[Slash of clans: Frazer Rennie heads to battle. Photo: Duthie]
Thanks to the likes of Jeremy Jones, splitboarding has never been more popular worldwide, but getting started is not without its difficulties. Maintaining a regular snowboarding habit is expensive enough without throwing in a lot of extra gear – plus there’s always the risk that you’ll shell out for a setup, only to discover that it’s not really your thing after all.
Fortunately, this winter has seen the debut of Scottish Backcountry’s introductory courses. After successfully crowdfunding enough to buy a stash of boards, bindings, skins, poles and crampons, experienced Winter Mountain Leader and splitboarder Craig Burry has given riders a chance to dip their toe edge into the splitboarding world without committing to a setup of their own.
“Before dropping in the man turns to us with a smile and says, ‘they say Christmas only comes once a year – but they’re fuckin’ lying!’”
Despite nearly a century’s snowboarding experience among those of us on this one-day course, not one has ever tried splitboarding before. However, as we’re all on the wrong side of 30 with our days of dry slope stunting essentially behind us, we’re pretty much the ideal target audience for what Chris Moran once called “the missing link between cross-country skiing and Ikea cupboard building”.
Just as ideal are the conditions; not a cloud in the sky, barely a breath of wind, and plenty of fresh lines still up for grabs in the Cairngorm backcountry. We’re champing at the bit, but there’s plenty to be done before we can hit the hill. Setting up our boards is the obvious first step – a fidgety process, but definitely made easier by having an experienced splitter on hand to point out common mistakes and assist with fine-tuning.
After that’s done, we make a stop at Glenmore Lodge for a brush up on bleeper technique. Their transceiver park has multiple remotely-activated beacons buried in the snow, and searching for them is a great (and free) way to get prepared for the worst-case scenario.