There’s a colossal history to Laax Resort in Switzerland. The same sort of history that exists in Whistler, or Mammoth or Summit County. Stories that unfolded on those same slopes twenty years ago are still told fondly today. It’s the kind of history that is ingrained in snowboarding's DNA. Part of our beloved passtimes' soul lives there in the Swiss alps.
It’s got the kind of history that gets told matter-of-factly. Like people expect you to know it. I know some of it, but not as much as some people seem to hope. It’s the fact that leads me to also imagine that this is the type of story that I could only write once, because as ashamed as I am to admit this, this is my first time in Laax after over a decade of working in snowboarding.
I ended up here after meeting Luca Crivelli, a legendary Swiss photographer who’s probably been attending the event since the late 90’s. After pressing me on never attending the legendary event, I agreed quite quickly that I would come. A no-brainer once he told me he could sort a flight, tickets, and a place to stay. This came largely through the help of Nitro Snowboards. Shouts to them, and shouts to Knut Eliassen, who just like Laax, is a tireless supporter of snowboarding.
It’s maybe an important prerequisite to mention that ski racing is popular in Europe. Like. Really popular. Its history has been traced back to the 1840’s in Norway, and since then, generations of families have made the pilgrimage to the slopes as an escape from everyday life. Even the oldest known official soccer league wouldn’t start until 1907, so the connection between certain Europeans and skiing is some of the longest standing in modern history.
Considering that fandom. The fact that snowboard culture reigns supreme in this nook of the Alps is…well, special. On the third night of my trip, a random bargoer asked me what I thought of Laax and I grasped for the right words. Finally I responded:
“Places with this much history are too hard to understand in 4 days. But in short, It’s super fucking fun. You’d have to be a special type of asshole to not like it here.”
As for the contest itself? Well, that’s always a different story that depends on who you ask. I am pretty easy going at these things. What’s not to like? I get to watch people chuck themselves and banter and ride with the people who didn’t qualify for finals.
Halfppipe would end up being canceled due to weather, so the qualifying results would stand.
Women’s Halfpipe Podium:
- Mitsuki Ono (JPN)
- Wu Shaotong (CHN)
- Maddie Mastro (USA)
Men’s Halfpipe Podium:
- Ruka Hirano (JPN)
- Scotty James (AUS)
- Yuto Totsuka (JPN)
It’s never the ideal outcome for the field of riders who often don’t throw their hardest tricks on day one, the contest world is a poker game that requires you to play your hand perfectly. Play too safe in the qualifiers–you might not make it through. Play too bold and it might not pay off if you can’t stick it.
The night, despite its lack of a traditional “big-show” still boasted a spectacle that will surely become the lore of those same stories I mentioned in the first paragraph. With howling winds and fast moving, milky clouds, Valentio Guseli, and Kaishu Hirano took to the sky in a set of exhibition doubles runs that must have rivaled world record heights. Valentino going frontside air, Kaishu matching his height going backside.
The inevitability of this night becoming the most memorable of the trip grew in heaps once I embarked down the mountain after the halfpipe show was over. There is a dimly lit decently long trail back down to the village. The scene is one of pure hilarity, as varying levels of intoxicated contest viewers make their way down the treacherous slope.
I nearly forgot to mention that Slopestyle finals were nearly canceled as well, but ended up running the following day (Sunday), in what has to be an event organizer’s nightmare. We joked that the real winner of the Laax Open was Swiss Air, After so many riders had to change their flights to X Games.
In the end, Slopestyle went as follows.
Women’s Slopestyle Podium:
- Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZ)
- Mia Brookes (UK)
- Anna Gasser (AUT)
Men’s Slopestyle Podium:
- Marcus Kleveland (NOR)
- Dusty Henricksen (USA)
- Sven Thorgren (SWE)
Each night played out in a similar pinball between three locations - Indy Bar, Riders Hotel and the Riders Club downstairs. An experience that presented different variables but similar results each night. Most notably was my first night in the Riders Club with Yung Doli at his signature Drink Sexy Bar. I sampled the “Twerk Juice” and the “Te Kill Ya” in excess– in part thanks to Doli’s presidential heir in Laax that paid off in many free drinks.
But my most important inspiration for this article would come when I got made fun of for drinking Red wine with Fondue at the LAAX media dinner. What resulted was my cohesive idea of the entire trip.
The first timer’s guide: The fonDO’s and fonDONT’s of attending the LAAX open. Enjoy!
The FonDO’s and FonDON'Ts of Laax Open
FonDON’T: Personally try a chili-vodka shot from Henry Jackson.
FonDON’T: Drop the bread into the fondue. There is a punishment for this act varying from drinking schnapps to running around the lodge naked.
FonDON’T: double dip your bread: I found out so you don’t have to.
FonDON’T: Go to bed any earlier than midnight on any given night, no matter what.
FonDON’T: Drink more than 5 twerk juices the night before a 12 hour international flight.
FonDO: Get to the Indy Bar by 4 Pm if you want to have any chance of getting a seat.
FonDO: Convince someone else to take a chili-vodka shot from Henry Jackson.
FonDO: Get your wristbands beforehand for the Riders Club. It turns into a dire situation fast.
FonDO: Make sure to ride down after the halfpipe finals and not take the tram. It's a dimly lit path that can be pretty variable. Think night skiing but the lights are at 30%. Hands down one of the funniest runs of your entire life.
FonDO: Cosome at least 2 (but up to 10) beers before descending on said night journey.
- Ethan Morgan is a staple snowboard DJ and no one can convince me otherwise.
- There’s two beers commonly on tap–Birra Morretti from Italy and Calanda Bräu which is made locally in Switzerland. It is my opinion that Calanda Bräu makes you gassier.
- Mia Brookes took first place in qualifiers on her 16th birthday.
- Despite accusations I never left the main chairlift, Ryan Scardigli toured me around Laax on day 1.
- The Laax Open was referred to as “The Powder Open” in previous years upwards of 6 times a day.
- Lift tickets are definitely cheaper in Europe.
- The web series filmed in Laax called “Crap Show” is called that because the park is on Crap Sogn Gion peak. I was shocked.