5 Extreme Sports You Should Try at Least Once in Your Life

Culture and Lifestyle

By Sophia Obrecht

Living on the edge, and daring to test your physical limits — some have made a career pushing themselves to explore the extremes of sport. From Hannah Teter (Olympic snowboarding champion, halfpipe), to Stephanie Gilmore (six time world champion in surfing), or Danny MacAskill (expert trails cyclist), these adrenaline junkies are anything but tame! In our everyday lives, we spend on average nine hours in front of a screen each day, maybe it’s time to wake ourselves up, and got that blood pumping…and I’m not talking about going for little jog around the block. Here are five extreme sports you should try at least once before you die.

Skiing/Snowboarding (off piste)

Classic extreme sports, alpine skiing and snowboarding are all about speed, technique, and style. For a lot of people out there, especially those living up a mountain these sports might not seem so extreme, but to those not accustomed to the world of winter-sport, the idea of bombing down a mountain on two wooden planks might seem at a least a little daunting. From the Apres-ski aspect of the sport, to the high that comes from gliding across a mountain, the wind rushing past your face, skiing and snowboarding are sports that everyone should have a little taste of.

Fair warning: be prepared for the bruises! While I have been skiing since the age of 4, I gave snowboarding a shot for the first time just a couple of years ago, and there was a lot of crashing out, bruised legs and bums, and hard work just to master the basics (let’s just say, I am not a natural born snowboarder.)

For a more extreme take on the sport, give off piste skiing, free style snowboarding (and skiing), or ski jumping, a try. One thing is for sure, once you’ve mastered any one of these forms of winter sport you will be the coolest kid on the slopes. If you think winter-sports might be for you click here for more info.

Rock climbing

If you have a fear of heights, maybe avoid this one…but if you love being up high with a view as far as the eye can see, this sport may just be for you. This one requires a lot of concentration, endurance, and core body strength!

The great thing about rock climbing is that indoor walls provide a in a low risk environment where you can really give the sport a try, get to grips with the basics, until you’re ready, and qualified to take on a real rock face. There are of course many different forms of climbing, some carrying more risk than others. Take free solo climbing, which basically involves no ropes, protective gear or harnesses…its highly dangerous and really only reserved for the hyper-adrenaline junkies (and the highly experienced rock climbers out there). Other forms of rock climbing (less likely to result in sudden death) include mountaineering, top rope climbing, or sports climbing! This BBC article covers everything you need to know about getting started.

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Surfing

Be at one with the waves…or something along those lines. Surfing has to be one of the coolest sports around. With your board you are literally treading water, floating above the sea, just you and the ocean. It’s one of the sports I have always wanted to try, and someday I’ll get there.

Of course this one is not as easy as the professionals make it look. Balance is key and pure muscle strength is 100% necessary if you want to look like a seasoned expert on a board. With the help of wave machines surfing can be accessible in locations all over the world (not just the surfing paradises of Hawaii, Australia or Portugal). Take the Eisbach Welle in the middle of Munich city center, a man-made wave on the river that runs through the park. Everyday surfers gather to take it in turns on the wave, practice their moves, and get down with their surfing skills. For more information on how to get started with surfing have a peak at this guide by Degree 33 Surfboards.

Slacklining

Ok, so this one gets more extreme the better you get. Slacklining involves balancing on a slack-line, which can be hung, well anywhere you choose. Between two trees, just above the ground in a quiet park (for all those beginners out there), or between a wide canyon, 100ft above the ground — take your pick!

This extreme sport is all about persistence, practice and pushing your body’s senses. From bringing new tricks to the table, to going beyond what people though could be possible. One thing is for sure, you have to be pretty fearless to take this challenge on, and for all those starting out, patience is a virtue, and it’s a lot harder than you might at first think! Check out this article on tips for slacking-greatness from Redbull, the masters of extreme sports.

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Mountain Biking

It’s time to hit the trails, get back to nature and work with your bike. Mountain biking takes a lot of skill and quick thinking. A popular sport across world, it requires a lot of nerve. Moving, swerving and jumping over rough terrain, why not take on the challenge?

Its up to you how far you go with it, from recreational mountain biking, to competitive racing, this sport is worth a shot, and a great way to get outdoors and active! Find out more here

7 Ski Resorts that Bring the Hype

Culture and Lifestyle, Travel

Winter is coming…and so is ski season! Whether you’re a snow boarder, a skier, or just love the snow (who doesn’t!?), the perfect ski destination is waiting out there for you. But winter sports are about more than just hitting the slopes, the Après-ski and nightlife are key to any ski resort! So here are 7 top ski spots for the best high altitude vibe!

