California calling… Part One

January 02, 2008 @ 7:14 AM – Gemma Freeman

Winter’s well and truly started….

2007 was one of the busiest, and best, years of my life. I cemented my love affair with surfing, hitting breaks across the UK all summer, plus Portugal in October. Switzerland welcomed me three times, courtesy of The Columbia Outdoor Games in Interlaken, Roxy‘s Europe youth team camp in Saas Fee, and a birthday trip to the Freestyle Concept and FBBB Battle On The Glacier comp in Les Diablerets. I also got to interview some of my favourite bands, saw a plethora of festivals and gigs, hung with Hollywood hearthrobs, walked the red carpet (well, almost), tried presenting for the Hot Rocks podcast, did some rock radio DJing, took a ton of photos and wrote even more, including features for Cooler. Yep, it was manic, but, finally, I’m where I’ve planned to be after six months of saving – starting my season in Tahoe, California!

I finally got to the US on Dec 10th (although I almost missed my flight!), where I spent a few days in San Francisco, staying at the Green Tortoise hostel (highly recommend – super cheap, really friendly and amazing food included!). My first time there, I spent my two short days being a typical tourist – strolling through the city’s upmarket China Town, walking through the Financial District, grabbing a Starbucks, taking the tram, visiting the museums and shopping in Macy’s…

The SF Museum Of Modern Art – Metreo, The Marriot, 4 Seasons and St Patricks Church

On my first day at the Tortoise, over a huge, much-needed, veggie pesto pasta meal, I was told I had to visit the Haight Ashbury neighbourhood. A mecca for hippies old and new, it’s the epicentre for alternative culture in SF, home to Jack Kerouac and the 60s beat generation. It’s also packed with quality thrift stores, secondhand music bargains and underground skate labels, all set in quaint Victorian style wooden shop fronts. There is also an awesome little Kid Robot shop for art obsessives…

Haight Ashbury at night & the surprisingly cheap kid robot shop!

Ridiculously early in the morning on my third day in SF, (much to me sleeping roommates delight) I left my hostel to catch the historic Zephyr train (for five hours but in seats twice the size of Euro trains) from SF to my base for the next 88 days, Truckee, north of Lake Tahoe. A small ex gold rush town, it may have a wild west history, but now it welcomes snow lovers – like me. For the next three months this will be my home, in an open plan, large and pretty lush house, with five other snowboarding housemates, four of whom have lived here forever, and also including Brenton Woo – the owner / head honcho of underground snowboard co Automaton. We’re on the outskirts of town, but Northstar is pretty much in our backyard (watch those americanisms!), about four miles away, where I have a season pass and will be riding most this season. It may not be massive, but the terrain parks are awesome fun, filled with rails, boxes and jibs for all levels, plus kickers of all sizes, mini hips, awesome tree runs, some steeps and a superpipe is being freshly cut this week… All serviced by one lift!

The view from my lounge… And to Lake Tahoe from the summit of Northstar

Some of the Hungerpain crew are out in Tahoe as well, staying in nearby Kings Beach. Right now there’s a lot of wounded soldiers – both Sam Nelson and Ollie Plumley are injured and out of action for a few months, while Chris Chatt is nursing a broken thumb. B – but before they broke themselves I went out with Sam and Ollie to shoot them jib the local skatepark after our first dump of snow. As soon as the lads are healed we’re going to head back there. (check out Rome Snowboard’s movie Any Means to see the potential of this spot.)

Jibbing the skatepark with Ollie (in green) and Sam (stalling on the coping)

We also had a friendly visitor, when a local lady, who worked for Truckee dog’s home, stopped by to see what we were up to, and began to chat away to Sam… He volunteered the three of us to dog walk for them, but so far I’ve yet to help out the homeless hounds.

Sam meets the neighbours…

There are so many resorts in Tahoe it’s crazy, so my plan while I’m here is to shred as many as possible, taking pics and writing for a feature which will all appear in a UK snow mag next season. So, in addition to Northstar, I’ve bought a pass for nearby Boreal, where I’ve been riding with my housemates Joe, Matt and Jess as well as the Hungerpain boys. This has been mainly during the night shredding session, from 3.30pm till 9pm, when the slope is lit up, quieter, somewhat colder (especially in recent snow storms!) and hella fun, as my new friends may say. It’s a really small resort, mainly for locals, but is perfect for practising your freestyle, as there’s loads of metal jib toys, rails and boxes, some medium sized kickers and other, always creative, features. They also have a perfect pipe (the first to open this season in California) which I’ve been sessioning on many an evening too. Nice.

Night shred at Boreal!

Ok, so that’s a humongous slice of blog action to whet your appetite… But I’ve still loads of juice to spill and pics to share on the lad’s injuries, an uber bizarre Christmas, a flying visit to Mammoth,, and, of course, more snow updates. So, expect part two in a few days, plus more blog posts on my travels throughout this winter…