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Neil Mcnab rips a first descent riding in Greenland.

Neil McNab / Ambassador Guides


Home ZoneChamonix Mont Blanc
SponsorsDragon, Karakoram, Northwave, Ortovox, Sweet protection, The Snowboard Asylum
Where do you guide backcountry snowboarding? Through my guide company Mcnab Snowboarding I offer backcountry snowboarding and splitboarding courses in Chamonix, France, as well as, exotic snowy locales around the globe. My destination courses change each year. This year I'll run courses in Krygyzstan and Russia. 2014 Season Highlight Last season was amazing, one of my best yet for sure. Mid Feb, I led a group on a Splitboarding trip to Krygyzstan… clearest skies I've ever seen, amazing lines everywhere, solitude and perfect conditions once you got used to the driest snowpack I've ever ridden, the air literally sucks all the moisture out of the snow pack and leaves a full depth of fine crystals. If you don't ride fast enough you sink to the bottom, if you ride fast though its like the finest powder. Back in Chamonix I ran lots of Splitboarding courses and a high level 'Steep and Deep' course, which was fantastic fun, just getting out and hitting the steepest classsics and exploring for new unridden steep lines with a strong crew of riders. I finished off my season with a Heli trip to Kamchatka, not very environmentally friendly I know, but Heli Guiding out there is amazing, the terrain is awesome and there are just no restrictions as to what you can do. We scored amazing conditions and I dropped some of the best lines I've ridden in 30 years of riding. I definitely pushed it up a level out there. Favorite Jones Board I think I spent about 90% of my season on the Jones Hovercraft 160 and Solution 168W Splits. I rode/guided something like 14 solid weeks of Splitboarding with a wide variety of objectives from Splitting in Kashmir right through to Split Summiting Mont Blanc here in Chamonix. When I am deep in the BC or up high and carrying extra Glacier kit I ride the Solution to cope with the extra kilos on my back, for day tripping when the pow is deep, fresh and steep the Hover is my pick of the day. When not Splitting I ride the Flag 168W, a board that can handle anything at any speed, it's my go to board for non splitting days. What do you look for in a line when your analyzing ride-ability vs danger? As a guide it is my job to constantly assess and be aware of the conditions and find safe lines to ride. I'm constantly watching the snow conditions, the weather, the wind, the temps and I pick and choose my lines and locations based upon what I see and learn everyday. Once I've picked a location based upon what I know about the conditions, I'll then assess risk by looking at the shape of the terrain. The shape of the terrain can tell you a lot about the stability of the snowpack. I look at what is supporting the snowpack, where it is under the most tension etc. I look for safe zones and risk zones and create a balance depending on what else I know about the pack conditions. I think about the different scenarios and assess the risks involved, where would the snow go if it released? Are there escape lines? Terrain traps? I assess risks and lines based upon what I know and what I see and also as a guide, I have to think about the ability of my team and where I can let them ride and where I need them not to go. As I'm constantly watching the conditions and choosing my locations based upon lots of knowledge, most of the time I'm pretty sure of the safety of the terrain I ride. I always err on the side of safety though so I read and follow the signs given to me by nature and follow the shape of the terrain when choosing a line. There's always an element of risk involved in riding new untracked lines, which is also my job, so I weigh up the risks and create a balance…if I can't balance the line in my favour then I'll not hesitate to turn around and ride somewhere else.
What is one lesson every beginner splitboarder should know? Splitboards are quite wide when split into skis and Split bindings make edging the ski difficult on icy or steep terrain. Learn how to control and trust your edges and how to change the size of your stride for different gradients and traversing. Edge your top ski hard and bring the lower foot on a shorter stride (just barely past your top foot, a kind of shuffle) on steep terrain as the lower ski is way harder to edge. Splitting is all about being efficient so learn to slide rather than step and you'll be able to hike for ever! What mountain ranges or lines are on your radar? After such a good trip last year I'm heading back out to Kamchatka again at the end of this season with a couple of groups. I'm also going back up to the Lyngen Alps, one of my regular spots, in the Northern Fjords of Norway for some boat accessed Splitboarding. The Lyngen Alps are just so magical and mystical, its like a Splitboarders paradise up there! Nearer to home, I'm running a big mountain Splitboard course in the Gressoney/Alagna region in the heart of the Monte Rosa massif. The Freeriding in this area is very similar to Chamonix, but with no one else out there…Looking forward to it already!