I groggily answer my cell phone. MFM is on the other line: "I'm not coming."

I quickly went into panic mode and started listing all the reasons why he needed to come. "Dude, we're gonna do a story based around your movie. Our guide set up a full party in your name in Andorra that you're supposed to DJ. Who wouldn't want to go to Spain and experience a new country and culture? Snowboarders around the world would die to be in your shoes."

MFM was, as always, quick with a comeback. "They don't have any fresh snow, so I know you guys will only be hittin' jibs. I don't want to go, man—I'm heading to Alaska instead. Traveling in a packed van for hours and hours just to hit jibs when you're surrounded by dope mountains isn't for me." Just like that, his mind was made up and he was out. I had been planning this trip for months, so to lose a crucial member was hard. But there was no time to dwell on it; my flight was leaving in just over an hour and I was still at my house. I was meeting up with a crew that was spread throughout North America, and if one of us missed a flight, then everyone had to hang out in Madrid an extra day. MFM was out, but Lucas Magoon, Travis Kennedy, Jake Devine, Yan Dofin, and longtime friend and filmer Cole Taylor were still in. I grabbed my luggage and took off, bound for the streets of Europe.

“Gooner is like a wild animal.”

It's always crazy when you go to a foreign country. You have no clue what to expect when you land and you put a lot of trust into a guide you may have never met. On this trip, though, we got lucky—our good friend José from Fresh Snow Distribution not only set everything up for us, but was also down to hang out with us for over a week and act as our guide. José had just added Technine and Sound to his distribution company in Spain, so he was stoked to get to know the crew and help us get footage for the MFM/FODT movie Hard to Earn. He was hyped at the thought of having Spain represented in the movie and in a full feature for SNOWBOARDER. The fact is, many people don't think of Spain as being a winter destination, but in truth, the Pyrenees Mountains are home to some world-class snowboarding terrain. The Pyrenees are a range of peaks in southwest Europe that form a natural border between Spain and France, separating the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe. Deep in these mountains is a tiny country called Andorra. We would be traveling from Madrid up into the Spanish Pyrenees, then into Andorra.

Gooner, Cole, and I touched down in Spain and made it through customs with ease. We had a few hours until the rest of the crew landed, so we headed out to look for José. Gooner is like a wild animal: After eighteen hours of travel, he needed to let off some steam or else explode, so he took off to skate a curb in front of the airport. In America, you would be busted in seconds, but things in Europe are a bit more relaxed, and Gooner was able to skate for a couple of hours with no stress. As we watched Goon pop ollies over a security gate, the rest of the crew showed up, including our Spanish cohorts. José, Guille, and Daniel met us with a large passenger van and a few cars packed with everything we would need for our journey. As we piled into the van, José jumped behind the wheel and told us to get comfortable. It was a seven-hour drive to Baqueira, Spain.

As we left Madrid, we all took notice of the silver and black graffiti that seemed to cover every wall, fence and bridge we passed. It seemed that the whole city had been painted with the same style of art. José, knowing how we all must have felt after traveling for twenty hours and then hearing we had another seven to go, treated us all to a nice meal of paella and other traditional Spanish tapas, as well as some Spanish beer. We took off into the flat plains that looked much like a desert, and we all wondered how we were going to find snow in the sixty-degree weather, but José just kept telling us to be patient and that there would be plenty of snow.

As we pulled into the village of Bagergue, we got the feeling we were in a whole different time period. This small village looked straight out of the fifteenth century, but on the inside, all of the houses had been remodeled and brought up to date. After we got settled, we all were feeling wide awake from sleeping a bit on the ride up. Against our better judgment, José and his cronies convinced us that we needed to head straight to the disco for a beer. Heading to the bar on day one of a trip is never a good idea; most people would sleep and work on adjusting to the time change. It looked like it was going to be a long ten days… After hours of wild Spanish music and watching the locals dance, it was finally time for sleep.

The next few days in Spain were sick. Gooner, being twenty years old, was stoked to be able to drink legally, so not only was he hammering down banger shots, but also hammering down all sorts of liquor. From Bailey's in his coffee to forties for lunch, he was making the best of Spain. Every day we were very focused on getting work done, and we would always ask our guide where we could get something fast to eat so we could stay focused on riding. He would laugh and say, "We do not have McDonald's here. We like to drink wine and enjoy our food." It seemed like every meal involved two hours of hanging out; Cole and I would drink wine and talk shit with our new Spanish friends while the riders eagerly awaited the next opportunity to ride. This was a great place, and we were bummed to leave. Six hours to Andorra!

After we crossed the border, we entered Andorra la Vella, the capital and the largest town in Andorra, nestled deep in a mountain valley. Andorra is a very small country—you can drive the length of it in only an hour. It's basically a resort community that's home to nine ski resorts. As we got familiar with the town, it was obvious they had a cool snowboard community and tons of terrain—I hope to make it back there someday to experience the powder this place has to offer. In true José style, our guide once again had everything all set up for us. His good friend Merlin's family owned a cool hotel with a full club attached. Merlin hooked us up with some dope rates and kept us entertained at his nightclub most nights of our stay. We also hooked up with a local snowboarder and DJ by the name of Chino. Chino was the shit. He took us in, showed us around, and instantly became part of our crew. Everywhere we went we attracted a huge crowd of onlookers; every jib session would end up with tons of people cheering on the riders. At one session in the town of Pas de la Casa, Jake Devine had at least fifty spectators cheering him on.

On one of our last days in Andorra, Chino and his crew took us to some abandoned buildings right in town where we were able to find some cool stuff to hit. He was also a graffiti artist, so he got busy painting on one of the features Yan and Jake wanted to session. We were all expecting some small, easy art; instead, Chino spent about four hours putting up a full Hard to Earn burner on the wall. Yan and Jake both were able to get dope shots with Chino's art in the background.

Merlin, Chino, José, and Danny Boy had set up a Technine party at the hotel's bar with a showing of Familia. We were able to hang with a few of the local snowboard shop owners as well as meet all sorts of local riders. Marco, of course, was not there to DJ, but Travis Kennedy (AKA "Skrilla the Kid") ripped the mic for an eager crowd.

After we packed up in the morning with deep hangovers, telling stories of the antics from the previous night, we hit up one more jib session before we said farewell to Andorra. I may have puked on the sidelines while Yan and T.K. sessioned a pole jam, but was still able to get the shot. After the hangover subsided and the shoot was done, it was time to head home.

The journey took over ten hours because of weather and our slow van, but we eventually made it to the airport and headed home. I will not soon forget Spain and Andorra. As I reflect back on the trip, the thing that stands out in my mind the most is that as different as our cultures are, the riders are just like us. They live for the sport, and do everything they can to snowboard as much as possible. Snowboarding is a worldwide community, and I take comfort in knowing that I have brothers and sisters all over the world that share my passion.

Special thanks to José, Danny Boy, Gizmo, Merlin, Chino, Peter and Samé from Loaded, and Brice and Niko from Sector.

Halldor Helgason

This content was originally published in the December 2009 issue.


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