Ready, Steady, Winter! Meet Our Team of Snow Riders
What first comes to your mind when winter arrives? Christmas celebrations, sitting at home by the fireplace, or maybe snowy mountain peaks that are calling you to take out the skis or snowboard and enjoy the snow-covered slopes?
Our team members know a lot about how to enjoy the winter months, where to catch the best views, and how to stay active even when it's cold outside. They will share with you the inspirational parts of their outdoors hobby, give you a bit of advice on how to make the first move, and share some great photos.
Meet six TestDevLab employees and learn more about their passion for winter sports. And who knows, maybe you will meet them at a ski resort.
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Mantas Miliunas is a junior QA engineer from our Lithuanian team and a fan of mountain snowboarding.
It all started with an invitation from my brother to go skiing in the French Alps. After that trip, we decided to try snowboarding next time. Due to costs and how far it is, I could only do it once a year. We managed to go four years in a row but have now taken a break since my brother became a dad.
No matter if you ski or snowboard, the scenery on top of these big snowy mountains is unforgettable! Val Thorens was so great the first time we went there, that we haven't tried going anywhere else. It is at an altitude where snow is almost always guaranteed, so it is safe to plan a trip there in advance.
Catching waves all year round
Gatis Vaitovskis has many surprises under his belt—skiing, snowboarding, winter surfing? You name it—he does it. He had his first steps into winter sports as a 12-year-old boy, on a self-made snowboard, and only a few years later he got his first real snowboard.
I practiced snowboarding every winter at Zviedru Cepure, Kamparkalns and Milzkalns. After some years of practicing, I even participated in competitions. Besides snowboarding, I really enjoy building jumps together with friends. I started surfing because of windsurfing. There are days when the wind speed is too low for windsurfing but the waves are still good, so the only option for enjoying the waves is surfing. Usually, I enjoy surfing together with my colleagues Māris, Edgars and Uldis, and we don't call it “winter surfing”, we just go surfing. A fun fact is that we are the only people here in Ventspils who are surfing.
Sometimes I also do alpine skiing, but I love snowboarding more. In my opinion, it is more challenging and harder to learn. I like learning new tricks the most.
Usually, I snowboard at local spots such as Lemberga hūte or Milzkalns. Once I visited Jasna, which is in Slovakia, together with my friends. It was a fun snowboarding trip—we were lost in the mountains for 6 hours, and rode through some avalanche zones.
A childhood passion
Baiba Zīberga’s winter hobby is deeply rooted in her childhood. Her experiences and skills have grown with years of practice.
My first experience with skiing started early in my childhood, when snowy winters in Latvia were much more frequent and when my parents bought me one-meter-long plastic skis. Of course, with those I could not get anywhere far. During my school years, my father insisted that I learn to ski. He was a physical education teacher and he would drive us into the forest, give us wooden skis with metal wires, and hand us sticks that we could easily injure ourselves with and off we went. Only a few years ago did I realize that cross-country skiing can be a fun sport activity because you rely on your own locomotion to move across snow-covered terrain and almost all muscle groups are engaged. So when there is snow outside, I go out for a good skiing workout, burning some calories and at the same time enjoying the snow all around me, and yes, especially when I fall down.
If I want to ski during the evening, I usually go to the nearest places in Riga—Biķernieki forest or Lucavsala. But if there is snow during the weekend, then I find company to go to Sigulda or even further. I highly recommend visiting two ski resorts—Mailes and Vanagkalns. The owners are super cool and the trails are long and combined with downhill skiing.
My dream destination to go skiing would be places in northern Scandinavia where I can soak up the snowy scenery and where the trees are full of snow and you can have a winter wonderland feeling. The skiing trails near the Alps are probably just as impressive for experiencing beautiful winter landscapes. Everything around you is a clean white and you are surrounded by huge mountains and breathtaking views.
From skiing to snowboarding
Jevgenijs Greibo, also a QA engineer on our team, is another snowboarding fan and a true mountain admirer who discovered his hobby only two years ago.
A friend invited me to the mountain and it was then that I wanted to try snowboarding. Before, I only had experience with skiing and compared to skiing, for me snowboarding is harder but more interesting.
When you ride, it’s similar to riding a motorcycle. You can feel the freedom. When you ride you can hear the sound of the snow, and of course, it's an extreme hobby, so you can be physically tired, but at the same time relax mentally. I really like it.
