What a question! Had it not been for a history of knee problems and an opportune invite to join some mates in the powder of BC would I really have switched to the dark side and jumped on a snowboard? I genuinely loved skiing, and that passion started as an eager 14 year old on my first school skiing trip to the Swiss resort of Leysin. I spent months propped up at a 90 degree angle furiously trying to strengthen my quads in readiness for the adventure that lay ahead. Evenings were spent listening to various interested parties extoling the virtues or otherwise of hiring skiwear, wearing moon-boots or how epic the snow would be! I didn’t stand a chance really and it was love at first sight!

If you’ve skied then you already know what I’m going to say; if not then here goes…. My first sight of the Alps was breath-taking (that excitement was eclipsed when I actually got up in the Mountains). Every part of the experience was thrilling from getting fitted for my boots and skis to the first pull up the poma lift….Bend ze knees! Bend ze knees! And I was away on my first snowplough adventure and never really looked back. By the end of that first week a gold lesson medal was mine and I was completing some non-too shabby parallel turns and taking leaps of faith I’d never imagined possible only 1 week before. You have to experience the speed and freedom skiing ‘gifts’ you to understand why this great sport means so much to so many people, throw in the views and you really experience Heaven on Earth! Years of school trips followed; Les Arcs, Tonale and Corcheval all of which cemented my love of Winter Sports.

Then approximately 10 years later at the tender age of 28 my skiing world came crashing down around me and it was the cruel world of amateur football that caused that mighty break-up. A bad tackle from a guy called Chris Chisholm an ex QPR pro (see I’ll never forgive him) and my left ACL was shattered. A long lay-off from any sport for 6 months and then a fresh rupture 2 years later really put paid to any kind of Winter activity particularly the 2-plank variety…. My skiing days were over, I just couldn’t risk another injury to my battered knee and I was left with the sad realisation that my skiing days were over forever.

Years passed, work and family took priority and the closest I ever got to the slopes was a dreamy watch of Ski Sunday or a snowy walk on a Wintry Pendle Hill …what a shame I hear you cry!

But this is where the miserable story ends and my true love re-entered my life albeit in a different guise and the new chapter began….. 2006 what a year!

“Do you fancy a trip to Canada?” ….sorry? ….. “Do you fancy a trip to Canada?” ……What are you going on about Dad? …My 65 year old Father was off snowboarding to British Columbia with his mates! It took me about 3 seconds to say yes, but wait, what about my knee? Stuff the knee I thought I’ll give it a go (I was advised that snowboarding reduces the risk of twisting injuries to old battered knees). I don’t think I’m that different to most guys my age (then 38) in that I’m hugely competitive and take most things in life as a challenge. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I was going to get to Canada and be a beginner, less chance than that would I let my Dad be better than me at something! It was simple really (as I have a tendency to be!) I’d book a ‘snowboard in a day’ course…easy! …………I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The man-made snow of Telford was my destination and I left home in the early hours with the intention of finishing the day a World class snowboarder! The pain, bruising and a fractured rib that followed brought me down to earth with a bump…literally!; it certainly wasn’t skiing. A World champ I wasn’t, but I was riding ‘regular’ (not riding ‘Goofy’….that’s a criminal offence I thought?), linking turns and genuinely had that first feeling of… well it was the same feeling I felt all those years back when I first hit the alps on skis. IT WAS AMAZING!

It was tough and I had to learn strange things like putting my weight on my front foot and going from heel to toe through my turns. Binding angles were discussed as were snowboard lengths but I knew then I was hooked. My first trip to Canada followed within the month (we were based at Kimberley Alpine Resort) and wow was I thankful for that lesson in Telford! If you’ve never experienced the absolute joy of fresh champagne powder in -20 degrees on a freshly waxed snowboard then I’m afraid you haven’t really lived. It’s like flying, it’s a dream and once sampled ruins you for life; you search for the perfect powder forever!

A expression of freedom and joy doesn’t really explain the feeling snowboarding brings, but it does start to explain the elation it causes and 8 years later I’m still absolutely hooked. I’ve forgotten how many Snowboards I’ve owned, I use words like gnarly and steez (don’t say a word!) I suppose I feel like a 20 year old again and I’m definitely a Hoody (not the old lady mugging type btw!).

Europe sees less of me now; North America just keeps delivering year after year. We’ve got a house in the Rockies now, we run our own Skiwear Business ‘Ski & Trek Limited’ back in the UK. My wife Lynne is also now hooked on Snowboarding, Fred aged 7 and Evie aged 5 have skied since they were 3 and the joy of spending quality time in the Mountains with my family has added a much richer dimension to a sport which was once quite selfishly ‘my thing’.

Maybe I’ve got a lot to thank Chris Chisholm for actually? But I really do think it was fate that brought the snow and snowboarding back into my life. Why not visit the ‘dark-side’ and give snowboarding a whirl? …be warned though you might get hooked for life!

Martin Rouse 18/09/2014

Chilloo Limited are a UK on-line skiwear retailer (www.chilloo.co.uk) and stock a huge range of ski and snowboard wear (and accessories) supplied by Dare2b, Helly Hansen, Columbia, Westbeach, Protest, Giro, GoPro and many other leading brands. They also run a store at Unit 1 Fairfield Business Park, Longsight Road, Clayton-le-Dale, Nr Blackburn and can be contacted on 01254 812707.