Playground Jam laydees getting ready to drop in at the Chapelle park in Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil

Sandwiched between two days of unrelenting rain and grey, misty skies that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a horror film, the fifth annual Playground Jam emerged in a shock of blue and sunshine. Appropriate really that this funky celebration of female riding skills, solidarity and gleeful love of park should take place in the only spot of colour this week.

Words & photos by Susan Greenwood

Locals Lorna and Ellie let their hair down after the comp

‘ The snow is pretty solid today,’ commented organizer, Our Camp founder and all-round snowboard legend Gilly Seagrave. ‘And you know what’s impressive? First run and about six of the girls hit up the red jumps straight off.’

The aim was to get riding started at the Chapelle Park in Avoriaz, France pretty early on as everyone expected the weather to close in after lunch. But as anyone who’s lived in the Portes du Soleil longer than a day, a reliable weather forecast doesn’t exist. So after kicking off at 1am, the action was still going strong at 1pm under an evil wind but bright sunshine. ‘The idea is it’s a jam,’ said Gilly. ‘Everything is open, it’s chilled, the sun is out, it’s all good.’

Thank god for MC Tristan who seemed to have his eye on every rider even when one was shredding the rails and one on the red jumps, letting the gathering crowd know which of the talented ladies was doing what and when. For a small, fun comp somewhere in France, the standard of riding was not only solid, but pretty damn high. 20 chicks took part, 15 snowboard, five ski. Katrien Aerts from Belgium was laying down smooth, huge switch 360’s over the red kickers with a style that stood out. ‘Well I normally ride World Cup halfpipes,’ she commented afterwards. Which obviously explained everything but ultimately didn’t change anything. World Cup rider in our midst? Didn’t matter. The goal was to shred, push each other and have a good time. ‘Jeez it’s taken years of practice and a lot of falls to be able to do some of these tricks’ said Kiwi lass Lottie who was styling out unnatural ski slides on the boxes and threes on the table tops. ‘I never get scared of smashing my face!’ she laughed. ‘But I’d never done a park comp before and this seemed friendly and not intimidating so I thought I’d give it a go.’

Bright sun, bright clothes, talented chicks - not a bad day out

Photographers and groups of onlookers dotted the park, ready to catch the action from every angle – some of these awesome snaps will be in Cooler’s winter issue, so get ready to get inspired. Local, homegrown talent? Check. The general level of riding, professionalism – and giddy participation - was way above what you’d expect on a Wednesday afternoon and it was beyond inspiring.

It’s probably worth pointing out that everyone was looking pretty darn stylish as well – skinnies and hoodies being the order of the day. After 1pm everyone gathered at the park’s picnic tables to receive prizes, hugs and respect. And beer and wine. And work out how to celebrate that evening. BBQ. Obviously.

Here’s the results list with judges comments! Plus a highlights video at the end of the post...

The girls - and their guys- gather for the prize giving

Snowboard

5th: Anna Ciderström-Nilsson from Sweden - great all round skills

4th: Sara Frutos from Spain - impressive tech rail skills

3rd: Karleen Abbeel from Belgium - steezy backside 360s/backside 180 mute grab/rocket air

2nd: Ivika Jurgenson from Estonia - solid on the jumps and tech on rails. MADE THE 18m RAIL TO THE END!! (with a 50/50)

1st: Sabrina Kusar from France - great 360s and 180s on the larger jump line, front nose slide on the box and lovely tweaked grabs

Nice stylish railslide - the skier girls were on form at Playground

Ski

5th: Jenny Stevenson from the UK - great effort and was apparently her 2nd day on the jumps ever!

4th: Charlotte Haskell from the UK - trying some great tricks on the jumps and boxes

3rd: Ellie Taylor from the UK - great on rails and nice kicker line

2nd: Ella Dixon-Wood from the UK - great spins on the jumps, got her 540 in the last few minutes. Nice and tidy on the rails.

(3rd and 4th were very close indeed)

1st: Katrine Aerts from Belgium - seemed she never fell over! Span both ways 360s and 540s and she was a great all rounder, hitting the whole park with style

MC Tristan and organiser Gilly get in the groove

The other stand out was Wendy Moore from the UK - 50/50 ing the 18m rail to the end too!