Sunday, August 23, 2009

Four years ago...

The cheapest way to fly across the pond from the US four years ago today was to hop on a one-way cargo carrier to any destination in Europe. I was dropped in Vienna with the perspective of Denmark being a stone's throw away; a dragging ten hours later I arrived in Aarhus, DK, the first stop on my Erasmus Mundus adventure.

My jet-lagged slumber was shaken the next morning by a loud knocking. King-size bags sat unpacked in a corner, and my half-naked body was rolled in a blanket like a hotdog... on a mattress still lined with plastic. I had forgotten what I was doing in this barren dorm room, or where I even was.

The knocking continued. I scooted to the doorway and soon found myself standing in front of two unexpected visitors: A short, curvy young Indian woman beside a lofty Ukranian in his late 30s with goofy glasses and an amusing grin. I squinted at the figures in front of me to help my eyes focus. It was a puzzling few seconds of silence before one of us spoke.

"Hi, we're your new classmates," said the woman from India, Ankeeta. I stood there awkwardly draped in my down comforter with sleep in my eyes and a frizzed head of hair.

I was still convincing myself this was no dream when the Ukrainian, Alexander, chimed in with giggly broken English and startling enthusiasm, "Yes! And we have come, and invite you to a nearby beach!"

Perhaps the only thing my body was capable of that day was sprawling out on beach sand, so I managed to mumble an agreeable reply. My hands fished beach attire from my bags, and five minutes later I stumbled out of my dorm with two new acquaintances bounded for Moesgård Strand.

Once there, Alexander wasted no time stripping down to his Speedo, splashing and galloping into the icy Danish waters. Ankeeta struggled with her modesty for a solid half hour by attempting to change into her swimsuit, whilst keeping a towel wrapped around her body, to avoid anyone catching a glimpse of her privates. It was a highly entertaining episode for this American to witness, and this was just Day One.

Four years deep I still have vivid memories of my first day with Alexander and Ankeeta. The situation was a first for me, yet the entire two years of Erasmus Mundus would expose me to situations I never knew could exist in my life. This invitation to sun bathe by the North Sea was just the beginning of a lifestyle that followed the theme of "What have you got to lose?" I even roll with that saying today, and encourage others to give it a try: The outcome is always worthwhile.

A happy four years of Audrey in Europe since Aug. 22, 2005.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Rock solid: Molotow

When the Beatles first left England to grace this earth with legendary music in 1960, the initial spark was a 48-night rockstar bender two blocks down from Hamburg’s venue, Molotow. The Reeperbahn's historic nature of driving visitors to debauchery was no exception for four Liverpool moptops: the overindulgence of sex and drugs, arson arrests for burning condoms, and George Harrison's eventual deportation is just scratching the surface.

“Every fucking band playing in the Molotow, as soon as they drop their guitar cases they ask, where did the Beatles play? Where did they walk? Where did they hang out?” says Molotow owner Andi Schmidt. “This is where they started their career.”

Fifty years later Reeperbahn's sinful reputation continues to generate the classic raw and gritty body rock 'n' roll lives to penetrate, and for the Europe rock scene, Molotow is an essential organ. Standing since 1990 in a virtually lawless district of Hamburg, Molotow mirrors its streets by providing a forum to rock without curfews, drinking limits or smoking bans.

“Germany is crazy and strict with everything, but Hamburg is like an outlawed place," says Schmidt, who has lived in Hamburg since almost 40 years. “You can't say, ‘Fuck your law’. The way we handle it is to say, ‘Yes I know the law but I can't check everything’.”

In essence, Molotow’s fusion of perspective with placement makes a gristly yet harmonious blend of luscious attraction for band performances. Yet Molotow is a musician’s haven because it follows the principles of a good venue: unique character, a solid sound system, and genuine kindred spirit to the rock scene.

Butts and bottles

A small, dark basement with maximum capacity of around 300, soundproof walls emit the wreaking stench of Beck's beer and St. Pauli cigarettes. The low ceiling suffocates skin pores as the air thickens with sweaty, damp humidity. Sandwiched between bars in the front and backroom is the frenzied heat of the stage, where the crowd and band merge into a giant ball of sound and body explosion. Bands love it.

“There’s a lot of action on stage because you’re so close to the audience. Our frontman climbed around, people stage dove; it was sweaty and loud,” says Frederik Mohrdiek on performing at Molotow with his former band The Sissies. “It’s tight and focused on the stage, but it’s company rock ‘n’ roll enjoyment.”

