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Review: British Backcountry Winter Opener 2019

Written by Fiona

November 26 2019

A weekend of workshops, films and talks took place at part of the British Backcountry Winter Opener 2019 in Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills this weekend. I attended the film and talk night at Central Halls.

This was the fourth British Backcountry Winter Opener in Edinburgh – and, this year, a similar event took place in London earlier in November.

More than 450 attended the Edinburgh weekend, including 100 who took part in workshops on the Saturday and Sunday and 350 who attended the evening event.

Video of workshops in the Pentland Hills Regional Park

Andy Townsend and Ian Sherrington from Glenmore Lodge, Mark Chadwick, Andy Duff and East Lothian Outdoor Learning, Amy Marwick and Gordon Fraser from BCA led various workshops and sessions covering key aspects of backcountry snowsports.

Film and talk night

Blair Aitken, the founder of British Backcountry, was the host for the evening. The line up included:

Mick entertains!

Talk by Mick Tighe

Mick has enjoyed a lifetime on skis. He is a mountain guide and a former Marine and national team athlete. On skis, he has explored many areas of the world, including Artic Norway, Canada and Scotland.

Mick is also the custodian of the Scottish mountain heritage collection and is currently attempting to ski all the Munros. He has skied 120 so far.

Mick’s excellent and entertaining talk focused on the things he had learned over a lifetime of skiing. He presented his talk with the aid of some great photographs, many excellent snippets of humour and a wealth of valuable experience.

Talk by Sofiya Cox

Sofia’s talk was entitled: Imperfectly Perfect Adventure – A Month Without Darkness in the Arctic Circle. A modest young woman, she offered her reflections on the lessons learned during a month of solo ski touring and wild camping above the Arctic Circle and across the borders of Sweden and Norway.

The talk was inspiring, empowering and humbling. What a great one for female adventurers!

Scott’s gully skiing talk.

Talk by Scott Muir

Scott gave a photo presentation called Gully Skiing 101. He is acclaimed for skiing more gully lines than most people in Scotland. He documents them on his website, Steep Scotland.

Scott generously shared his knowledge and experience of gully skiing in Scotland and, scarily, I could see how much this inspired Hubby G.

Winter Opener Films

There was a great mix of films, some shorter and some longer. The films included:

Base jumps: A film about Tim Howell and base jumping was both thrilling and scary. (I don’t like heights but I can admire the daring.) Tim has pushed the boundaries of what is possible in Scotland, including the first ski base jump and opening new jumps on Skye and Ben Nevis.

Through Darkness: The film followed five snowboarders, Manuela Mandl (FWT Champion 2018), Eirik Verlo, Melissa Brandner, Krister Kopala and Hampus Cederholm in their daily life above the polar circle, where they ride steep icy lines with a headlamp, chasing powder under the northern lights and climbing peaks lit by only the glow of the city.

The film explored the concept of darkness through the eyes of the athletes. Is darkness just the absence of light? Do we need darkness, in order to recognise the brightness of light? Can we really understand the fullness of life when we are buried in a crisis?

I love running at night and I could totally appreciate these snowboarders and their enjoyment and fulfilment from night riding. The Northern Lights were also awesome.

Announcing the winner of the Best Line film.

Film final: UK Line of The Winter

The audience was asked to vote on three films in the final of theUK Line of the Year competition. The film: Red Tarn Cove, with the doggie won (with the film maker receiving a pair of Atomic Backland Skis and Shift bindings). I voted for another film but they were all excellent films and merited for different reasons.

3rd place: Brodie Hood – Broad Gully

2nd place: Finbar Doig – No5

1st place: Red Tarn Cove by David Thexton

  • Sponsors included headline, Freeze Pro Shop, table sponsors, K2, Blizzard, Technica, Atomic, Signal Rock, SAP! Juice, Stewart Brewing, DATA wax, Fauna Skis, Signal Rock, Snowsport Scotland and British Freeride.
  • Thanks for Blair Fraser for photos.

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