The 14th annual Longboard Classic in Stuben, Austria
Words and photo: Bob Klein
As a community of like-minded people, snowboarders love to talk about passion and love for snowboarding. We like to talk about riding with friends and pushing ourselves to ride as much as possible, having the most fun we can. Some events conducted around the world reflect all of those feelings: The Mt Baker Banked Slalom, Tailgate Alaska, The US Open, The Holy Bowly and more.
There is one event that has taken place in Stuben, Austria every year for the last fourteen years, The Longboard Classic, and is billed as “The Woodstock of snowboarding.” Haven’t heard about it? Maybe because it’s the least hyped event of all snowboarding events.
Upon first glance it appears to be a pretty serious endeavor. Serious because when you sign up for The Longboard Classic, a 1000 vertical-meter Chinese downhill that requires a snowboard 172cm or longer or a board built before 1990, you sign up for what appears to be a dangerous run down a steep mountain with no rules.
But how serious can it be? Stuben is a ski area connected to the St Anton-Lech ski area network, so it is part of a huge lift system covering lots of acreage. It’s located in the Arlberg region, also known as THE pow hotspot in the Alps. Every year we see epic photos and videos taken in the Arlberg from all the best riders. This place definitely has the goods for any serious shredder.
The mountain is a 1000 meter vertical drop, or to us Yanks, 3000 vertical feet, with lots of great terrain from open bowls to gnarly chutes and sick tree lines. Stuben is a dreamland! Most tourists don’t venture over to Stuben, as it looks small on the map and is serviced by three double chairs. That’s right, fixed double chairs shuttle you up the mountain. No fancy six-pack, bubble chairs or tissue stations; just a great mountain with chairlifts and excellent Austrian restaurants in town, at the midway station and on top.
This year marked another perfect event with some powder earlier in the week and sunny weather, light winds and warm temps by Saturday morning. This was my fifth running at The Longboard Classic and while I didn’t win my division, I felt every bit a winner because I had one of the best runs of the year, sharing my turns and smiles with at least 50 riders who brought their old “firewood” to ride.
I chose a 1987 Sims Blade, mainly because the stance works well and the board was perfect for the conditions. But I really chose the Blade because this year’s Longboard Classic paid special tribute to Tom Sims.
The best thing about the LBC is how un-serious everyone is. Sure, we are racing to win, but the reality is we are there to share in our spirit as snowboarders. Paul Gruber was a big name pro back in the 80s and early 90s and he’s one of the founders of Crazy Banana Snowboards, which eventually turned into Rad Air. Paul doesn’t work in the snowboard business anymore, but his spirit is strong, and he takes on the organization from the race to the yearly party.
Five years ago Paul wanted to get Terry Kidwell to the event. Once he realized Terry was part of a semi-metal band, Paul extended an invite to the entire band. Shawn Farmer was the singer and I was the drummer and all we needed were passports to make the trip. Since then, the Longboard Classic began a tradition of inviting “legends,” and as it appeared to us, many of the old school European riders not only show up, but also revel in the old school atmosphere of the event. U.S. legends such as Mike Ranquet and Mikey Basich have made appearances and it is rumored that next year Chuck Barfoot is going to make the trip.
But the LBC isn’t just a retro legend event. There are plenty of young riders who show up to end their season in good snow, great weather and the most-chill party you will come across.
Most of the old schoolers bring their kids, so we see three to four generations of riders all having a blast, ripping turns together and laughing the whole time. There really is nothing like watching more than 200 riders drop in together and find their line down the mountain.
The finale of the event is the throwback movie night and huge party in the main tent set up in downtown Stuben. Conforming to the theme this year, a tribute video was shown honoring Tom Sims. Additionally, some unbelievable old snowboard footage was shown featuring obscure Swiss and German television shows from the early 80s showcasing the crazy new sport called snowboarding.
Next year’s 15th running of the LBC will be a major celebration with plans for an even bigger party and over 500 entries, hopefully breaking this year’s 400, and all goes down April 5th, 2014.
More info at longboardclassic.com.