Here are just some of the shots we couldn't fit into our Greece Balls feature from the new Method Mag 13.1 issue. Check out the full mag right here. Peep the video from the trip if you haven't seen it yet and then dig into this epic tale of Greek snowboarding and the extra photos from the mission below. OPA!
In the midst of economic and political turbulence in Greece, with daily riots and fires blazing in Athens as Merkel pointed her big German finger of shame at the country, a motley crew of boarders was determined find a better side to this ancient nation. This was not a Cycladic mission down to Mykonos to ride donkeys and smash plates but, in its stead, a search for a new meaning to the blue and white of the Greek flag. Our merry band of (decidedly unkempt) brothers looked north, towards the border with Albania, amongst the blue skies and white Pindus peaks of Vasilitsa, for the answer.
The riders, a rather diverse group of fellows, including Sebi Müller
from Germany, Roland Morley-Brown
from NZ and Brendan Gerard
from the USA, were corralled at the Athens Venizelos Airport. The METHOD crew included filmer Ryan "Diggles" Scardigli, editor Chriso McAlpine and yours truly, Alexis de Tarade, a half-breed Greek/Frenchman to keep the crew on course with translations, get really bad directions and complain about the clouds of endless cigarette smoke. France's finest, mademoiselle Vanessa Andrieux, was there to snap stills. Unfortunately, Chriso was the unknowing host of a nasty virus he brought with him from Japan, rendering him useless and eventually spreading the bug to others in our group.
Brendan Gerard. Photo by ADT
Sebi Muller. Photo by ADT
Roland Morley-Brown. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
After the usual missed flights, lost bags, lost riders and a few hours milling around at the airport, our first evening was spent in Kifisia drinking beers and smoking butts with our guide and local tzatziki thrasher, Petros Vaxevanakis. Oh, and we also searched for his sister's lost cat. The next morning an emergency CAPiTA stick pick-up for Gerry was made possible from the good people at 21Kifissia shop, thanks for the hook up Niko!
Finally on the road, Vanessa steering the very square van with bags stacked like Pringles in the rear as Greek radio whined, we cruised the coast amazed by the landscape. The sea, small islands and large island Evia, with its snow-capped peaks, all in one eyeful. Quite the sight. The sun speared through the clouds and you could totally imagine the hand of Zeus raining down a fistful of lightning bolts. Chriso was full of great questions like, "Are those the trees where feta grows? Does tzatziki come from those snowy peaks? Are those mountains where they mine the gyro meat from?"
Smoke break in the gas station. Makes sense, I guess. Smokey crew from left to right - Chriso, RMB, Diggles, Gerry, Sebi & Vanessa.
As the van made its way up the map, many exits were missed, rockslides were dodged and several stray dogs were almost hit. After 6 hours hopelessly lost, at last we were nearing Vasilitsa. Once we passed Grevena, dinner was gobbled at the Arkouda Hotel. The owner is a friendly guy who speaks German and gives out mega bear hugs for dessert to go along with the homemade yogurt.
Vasilitsa couldn't be much further as at this point the snow walls were higher than the van. The assumption of Greece being just beaches, boats and goats was being firmly nudged off that stereotype's edge with each turn up the hill. But to get to the on-hill refuge, Vasilitsa 1850, you have to drive up what looked like a bunny slope, and even the blindest American optimism couldn't get us up this one. Sebi tried to Michael Schumacher up the piste-like "road" then Diggles gave it his best Travis Pastrana with no luck, so it was time for the "Greek Bobsled Team" to get out and start pushing! This Foreign Legion of power would make many appearances behind the van on this trip, since the chains supplied by the rental company in Athens fit like saggy drawers and would eventually break.
Getting there the snow walls were rising. Photo by ADT.
Upon arrival at Vasilitsa 1850 everyone realized this place was most positively the real deal. The A-frame constructed lodge seemed like a space station under the stars, with a snowpark and the drag lifts a mere 100 meters away. At this late hour the windows of the bar were too sweaty to see inside, and the door rumbled with dancehall beats. Our guide Petros emerged from the sweaty mess and led us tired sailors to our new quarters for some rest.
Greek God point of view. Photo by ADT
At sunrise everyone enjoyed the panorama, a vast sea of white gold, as we scrunched on breakfast. The troops laced up and headed for the drag lift. On the way up we could see Mt. Olympus off in the distance to our southwest, dormant of any God-like activity. To our north lay Albania, flexing its muscular mountain ranges as we fidgeted uncomfortably on the lift. No one had set foot at the top of the drag since the last big storm. Signs were frosted and the iced-over trees looked like sculpted cartoons, or maybe Martian rock formations. Everyone snagged first tracks as the Oracle of Delphi looked down upon its new visitors. The boys bagged a couple of shots, then burned a couple of turns but the clouds soon rolled in to ring the bell and call it a day. The afternoon was spent at the jam alongside the refuge, with beats bumping and the wind blowing hard enough take off your eyebrows.
The restaurant, bar, fireplace, chess-playing zone inside Vasilitsa 1850. Quite cozy. Photo Vanessa Andrieux.
RMB knows where he's going, I think. Photo Vanessa Andrieux.
