Words: Räzvan Bähnärel. Photos: Red Bull Romania
On the last weekend of February, 100 snowboarders and freeskiers began their 3.5 km ascent to the top, in the 6’th edition of Red Bull Oslea Hiride. They started on a steep hike with all the equipment in their backpacks, trying to reach Oslea peak (1940 m), in the only hike-and-ride contest held in Romania.
The idea is as simple as it gets, following the Romanian tradition of hiking in deep snow just to get to the top of that awesome ridge you can see from your car during your weekend drive into the mountains. Getting there is definitely not easy, especially when you have to face angry winds of 70 km/h and snow dust blowing all over the place.
After reaching the summit riders have about 15 minutes to strap on all their necessary gear and begin an awesome descent on one of the gnarliest spots in Romania!
Even though the foreseen weather conditions were good, this year mother nature decided to pull a prank on us, and formed a great avalanche on the riding face of the mountain - just 2 days before the contest! It then hit us with positive temperatures just perfect in order to uncover the rocks hidden under the remaining snow. It also packed the snow really hard so it was quite an unpleasant combination of hard crust, partially slushy snow and just a few spots of powder that were perfectly placed under the cliff drops.
After nailing the cliff drops, one of the best parts of the descent was surfing on the hard avalanche blocks that were actually about the size of a small car! This may not sound like a perfect day on the mountain for any freeride enthusiast, but having the opportunity to climb this beautiful ridge on a crisp sunny day, and enjoying the good vibes from the base camp and the check-points, definitely made Red Bull Oslea Hiride 2017 one of the best events this season had to offer!
When you think about Romania, freeriding might not be the first thing that comes to one's mind, but you will come to learn that the local freeriding scene is in a steady growth, with more and more people just beginning to discover the beauties that are hidden right in our Carpathian backyard - a few hours away from the already overcrowded slopes where we all learned to ride.
With mountains going as high as 2544 meters (Moldoveanu Peak in the Făgăraș Mountains) and hundreds of kilometres of sharp ridges and “eternal” snow that doesn’t melt from November till June, the Carpathian garden has a lot to offer to riders of any skill and level!
The Romanian snowboard scene was born somewhere in the late 80’s, during the communism with the help of the local German community established in Sibiu. With their help, the first board was seen on the slopes of Păltiniș (Sibiu) shredding along with the skiers. That was the starting point, and from there on everything went uphill (and then downhill - literally) with great snowboarders rising from small resorts all around the country. Now, 30 years later, you can find at least one small group of free-riders in any mountain town, even in some mountain villages, and the movement is only getting bigger by the year.
Riders are growing more passionate about the sport, becoming better with every season that passes by. They are getting more aware of what freeride really means, learning about the importance of safety devices and are have started showing increasing respect for their surroundings, protecting the environment.
You might be wondering what the great advantages of snowboarding in Romania are? Well, let me tell you first of all, that with a relatively lazy freeride scene around you can hike for a few hours and find one of the best lines in the world! And the best part is yet to come. You could be spending the night inside this little hut right here:
There are a ton of places just like this one, where you can visit and stay for the night, with the only condition being that you hook yourself with the right camping gear and the willingness to hike for a few hours. These sweet spots aren’t known by too many riders, but with the right mates you’re gonna find places without any internet or phone connection, no human foot traces whatsoever and most importantly: tons of snow that will last throughout the year!
Another good thing is that Romanians are really friendly and outgoing since it’s kind of hard or maybe quite expensive to find a guided tour into the wilderness. Just ask a local and you just might get yourself a friendly, knowledgeable guide for your stay!
This is a very short story of the Romanian Backcountry. It’s not filled with glorious tales of mountaineers, but it definitely has romance and a lot of charm to it, with an undeniable history of good times, bonfires and damn good snow for even better shredding!