By Leah Stassen
One of the perks of this job is traveling and getting to meet tons of people interested in the same thing: snowboarding. For this reason, I was stoked when Atomic Snowboards invited me to Austria to tour its facilities, meet the rider team, and also just learn more about the brand’s snowboard launch.
In preparation for this kind of trip, it is always a good idea to call ahead of time to confirm your seat on an international flight, in addition to arriving tired. Having fulfilled both of these, boarding the plane to Amsterdam July 9 on a Monday afternoon was relatively painless. I was blessed to have a row of seats to myself and passed out cold after dinner. I woke up somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, about two hours outside of the Netherlands.
After a short layover in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, I caught a connecting flight to Salzburg, Austria. On the shuttle to the commuter airplane, I noticed another American snowboarder and figured he was also headed to Atomic judging from the Snowboarder magazine logo embroidered on his backpack. However, it wasn’t until our arrival in Salzburg that my suspicions were confirmed.
Atomic’s Austrian Snowboard Product Manager Gerald Samer and Atomic U.S.A. Director of Snowboards Chris O’Donoghue, were there to pick us up. There I formally met Freelance Photographer Jimmy Clarke, and after dealing with his lost luggage, we all hopped in the Atomic van to drive two hours into the mountains.
Our destination was the town of Mayrhofen, which houses the office and hotels used by SPC snowboard camp attendants, teams, and coaches. There we met up with the Atomic U.S.A. Marketing Promotions Manager Curt Hulst, and both the Atomic and Oxygen Snowboard teams. Together, we secured some gear for Jimmy and myself for tomorrow’s riding session at Hintertux Glacier in the nearby Alps. No one told me that we would actually be snowboarding,—it is July after all. And hey—I thought it was just a factory tour. Luckily, Atomic teamrider Zack Diamond and his girlfriend Madonna had some spare equipment.
Later that night, we met up with Atomic Europe’s Product and Team Manager Reine Schitter, and Oxygen’s French Product Manager Vincent Cadene, and had dinner with the team. Pizza in Austria? I guess snowboarders are the same all over the world. After the eats we split up into a few groups. Most of the team went on to party with other SPC campers, while us business people headed out for drinks. It was fun but I learned the next morning that I should have heeded Zack’s advice concerning Gary’s fondness for partying and shots of Schnapps. Oh well, at least I learned the proper way to toast in Austria. “Hold the stem of the glass while clinking them together, and always look directly in the eye of the person you are toasting,” explained Gary Samer. Mental note: don’t go out drinking with Europeans while jet lagged.