Tinges/Val d’Isère

The resorts of Tinges and Val d’Isère are super popular amongst the Brits. Why you ask? Well, because we love a good party and these resorts do not disappoint! From the famous La Folie Douce, the coolest most extravagant Après-spot on the side of the slopes (complete with live shows, flying champagne bottles and some amazing costumes), to the laid back a vibe of La Queue de Cachon, these resorts have something for everyone! Be sure to check out the town of La Lac (2100m), which has a tonne of cool bars and clubs. The Loop Bar is a favourite with tourists and locals, offering live bands and a theme parties.

Take a visit to Bananas on the Val d’Isère side of the resort or Cocorico with its skilled DJs, live music, and late night parties.

Of course Tinges and Val d’Isère offer more than just some amazing nightlife options — the pistes are also top quality. With over 80 lifts and 300km of runs, the ski resort is great for beginners but offers enough challenge for all you winter sports experts out there!

Whistler

One of the biggest ski resorts in North America, Whistler, which is linked to Blackcomb with a new gondola, is world famous, offering great international vibes in the beautiful setting of British Colombia.

This Canadian ski destination is also a top spot for the Après-ski life as well as general nightlife. Whistler village provides a vast array of bars, restaurants, and party options: from Garfinkel’s, with its own mini ramp in the bar, to the Moe Joe’s Nightclub a popular spot where you can expect to find live bands and international DJs!

In April the Whistler World Ski and Snowboard festival (WSSF), takes place. A week of ski and snowboard competitions as well as art, music, and culture, the hype is not to be missed!

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Verbier

Expect a great Après-life, excellent pistes, and high prices… well it is Switzerland after all. End your ski day at Bar 1936, located just on the side of the piste, this is a good place to chill in a deck chair and enjoy that alpine sun. Big Ben Pub (they like their British themed bars on the Alps) and Pub Mont Fort are also worth a visit.

If it’s clubbing you’re looking for Casbah, may be for you, but be prepared for some good old rock and pop. Another option is of course Farm Club, but be warned, prices here are through the roof. Take a rich relative, marry a prince, or put your car on sale, long drinks will cost around 20 CFH and if you happen to be rolling in it, you can purchase a lovely bottle of champagne for a meagre 220 CHF!

Livigno Italy

Looking for le Dolce Vita? Take a trip to Livigno in Italy. Alegra is one of the most popular Après-ski locations in the resort and is not to be missed, while Kosmo is a great low-key option — it’s most popular in the late afternoon.

In the evening look to Daphne’s pub for the perfect chill evening, or if you’re looking to really live it up stop by Micky’s Disco Club, popular throughout the week with a variety of different music on offer. If you are feeling particularly adventures why not explore the resort on an organised bar crawl. Well, we all love a bit of organised fun!

The resort itself is located in the Alta Valtellina region in Lombardy Italy. Its 115 km of slopes providing varying levels of difficulty. What more could you ask for?

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Kitzbühel

Synonymous with downhill racing, Kitzbühel hosts the famous Hanenkamm race, one of the most famous ski races in the world. The route, known as the Streif, has gradients reaching 85% and jumps of up to 80 metres, and sees racers hit speeds of up 140 km/h.  No wonder this is one of the most challenging and demanding courses on the racing circuit. If you find yourself in the area on a race day, lucky you! Not only is the atmosphere described as electric, watching the racers test their skills and the boundaries of speed is a true privilege. Post-race parties are of course always an added bonus, although many  events will no doubt be VIP only, given the prestige associated with resort.

Never fear Kitzbühel caters to the every-man as well! There are three main clubs in the town – The Olympia, the Royal and Club Take 5 (you’ll have to overlook the name…). Other popular spots include the Mockingstube, the Londoner, or the Highway Bar.

Les Deux Alpes

Les Deux Alpes has a total of 47 lifts and 222km of pistes, with guaranteed skiing during any winter thanks to the glacier and the top altitude of 3,568 m.

When it comes to the Après-ski life there are a number of bars and clubs on offer. From the token British pub, Pub Windsor, with an impressive choice of beer, to the mountain top Le Pano Bar, the perfect day drinking affair. L’Avalanche Club is a good clubbing option although the town itself has a number of different bars to explore, which means there is always a lively atmosphere!

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Obertauern

Obertauern offers more than 100 km of pistes, as well as its very own Après-ski vibe. The setting for the Beatles Help! video, the area is very popular amongst Austrian and German tourist given its perfect location close to Salzburg and Munich.

