The snowboarders

In the midst of the white stuff, a seasoned skier can’t help seeing red when that other alpine tribe starts to take the piste


Julian Sandridge had been skiing at Klosters since he was a boy. He had learnt on the beginner’s slopes, hit the intermediate runs in his teens and was now a master of powder, vertical drops and moguls.

Married with a family, he still visited the resort each year and had encouraged his children to take up the sport. Now his daughter, Natalie, was vying for a place on the British Junior Alpine ski team, while his son, James, was particularly proficient at slipping down the pistes at high speed.

Julian loved everything about skiing – the crisp air, the downhill thrill and the shared chatter about technique and equipment. He relished his lunchtime bratwurst in a soft pretzel roll, along with the accompanying alcoholic refreshment, and he threw himself with much gusto into the après ski, either at the popular, snug Pellegrini Bar or the Hotel Alpina next to the railway station.

There was, however, one pain in his designer Gore-Tex ski trousers, a single needling annoyance in his alpine paradise that made him incandescent with fury – snowboarders, or “riders”, as they liked to call themselves. “They are like bongo players in a string quartet,” he would say forcefully to anyone who would listen. “They are akin to vulgar gin palaces careering among beautiful sailing yachts; sliding scoundrels amid silken gentlemen.”

He disliked their absurdly low-slung trousers, their stupid long jackets and their ridiculous coloured boards better suited to surfing on the Costa del Sol than skidding down the slopes of this Swiss canton. More particularly, he hated that they hung from the T-bar lifts like mooning monkeys, blocked the top of the ski runs as they attached boards to boots, and hid in platoons behind small hills. They leant like baggy clowns against the downhill surface of the banks to get back on their boards more easily, and as a result downhill skiers would turn only to find a troupe of the hooded horrors directly in front of them.


And that is exactly what happened to Julian’s wife, Erica, whose mastery of skiing had more to do with choosing the right outfit than carving across the slopes. As the family swept down the run to Klosters Platz, Erica made a wobbly turn, only to be confronted by a band of snowboarders. Panicked, she shot into the woods with her arms and legs spread like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man – or in this case, woman. Julian, who saw the incident out of the corner of his eye, set off after his wife but was stopped in his tracks when a noisy boarder barrelled into him. Erica was covered in bruises, Julian’s wrist was broken and the holiday was terminated. The “bonking” – as snowboarders liked to call such hard hits – only served to fuel Julian’s fury.

The following year, the Sandridges were back at Klosters – although James, now a surly 18-year-old, was more likely to be found hanging out with his public-school friends than his family.

Julian and Erica, as was their wont, spent lunchtimes at the Gruobenalp ski hut, a restaurant with breathtaking views of the Wolfgang Pass and the landscape around Davos. The couple also liked to relax at Joe’s Outdoor Bar (a favourite with young royals), where they would listen to classic rock on the PA system and tuck into barbecued schnitzels and sausages accompanied by several glasses of spiced glühwein.

And it was at this idyllic feeding station that Julian saw a group of snowboarders bombing down the slopes, making holes in the pristine piste as they jumped, thereby ruining it for the ordinary skiers. “Knuckle draggers,” shouted a former major from Sandhurst, explaining to Erica that this was what the swine were called when he was in the services. “Plankers,” said another Joe’s Bar regular. And Julian – shrouded in the red mist that came from a mixture of contempt and too much mulled wine – grabbed his skis and poles and, without bothering to look around him, set off after the boarders.

He had not gone more than 100m when a rider wearing a T-shirt bearing the motto “Born & Bred to Rip & Shred” clattered into him, knocking him headfirst into the powder. “Eat snow, dude,” shouted the young hooligan as he sped off. As Julian struggled to his feet, he couldn’t help thinking that the lout had looked and sounded remarkably like his son James… But that, of course, was too ludicrous to contemplate.


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