However, complimenting Molotow’s unembellished exoskeleton is sound of near-perfect acoustics, not to mention ambitious employees who know how to work a venue well enough to evoke approval from all forms of rock.

“Plus the place is very open-minded and willing to book bands they’re convinced of even if they know they might only pull 20 people from it,” says Hamburg-based DJ Andreas “Baze.djunkiii” Rathmann who spins with Lars “Das Audiolith” Lewerenz as Plutonium Pogo at Molotow. “Amongst DJs and musicians in indie and rock, the reputation is high; everyone seems to know the place all over.”

“It's definitely more important for us to have good bands and good music here, not the money. As silly as it sounds some venues just don't care about it, many don't even have their own PA system,” says Schmidt. “Here you can hear every instrument and vocal; there's no feedback, and if there is there's a guy right on the spot taking care of it. That’s the way it should be.”

Bands and Fans
Molotow's fame rises from its underground reputation of acting as a launch pad for some of rock's most famous additions over the past 15 years. Proudly resting above the entrance is a long list of prominent alumni, from The White Stripes to The Killers, The Rakes to The Black Keys, Billy Talent, At The Drive-In and about 130 others.

“Molotow was The Hives first sold out show of their career, and in their first music video they rebuilt our entrance on their set in Sweden. They held up a sign in front of some place saying Molotow and it had a huge queue. When they come to town they always come by,” says Schmidt.

A pile of signed guestbooks collects dust on a bookshelf at Molotow’s office. Inside are short blurps, long-winded notes, face illustrations and phallic doodles to name a few. Enon drew a rabbit, The Lawrence Arms “hearts Hamburg, hookers and sex”, while Piebald “occupied the building where this book lives and thank you for it. We like Molotow.”

“A lot of now famous bands with a big fan base played at Molotow long before they caught attention, and one can’t ignore that,” says Baze.djunkii. “Even if you are coming from an electronic music background, there is a lot of room to experiment because the people that go there are really open-minded.”

Molotow might be 28 stairs below ground, but the stage is a small step up from the crowd floor. For fiends of audience contact, Molotow dares to provide a band-fan connection stripped from platform barriers.

“I once saw Battery play there, and I jumped on stage and put the singer in a headlock. But it’s okay, some people want to go onstage and just be with the band,” says Mohrdiek, who still plays at Molotow with current band Bangkok Kash. “It’s good to be in touch with the audience if they’re going wild. It’s good to be on ground level; you have direct feedback.”

“We don’t have drunk jocks, drunk fights are not a problem. It’s all about having the right people at the door,” says Schmidt. “Some places hire karate guys with jackets looking for trouble. If you don’t do that, you’re kind of cool.”

Rock ‘n’ roll hospitable respect

The venue’s acquirement of distinctive quality, impressive performer history and an energetic audience is no fluke. Molotow’s resistance towards usual venue “norms” develops from experience on knowing where to draw the line between lifestyle and pure insanity.

“Although I like them a lot, I turned down Towers of London because they wasted and wrecked about every venue they played in,” says Schmidt. “I once sent home a Swedish band because they were totally drunk, and I couldn’t imagine them playing since they couldn’t even stand. It’s okay to be punk rock, but it’s stupid to wreck a place.”

This is not to say booked bands can expect rigid communication. In contrast, Molotow is a venue to offer not only a smorgasbord of food and drink to their performers but also accommodation: the office’s spare rooms are equipped with beds and blankets.

“Backstage there are snickers, M&Ms, bread with cheese and sausage, and one crate of beer,” says Mohrdiek.

“Tons of places you feel like a burden. In the UK you get a pack of crisps for the whole band,” says Schmidt, who has played in bands for about 30 years. “We treat bands nicely. We care for them, give them good food and a place to stay.”

Despite ongoing battles with keeping a punk rock environment in a stringent society, Schmidt has enough funding to keep Molotow alive for at least another three years.

“If you love sweaty basement clubs with nice stuff, good music and an ecstatic crowd then go. If you’re lucky enough you’ll catch some future legends on stage at the very beginning of their career,” says Baze.djunkiii.

The era of live Beatlemania might have ended decades ago, but it’s venues like Molotow that keep Hamburg standing as an arena offering a music subculture most European cities would die for. Check it out, but try to refrain from condom bonfires. Try.

