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ISF Snowboard Opening
Kaunertal, Austria

ISF Opener
In late October, thousands of people made their way into the small valley in the west of Tyrol (Austria) called Kaunertal for the International Snowboarding Federation (ISF) season opener. Over the last 10 years, this event has become the biggest opening for snowboarders in central Europe. An ISF World Series Halfpipe event was originally planned for the Opening, but due to the lack of snow the HP had to be cancelled. Instead, a High Jump and the Red Bull Style Jump took place.

On Friday, Oct. 16, the first crowd of people filled the glacier and the parking lot, where the snowboard industry presented its gear. Friday was an easy day for the riders. The ones who participated in the High Jump had a short training session, the others who took part in the Style Jump on Sunday, had a "free day". The weather was beautiful; another reason the mountain was really crowded.

"The morning after was a bad awakening. Everybody had a hangover and the weather sucked..."

In the evening, the big opening party took place in the huge party tent down in Feichten. "Keilerkopf", a German crossover band gave their performance, later the party continued until the wee morning hours. Most of the riders didn't show up in the party tent, they preferred to stay at the bar of the main hotel, where some interesting "getting to know each other" was going on.

Michi Albin (SUI) was there, although everybody thought he would stay in Saas Fee, where he was training the last few days. Rumours have it the evening before he left to Kaunertal he fell in love with Satu Jarvela (FIN). Yes, right, with the HP World Champion 95. Nevertheless Michi found his way into the small valley, which was definitively a good decision. You could also see Nici Pederzolli (AUT) and Xaver Hoffmann (GER) hanging out together. Maybe that was the reason why Nici didn't show up on the glacier the next morning where she had photo shooting with a film crew. The film crew waited for her until noon, when she finally did find her way up to the glacier.

ISF Tour Opener
On Saturday afternoon the High Jump event took place. Although the Quarterpipe was not in the best condition, the event was good fun. 16 men and 2 girls started in this competition and the best thing was that a girl, Anne Kongsgaad from Norway, came in 2nd and showed the boys that girls really kick ass. In the finals she had to fight it out with Martin Sandberg (SWE) who grabbed the victory in the end. Third was the young Austrian rider Florian Baumgartner.

Saturday night was definitively the highlight of the whole weekend. Anthrax was playing in the party tent. Their first gig ever in Austria, so lots of Mosh-Metal fans showed up. Most of the riders don't listen to that kind of music anymore, but some of them were true Anthrax fans of when they were younger. Like Tommy Kiel-Johanssen (NOR) stated: "I was in the tent and I really felt like a 15-year-old boy again. They were my heroes when I was that age and it was always my big dream to see them live. Now, years later, I had this possibility and it was great! When I was younger my parents wouldn't let me go to a concert like this! So I really enjoyed every minute of it!"

Believe in Barrett
Again the lobby of the Kirchenwirt Hotel was the place to be. Nando, brother of Max Pl–tzeneder, celebrated his birthday, so the bar made good money with him and his friends. The morning after was a bad awakening. Everybody had a hangover and the weather sucked. It was snowing and windy and the training for the Style Jump was scheduled already for 10:00 am. Too early for some of the riders. Stefan Gruber and Thomas "Beckna" Eberharter (both AUT) missed the training. They probably partied too hard the night before. Also Max Pl–tzeneder (AUT) couldn't make a training jump, because he arrived too late.

The Style Jump was pretty good, although the landing was too flat. The riders showed a great performance and the Scandinavians dominated the field. The Swiss rider Michi Albin was the only one who could beat the Scandinavians with his "Cab 540 Double Bone" and therefore he got the biggest part of the US$ 10.000 prize money.

"During the summer I mostly relaxed and had a lot of sun, when I was surfing. Now I am ready for big contests like the Air & Style!" Michi said. The Scandinavians followed on rank 2-4. Arild Brun Kjeldaas (NOR) finished second before the two Finnish riders Jussi Oksanen and Wille Yli-Luoma.

Benedek Arnold
Also the riders from Germany were very strong. David Benedek and Mini Karpf from Munich finished 5th and 6th. David had bad luck with a "Switch Slob Misty Flip 720". He took a high risk and tried the most spectacular trick of the day, but he wasn't able to stick it. Final highlight was the live gig of the Munich band "Stimillion" on the parking lot up on the glacier. It was snowing and freezing cold, but the atmosphere was great and the spectators as well as the band had a lots of fun.

Well, this was this season's Opening. Countless people, crowded bars and restaurants, too many beers and other drinks, some injured riders and a lot of people who were too hung over to make it up the mountain the day after the party. Hope to see you there next year. It's worth the trip!

— Birgit Gruber, Mountain Zone European Correspondent

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