When snowboarding started in the USA in the 1960s – quite by accident, apparently – it was perceived as the ugly cousin of skiing. Invented by Sherman Poppen, an engineer who loved to surf, Poppen was keen to experience the exhilaration of surfing on the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. By lashing two kids’ skis together, he created the first “snow surfboard” for his daughter, which he controlled with a rope. He developed the concept commercially, and in the first 10 years of production no less than a million “snurfers” (snow-surfers) were sold in the USA.
Over the years, snowboarding has grown in reputation and stature. In 1998, it made its first appearance at the Winter Olympics, held that year in Nagano, Japan, and first featured as a Paralympic sport at Sochi in Russia in 2014.
Snowboarding has become very popular among South Africans – not only for couples and friends, but for corporates too. Olivier Perillat-Piratoine, Manager of Meetings and Events for Club Med Southern Africa, notes that the brand has seen a growing trend where sales teams, CEOs and business-owners are trading boardrooms for snowboards and spa days for skis to shift their conferencing and incentive trips to progress with the ever-changing times. “Voluntarily spending time in below-freezing temperatures may not sound conducive to business brainstorming or ideal as an incentive, but you’d be surprised at how inspiration can strike atop a chair lift heading from one ski slope to the next; or how business relationships are strengthened while sipping on a chocolat chaud during a spontaneous apres ski session, as the sun sets over the mountain. There is evidence that such informal encounters with like-minded people can be the key to unlocking some of the most valuable business conversations any sales teams, business owners and top management executives are likely to have.”
Sounds incredible, right? But where do you start?
These are a few (of the many) destinations that are ideal for snowboarding – to get you started. Remember, snow season starts in November/December, so now is the perfect time to book that trip.
Les Trois Vallées, French Alps
Les Trois Vallées (English: The Three Valleys) is a ski region in the Tarentaise Valley, Savoie département of France, to the south of the town of Moûtiers, partly in the Vanoise National Park. Since 1973, it has been possible to ski the interlinked valleys using a single ski pass – making Les Trois Vallées the largest ski area in the world which is connected solely by ski lifts and slopes. The Three Valleys include eight ski regions of the French Alps: Courchevel, Val Thorens, Méribel, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, La Tania, Orelle, Brides les Bains. To give you an idea of just how big this region is, it has:
- 600km of ski slopes resulting in 18,5km² of groomed runs
- 120km for cross-country skiing
- 183 ski lifts, which can transport 260 000 skiers per hour
Val Thorens, French Alps
Val Thorens (located within the Three Valleys as mentioned above), the highest ski resort in Europe, is hard to beat for snow fans. At 2 300m, it has one of the longest ski seasons, beginning in November, with good snow conditions running up until May. It is situated at the head of the THREE Valleys –and is the largest ski/snowboarding area in the world. It has 100% ski-in ski-out accommodation, with unbeatable skiing and snowboarding: powdery fields, perfectly groomed slopes – 600km of runs and snow guaranteed right through the season. The snowboarding facilities are cutting-edge, with high-tech ski lifts that take you right up to the highest peaks with views over more than 1 000 mountaintops.
Samoëns, French Alps
Samoëns is a town located in the Vallée du Giffre, Giffre Valley in the French Alps – and just a 75-minute drive from Geneva airport. Renowned as one of the best family snowboarding (and ski) destinations in the world, this place is ideal if you’re looking for a destination that caters to children and adults. The region has become so popular with families that Club Med was prompted to open a resort, Club Med’s Grand Massif Samoëns Morillon, which will be open from December 2017. Samoëns offers exceptional snowboarding for the whole family, offering 265km of runs, as well as off-piste and between-piste slopes.
Cervinia, Italian Alps
One of Italy’s most snow-sure resorts, Cervinia sits pretty at 2 050m in the village and 3 480m at the top lift station – meaning that top to bottom snow is virtually guaranteed throughout a long season that runs from November to the beginning of May. It’s also open for summer glacier skiing and snowboarding, as well as for weekends in October.
Saint Moritz, Swiss Alps
In the south east of Switzerland in the canton of the Grisons (in the Haute Engadine region) at an altitude of 1 700m, St Moritz is one of the oldest and most renowned snowboarding and ski resorts in the world. It was in this luxury alpine region that James Bond dashed down the slopes in The Spy Who Loved Me. Another beautiful snow region that is ideal for couples, friends and families.