Thursday, 27 March 2014

Ice Hockey in Meribel

Meribel Patinoire [ice rink] hosts Ice Hockey matches every Tuesday evening during the winter season. We went along twice, the first time to see Meribel ESF vs Courchevel ESF and the second time to see Meribel ESF vs La Rosiere ESF. The teams are all ski instructors from ESF [Ecole de Ski Francais]. The entry is only 5 EUR, with pints of Kronenbourg only 4 EUR and vin chaud only 2.50 EUR [absolutely bargain prices for a ski resort!]

There is a popular misconception that Ice Hockey is quite a violent sport, with fights often breaking out. I've been told that this is only common in America and Canada and is almost encouraged, to boost ticket sales! I imagine it helped that the teams were colleagues, but we only saw one minor disagreement, and certainly no fighting or bravado. 

Compared to the big games you see on TV, this is sort of like the 'Sunday pub league' of the Ice Hockey world. Nonetheless, it was still very entertaining and nice to do something a bit different while in a ski resort. I've been watching Ice Hockey on the Olympics and it's so insanely fast compared to the Meribel matches. I'd love to go and see a professional game one day; definitely something to do while in the USA in the future, along with going to see an NBA Basketball game and a Baseball game! 

One of the highlights for us was when the ice smoothing machine came out, after the first third of the game. We cheered for the chap every time he came round and managed to get a mexican wave going each time he went past too. After we'd had a few beers, we did a little rink invasion at the end too...

Rink invasion!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Truck Festival 2013

Returning for our second year, myself and some friends thoroughly enjoyed Truck Festival 2013 at Hill Farm in Oxford. Truck is a fairly small festival, which I would estimate hosts no more than around 4,000 people. There is a really lovely community atmosphere at this festival, who even liken themselves to a village fete. 

Festival-goers are allowed to take their own alcohol anywhere within the site, including within the arena, which is a great way to enjoy the festival on a budget. The bars offer a great selection of local produce though, so it's definitely worth visiting the bar too. All of the food outlets are run by the local Rotary Club. You barely need to queue, the food offers amazing value [it's super cheap for festival food!] and all proceeds go to various local charities. 

 Truck Festival website homepage, featuring some familiar faces!

The line up included Ash, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip and The Horrors. I'm always a fan of smaller stages at festivals as I think they generally have a better atmosphere than big outdoor stages, so I think the Barn Stage is fab. This is literally a cow shed, complete with authentic odour! Truck Festival boasts a great line up each year, with many slots given to up and coming bands who are voted on to the line-up by festival-goers. 

In 2012, my friend Stefan and I had a photo taken that was chosen as the only photo to feature on the post-festival 'thank you' mailer. This in itself is pretty cool, but now in 2014, a photo of my friends and I dressed up as Lollipop men and women features on the Truck Festival website! We love dressing up and also dressed up as Batman Villains in 2013 too. Truck is a superb little festival and we can't wait to return to the festival this year, where we will be celebrating my sister and her fiancee's joint stag and hen party.

Batman Villains fancy dress

You can click here to read my blog post about Truck Festival 2012

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Paragliding in Verbier

Due to the micro-climate in Verbier, the area is popular with paragliders. The sky is regularly filled with paragliders and it's not uncommon to see them flying over you, often quite low, while you are skiing or boarding down the mountain. 

Despite not being a huge fan of heights, I decided I wanted to give it a go. A couple of colleagues had just been on tandem flights with English speaking instructors and highly recommended flying with Verbier Summits. On their website they even boast of having flown tandem flights with Richard Branson and Bill Gates' children! 

I got a great deal as a seasonaire, but the prices are reasonable anyway for such a great experience. We launched from part way up the mountain and landed at the bottom of the valley, with a flight time of around 20 minutes. The scenery was incredible and I didn't find it scary. It was actually really relaxing and very comfortable in the harness seat. The photos below were taken by Stu my instructor on a GoPro. I love how they capture the background and the parachute. 

paragliding in verbier

paragliding in verbier

verbier paragliding 3

A few weeks later, Emily's father Nigel decided he wanted to go Paragliding in Meribel. Unfortunately we found the company he flew with quite disorganised. In hindsight, we also think they shouldn't have flown in the weather conditions, as it was too windy. The wind actually dropped while they were flying, resulting in a semi-controlled crash landing. Check out the video below and skip to a few seconds before the end to see a rather entertaining crash landing and Nigel's bemused face. Perhaps we find it funnier as we know him, but we think his face at the end is priceless! 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Rocky Horror Event Experience

I've been a fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for a long time and have always wanted to put on a Rocky Horror screening. This became a reality in 2012 when I promoted my first Rocky Horror Event Experience at The Barn at The Frog and Fiddle in Cheltenham. The event consist of a fully licensed screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where the guests are encouraged to dress up and dance and sing during the screening. The screening is followed by Dr Frank-N-Furter's Monster Disco, where guests enjoy a cheesy playlist to finish the night.

