When I was first approached by a friend about going to Kyiv for DoubleTriple Snowfest, my initial thought was something pretty close to "Hell No". As time passed, I learnt that my roomie had sent them an application and had been invited, and things just went from there. Faster than I could grasp the magnitude of what I was doing, I had submitted some photos and clips as references, and had received an email with an invite. The more people heard about DoubleTriple, the more people signed up, resulting in Innsbruck and Austria making for the majority of the rider field (even though half of them were actually German).
Our journey started at 4 am on a grimy Thursday morning. We took a train to Vienna, from where we would depart to our final destination of Kyiv. As if going snowboarding in the capital of a foreign country on the verge of war, mid-pandemic, and with Omicron rolling in doesn't sound ludicrous enough already, the following days showed me that rail jams are truly something else.
We arrived in Kyiv with half of our crew missing their board bags because they chose to fly with a cheaper airline. No comment on that. The first thing that happened to us on Ukrainian soil was getting absolutely ripped off by a guy who claimed to be a taxi driver and charging us triple the usual fare. He didn't have a taxi sign on his car, or space for all of us and our boardbags, resulting in Nico crouching underneath my bag for 45 minutes. Nico and taxis are a pretty sketchy combo anyways, but more about that later on. The dude was pretty nice to us (naturally) and told us a lot of stuff about the country, the city and borscht. As if the overpriced and undersized taxi wasn't enough already, our Airbnb host was nowhere to be found. My temper slowly started shifting as I needed to write my last university exam that day, and I needed food and wifi in order to do so. Things were slowly getting tight but ended up turning out just fine - I absolutely aced that exam, by the way.
Having officially arrived, we proceeded to check out the city and the Friendship of Nations Arch, underneath which the setup was still in the process of being built. While the first practice session was to happen around 1 pm the next afternoon, there was still a lot of things to do for the shape crew, and people were busy everywhere. Even though it was somewhat late, there was still snow being carried around by a huge crane and dumped on the dry slope that covered incredible amounts of scaffolding. We were curious to see things beforehand, so we took the bold approach, climbed the stairset and had a look. No one batted an eye at our presence, and no questions were asked by anyone. I almost got hit by one of those big bags of snow they were carrying around, but apart from that, we experienced a very pleasant visit. The arch below which the event was to take place has something resembling a crack painted on it in the middle of it, pointing towards the political conflict currently shaking the country. We never really grasped the magnitude of what's currently happening out east except when talking to locals, but moments like seeing the crack for the first time and finding out what it stood for resulted in a sense of uneasiness about everything.
The city of Kyiv itself is really impressive – the colours are exactly as one would imagine from the movies, there are huge buildings everywhere, giving you an impression of being pretty small and insignificant. There are sharp edges and monstrous monuments everywhere, but their pairing with neon lights and dazzled rain make it look strange, but oddly comforting.
It's raining, and my colleagues have been partaking in a certain form of relaxation for long enough to be way more laid back than I am. I'm hungry and am aware that in less than 2 hours, I'll be snowboarding on a scaffolding setup for the first time in my life. The setup is quite steep and located under this gigantic arch that makes me feel small. Did I mention that it's raining?
After a surprisingly cheap and fancy vegan brunch, we had to get our portraits taken for the live broadcast, which took longer than expected, and we ended up late to our practice. Most people in our heat seemed rather sketched out at first and a little discouraged by the mixture of snow and rain, but the course turned out to be so much fun that some of us sneaked into another practice session later that day.
Later that night, a bunch of friends and I went to a place called "Mafiosi ". Keep in mind this was around 2:30 in the morning and even sketchier than one would expect given the name. Welcoming us were two people resembling bouncers, rather than greeters. The restaurant offered items ranging from discounted sushi (up to -75%, whatever that means) to pizza and shisha pipes, with a karaoke bar in the basement to round things off. The first thing we saw entering the restaurant was some dude wearing a white top hat and smoking a pipe, while people were dining and chatting as if it were 6 pm at home. For someone pretty used to the central European way of spending their day, this was rather unusual.
