French and Swiss Alps
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 Russia, Norway and Greenland.
2015 Season Highlight
I had quite a few memorable moments last winter. My first was late Jan, when I scored epic conditions on the Glacier midi des Grandes descent with my BC Freeride Group. I followed this up with a BC course in Gressoney, again we scored some amazing conditions and fantastic descents. In April, I left Cham and headed up North to the Lyngen Alps in Norway for a bit of boat accessed splitboarding. I love it up there, it's mystical and magical and the terrain is fantastic, definitely a season highlight!
Favorite Jones Boards:
Last season I was riding boards from the Carbon series, the Carbon Solution 168 and the Carbon Flagship 168 and neither of these boards disappointed in any way. I found it hard to want to ride anything else after trying both of these boards, they suit my style of riding perfectly and feel powerful underfoot. Hoping to spend more time on the Mountain Surfer and Storm Chaser this winter. Here's hoping we get some suitable conditions!
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 in February with a couple of groups. I'm also going to the Lofoten islands in Northern Norway for a split/surf course. Nearer to home, I'm running a big mountain Splitboard course in the Gressoney 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!