- Audrey Sykes

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tulipmania lives

When the 17th century Dutch elite became enthralled with flowers in a time notoriously known as Tulipmania, the most sought-after and expensive tulips were infected with bugs and viruses.

The attraction to “Broken Tulips” was its magnificent mutations of color, form and size. Pedals seemingly dipped in porcelain, laced with spring hues, edges frayed and feathered – Broken Tulips were a representation of Golden Age novelty and exotic discovery.

“The tulip was grown about the elite group like a toy among the rich,” says Sjoerd van Eeden, co-owner of the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. “It was after Tulipmania where tulips then became in the hands of farmers.”

Tulipmania's peak in February of 1637 was a frenzied swirl of contract agreements and market exchange, seen in retrospect as folly-ridden senselessness. One Viceroy tulip bulb sold for four tons of beer, while one Sempur Agustus bulb for 12 acres of land. Ten years later, Dutch historian Theodorus Schrevelius would write, “Our descendants will laugh at the human insanity of our age, in times tulip flowers have been so revered.”

About 300 years later, in 1949, ten prominent Dutch bulb growers and exporters opened the first nonprofit showcase for The Netherlands flower industry near a castle garden just outside of Lisse. No more than 35,000 visitors were expected at the new attraction, fittingly titled Keukenhof from the land’s previous use as an herb garden and hunting ground. Opening year visitor totals topped an unpredictable 250,000.

“It was a way to ask foreign business people to come and buy bulbs from Holland,” says Keukenhof’s General Manager Piet de Vries. “It was overwhelming at the time. We had no toilets, maybe one for the growers. We had no restaurants. At the time we just weren't prepared.”

As Keukenhof celebrates its 60th anniversary on March 19, the world’s largest flower garden will have attracted more than 44 million visitors since its conception, offering 150 acres of land hosting 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties, 7 million flower bulbs in total plus 2,500 trees.

“We are the show window for the Netherlands and for Dutch bulb growers in the industry,” says De Vries, who currently works with 93 growers around the country whom supply Keukenhof with flowers free-of-charge. “We have prominent growers and growers with special varieties. We have a long list of people who want to show here.”

Keukenhof itself is considered a national landmark, but the Dutch tulip industry today holds its own international fame. Boasting a market share of around 70 percent in universal flower production and 90 percent of trade worth about €540 million, it is estimated that there exists well over a thousand growers in the country who work at a national and global level.

“To say we are working together goes too far,” says Van Eeden, who was raised amongst a family of international bulb exporters. “One person grows red tulips while the other person grows yellow tulips. We're competitors, yet countries who demand tulips can be large enough to buy from fifty exporters.”

Nearly one quarter (over 900 million) of Netherlands flower exports are destined for the United States each year.

Tulips carry an economically nomadic disposition throughout its history. The flower’s native landscape is the Himalayan region, filling valleys with over 60 percent of today’s wild tulips.

“The Ottoman empire, with its huge trade route area, was the first thought to have collected wild tulips. It caught on, hybridizing began, and the tulip became a garden flower because of Turkey,” says Van Eeden.

The tulip’s introduction to The Netherlands is believed to be the work of Flemish botanist Clusius, Latin for Charles de L’Ecluse, who first planted tulips at the University of Leiden’s botanical gardens around 1595. Interest rose among wealthy Dutch enthusiasts, and tulip demand eventually ignited the world’s first stock market exchange.

“Holland was already the economic center in Europe with money. The Dutch were prepared and had the means to finance a curiosity with tulips,” says Van Eeden. “People from the lower classes also looked at the tulip as an opportunity for investment and profit.”

“There was a tulip mania. There were flower bulbs calculated for two thousand euros per bulb,” says De Vries. “At the end of tulip mania we had the first stock crash that we've seen, because of flowers.”

The stock crash of 1637 is argued to be the first recorded economic or speculative bubble burst of its kind. Traders went from monthly earnings of roughly €30,000 to a total loss in weeks.

“There was a lot of money going around, it was early capitalism, and then this crazy spinning out of control took place. Many people were burned and fell out,” says Van Eeden. “But people love that story.”

Research on documented economic devastation launched by the tulip market crash shows considerable exaggeration to the story. Tulip obsession since the crash, however, has anything but vanished.

In 2007, The Netherlands exported 4 billion flower bulbs worldwide. Keukenhof’s eight-week window of floral spectacle estimates a reel-in of 800,000 visitors, more than half from abroad. The 15 floating stands at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt offer “groene vinger” customers buckets of flower bulbs regardless of the flower season.

