1. Fergal Smith - Growing - Ferg’s Quiver

    We’re really enjoying working with our friends at Line9. As you’ve probably seen if you’ve been following the channel, there are some great shows on there.

    Our favourite is undoubtedly Growing, the series of films starring Irish surfer Fergal Smith and filmed by his brother Kevin. The films are really conveying how unique the Irish surf scene is, and providing a fascinating insight into Ferg’s unlikely lifestyle as a big wave charger and organic farmer.

    In the latest episode, Fergal talks us through his quiver and then puts some of his favourite boards through their paces in a beautifully filmed sequence soundtracked exclusively by their friend Derek McLoughlin. Check it out here.

     


  2. Ten reasons late season skiing is best.

    We made a short film for thetelegraph this week, featuring Chris from ACM’s son Harry Moran and his new found skiing skills. It went live today so have a look. 

    The article answers why it is best to go skiing later in the season with your little ones and by the look on Harry’s face we can see why. No rock hard snow, no freezing faces, and best of all - loads of sun! 

    Check out the full article here.

     

  3. A great interview with Fergal Smith in Surfd magazine this week about his series on Line9 and his choice to go sustainable. Our work with Line9 Channel is really taking off. Been getting some amazing coverage all over the world. 

    Check out the latest film from Fergal and Line9 below and maybe subscribe to the channel, if you want… 

     


  4. ACM x Footprint Books: Mountain Biking Britain 2

    We’re very pleased to announce that we’ll be working with our friends at Footprint Books on a second edition of our acclaimed Mountain Biking Britain guidebook this summer. 

    After Snowboarding the World, Skiing Europe and Mountain Biking Europe and the first edition of Mountain Biking Britain, this will be our fifth book with Footprint.

    As you can see, we’ve already been dusting off the bikes in readiness for a summer of research. 

     


  5. Sochi 2014 - Was It Worth It?

    Photo: whitelines.com

    In the first blog about the after effects of the Sochi Games, we came to the conclusion that Jenny Jones’ bronze medal individually ‘cost’ £41,608, while the costs of the entire Team GB Park and Pipe programme ran to £600,000.

    These figures lead to another obvious question, something which was really the point of Sean Ingle’s Guardian piece and which we’ll try and examine here. Is spending taxpayers’ cash in this way ‘worth’ it? 

    It all depends on how you define success. Column inches? Awareness? Medals? Participation? Any answer to this question in the case of snowboarding must first be placed in the context of the wider debate about sports funding in the UK. 

    It is a debate that has been rumbling on for the last 16 years, after Great Britain posted our lowest ever medal haul at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The old approach (roughly: let’s meet the minimum qualification standard and if anyone flukes a medal and gets national sainthood status in the process, it’s a bonus) was gone forever. 

    In its place, financed by the National Lottery, came a professional, analytical approach that led to the adoption of one key metric as a means of measuring success: medals. Governing bodies now had to prove their programmes offered athletes a legitimate chance of a medal over an agreed cycle (usually two Olympic Games, or eight years) or expect to have it cut, sharpish. Succeed, and you could expect your funding to go up. 

    This ‘no compromise’ approach has transformed sport in this country in many ways. Firstly and most obviously, we’ve started winning medals. Secondly, sports that have enthusiastically embraced the approach such as cycling and swimming have undergone complete transformations from the grassroots up.

    When the model works, it can work incredibly well, and the Sochi Games marked the first time the approach was used on winter sports. It meant that each different discipline had different budgets and targets (another reason Ingle’s piece, which conflated all British winter Olympic sports, was wide of the mark), making it a truly crucial event for the future of pro snowboarding and skiing in this country. 

    British Ski and Snowboarding are the governing body that get the cash from UK Sport. So how did they do? Do UK Sport feel like they got value for money? 

    UK Sport’s target for the team was between one and two medals, something achieved almost immediately with Jenny’s bronze medal. That alone would have been enough to justify the programme and funding in the eyes of UK Sport, but the encouraging results of other riders like Billy Morgan, James Woods and Jamie Nicholls mean that our sports can probably expect an increase in funding in the build up to the 2018 Games in PyeongChang in South Korea. 

    Liz Nicholls, Chief Executive of UK Sport, certainly suggested as much in a recent statement:

    "Sochi has been an historic Winter Olympics for sport in Great Britain. These games will be remembered as a step change in the way we can compete against the rest of the world in targeted winter disciplines…following so many outstanding performances in Sochi I anticipate that there will be an increase in our investment in to winter sports”.