If you've been to see a Rocky Horror live show, then you probably know that there are certain cue points during the show where props are used by viewers. These include newspapers and water pistols, which recreate rain and to shelter from it when it rains in the film. Other props include toilet paper, rice, confetti, toast, rubber gloves, noise makers and glow sticks.

My business partner and I have put on several of these events and we are lucky enough to have a very loyal crowd of regulars. We've made some very good friends by putting on these events and many new faces come to each event we host. I absolutely love the photo below of the completely up for it crowd, all in fancy dress, at one of our sold out events. 

If a photo speaks a thousand words, then a video speaks a million; check out this awesome video we made of The Rocky Horror Event Experience in Cheltenham. Turn the sound up and dance along to The Time Warp!

The photo below captures one of my favourite parts of the event; when everyone throws toilet paper when Dr Scott appears on the film. 

The photo below is of myself on the left, dressed rather scarily as Dr Frank-N-Furter and my lovely girlfriend Emily on the right dressed as Magenta.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Snowboarding gear

Following on from my Thailand packing post earlier in the week, I wanted to post about the snowboarding kit I used, during my incredible ten weeks of snowboarding in the Swiss and French Alps. If you're thinking of investing in your own board, bindings and boots for next year, I'd highly recommend shopping for these in the summer. I have however seen lots of great deals mid season both instore and online. I visited Noah's Ark in Stroud, in July 2013, when we were hoping to get some bargains and they didn't disappoint. Although we were slightly limited with options as it was so out of season, they offered at least a 40% discount and even up to a 50% discount on most items. 

We were assisted by Kristian at Noah's Ark, who spent a whole three hours advising my girlfriend Emily and I on the best set up for our needs. He couldn't have been more helpful and I'd absolutely recommend this shop to anyone. After we both bought boards, bindings, boots and some clothes from Noah's Ark, Emily also bought some more clothes from the Noah's Ark website, which we'd also recommend.

Firstly, I chose a Forum Honeypot board. This was recommended to me in the shop as being a great all-rounder. At this point I had only been snowboarding on a one week holiday, so this board is ideal for beginners, but also for progressing to intermediate level too. It's also a great board for powder, as I discovered after many epic snowfalls in the Alps! I chose Burton Mission bindings, which have quite standard clips, which were easy to clip up and off.

During my first snowboarding holiday in Tignes, I hired all my kit including boots. If you're going to invest in just one piece of snowboarding gear, other than clothes, then boots are super important for a comfortable holiday. I had laced hire boots in Tignes, which I wasn't a fan of. These Forum boots have a great system where you just pull the cords tight and clip them in, which is great for getting them fitting tight and well each time you use them. These boots are super comfy, even when wearing them for boarding and apres 34 days in a row in Meribel! 
This Vans snowboarding jacket looks great and is super comfy, but was quite expensive [RRP £199.99]. I saw it on offer at Ellis Brigham at the Milton Keynes snow dome and couldn't resist buying it. It looks great with a basic pair of black salopettes and is an all round great snowboarding jacket. 

I looked at various options for salopettes, but settled on a black Trespass pair from eBay. They were only around £30 and were very comfortable and waterproof. I've had an O'Neill pair of salopettes, which really weren't very waterproof and nowhere near as comfortable, despite costing a fair bit more.

It really frustrates me when I see people skiing and snowboarding with wearing a helmet. It's an absolute essential on the piste. I found it crazy seeing people still not wearing a helmet this year, given the huge press the issue has been getting after Schumacher's horrendous accident. I had a helmet made by brand 'Red', but it was a truly terrible design, with the goggle clip constantly falling off and not holding the goggles in place properly even when the clip was in place. I invested in this Bern helmet while in Verbier. Although not popular with everyone, I really like the peak as it provides a little bit of protection from the sun and also helped protect my face a couple of times when I face-planted!

This set up was great for me as a beginner/intermediate snowboarder. I might get a new board next year, but will most likely stick with the rest of the set up including the bindings. There's nothing wrong with the board, I just think I'd quite like something new and sexy - I get massive piste envy on the snow when I see other amazing bits of kit!