The day of "Big" Air qualis. I was a bit late again because my trusted breakfast spot hadn't opened yet and I couldn't find any food, so I went to my scaffolding jump debut fueled by one black coffee. This, paired with the allowance of one single hit for warm-up. Good Morning Kyiv. About five minutes into the twenty-minute jam session, people started hucking pretty hard, which continued throughout the day. People were doing doubles and 1080s on a jump that would be categorised as medium-size at best in any snow park. Hats off to everyone in there, stuff was pretty wild. Men's Jump was followed by the Women's Jib finals, where fearless Spaniard and Innsbruck-represent Valeria Bartual took home 1st place. She was so blown away she couldn't quite figure out how showering the others with champagne works, which was fine because the rest of us were just as excited as her and delightfully took sips from the not so empty bottle afterwards.
After that came the first afterparty sponsored by some major whiskey brand. There were warm energy drinks and hot toddies, the latter of which being a lot nicer than one would expect them to be. Coming from a country that has been locked down more than it hasn't been for the last two years, even walking up to the party tent was already an experience. Entering the tent was even wilder, though. The place felt like this one club next to Landhausplatz in Innsbruck that everyone goes to when they first move to Innsbruck, with a bunch of boarders and skiers going wild to trap music and the DJ screaming into the mic to get people even more juiced. There's no place like home, mane.
That morning I woke up to pouring rain, which was okay, as it meant we weren't going to have to experience what the skiers the previous evening had to, which was full-on brick season. That day I didn't make the same mistake and ate breakfast before starting in the first of the quali heats. While it was rather slow at first, the snow was soft, and the main event began. Qualis were incredible, even more so were finals. Some people may have gotten robbed, and some might have been scored rather generously for their efforts, but all in all, it was a really cool event, and some crazy tricks went down. In attendance was that one dude who did a backflip wallride backflip last year. This year he was trying to one-up himself by going double backflip wallride. I'd rather not go into length about that, though.
The event was followed by a final afterparty and a trip to Doska bar, where some dude showed us his Rammstein back-piece after learning that we spoke German. The night continued along this path. My boys and I had a flight to catch at 6:55 the next morning, so naturally, we decided to pull an all-nighter and stay awake. This ended up working out just about fine until Nico realised at the check-in desk that he'd forgotten his passport in the taxi. Here we go again, stranded at the airport, rather tipsy with one of us missing their passport in a country that is pretty close to declaring martial law, non-EU and with the English language as more of a problem than a solution. After a bunch of phone calls with Sasha, who was our contact for airport transfers, it turned out the passport had been found and had been sent on its way to the airport. Sasha was at Doska Bar at the time, at least that's what we figured, given the chatter in the background.
We ended up checking in Nico's luggage and splitting up, in case he might not catch the flight, but five minutes prior to boarding, we were reunited. On the plane we shot a selfie for our boy Sasha and were all out cold before the plane even took off. Sasha continued going his way, and when we touched down in Vienna two hours later, we ended up having a laugh about how we liked the nature of everything being as freestyle as it gets. Rumours have it that it took Lorenz Vyzslosil a little longer than the rest of us to make his way back to Innsbruck, but he'll certainly be happy to talk about that himself.
Big hats off to everyone organising this crazy event. Shoutout to Polina, Sasha, Artem, the Borschtboys and whoever I might have forgotten. See you next year!
1 — Brandon Davis (USA)
2 — Joewen Frijns (Belgium)
3 — Alexander Klerud (Norway)
4 — Simon Pircher (Austria)
5 — Dmytro Luchkin (Ukraine)
1 — Moritz Amsuess (Austria)
2 — Jesse Augustinus (The Netherlands)
3 — Casper Holtzapfel (The Netherlands)
4 — Simon Pircher (Austria)
5 — Maximilian Preissinger (Germany)
6 — Christian Kirsch (Germany)
7 — Zoltan Strcula (Slovakia)
SNOWBOARD JIB WOMEN
1 — Valeria Bartual (Spain)
2 — Rachida Aoulad (The Netherlands)
3 — Martina Droppova (Slovakia)