Somewhere amongst the desolate expanse of Siberia, the Russian sky has finally cracked blue, a tasty ten centimetres of fresh snow has fallen and the crew from Sherpas Cinema finds themselves amongst something that hasn’t come easily of late: Mountains. Sweet, beautiful mountains.
Words: Mikey Nixon :: Photos: Mason Mashon
With cameras rolling for The Siberian Traverse, professional skier Callum Pettit drops off a ridge and trenches his way through the trees towards the valley below. The shot makes the movie—explosions of smokey pow set against a deep blue sky, the athlete unrecognizable within the microclimate created by his silky turns. But a blasphemous secret lies beneath those powdery plumes—Callum isn’t skiing at all… he’s noboarding!
Even months after the release of The Siberian Traverse, Callum admits to dealing with multiple rumours that he’s given up skiing in favour of unshackled powder surfing. “Yeah, that’s kinda the ongoing joke,” he laughs. Officially of course, he’s still a professional two-planker, but Callum, his brother Sean, Kye Petersen and a few other local pro skiers, have found themselves hooked on that bindingless feeling of surfing down the mountain when conditions allow. “It is the best and probably the most fun you can have in powder,” Sean Pettit says.
Callum, his brother Sean, Kye Petersen and a few other local pro skiers, have found themselves hooked on that bindingless feeling of surfing down the mountain when conditions allow.
Beyond sheer enjoyment, noboarding is also a function of convenience. The flat, low profile boards are easily slung over one’s shoulder or strapped unobtrusively to the back of the sled. Also, snowmobiling in ski boots is a slippery affair and many skiers will opt for comfortable boots on the way into their chosen ski zone.
“It’s always nice to sled up in the Sorels and then get a couple warm-up laps on the noboard to get the blood flowing before switching over,” Callum says.
Diehard ski fanatics can blame Sherpas Cinema for converting some of the sport’s most talented rippers to the detached form of snowsliding. The first board that both Callum and Kye tried out belonged to an unlikely mentor—Sherpas principal director, Dave Mossop, brought it into remote backcountry lodges while filming for All.I.Can. and Into the Mind, and is responsible for introducing the young disciples to the elixir that is noboarding.
“Noboarding has become a pretty key activity when snow conditions are prevailingly good, but the avalanche hazard is high. It allows us to utilize less consequential slopes, but still have the best time ever.” – Mason Mashon
Mossop had previously worked on two films with Cholo Burns, a Selkirkbased shredder who along with Greg Todds (RIP), came up with the traction pad/rope system that they marketed as the Noboard [Editor’s note: for that story see Mountain Life 2008 “Backcountry Issue.”] Based in a forgotten Kootenay town that gets absolutely blasted with snowfall, Todds and Burns created the noboard pad in part to address the inconvenience and foot pain associated with snowboard bindings.
But snowboarders complaining about foot pain is laughable to skiers because ski boots are basically Iron Maiden torture devices for your feet, which is exactly why Callum was noboarding on that cold Siberian day.
“I had the best run of the trip on the noboard because I had this gnarly blister from my ski boot,” he recalls fondly.
But there’s more to it than simple comfort and convenience. “I think that noboarding has become a pretty key activity when snow conditions are prevailingly good, but the avalanche hazard is high,” says photographer and fellow pow surfer Mason Mashon. “It’s allowed us to utilize less consequential slopes, but still have the best time ever.”
Kye Petersen seconds that notion. “Usually on a day when I go out noboarding, it’s more casual,” he explains. “When I go skiing, I take it a little more seriously because I’m always trying to do something that really excites me, whereas with noboarding, you don’t need the gnarliest slope or to do something super technical. You can just enjoy the pure sensation of making nice carves in powder.”
Another thing that a lot of people don’t realize about these Whistler-bred pro skiers, Callum, Sean and Kye—is that they are some of the top dogs in the local skatepark and very comfortable standing sideways. Kye, who spent time living in Hawaii as a young kid, says that surfing and skateboarding have translated into his skiing and the way he approaches the mountain. And they’ve definitely influenced his noboarding. “The best lines on a noboard are the ones that are not fall-line, the lines that are cross court,” he explains. “Then you can surf them a lot better. It’s all about that sick bottom turn for me.”
Regardless of what’s on your feet, the concept of style is both indefinable and indiscriminate. “I think style is the ruler of all things shred-related, no matter which craft you’re on,” says Mashon. And it’s no coincidence that the skiers who skate, surf and noboard are the ones who you can’t keep your eyes off on the mountain. Those archaic distinctions between all the different forms of snowsliding mean nothing to them because really, there’s only one thing that’s truly important when you’re in the mountains.
“Any time we’re on the noboard, it’s maximum fun,” says Cal.