BUDS, the British University Dry Slope Championship, is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Cardiff Snowsports calendar. A mini ski trip in itself, minus the snow, the weekend sees over 1,500 students from all over the UK hit up Edinburgh’s Hillend dry slope for a weekend of ski/snowboard competitions from Giant Slalom skiing to Big Air freestyle. As usual, Cardiff showed up and had wins in both racing and freestyle events.
An early start on Thursday saw 33 competitors and spectators board a coach for the long trek up to Edinburgh. Arriving in the evening on the Thursday it was time to get ready for the pre-BUDS party. Held at Three Sisters bar, it was a smashing night and a great opportunity to meet old and new friends from other universities in the build up to competition beginning the following day.
An even earlier start on Friday morning meant it was time to head to the dry slope to prepare for competition. The ski individual slalom was the first event to kick off the weekend, and with a huge amount of racers, the competition ran throughout the day. Cardiff put in some fantastic performances with the likes of Cameron Lally, Janey Rankin and Ollie Hodgkinson putting their finest efforts on show, qualifying along with most other Cardiff racers for Saturdays’ Giant Slalom event.
Next to step up to the mark were Cardiff’s notorious boarders. The individuals came first. Each racer had two runs with a combined time in an attempt to qualify for the Boarder Cross event on Saturday. With all Cardiff racers qualifying, some incredible performances were noted, in particular Ned Bayles placing fifth from over 80 racers!
Following this, the course was re-set for the board dual competition, a relay race with four to a team. With Cardiff having entered two teams, our chances were looking great. Unfortunately the second team came up against tough early competition from Kent and were knocked out in the first round, so it was down to the 1st team. Having become UK winners in the Kings competition last year, they were certainly fierce competition for the rest of the pack.
The first race up against Birmingham first team had everyone feeling tense. Bayles kicked it off and unfortunately had a fall. This didn’t matter, though, with the likes of Rhys Oakley, Phil Kenny and Gareth Allcock able to back him up. They managed to pull back the deficit and managed to qualify for the next race with a strong first performance.
Next they were to face Loughborough, famous for their dominance in all things sport, so the stakes were high. Bayles, Oakley and Kenny put in incredible performances but with only Allcock remaining, Cardiff were still behind – a tough challenge to overcome. But with no better racer to take it on, Allcock raced exceptionally and swiped Loughborough’s lead out of their hands to overtake his counterpart at the last gate and pip him to the post by a board’s length to win.
Spirits were high after the last race, and the quarterfinal saw Cardiff up against Kent, who knocked out the second team. This was a clean race, and Kent were no match for the first team. Another win on the board.
The semi-finals saw Cardiff take on Portsmouth, southern champions who had seen off Edinburgh – one of the best teams in the competition – on their way to the last four. If nerves weren’t taking hold before, they certainly were now. But once again Bayles and Oakley raced immaculately, and when Portsmouth had a fall, the pressure was relieved on Kenny and Allcock to take the win, and a place in the final, was secured.
The final brought with it the sizeable challenge of Manchester, and in a best of three matchup to decide the winner, it was certainly all to play for! However, retaining their superb form, Cardiff would only need the first two races to decide the outcome of the final, winning comprehensively to earn the crown of National Champions, as well as bringing home a healthy amount of BUCS points.
The slopestyle was the last event to round off the day . Combining rail and box tricks with a big air at the end, this was one not to be missed, providing a spectacle to finish the day! Some incredible combinations were put in by everyone, and Cardiff showed off their skills with Ben Moore, Charles Bannister and Gareth Allcock once again stepping up to the mark. Front flips, ‘720s’ and ‘cork sevens’ were all pulled out of the bag, but it was not enough. Unfortunately there weren’t to be any medals on this occasion, but everyone was provided with great entertainment.
Along with the rain, Saturday morning also brought with it the Giant Slalom (GS) skiing running alongside the boarder cross. An incredible event, the GS sees some of the UK’s best ski talent hit the slopes for this fast paced, somewhat scary race. A timed race, the quickest people descend Europe’s largest dry ski slope of 500 metres in just over 20 seconds. Cardiff qualifiers once again put in some outstanding racing. but with the very high standard on display, they were unable to challenge for any medals.
With the boarder cross course extended this year, this event saw two racers descend at the same time battling it out gate by gate whilst overcoming wide bends, small and large kickers and jostling with each other. The unpredictable nature of the event can mean that the outcome of these races is rarely a forgone conclusion. All the Cardiff boarders raced to the best of their ability but were unfortunately outdone by some of the best racers in the country. However some great racing and entertainment – despite the weather – did see Emma Griffiths place eighth from 32, and Ned Bayles come in 16th from 64.
Once all this was through and everyone was well and truly soaked, the highlight of the weekend was up, the Big Air competition. With everyone gathered at the side of the slope the atmosphere was electric. All the spectators were undoubtedly looking forward to seeing Allcock, who has become notorious for his wide array of spins and flips. Stomping a misty ‘720’ with his first run we were all pretty excited, but unfortunately a slip on the landing of his second run let him down. In the women’s competition however, Cardiff’s Jo Giblin put down a very stylish 180 Indy grab to put her in second place and onto the podium, bringing home yet more medals and BUCS points for Cardiff!
To finish off all the freestylers, skiers and boarders alike, gathered at the top of the slope for the Big Air train, seeing 50-odd people follow each other over the kicker and show off their style, a great finish to the weekend of competition.