    Not that British Ski and Snowboard Performance Director Paddy Mortimer, the man responsible for the alpine, park, pipe, cross country, skiercross, snowboard cross, aerial skiing, moguls and ski jumping programmes, is breaking out the champagne and cigars just yet. 

    “It’s great that UK Sport are pleased with what we’ve done. They believe that the addition of Park and Pipe to the British Olympic programme has been revolutionary. Myself, I think the next two years are key. If you look at some other sports, they’ve done really well and then nothing has happened afterwards. Now, the hard work begins. The Sochi Games is a stepping stone to demonstrate that Britain has got talent and the ability to compete at the top table. The best accolade for the organisation will be when we win other medals in other disciplines”.

    Whether this hard-line medal-winning metric is the ‘right’ way to measure success is another debate entirely. There are undoubted drawbacks to the system and we’re already seeing the results of this in other sports, something we’ll look at in a future blog. But the fact remains that, in the current UK Sport environment, our team exceeded their targets and justified their funding. 

    For Mortimer, the success of the ‘others sports’ he mentions that have taken advantage of the system offer a potential road map for further growth - cultural differences notwithstanding. In cycling’s case, early success in the form of Chris Boardman’s gold at the Barcelona Games led to more funding, more medals and more participation. So it went, until in twenty years the culture of cycling in this country had completely changed, with the sport moving from the margins to the mainstream - Sir Bradley Wiggins anyone? 

    Will Team GB’s performance mean more potential young Olympians taking up snowboarding?

    So is the UK snowboarding industry, for example, about to ‘do a cycling’ off the back of Jenny’s success? Will a’Sochi bounce’ filter down to the shops, Snowdomes, brands and and mean more snowboarders buying more kit? 

    To answer that, in the next blog we’ll try and see if there’s any evidence that this success is trickling down to the grassroots level in the form of increased participation and sales. 

     

  6. Really nice touching film about the legendary South African surfer Shaun Tomson, showing how he dealt with the death of his 15-year old son in a positive way. Heartbreaking, but inspiring stuff. 

     

  7. The film we made at Bike Park Wales using the iON Camera. 

     


  8. Trying out the new Ion Camera at Bike Park Wales

    Last Thursday, All Conditions Media took a trip to Wales to catch up with our old friend Rowan Sorrell and to go mountain biking with Dragon Alliance legend Sam Nelson at the relatively new Bike Park Wales 

    Here’s Sam getting kitted out with a full-suspension Trek bike: 

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    Bike Park Wales is a pretty amazing set up. Owners Rowan and Martin took an old downhill track at Gethin Woods (a forestry commission area) and have built perhaps Europe’s finest gravity trails set up. There’s an uplift service every day (three vans in fact) costing £30 for the day - including the £5 entry charge for all riders to hit the trails - and because of the overwhelming publicity and good will amongst the mountain bike community (Rowan in particular is a legend of the mountain bike scene, and has built a huge chunk of the UK’s best trails), the popularity of BPW is intense.

    Hire a full-suspension Trek 160mm travel enduro/freeride bike for £100 per day: 

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    Since opening in September 2013, they’ve had over 70,000 people on the hill, and the uplift has been booked a minimum of 2-months in advance since before it opened.  

    Bike Park Wales trail maps. All the trails are colour-coded like a ski resort:

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    It’s no exaggeration to say that the centre has had a pretty amazing effect on the local economy. We stayed at the Imperial Hotel in Merthyr Tydfil, whose owner said they’re seeing huge numbers of mountain bikers booking overnight accommodation. The local races get huge numbers, and if you were a kid growing up in Merthyr, mountain biking would be a natural sport to get into. 

    The Bike Park Wales visitor centre/cafe/bike hire spot:

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    We took our new iON Air Pro 3 Camera  to give it a go, will post the film in the next post.

    The iON camera was amazing on the day and got a tonne of interest from the riders we met. It’s more aerodynamic than a Go-Gro, and mounts nicely on a helmet (obligatory at BPW). The frame mount seems way sturdier than the GP version, and the ball-and-socket attachment means you can move the camera around to get a good set up, much easier than the GP two-axis-only pivots. You switch the iON on using a re-assuring (and fool-proof) slide switch on the top, and the camera vibrates for 4-seconds to let you know it’s started recording. Same with switching it off. There’s no need to look at it, everything is touch-sensitive, which is handy when it’s strapped to your head. 

