Words: Martin Obermayr | Photos: Sebastian Kislinger, Arvid Auner (@arvideo), FIS
Sabine Schöffmann and Alex Payer hunt for points together in the Snowboard World Cup but are a couple off the piste also. This makes many things in their life easier: handling the losses, enjoying the success, the keeping drive to train, pleasure from travel and better marketing. A shared passion of theirs is also the search for the perfect snow for carving.
They’ve known each other since pre-school and grew up near each other in Carinthia, Austria’s southern-most province. “I raced against Sabine’s brother in Snowboard competitions,” recalls Alex Payer, who’s 3 years older than his partner, Sabine Schöffmann. Around 2012 they crossed paths again as Alex took a spot in the Austrian Ski Association’s World Cup Team. Sabine was already part of this elite group. In January 2016 they celebrated their first triumph together at a home event in Gastein, winning the Parallel Slalom Team event. Approximately a year later a spark between the two occurred and a relationship started with the exceptionally snowboarder and her just as talented teammate. In January 2018 they once again took the Team win in Gastein, this time as a couple.
It’s not hard to understand that it is particularly enjoyable to be able to celebrate successes together. However, when there are losses and not so good phases, they can support each other too, as Alex emphasises; “I’m the more stressed type of guy out of both of us. Sabine helps me a lot and calms me down somewhat. It really is good to know that you are not alone with your problems”. Sabine also enjoys their partnership, especially throughout competition season. “We share the whole experience during on snow training and races. It’s basically having a part of your family always with you.“
Sport, travel and discovering new places are of course part of the power couple’s passion, which is becoming increasingly more interesting for sponsors too.
Thus, the two use every opportunity outside of the competition and training routine, to explore as much as possible. “When we were racing in Moscow we went with a Russian colleague, she showed us things and places we otherwise never would have seen,” Sabine tells us. “Or one time we had 4 days free during a November training in Colorado. We travelled to Utah and climbed the famous Castleton Tower – a once in a life time trip,” adds Alex. The thing the couple are most enthusiastic about however is this; finding the best snow possible for their snowboarding carving skills. There for they tasked themselves with getting to know the different types of snow that are prevalent on the different continents. In a special feature for “Insight Magazine” Sabine and Alex are going to take us on a journey through the planet’s best carving destinations. Please buckle up and enjoy the view!
On the search for the perfect man-made snow
Words: Sabine Schöffmann und Alex Payer
This statement may sound incomprehensible at first, but an untracked powder slope for a Freerider is comparable to the perfect machine-made snow piste for an Alpine Boarder. Nothing makes a carver’s heart smile more than an optimally prepared piste with a moderate gradient. This is the terrain where you can make your best turns on the piste and play with the tilt to your heart’s content.
Since childhood we have been in love with the feeling of the centrifugal forces. Once a carver, always a carver. When we were part of the National Squad and spent much of our time between the gates, the feeling of burning down the pistes on a 2 mm edge remained our love and driving force.
Throughout the year we have the possibility to travel to other continents and countries. All with one goal, to ride the perfect run, or at the very least the perfect turn. During this travel we got to know the different types of snow and piste conditions that we love and those we hate. Be it the ultra-aggressive snow of the Rocky Mountains, the constantly changing conditions of Japan’s North Island resort, Hokkaido, or the icy conditions in our home ski area of Carinthia. Every spot has its own special features, which you need to adjust to. Initially this means that at the start it’s all about “getting used to the terrain”, followed by adaptation of the composition of the edges. These adjustments are necessary to be able to overcome any terrain. Generally, this has been successful, except for “Wittenberg”, the North German Ski dome: if anyone has any tips for this sloping ice rink, yell out! What we love most is to be on the snow at home though. This is where we learnt to carve, and we even know most of the lifties by their first name. In Carinthia we may not have the longest slope but, it’s definitely the best snow-covered slope in the world.
Regions and their snow types
Rocky Mountains, Colorado (USA)
If there was a heaven on this earth for carving, it would be in North America in the Rocky Mountains. The ski area sits mostly above 3000m above sea level, which is in itself exceptional. The dryness that the snow here has is like nowhere else. Due to the altitude the snow doesn’t thaw at all during the day and because of the this the complex structure is maintained for much longer. Use the American principle of life ”Bigger = Better”, this is exactly how they build the slopes of the moderate terrain in the Rocky’s. Kilometres long and eternally wide, meandering through the forests.
Carving score 10/10
Secret Garden (China)
The host nation of the next Winter Olympics can boast numerous superlatives. The most populous country, world’s largest exporter or longest wall on earth. Here almost everything is possible, also boarding and skiing – and in parts it is absolutely ingenious. The ski area we visited is located 3 hours North of Peking, according to the official brochures. This travel time is only realistic if a) China didn’t have its incredible number of residents and b) the bus driver didn’t set his cruise control to a maximum of 60 km/h. However, once you have made it to the ski area, you are met with perfectly maintained pistes, from gentle to at most a moderate gradient. Because the area is so close to the Gobi Desert the snow is unbelievably compact and dry, very similar to the conditions of the Rocky Mountains. However, there is a big but here, the proximity to the desert is also its biggest shortcoming. The many storms bring massive amounts of sand to the pistes, which chew at our beloved edges like rabbits do on carrots. The feeling of carving is somewhat clouded by the blunt edges. Nevertheless, it is quite a unique feeling, to carve down the piste in these surroundings.
Carving score 7/10
Carinthia, Simonhöhe (Austria)
“Da komm i her, da g‘hör i hin” (I come from here, I belong here), sings Reinhard Fendrich – one of the most wellknown Austro-pop stars – in his song “I am from Austria”. Even for us it is always something very special to train and practice our sport at the home area. Most snowboarders from Carinthia laid their first tracks in the central Cartinthian ski area of Simonhöhe, and pretty quickly learnt the meaning of the popular term “crisp”. Due to the low altitude of the region and the high number of sunshine hours, in relation to the amount of natural snow, the surface thaws often and freezes again overnight. This leads to a constant compression of the surface. In other words, it’s rather icy. Once you get used to this, the speed generated is much more than in most other areas, and as race boarders speed is always welcome.
Carving score 8/10
Carinthia, St Oswald (Austria)
A second Carinthian ski area has taken a spot in our top ski resorts. Not far from Bad Kleinkirchheim lies the tranquil St Oswald. Where the alm cows roam in summer, hides one of the best carving pistes in Austria. Extra wide pistes, perfect gradients and all that with the Nock Mountains as a backdrop. Carving heart, what more would you want? Maybe a pinecone schnapps with Olympic hero Franz Klammer? That too is possible here.
Carving score 8/10
Phenix Park (Korea)
If in your life you ever wanted to see more snowboarders on the piste than skiers, then head to the land of Samsung and KIA. No other country offers such a high density of snowboard and mostly carving freaks. Here you can be a true Piste-carver and the snow quality borders on brilliant.
Carving score 9/10
Yes, you read that right; Turkey. This country alongside Istanbul and the Mediterranean coastline has also something to offer from a technical snow point of view. The ski area of Kayseri is one of the largest in the country and is known as a ski touring paradise. The scenery here is amazing and with ist close proximity to the world heritage UNESCO site of Cappadocia, it’s definitely worth the trip. The snow conditions on the slopes are quite unique. The warm and cold phases in the region change without warning and lead to unpredictable piste conditions. When the free riders are happy, we have frown lines on our foreheads. Because of this the area is more for the connoisseur and not for the non-compromising tilt junkie.
Carving score 5/10