If you ever find yourself in Obertauern, be sure to explore the Edelweissalm Chalet, an afternoon delight — get ready to dance on some tables and get down to some classic euro-pop. Then stop by Monkey’s Heaven or the Lürzer Alm Ski-Hut as the evening progresses!

Why not check out the Krampuslauf in early December? The event which is followed by evening parties, sees hundreds of people dressed as Krampusse (a devil like creatures who comes to punish naughty children) descend on the town. It’s a great way to experience traditional Austrian culture and will make for some great photos!

Is European Patriotism the Answer to Far-Right Nationalism?

Opinion

By Sophia Obrecht

First published in The Palatinate, October 12th, 2018.

For many months now, far-right nationalism has been rearing its ugly head across Europe. In the meantime, the impossible riddle that is Brexit has been dominating the news in the UK — leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to a feeling of pride both on the continent and at home. Europe and the UK are at odds, while the UK itself is divided, not only between leavers and remainers, but between those who want a deal, a no deal, a second referendum, no referendum, and those who would just like to go back in time before this whole Brexit business began.

So the question remains, what kind of relationship will the UK have with Europe following Brexit? And with this what does the future hold for the EU, given the rise of nationalism across the continent?

With the European success against the US in the Ryder Cup, I began to feel a strange sense of pride … those cool collected Europeans, the underdogs, coming back to take the win against those arrogant Americans. A victory on French and European soil. This got me thinking, what if it was possible to foster some sort of European patriotism through sport and sporting success, in order to counteract the growing rise of extreme nationalism across Europe, and in order to reunite the UK with the continent after all this ugly negotiating?

What if it was possible to foster some sort of European patriotism through sport and sporting success, in order to counteract the growing rise of extreme nationalism across Europe?

I know, I know, this opinion might seem unpopular, especially to all those Brexiteers, and Eurosceptics out there, and especially after the wave of pure patriotism felt across England during the World Cup. But think about it for a second, what if we could harness some sort of European identity and set it against rivals such as the US, Russia, or China in a sporting setting not exclusive to the Ryder Cup?

At its core, a nation is built on a common heritage and shared goals. Following this, identity, and pride is founded on the presence of an ‘other’, a rival, or outsider, against which a community can create their own set of values. In Europe, it was easy for a nation to find its own common national history and therefore memory: with its many wars and conflicts Europe’s nations experienced victory and suffered defeat at each other’s hands. Rivals and enemies were created and a national heritage followed. However, as a continent, it was, and is, much harder for Europe to find a defining moment in political or social history that could function as a shared heritage, a shared victory or even defeat… a moment when Europe in its entirety was on the same side.

Just look at the way the country came together this summer, following England’s performance in the football World Cup – despite its deep divisions over Brexit

But what if this could be created in sporting history? Sport, at its core, has a great power to unite people, sure it can also prove divisive, but played out in a setting such as the modern Olympics, a common sense of pride and identity becomes easier to foster. Just look at the way the country came together this summer, following England’s performance in the football World Cup – despite its deep divisions over Brexit. Remember the pride associated with the London 2012 Games, or in Germany’s case the World Cup victory in 1990. The memory of these shared experiences has worked to strengthen national identity. Sports also produces rivals and inspires healthy, and peaceful competition (aside from the odd football hooligan). Now imagine if there were regular sporting tournaments or championships, whether it be football, athletics, or winter sports, that focused on teams grouped not by nation, but by continent?

While I am not suggesting Europe become a federal republic, or demanding greater centralization within the EU, I do think it is high time that us Europeans stuck together. If we were to bring a continent together, moved by a common support for a sporting team, the process of European integration and better yet the project of the EU may still survive the nationalist rhetoric prevalent across Europe, in states such as Austria, Poland, and now Germany, to name but a few. In many ways, the idea may seem just too simplistic, too naïve, too pure of heart. After all, the EU, and Europe geographically speaking, has a lot of issues to solve, not least regarding the refugee crisis, and the general need for reform. But if we could foster that same patriotism and pride, experienced in England during the World Cup, maybe, just maybe, Europe could step back from the brink.

 

Brexit or no Brexit, the UK will always be part of Europe, just as the countries, currently dominated by nationalist rhetoric will remain firmly on the European continent, whether they like it or not. It’s time we appreciated our shared European values which date back for centuries: from culture, art, to sporting prowess, from values such as tolerance, and equality …. From the iron curtain dividing the continent to the fall of the Berlin wall, the European experience is unique. It would be a shame to throw it away for some short sighted nationalism, for a no deal Brexit and an ugly divorce.