Snowboarding is dead! Long live Snowboarding!

For 24 years, Paul Gruber, has been hosting a legendary event, just over the border in Stuben, Austria. If you’re not familiar with Paul’s, he’s widely viewed as a godfather of European snowboarding, credited with importing some of the first boards in 1981. It was long overdue for Whiteout to pay him a visit, so we asked contributing photographer, Fabian Schönenberger to check out his event. Scroll on for his full report on the one and only Long Board Classic…

It is April. Around me I can feel people mentally moving on from winter. But in my opinion, this is a big mistake! It is statistically proven that the biggest snow cover in the mountains can always be found in April. And once again, it’s true… even in 2023’s objectively shitty winter.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I could hear Paul Gruber’s voice, promising that the Longboard Classics are usually blessed with fresh powder. He was proven right once again. After a few hours of driving, the freshly snow-covered peaks of the Arlberg emerged from the clouds in front of us. At that point, I’m sure that our glowing eyes began to compete with the shining white peaks. We could only imagine what was waiting for us the next day.

If I had to describe Stuben in one word, it would be cosy. In this small town, where getting lost is basically impossible, we were warmly welcomed with “Kaasspatzen” and beer at the Hotel Mondschein on Friday evening. You could feel the anticipation of the increasing number of people who had gathered in Stuben for one purpose only: to celebrate snowboarding and its founding fathers.

Paul’s voice was filled with happiness when he gave us the following tip on Friday evening: “Get up early, the powder is still untouched. You have to get some laps in before the race starts.” This was something you didn’t have to tell us twice! Thomas Rich, an exceptional Spanish freeride talent, who was visiting the Arlberg for the first time, could hardly hold on to the chairlift on the first ride up. I could tell that his creative brain had trouble dealing with the countless possibilities that the terrain in Stuben offers. From the legendary Albona ridge, we enjoyed lines with the finest snow all the way back to the village. Not a bad start to the day!

Even the untrained eye would have quickly noticed, that something was different from a normal powder day in the Alps. Vintage jackets in neon colors were mixed in with the typical high-tech Gore-Tex. And next to the latest floaty shapes from our favorite brands, some unusually long and ancient boards populated the lift lines. Welcome to the Longboard Classic, where there were times when you weren’t allowed to compete with a board shorter than 172cm. These days, the event is anything but exclusive. In the words of Mr. Gruber, “This is the Woodstock of snowboarding and the rules are there to be broken.” Nowadays every length and shape of board is welcome in their respective categories.

12.30 PM – The time had come and the siren from Stuben went off to summon people to the starting gate. Due to avalanche danger, the race didn’t start on the summit of the ridge, but at the Albona middle station. This fact did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the competitors. The excitement was tangible when Dani “Kiwi” Meier explained the rules – namely that there are essentially none!

The starters in the LBC Masters category took this literally and Kiwi’s countdown to the start only made it to 3 when everyone decided that it was time to go. A quick sprint to the board, strap in, and off they went.

Everyone, whether first or last, was greeted with Paul’s high five at the finish line. If there is one race, where participating is more important than winning, it’s the LBC. Course Layout – non existent, prize money – there is none! All that matters is keeping the free spirit of snowboarding alive and celebrating your passion with friends from all around the world.

Nevertheless, there were winners. In the longboard category, Babs Hemund took first place ahead of Liz Kristoferitsch and Camilla Van den Borg. In the men’s category, Leonardo Costello crossed the finish line first, ahead of Andreas Vidowitsch and Georg Kaspar.

In the “No School” category, the Belgian with the most creative first name, Mambo Jonckheere, won ahead of Volker Blepp and Simon Holzknecht. Sarah Sieger took the top spot in the ladies’ race, followed by Christine Innerhofer and Livia Waldburger.

There was a surprise (or maybe not) in the Old School category. The men of the Waibel clan took the podium with Joe ahead of Matt and Max. Annik Frei, followed by Francesca Giacometti and Barbara Mössmer were the lucky winners in the women’s Old School category.

The LBC Special Award was presented to the legendary Titus Dittmann. In support of Titus’ Skate Aid Project, Kiwi took on the role of auctioneer and sold the LBC Signature BOERTEUN board to the Brändle family of the Après Post Hotel for €500.

Later in the evening the tent slowly transformed into a cinema, where Harry Putz showed a selection of films from the old days. Later still, it transformed into a party temple where people let the day wind down with a couple of beers while dancing to the music of the Mortal Kombat sound system. Almost unnoticed, the snowflakes started dancing again in front of the tent and the anticipation for another powder day began to build. Even in April, snowboarding is as alive as ever! See you next year at the LBC!