Heading off into the fresh feta. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Road Runner? Photo by ADT
Germans grabbing Japan in Greece! Sebi Muller back one. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
RMB sniffing over the cornice. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
RMB launching methods off light patches. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
RMB turbo skid! Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Chriso followed suit with everyone's backpack on at once. Photo Vanessa Andrieux
The next day the van's chains rattled like prisoners as we rolled down to one of the highest villages in Greece. Samarina sits at about 1,500 meters and everyone except for a brave few leave for the winter. Emaciated dogs wandered around with their ribs showing and the whole scene was reminiscent of a zombie movie, but it made for a million spots with no one around to shut us down. The boys got to work on the town, ramping off roof tops, boardsliding on balconies and turning the streets into slopes. The occasional local would come by for a look and one man herded his horses past the spot, letting out an odd trilling "brrrrrr" sound to keep them moving forward. Another dude wanted the boys to "jump my house!"
That's Samarina, the highest village in Greece. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Zombie dogs. Photo by ADT
People all over the place setting up the street run. Roof ride to mini hip to balcony grind. Photo by ADT
The roof ramp was pretty cray. Gerry getting floaty with a brodeo. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Another rad spot. Wall ride over fence to drop. Gerry looking to get that backside 360 revert off. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Back 1 like a Spartan from RMB. The narrow run out was half the battle at this spot but homie squeeked through no problem. Photo by RMB
RMB getting bungeed for the first time. Rubbin' walls, no probs. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
RMB acid dropping this house with the quickness before the roof caves in. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Stalefish front one from Sebi like a frisbee off the roof ramp. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Sebi baggin' a FS wallride front 1 off. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Celebratory cigarettes and tsipouro after the wall sesh. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
The local restaurant, owned by a gracious fella named Sotiri, acted as a base for the team, keeping our bellies full, cigarettes smoking, internet connected and drinks flowing. That evening everyone feasted on plenty of local meats, salads and, of course, tsipouro, which our posse refered to as "firewater". Sotiri kept the kids smiling with local history, music and invited Sebi for a one-on-one, bromantic Greek line dance. The piles of food disappeared and no one listened to Sotiri's warning to "never mix red wine with tsipouro". We eventually waddled out and headed back up to Vasilitsa for the night as the restaurant's "vacuum cleaner" (a little sparrow) nibbled on the crumbs we left behind. Of course we forgot that the van would predictably get stuck in the same place as it did upon our arrival, which meant some more action for the "Greek Bobsled Team" before bed.
Sotriri, the boss of Samarina. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Greek stuff. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Back at camp the toilet was clogged, since no one that who could actually read Greek warned the others to only put poo in the loo. For the rest of the week craps were taken standing on our feet, looking like the Colossus of Rhodes, at the communal toilets down the hall. Meanwhile, Diggles' Hydra-like monster mocked us, its head poking out the bottom of the toilet in our room. Otherwise, everything else at Vasilitsa 1850 is what's called living "nice and slow". Internet connections were dicey so chess was played instead, the fireplace was the television and the heater, there was time to read actual books and get to bed early, plus the night sky was better than any movie. No one took showers. The people staying for the season use the refuge as a base and park their vans or RV's outside. Due to last winter's massive snowfall, their vehicles were deeply buried and became snow caves, creating the most amazing nocturnal show, as an incandescent glow shone through the snow from each person's night light.
Greek mountain styles. Photo by ADT
Sebi got the Japanese poo flu from Chriso. He self-medicated with Amstel and RMB rolled him cigarettes. What a nice guy! Photo by ADT
Gerry chucking dubs. They were looking good but he never totally got the landing gear down. Look out for them doubles in 2013! Photo by RSP
Some of the locals hanging at the spot they shaped for us. Petros Vaxevanakis sending one. Photo by RSP
Someone lives in there. Photo by ADT
Sebi hangin' in the Greek igloo. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
The staff and local kids that hung around for long periods were rad. Gerasimos and Akis run the place, both good people and basically introduced snowboarding to Greece. Local photographer Ronny, from silentprogression.tv, his girlfriend Dina, our guide Petros, Angeliki and the rest of the regulars were always around to give a helping hand. They were simply pumped to ride, eager to show the visitors their spots, always ready to make us something to eat and always offering something to burn. Another generous fella was Yorgos, we called him Iceman on account of the aviator shades he always wore. He had a heli and was ready to take the brigade out to wherever. The zone is totally unexplored and with heli-access you could easily bag some first descents. He even offered to helivac Brendan to the hospital in Athens after he snapped his collarbone sending it off the roof of the refuge. All in all, it's an amazing deal and the perfect place to go on a shred adventure with your full crew, you can get a group room and lift ticket that will come out to about 40 euros a day! Plus, you will basically never have to wait in a lifeline in this place and can still score first tracks days after a storm.
Sebi steezy front one off the Vasilitsa 1850 roof. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Gerry tearing the roof off (and his collar bone soon after). Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
Joyriding on the chopper with Gerry and his busted bones. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux.
Diggles ready for take-off. Photo by Vanessa Andrieux
The week definitely passed by too fast but everyone was happy to make turns in the peaks where the Gods were born. The hospitality from Gerasimos and the rest of the crew was a throwback from another age, when guests were truly honored. It's funny to think how the villagers fled Samarina for the winter, leaving behind their cars and houses for us to use as ramps and features. They returned in the spring and no doubt were wondering where that little piece of pink p-tex on their balcony rail could have come from…
Our last day was spent in Athens, by the Parthenon. Roland was still in bed and woke up to Chriso offering him some water. But RMB wasn't awake enough to remember that sometimes the water in Greece is fiery HOT and if you're not careful you'll catch yourself a mouthful of tsipouro at 8 AM!
Yassas! Photo by Diggles.
For more info on staying at Vasilitsa 1850 go here
Cover shot by RSP
Words by ADT