hen it comes to skiing or snowboarding on the world’s biggest mountains there’s nobody better than Frenchman Xavier de le Rue to ask for advice.
The 38 year-old is one of the world’s most acclaimed freeride snowboarders, with a number of championship titles and film credits to his name.
Xavier was twice awarded the title of Best Line on the Freeride World Tour, the pinnacle of freeriding – to seek out those lines requires impressive knowledge of the backcountry and off-piste safety.
Whether it’s wrapping a piece of duct tape around you pole for emergencies, learning how to pull yourself up a mountain or what to carry in your backpack, Xavier has learnt a number of tricks that make life on the hill a lot easier and more enjoyable.
As part of a Shred Hacks series with Red Bull, and with the final of the 2018 Freeride World Tour kicking off in Verbier this weekend, Xavier shares 10 tips to help you when venture up into the big mountains, whether it’s for a full freeriding experience or less challenging off-piste mission.
1. Anchor your backpack
“Before strapping in I really like to secure my gear, so I use either an ice axe or ski poles,” says Xavier. This prevents items from sliding down the slope you’ve just hiked up while you prepare yourself for the descent – avoiding any mission being cut short.
2. Make your base smooth
The three-time Freeride World Tour champion suggests using a knife or the edge of another board or ski to scrap out anything that might be stuck or is loose on the bottom of your own equipment. “This is really important because you don’t want to be slow,” says Xavier. A smoother base means more control and an even faster descent.
3. Wear a neck warmer
“The neck warmer is always with me, even when it’s warm. It’s an extra layer and it protects you from the wind. It’s the bomb,” says Xavier. Freeriding in deep snow can often lead to lots of powder face shots (when the snow flies up and hits you in the face) so a neck warmer, which doesn’t take up much room in a backpack, is a handy piece of kit to carry with you. Plus if temperatures plummet it helps keep your face warm.
4. Carry telescopic poles
We’ve either all been there or all seen a snowboarder struggling when a slope flattens out – including Xavier. “Snowboarders, get some three-piece poles and keep them in your backpack. That’s going to help you a lot on the flats,” he says.
5. Use your board to pull yourself up
“Hiking deep powder can be a bit miserable sometimes,” admits Xavier. How do you tackle this tiring task? Hold your board by its heels and plant it in the snow ahead of you, then use it to pull yourself up.
6. Keep your skins warm
“If you take out your skins (for a climb) and are going to use them a bit later, its good to have them in your jacket so they stay warm and stick a lot better later,” says Xavier, who suggests warming your skins inside your clothing helps make them a sticker base for your touring skis or split board.
7. Use a strap to secure loose skins
Using a small strap is a quick fix to hold skins in place if they start to slide off half way through an ascent. “This is a great emergency trick. It won’t last long but it could be enough to bring you home,” says Xavier.
8. Arm yourself with duct tape
When freeriding hard, it’s inevitable that things will break or become loose. “The trick is always to have a bit of duct tape stored on your pole,” says Xavier. He doesn’t suggest take a whole role with you, but simply wrapping a length of tape around your pole, to be unrolled when you need to use it.
9. Fight the chill
The former X-Games champion will always carry a light midlayer jacket, often filled with down, in his backpack in case he ever gets cold, when he puts it on above everything else for an extra layer of warmth. “It’s quick and efficient and it works,” says Xavier.
10. Keep your snowboard free of ice
“What I like to do when I get to the top is leave my base in the snow and rub it a little bit,” says Xavier. This sucks all the moisture out of the bottom of the board or skis and prevents ice from building up later, meaning a faster, smoother ride when you drop in.