“Buying tulip bulbs right now is impossible, yet there are thousands at markets. Sellers will tell you at the flower market to wait until the fall, but it will never bloom,” says Van Eeden. “The Dutch market is a bit messy. Anyone can go to a grower, get some bulbs and sell them in the street.”

Hybridization in the past centuries has led to over 5,000 garden varieties, and about 50 new types are expected this year. One of this year’s attractions at Keukenhof is a section of tulips named after celebrities from Hillary Clinton to Sponge Bob.

“We have people who work here all year, preparing, planting, making the grass trimmed like a golf course, making everything look perfect for those eight weeks we are open,” says a Keukenhof employee. “Everything is planned, but we can’t predict Mother Nature.”

A desperate tourist will shuffle around Amsterdam’s Tulip Museum, exiting with lost hopes of tulip purchasing and settling for painted wooden replicas. The tourist will breeze in and out of the world’s largest tulip field, marveling enough to deem Keukenhof the most photographed place on earth. As a frantic attempt to reward their home garden with Dutch novelty, the confused tourist will reconsider a handful of out-of-season tulip bulbs at the bloementmarkt.

"We travel a lot to all the famous tulip parks all over the world, and we are very open because we do not have any competition. The biggest risk for Keukenhof is if there are no tourists traveling, but people are still traveling,” says De Vries.

It is argued that the documented “human insanity” of tulips died with Tulipmania. Perhaps the overwhelming social fandom for flowers followed suit with its cherished Broken tulips, and has simply just altered its form.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Perfect Women's Comp

Advancements in women's snowboarding have done well, but some companies still suffer from Barbie syndrome: Just like Barbie, ladies prefer draping themselves in fluffy material and prancing in the snow like babies.

Don’t make me puke.

Marketing women’s snowboarding has gone all girly. Events are the same way: There’s still a lot of “glitter” and not enough “cool” in female competitions. Enough is enough. The female shred biz needs to adjust their rose-colored goggles and get with the now.

To help put event directors on the right path, I have a vision: The Perfect Women’s Comp. It’s more than just bluebird days and perfect snow; the perfect women’s comp can be achieved if five easy steps are followed. When done correctly, it’s an event guaranteed to go down in history as the best thing to happen on planet Earth.

1. Kill the lollipops

Let's face it, take away sponsor names and women comps sound like a bowl of cheap candy: Gummies and Rainbow Rail jams, Strawberry Lollipop freestyles, Bunnies and Chickies halfpipes.

Lame. Freestyle comps ain't no tea party with dresses, so feed sweets to the birds and rough up the names. The perfect women's comp would have a title with enough attitude and ferociousness to attract and stand out as the most ass-kicking event of the season. Titles can still hint at an all-female event, just add more fire. My top three picks would be:

A) Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go To Pipe Comps
B) Bitches Ride Harder Rail Jam

C) Leather and Whips Freestyle Contest

See what I did? I just turned Brittany Spears into Joan Jett with a mere title change. It's cooler to be a badass babe than a princess pussy. No more Girly names and Chicken logos when dealing with pro events for pro riders, let's get hardcore.

2. Charge a pink tax

It's funny how the stereotype of girls liking pink has gone out of control in an industry that claims to support an alternative lifestyle. Sponsors with pink banners or pink products to symbolize being for women are so insanely incompetent and clueless they need to pay for being idiots. Literally.

If you're a girl and you like pink that's great, but don't be a sucker and fall for the color companies love to slap on labels “For Girls”. That's why the perfect women's comp would charge a tax on pink. Not the singer, the color. 

“Brand A has a new Pink Stiletto binding to display? Ouch, that will be 1,000 euro please. Ridiculous price? Well so are pink bindings called Stiletto.”

“Wait, Sponsor B has a purple tent with lots of feather boas and sequined snowflakes? You're right, it's not pink, it's worse than pink. You've missed the point, and you're not even coming in with that.”

You get the idea. Snowboard life prides itself on edgy design and style, and we're not girls with pony pillows and pink parasols. We're extreme and inventive. There is a big, decorative color wheel out there, and the perfect women's comp should embrace it.

3. Men are the sex symbols
The Winter X Games is a giant, crazy drunkfest with pro hos running wild every day. Wet t-shirt contests means girls who are wasted off strawberry vodka end up getting topless for the crowd. Which is cliché crap, because the perfect women's comp would have wet t-shirt contests with lots of wasted topless MEN instead.