Last autumn I went to Morskie Oko in the Tatra Mountains. It was my first time traveling to the mountains and it was amazing! You can see how beautiful this place is. After that I fell in love with the mountains and wanted to go snowboarding down the big mountains, where you go down for an hour or more and where you can really feel the energy of the mountains.
The perfect Christmas gift
QA engineer Arturs Lazdins received a special gift from Santa Claus (his parents) when he was 10—a shiny snowboard. It was love at first sight. Since then Arturs and his snowboard have enjoyed many winters together.
My love for snowboarding hasn't waned. I have been snowboarding for many years now, switching to wakeboarding as soon as the snow melts. What I like the most about snowboarding is the freedom it gives. The fresh winter air and the beautiful, white, snowy mountains make you forget about everything else and allows you to enjoy the moment without thinking about anything.
I would definitely love to go snowboarding in Japan and British Columbia for the amazing freeriding possibilities, gorgeous mountain views, deep powder, and to experience a different culture. Based on the YouTube videos I've seen, both of these locations look like a dream snowboarding destination.
Always on board for adventure
Miks Ratnieks, Video Editor & Photographer at TestDevLab, is always up for fun and spending time actively. His action sports hobby started when he received his first skateboard as a gift from his dad for his 10th birthday.
After that it kinda snowballed into all action sports. I tried BMX, skiing, and snowboarding, but skateboarding was what I enjoyed most and logically, when you can’t skate in the winter, you take on snowboarding. Shout out to my mom/grandma who took care of me when they had 112 on speed dial every other month while I was twisting and breaking my ankles/wrists and hitting my head against the ramps.
At some point I started to compete in some local competitions and had some good results. But then rheumatoid arthritis knocked on the door and everything went downhill from there. Well, everything regarding extreme sports in my life. Fast forward approximately five years—my joints stopped hurting and there I was, back on my skateboard and snowboard. And let’s drop something cheesy here—I felt very blessed with this miracle. But at that time it felt like that. For real. And still does.
My favorite locations in Latvia for snowboarding are Milzkalns and Riekstukalns. Milzkalns because there is a very good park and Riekstukalns for when I want to switch things up a bit. But mostly Milzkalns. Also, we have some Latvian POW hunters, who are incredible at finding Latvian POW spots—special shout out to Andris Putniņš. POW is a term used to describe school getting canceled on a count of snow and you and your friends go up to the local resort to hit up the fresh powder with no flatlanders or japanese tourists to mess it up. A perfect day for shredding.
I have been to Slovakia and Poland several times, which are pretty cool and affordable locations for winter sports. But, of course, you can’t compare that experience to the Italian Alps, Andorra or Austria. My dream winter sports destination would be Japan and Georgia.
What advice would you give to those who wish to try a new outdoor hobby this winter?
Learning to snowboard is tougher on the body than learning how to ski, so definitely wear wrist guards, knee pads, padded shorts and, of course, a helmet! Do not give up after a few falls, just like anything, it will take practice to learn. And make sure to protect yourself from the sun, it is very intense high up in the mountains.
So many people think cross-country skiing is meant for older people but before you dismiss it—try it. It actually takes a lot of energy, especially to go uphill without a ski lift but with your own strength. I feel so refreshed after being outside skiing and having some fun in the snow, especially when outside temperatures are below zero.
If you want to try snowboarding or skiing—try it. It’s best to work with an instructor for the first lessons. If you want to practice on your own, then open YouTube, find a training video, and go try it. But do all exercises slowly and you will succeed. Good luck and see you in the mountains!
Don't give up! It takes time, effort and a bit of pain to learn how to ski or snowboard, but in the end it is definitely worth it. An additional bonus is that you will burn a lot of calories, so you can replace working out in a gym with being outside in fresh air.
Just go and do it. Surfing is harder to learn, but so much fun and it is a good fitness/core workout.
My advice for those who want to start snowboarding/skiing is to go do it. It's amazing when you catch that first line and you think you are in control and suddenly you catch that front edge of your snowboard and you do a scorpion and see your ankles from a completely different perspective—just kidding, but it could happen. Don’t get too cocky when you see your first success. Also a great suggestion is to get an instructor for the first couple of times so you get your basics right because that’s very important in the beginning and could save you a lot of butt/elbow/hip/wrist pain in the long run. And then with the right people and attitude, you will be off to your first trip to big mountains. Cheers!
Enjoy the winter season and stay active
Follow in the footsteps of our truly amazing colleagues and don’t be afraid to try something new. Consider their experiences and take heed of their advice. Maybe skiing, snowboarding, or winter surfing will become your new winter hobby?