Words by James Renhard
“Look into the light… Now stick your tongue out as far as it will go” insists the tall, rugged looking Scotsman who’s shining a torch in my eyes as we stand in my chalet bedroom. “This will feel a little strange, but it’s important I’m thorough.”. It’s already clear that this is going to be no ordinary snowboarding holiday.
Splitboarding – a sub genre of snowboarding – has become increasingly popular in recent years. A strange hybrid of ski touring and snowboarding, its popularity has risen because it’s an alternative and affective way of reaching stashes of deep powder, inaccessible my most other means.
As a snowboarder who has spent the majority of my time on snow riding on the hard, groomed piste, I was interested to see what this emerging alternative to the traditional that has captured the imagination of the snowboarding world was all about.
Rewind 24 hours. I’m on a flight above the Alps, and my mind is racing. Simultaneously, I picture incredible back-country runs with big, arcing rooster tails of snow spraying up with every turn I expertly make. But, as soon as I allow myself to get excited, a sadistic part of my brain reminds me of all the horrifying avalanche videos I’ve seen. I reassure myself that it’s okay to be nervous. It’s expected, even.
It doesn’t help.
It’s nearing 10pm when I arrive in Chatél, the picturesque French Alpine town where my chalet is. I’m greeted at the door by Paul Shirley, one of the guides of The Rider Social, who is to be my host both on and off the mountain for the duration of my stay. Like myself, Paul’s a recovering Brummie who’s yet to lose the accent completely.