Ah yes, topless men not just on the stage, but everywhere. They are the sex symbols and pro hos at this event: Shirtless servers, bartenders, pipe and park groomers. They've spent all season bronzing their skin and tightening their six-packs, just for this women's comp. Flaunt it boys, flaunt it.

At the perfect women's comp, pro ho men are the ones who walk around in fur coats and moon boots, feeding us ladies free shots and flirting with pro female riders. In the bathrooms, men would gel each other’s hair and say,

“Oh my God, I think Torah Bright is SO taking me home tonight!”

“Yeah right, you'd have better luck with Cheryl Maas!”

“Hey, like, do you have any gum?”
“I know one thing, Kelly Clark is looking HOT in that red jacket!”

Oh guys, we'd say, stop being so chatty and fetch me another slice of pizza and beer. And they would.

4. Think “Girls just wanna have fun”
That Cyndi Lauper song wasn't a hit for no reason: take an average comp and turn it into a nonstop party on and off the mountain. And I don't just mean with drink specials.

The perfect women's comp would be a constant explosion of entertainment. Rock gigs, free stuff, live art shows: if you want to be super sweet you're going to offer as many flavors as possible.

Keep product demos but expand the variety. All rich snowboard brands have a women's line. It's time for them support one of the fastest growing markets in the industry by showing up to events with gear that will blow our minds. Women’s helmets with MP3 players, the lightest female outerwear invented, the perfect park board for women: we know this stuff is out there, so bring it on.

Trick tips from pro riders are great, but it doesn't have to be basic park runs on kid slopes. The perfect women’s comp would add kickers into foam pits, air-maintenance on giant trampolines and crash landings on massive air bags for practice.

P.S. Yoga workshops are so three seasons ago, the perfect women's comp would replace them with breakdance sessions taught by Anne-Flore Marxer.

5. Make it for women, by women
The perfect women’s comp would be organized for women and by women: Sponsors, athletes, media workers, course designers and event workers. Getting the female shred industry involved is putting 100 percent girl power into something motivating and encouraging.

The perfect women’s comp would take place somewhere accessible to the masses. No more mid-mountain location in the middle of nowhere. The course would be innovative and pushing women’s pro riding to its limits. Women announcers would pump audience’s ears with trick talk and smooth charm.

Now is the time for businesses to strut their stuff when it comes to women's progression. If we really want women's riding to be taken seriously, we need the support and creativity to make it happen. Women's snowboarding is to bring symbolism to the rebel females who zip around mountains instead of shop at malls on the weekend. It’s about creating a community of female athletes who inspire one another to be stoked on snowboarding. It’s simple, let’s do it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Counter culture

From saunas to Jacuzzis, reindeer steaks to BBQ spare ribs, Schnapps to Budweiser: As an American rider on hiatus in Europe for over two years now I can confidently pin point what makes snowboard culture European, and what makes it American.

It's more than just outerwear, food and slope design. It's a combination of things, the core of a culture dripping in self confidence, individualism and national identity. To better catch my drift, here are the top five differences when it comes to living the snowboard life in North America versus snowboard life in Europe.

1. Saunas
In Europe: You're naked
My first Euro sauna was in Hemsedal, Norway. I had the perfect post-shred plan to pull and never thought twice about a counter culture interrupting. Cockiness took over sensibility and I proudly strutted my ass into a sauna wearing a bikini and holding a case of beer. It wasn't long before a father and his two twenty-something sons joined, who entered with nothing but a moist face towel effortlessly hanging around their waists. To me, this was shocking.

It was a tight space to pack in this much perspiring flesh, and the father parked himself on the bench above me. I sat there with eyes shut, trying to look relaxed as I sipped beer -- knowing uncomfortably well a mere piece of cotton was all that divided a dad's sweaty, hairy sac from my face. The air got hotter, the stench of man odor snaked into my nostrils. I lasted five minutes before exploding out of there with laughter and a pure feeling of terror.

In N. America: You're clothed and drunk
Listen up because this is from personal experience: In America, it's only natural to bust into a sauna with friends, beers and bathing suits on. Maybe even a joint or two. We know the hot air get us 100 percent loaded, that's the whole point. It's great and we love walking out delirious, super dumb and sliding on the floor in our own sweat laughing like a bunch of idiots. There are never, and I repeat never, men with sweaty balls close to your nose and loincloth wrapped around their hipless waists.