    It filmed continuously pretty much all day, with over 50% of the battery remaining (the handy iPhone app shows all sorts of data if you pair the two up, including a live screen to see what the camera sees), and I suspect the long battery life is due to a really handy feature which turns the camera off automatically when not on record. Having accidentally drained plenty of Go Pro batteries, it’s a good move by iON. Downsides would be the lack of lens cap. We found a great pouch to keep the camera in, but I’d love to have a lens cap to protect the protruding, dome-shaped lens that’s the first point of contact at the front of the camera. 

    Thanks Bike Park Wales: 

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    And thanks Wales, you were epic, as always!

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  9. ACM x Line9 - Madars Apse

    New episode of Madars Apse’s It’s a Mad World just dropped on Line9. 

    In this show he is on tour with DC shoes in Russia. Check it out. 

     


  10. Sochi 2014 - How Much Did Jenny Jones’ Medal Actually Cost?

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    Photo: Tristan Kennedy/whitelines.com

    Well, it’s finally over for another four years. The bunting has been packed away, the hangover from Jenny Jones’ epic victory bash has finally dissipated, and Clare Balding’s mind is once again back on Crufts and the Grand National.

    Yes, snowboarding’s dalliance with the harsh glare of the mainstream sporting spotlight is over for another four years. Only this time, it feels a little different. Suddenly, we stand, blinking and confused, at the threshold of a brave and slightly scary new world. 

    So what did we learn? Over the next few days, we’ll be exploring the issues raised by Sochi in a series of blogposts and trying to work out what the whole crazy last month - slugs in pants! Fuller the Anchorwoman! Open top bus tours around Bristol! - means for UK snowboarding and winter sports in general.

    First, we’re going to take a look at the thorny issue of funding.

    Funding

    The first piece questioning whether the cost of funding the British team at the Games had been ‘worth it’ hit the digital newstands approximately 12 hours after Jenny’s medal ceremony.

    The piece - ‘Jenny Jones bags snowboarding bronze for Britain - but at what cost?’ by the Guardian’s Sean ingle - was predictably caned by a defensive British snowboarding public. Later in a tweet to Olympic boxing gold medalist Audley Harrison, Ingle defended his article by saying that it was possible to “marvel at Jenny Jones efforts while asking whether it’s the best way to spend public money given growing obesity etc”

    True enough, although most people seemed to be responding to the subheading of Ingle’s piece - ‘GB’s funding for winter sports has nearly doubled in the past four years to £13.5m - and a mere six medals is the target’ – which seemed to elastically imply that each of these ‘target’ medals would cost around £2.25 million each. 

    Still, it’s a fair point. How much exactly did Jenny’s medal cost? We decided to try and work it out.

    The first thing to notice is that, perhaps unsurprisingly, Jenny’s bronze medal cost much less than £2.25million. Indeed, the entire freeski, freestyle snowboarding and snowboard cross programme actually received an award of £1.5million from UK Sport, to be spread over four years from January 2012. (The biggest award, £3.4 million of the £13.5 million total, went to the skeleton programme). 

    “Of this” says David Edwards, Chief Executive of Team BSS, “the ten funded freeski and snowboard athletes received approximately 20% of the total” - or £300,000 in individual Athlete Performance Awards (APAs).

    According to the criteria set out by UK Sport, APAs are ranked in three bands - A (£27,737), B (£20,804) and C (£13,869). So who decides who gets what?

    “Unless the athletes have a medal chance at a major champs - this usually means Olympics or World Champs - we cannot make a case for them to be on a higher band than C,” says Lesley McKenna, Program Manager for Team GB Park and Pipe. 

    Deemed the best medal prospects, Jenny and James Woods were on B Band yearly, with Billy Morgan and Katie Summerhayes moved up from C to B in September 2013. The rest were all on band C, although Lesley is hopeful Jenny’s medal will “have somewhat proven our performance profiling system and pathway and that in the future we will not have to rely on Olympics and World Champs as part of the funding applications”.

    The other £1.2 million or £300,000 a year? This was spent on the endless list of other costs of the Park and Pipe programme - coaching, travel, medical expenses, admin, MRI scans and the like. “Spread that over four years” says Lesley “And there’s very little left”. 

    In other words, in the two years from January 2012 leading up to Sochi, Jenny Jones individually received £41,608, while the costs of the entire Team GB Park and Pipe programme ran to £600,000.

    In the world of top-end competitive sport, where Wayne Rooney just reputedly trousered a new deal at Manchester United worth an eye-watering £300,000 a week, these are trifling sums indeed, something that makes the exemplary Olympic performances of our freeskiers and snowboarders even more impressive. 

    In the next blog, we’ll use these figures to try and answer the next obvious question. Was it worth it?