible, give the rider a chance to score with air and style as much, favor clean landing by favoring speed carrying. You don’t really need to go exotic to bring variety.

Of course, this would cost a bit to build…

The correct way to state the avalanche problem (#1)

Jeremy Jones has been making a lot of sense on how to pick lines in recent post. There’s one important point I’d like to add on the avalanche part : choosing a line and engaging into it are two seperate problems. And as a math guy, I like to set my probabilities problem right.

So the first part is choosing wether you want to go or not. I insist on the want thing, the threshold for acceptable risk is purely personnal, there’s no such thing as a right degree of risk. That being said, choosing if you want to go is a three step process :

  • check the local avalanche report
  • check the particular situation of your line according to it (exposure, snowload, wind …)
  • check if YOU are all ok, mentaly and physically. (I’ll get back on that in a later post)

In this part you’re trying to judge the mountain, trying to beat her poker face. The whole point of the process is to determine wether you’re playing head or tail or the one billion lottery. The great prize here being death.

Ok, so at this point you’re either riding away on groomers or saying “Chances are it is a safe enough line”. “safe enough” rather than “safe”, because it’s your acceptable risk. “Chances are it is” rather than “it is”, because you might have picked a very dangerous line without any means to know it. It’s not your fault, the snow cover’s poker face can be really hard to beat sometimes.

There are things you can do when you're in this situation. There also things you can do to minimize the risk of ending up in such a situation in the first place.

There are things you can do when you’re in this situation. There also things you can do to minimize the risk of ending up in such a situation in the first place.  (image whitelines.com)

So you’re on top, you decided you’re going : Forget all of the above decision process ! (except the fact that you’re going of course). It’s possible to loose at head or tail, it’s possible to win the national lottery. So you always ride like there’s gonna be an avalanche. No matter how safe you think it is. Think of exits, think of where in your run it would be smart to stop, where you should rather try to rush down. An old guide (hence a good one !) told me once «Imagination will save you in the mountain».

It sounds a bit of a heavy stuff, killing the fun. It just becomes second nature in no time, and it’s very fast. Just those two steps : what kind of lottery am I playing ? What if I “win” anyways ? Everything other reasoning on odds and probabilies is bullshit, especially those involving guts, instinct or any kind of bad feeling.

Ride safe guys !

Wonkish note : The thing at stake here is called prior probabilities in a bayesian network (check the wikipedia page). It means we want to guess before the event actually happens. And that’s very different from judging after the avalanche happens. I mean the numbers truly are different from a mathematical point of view.

X-games halfpipe :  Danny Davis saves the day, judges AND riders are to blame.

So if you’re a cool dude like me, you probably hate the way competitive snowboard is going. That’s the way to be a hipster (and rightfully so).

And you also probably thought that Mr Danny Davis just saved the day with this very run (watch it again, it doesn’t get old) :

No need to say how much is doing for us, both with his dream-pipe and his riding.

Everything else has been rubish.  Louie Vito not even using the vert, litteraly poping midway throug the pipe landing on the flat, muscling his way to the next (begining of the) wall into a massive 1.80 meter air. I don’t how such a thing even scores points. Greg betz : front, cab, front *OMG i have a back edge*, back *but I don’t like it after all*, front, cab. Using half your board should get you half the points.

Now there are a few things to note here about judging … and riding : 93 to Louie Vito run means there’s something god damn wrong in the judging system. 95 to Danny’s mean that proper riding can gets proper scoring…if it’s ever performed by anybody. Judges can only judge what they are shown, it’s easy to bash them, but riders have their part to play too.

PS : bashing Vito never gets old.

Done for contest until the olympics, gonna blog on other topics !

X-games : What did we see in big air that wasn’t in slopestyle ?

Seeing almost the same tricks being in big air than in slopestyle, except for 1620 version of the bs triple cork, I wondered why do we even have this competition.

If you look a bit back in the past, big air hasn’t alwasy been there. Back in the 90’s it used to be a standard comp’, mainly because it was easier to build a single jump. When it grew boring, some people tried to make it two or three jumps in a row, like what happened at X or at Air & Style. Ultimately the competition was discontinued at X after 2000 and the only big events running big-air were urban ones, where couldn’t really build a full slopestyle, mainly Air & Style.

Now the discipline is back to Xs since 2008, and for what ? World firsts of course. ESPN want to score high on the youtube/social media buzz effect : “First ever n-uple landed at X”.

But this year it didn’t happen, and slopestyle was 10 times much better to watch, with almost the same substance. Let’s hope big-air/best trick dies again.

X-games big air : ski is doing much better than snowboard

I could not help but compare the two big air events. In snowboard it’s been triple underflips and triple corks only, mute grap being the weapon of choice. So as I said, everything in the kicker axis. And as I forgot, everything normal stance.

Change clothes and everybody is confused …

In skis there’s been double mystis in all sort of ways, some sideways stuff I don’t even know the name of. Nose butter in, tail butter in, super-stylish double grabs. Different kind of triples.

Now you know who is who, not some anonymous variations of the same trick.

Variety, creativity, technicallity. Hard doubles or straight spin were playing on equal ground with “easier” triple. So NO it doesn’t have to be all triples. YES cool things can be done with doubles and triples.

As sorry as I am to say that, snowboard should really go the path ski is going in big air. And with Rolland and Wise battling for amplitude and smoothness rather than extra 180’s, I’m afraid that it’s gonna be all the same in half-pipe …