144: John Bassett/The Lodge

John Bassett, Hokkaido, February 2020. Photo: Hamish Duncan

Lifer episode alert! Yes, it’s another one of those perennially popular episodes of the show where I chat to somebody who has managed to find a way to turn their passion for riding into a viable career. In this case, it’s the great John Bassett, also universally known as John Dragon, one of my closest and oldest friends from my years snowboarding and – yes – a lifer par excellence.

In John’s case, this has revolved around the Dragon Lodge, the legendary chalet in Tignes that has been one of the cultural epicentres of European snowboarding for a couple of decades now. This is thanks entirely to the inclusive, infectious environment that John and partner Will Hughes have created and through which they share their own passion for snowboarding as widely and inclusively as possible.

As I discovered, this has been entirely intentional on John’s part, and has been about creating an environment in which the type of culture that has influenced him could flourish in turn. The result is that the Lodge has been at the heart of any number of hugely influential European snowboarding mini-scenes, including the launch of Looking Sideways itself, as we discussed during the show.

Photo: Hamish

And now the future of the Lodge is in doubt thanks to the pitiless combination of Brexit and Covid. The fate of a place like the Lodge is emblematic of the challenges faced by the wider winter sports industry, and throws up interesting questions about the type of scene we’ll have once the dust settles, and the type of opportunities we want to encourage as a society.

Could somebody from John’s background open a place like the Lodge today? The answer to that is probably no which is, to put it mildly, a crying shame given what places like this contribute to the fabric and culture of our little world.

John’s Source Magazine cover, December 2020. Photo: Owen Tozer

So it was that in early December 2020 I grabbed a few cans of Guinness and headed up to John’s to sit around the firepit and discuss these questions and plenty more. I hope you take as much from this episode as I’ve taken from my friendship with John over the years.

Connect With John

Show Notes

  • Hanover, where it all started
  • Snow in Brighton
  • John’s broken femur
  • 2020/21 winter in the Alps
  • Peg’s operation
  • Writing off the winter
  • A diet for healing
  • The importance of self-deprecating humour in a bad year
  • Perspective
  • John’s Covid year
  • The lack of empthy revealed by the pandemic
  • Grief through Covid
  • Starting the Dragon Lodge Mk 1 with Owain
  • A chalet for snowboarders
  • Studying in Brighton and running the Lodge
  • Dragon Lodge Mk 2 in Le Lac with Dan
  • Dragon Lodge as a hub for the UK and European snowboarding scene
  • Swapping accommodation for advertising with White Lines
  • Celebrating the other sides of snowboarding alongside the first X Games in Tignes
  • Ben Howard and the first Looking Sideways event
  • Linking art and music around snowboarding
  • Collaborating with Vans
  • Looking Sideways Mark 2- ‘Other related endeavours’
  • Dalikfodda
  • First Dragon Lodge tour
  • The community around snowboarding
  • Bringing people together and facilitating events
  • The art of curation
  • How social changes affect opportunities for people
  • Brexit
  • The end of the British seasonaire contract
  • The class divide
  • Brexit and limiting access to winter holidays
  • Changing the business plan for the Lodge during COVID
  • The industry standard of increasing prices by 30%
  • Being a craftsman rather than a large-scale manufacturer
  • Owain and Island Snowboards
  • Japan

People Mentioned

  • Owain Bassett
  • Will Hughes
  • Sarah Bassett
  • Dan Evans
  • Chris Moran
  • Owen Tozer
  • Ben Howard
  • James McPhail
  • Alex Hill
  • Schoph
  • Les Seddon Brown
  • Nick Street
  • Matt Ward
  • Ian Thrashmore
  • Marcus Chapman
  • Nelson Pratt
  • Josh wolf
  • Ryan Davies
  • Blaise Rosenthal
  • Bill Shankly
  • Dan Jones
  • Steve Davies
  • Nick Maxwell
  • Ralph Johnson
  • Stuart Cady
  • Neil McNair
  • Hamish Duncan

Companies/Brands Mentioned

  • White Lines
  • X Games
  • Oakley
  • Huck
  • ESPN
  • Dragon Lodge
  • Redbull – The Arctic Challenge
  • Vans
  • Bern
  • Boardmasters
  • ACM
  • Dalikfodda
  • Crystal Ski Holidays
  • Island Snowboards
  • Yes Snowboards

Places Mentioned

  • Hanover
  • Brighton
  • Dover Castle
  • New Haven Street
  • France
  • French Alps
  • Tignes
  • Geneva
  • Méribel
  • The Dragon Lodge
  • Le Lac
  • New Zealand
  • Japan
  • Loop Bar
  • Mayrhofen
  • Newquay
  • USA
  • Niseko