9 Years ago Ken Block opened the DC MTN LAB: a so-called ‘fulltime testing facility’. Yeah right… We all know it was just made for Ken and his friends to shred whenever they wanted. They had every tool for shaping at hand, including snowcats and snowmobiles, and created custom made features, resulting in one of the funnest snowboardparks around.
The exclusiveness of this park made every kid around the world want to shred this snowboard heaven. This dream was crushed when Ken Block decided to put the Lab of Luxury for sale.
The empty void created by the sale got filled when DC Europe took the concept and created a similar mansion in Europe. The Dutch DC team, Joey van Essen and Rachida Aoulad, got invited to come over for a weekend of labbing. Along came the lab rats behind Taste magazine and Shaped snowboarding.
Saturday morning we arrived way to early in Les Houches. Les Houches is not your typical French ski resort, no huge hotel complexes and nightclubs. No, this was a small French village where the men go drink a beer at the local bar after work, while the women prepare dinner. It’s located 10 minutes away from Chamonix, right in the shadow of Le Mont Blanc.
Les Houches. Day 1, shit weather.
When we finished our traditional ‘arrival beer’, it was time for checkpoint 1: The Mansion. We where provided with our own personal lockers to stash our radiation suits, and a boardroom for our personal shred gear. Not that we needed any, because they have all the DC boards of next season at hand to test.
Upstairs we found a kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, basically everything you need in a modern day laboratory. The cherry on top was the living room, where we spent half of our time playing Skate3 on the massive flatscreen tv.
The game room, playing some skate before hitting the slopes.
It didn’t look like the original Mtn Lab one bit, though. This Lab was as French as the Park City Lab was American. The major difference is that the snowpark was not in the backyard of the house, but up on the mountain.
No towropes but a chairlift for the park.
We took the lift up to check it out. Everybody was exhausted after the bus, so we decided not to bring any camera’s and just shred and have fun. The dreaming kids I was talking about earlier will be pleased with this park. It’s open for everybody and they have a lot of features for the beginners.
The 3 main features that we wanted to hit where the hip, stairset, and a weird ‘skateboard miniramp/box combination jump’ feature.
Shaped ’employer of the month’ Matthijs after his first try on the stairset.
It didn’t take long for us to end up at the restaurant for some beers. The slope was super sketchy so we had to come up with a back-up plan in case we wouldn’t be able to shoot the next day.
The next day we woke up, had some baguette avec jus d’orange, and went to check out what the park was like today. We started off at the stairset. There where several ways down the stairs: a downrail, downbox, a flat dancefloor box with a nice drop, and some rails attached to the wall.
The entire feature was rather small so Michiel Rotgans, the photographer, came up with the idea to gap the stairs, resulting in some banger shots. You will see them in the next Taste magazine.
Rachida charging the stairset.
The slope was so icy though that we couldn’t really do anything else. Luckily candyman Joey came up with a creative idea on the miniramp feature. There where a lot of possible ways to use this feature, there was a miniramp on the table of a jump. The coping of the miniramp was a kinkbox on one side and a rollercoaster on the other, and behind that was a hip. The idea was to stack all those pictures in 1 image. That took us the rest of the day.
Joey taking his time on the miniramp.
We ended up in the chatel exhausted and hungry, time for some beers. At night we went to see what the nightlife was like, but the only building that was opened was a church. Somebody or something didn’t like us checking out the church, and punished us with the most horrible hangover in the history of mankind.
Luckily Rachida and Joey had no problems getting up. They felt fine and where ready to get some shots.
After a night of animal testing, 3 lab rats proved Matthijs’ shots to be quite harmful. 2 didn’t survive, the third gathered all his strength to go up the mountain. Test results show that sunny weather and slush is the cure for way to much alcohol. After 2 turns everybody felt amazing. We ditched our camera bags and just went snowboarding all morning.
We still needed some shots though, so we decided to practice some rocket-science on the kicker and hip. After Joey’s attempts for a moon landing it was time to pack our bags and go home.