2. Apres Ski
In Europe: Bavarian folk and Bon Jovi
Oh Jon Bon Jovi, why didn't your fandom die with the 90s era of neon and Milli Vanilli? While North America pressed on from the world of flannel-shirt rock Bon Jovi skipped the pond and nested himself and his Billboard classics into the bars of every ski town in Europe. And if it’s not Livin On A Prayer it’s Top Bavarian Folk Hits To Slap Your Thigh And Swing Your Beer Mug To. And come on, we all are secretly in love with this stuff. We try to hide it by doing a mocking jig in our saggy shred pants, but really we want to grab a partner and boppingly waltz on tables.

In N. America: Reggae and 80s Hair Bands
It should come as no surprise. North American riders are obsessively trying to be irie because we can be so damn uptight. Ski areas blast reggae from dawn to dusk, and after that it’s Drunk Music Time. And what’s the best drunk music for a ski town filled of men snowboarders in their 20s and 30s? For us, it’s Guns N Roses, AC/DC and Aerosmith, with occasional Johnny Cash guitar to lick out a better “small town” vibration. We are usually too cool to dance and think it’s way better to air guitar, chest slam and break glass.

3. Fashion Faux Pas
In Europe: Euro gaps and spandex
Rule: Spandex is a privilege not a right. This statement applies to every turf fate plants your two feet on, but apparently some people simply don’t get it. We riders are smart enough to let this condition of “rule rebellion” alone, though we still are the ones who suffer the consequences of their ignorance on the slopes. It’s not fair, I know, and we growl, sneer and roll eyes but things just don’t get better. But have pity on the ones with a severe case of Euro Gap, they don’t know any better. And one day they’ll be sorry.

In N. America: Cowboy hats, Starter jackets and jeans
This is quite possibly the most embarrassing sight on a North American ski slope. Think U.S. riders are loud and obnoxious? You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve heard a man in a football jacket, cowboys jeans and a cattle hat from Kansas chat you up on a chair lift as he fumbles with ski poles. Tuning out his blubbering won’t work because he’ll poke you on the shoulder until you unplug and point your finger at some random mark on the ski map which helplessly flaps around his face. It’s ok though, because at the end of the day he’ll be the one with a wet ass mark the size of his lost ranching hat.

4. Waiting For The Lift
In Europe: Confusion
As my English mate Bex would say, “There are two methods of getting on a lift. Push and Kill or Elbows Out.” The struggle to get on a lift in Europe is like being in a white trash heavy metal mosh pit – chaotic and violent – when it really shouldn’t be. It’s an endless cycle of impatient cut offs, avenged shoving and short, fearful breaths as thrusting neighbors play bumper cars with your gear. Pretty soon hairs rise and blood boils until eventually Hulk Hogan syndrome kicks in and you fist your way to the front. Don’t even think about trying to get on the same lift as your friend, it’s every man for himself at this social gathering.

In N. America: Rows
It’s a simple solution to the above-mentioned emotional carnage, if you’re willing to wait about an hour for your turn. In North America we have a maze of lines to linger in for busy lifts, and there are people whose job is to bark out “FIRST ROW” when it’s time to move forwards. It’s a level playing field of slow-motion edging, and it gives you time to scope the base for hotties. Still it takes longer than the Euro way, and some ski areas have maps with blinking lights next to the lifts where lines exceed a one-hour wait. That’s what we get for not building amazing underground trains, like Switzerland.

5. The Drugs
In Europe: Smoking spliffs on lifts
When I first saw someone rolling a joint with tobacco I thought I was getting ripped off. It wasn’t until after living in Amsterdam for eight months when I realized spliffs were the norm in Europe. “Why would you smoke only weed? You’d get too high, it would be impossible to function,” a wise friend on a chair lift once said. Made sense to me, and I nodded in approval as we sat there hot boxing on a lift under a plastic snow shield. It’s a great method for a good time, except that it makes me a smoker and I suck at rolling joints.

In N. America: Packing pipes in slope shacks
Everyone knows about the grass-smoking laws canning people for life in North America, but that’s the South and snowboard life thrives Westward. Mountain towns love the pure, sticky bud, and since riding with a bong in your hand is tricky we opt for glass pipes. I’m talking handmade, swirling eye candy glass, not crack pipes five euros a pop in souvenir shops. And since we’re always paranoid of getting busted we sneak into tiny huts hidden amongst the trees in ski areas like Breckenridge. If someone knows of a shack like this in Europe please enlighten me, my email is

Audrey, Elbows Out