Inaugural Splitboard Tour

Glencoe Mountain Resort

Work has been the usual ball-ache, so I took Friday off. The snow was falling and the weather looked good, staying cold with more snow being blown around the upper mountain. The latter half of the weekend would see warmer conditions move in, so I had to make the most of these early conditions at Glencoe Mountain.

The day didn’t start great with an hour long tailback on the M8 leaving Glasgow. But after that the rest of the journey went smoothly.

There weren’t too many cars in the frosty car park when I arrived.

I quickly grabbed my gear, including my new splitboard and made my way onto the access chair, this is where I noticed my first mistake. I left my bag of jelly babies in the car. Currently my favourite pocket snack. That won’t happen again.

ski lift in mountain landscape
Ascending Rankins under the new lift

There was good snow running up under the new (almost complete) chairlift, so I set about preparing my splitboard for the climb. This all went very smoothly, and once strapped in, I started off uphill. I’d previously snowshoed, and this gave me a similar sensation regarding alignment of the feet. Due to the extra length of you are very aware if you cross your tails. Of course the skins are a big difference, these didn’t give me any problems as I thought they might.

The going lower down was a bit crispy, where the snow had refrozen. As I gained elevation the snow became softer.

Testing my kick turns

I arrived at the rescue hut and deployed my heel risers for the steeper ascent. The snow in ski tow gulley was deep and the the were large banks of wind loaded snow up the right hand side.

Rather than head straight up as I would with my snowshoes, I would be doing kick turns, careful foot placement and good balance resulting in a zig-zag route upward, or at least that’s what I hoped for. Not sure how graceful I made it look but eventually I made it up ski tow gully.

Frozen cliffs above Mugs Alley
Frozen cliffs above Mugs Alley
Looking down a snowy mountain
Looking down from Mugs Alley.
Splitboard at the summit
My Arbor Iguchi Pro Splitboard

Transitioning at the top

Despite not having to carry my board on my backpack, there is still quite a faff once you reach your goal at the top. Packing away your skins, collapsing your poles and then switching your board back to ride mode. Once I had done this I was ready to take advantage of the drifted snow in the Main Basin. I strapped in, turned on my GoPro , shifted my weight to the nose of my board, then…nothing! I shuffled my board forward. Still nothing. I switched off my GoPro. Take two. I unstrapped and rubbed down the base of my board. The snow was sticking to the base, preventing it from sliding. However, once I polished it with my gloved hand the board did what it was designed to do and I dropped in to  Main Basin. Turning from drift to drift I took advantage of the of the beautiful windblown snow, Taking care to avoid the sharks lurking close to or at the surface.

Wind drifted snowbank

I cut back in to the ski tow gully that I’d ascended earlier, making banked turns on the high walls of powder snow.

Back at the rescue hut, I tuck in to a Scotch egg I’d packed for lunch, after which, I transition back into climb mode. After taking a couple of strides back up ski tow gully, I have a change of heart and decide to ascend via Happy Valley. At the access lift,  Conner had mentioned it might be good.

Another Route up

I turn to take a few steps downward and my split skis wash out from under me! My first ski fall. I feel like a jerry, this is why I went on a solo mission for my first attempt.

I gathered myself and traveled across the hill. Then made my way up the lower part of Etive Glades before cutting in to Happy Valley. Less restricted than ski tow gully, I could make a wider zig-zag uphill. It’s a bit more exposed to the wind. As the snow crystals were blasted over the surface, it gave you a sense of vertigo. The ground seemed to shift under as I was standing still. This passed quickly and it wasn’t long before I was transitioning back to ride mode for the journey down.

Glencoe Mountains
Looking towards Buachaille Etive Mòr

The top part of Happy Valley was nice with large pockets of drifted snow. My new Splitboard turned beautifully and I crossed over into Main Basin once more to get make my way down via mugs Alley.

The snow was good as I crossed Thrombosis and onto Rankin’s Return. Finally I was back at the access lift for my ride down to the carpark.

Video of my first Splitboard tour