Story Time with Uncle Russ Russ 1.1

It was the 1990s, or as some call it, the glory days of professional snowboarding. Sponsors came in all shapes and sizes, money flowed, trips were taken, antics were not only tolerated but encouraged. Through this madness, legends were born. This was the birth of modern snowboarding, the tipping point that led to what we see today, and Russell Winfield was riding high for it all. He was the first black snowboarder, the loudest mouth in the room, a wild man, an innovator and above all else, an American badass. Story Time with Uncle Russ Russ are his stories from the glory days, and we’re starting off on a trip to “Euroland”.

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Not unlike every other morning I woke to the sun heating up my skin ‘till I could no longer lay in the bed. There was something different about that morning, but because my brain was still a bit saturated it took me a few seconds to figure it out. Oh yeah, I was goin’ to Euroland for the first time. It was the beginning of October and Ride team was going to France to visit a few resorts, an on snow trade show and then go teach Swedish kids at some Fall camp.

When we got to the airport people were looking at us kind of weird. Was it because of the multitude of colors in our hair? Maybe, but I think it had more to do with the fact that there was four of us rolling snowboard bags through the San Diego International Airport. Most people in the airport were pale as can be with big smiles coming to the sun for vacation. So you could say we did stick out a bit but it was nothing we weren’t used to. Luckily it was the early 90’s so smoking was still allowed on the plane, free booze too on international flights, which we definitely took advantage! By the time we landed at Degaulle in Gay Paris I was feeling pretty darn good! We got picked up by the French Distributors and whisked off to our first Alps destination, Les Deux Alps. The distributors thought it would be nice to take us to a nice dinner. Wrong! I guess I made a scene or something who knows.

All I know is that on the other side of the square there was a bar called the Cowboy Bar and I wanted to get there! It had a bull and swinging doors. Well I finally made it to Cowboy Bar and the owner took an immediate liking to all of us. I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing. We had full run of the bar and the bull. Not an hour into the party some guy ran at one of us while he was engaged in conversation with someone. Like a good homey I took it to myself to hit the French fella with a swift left to the eye socket. DOWN GOES FRENCHY! The bartender and the owner didn’t miss a beat. I thought for sure I was getting kicked out. NOPE. They each grabbed one side of the now sleeping frenchman and tossed him out of the bar just like they did in the cowboy day.

This kind of party lasted for about three or four more days. By the end of the on-snow trade show the French Ride Distributors had had enough of us. They drove us to our next destination which was Tignes where we were supposed to meet the Swedish Peeps to do the camp. The only problem was that by the time we got there it was 11PM and everything was closed.

Starving, hung-over and cold the French dudes found some closed Lodge and dropped us off. So there we were. All of our bags, not speaking the language, no money and no where to sleep. What to do? We did what any red-blooded American would do, we “managed “ to get into a closed down hotel and found some old food in a dumpster. That’s right we ate out of a frickin’ dumpster! And the cold? Thank god there were some pallets around for us to burn in the fireplace at the hotel…

Part II of Russell’s first trip to Euroland will be available next week, as Story Time with Uncle Russ Russ continues.

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