060: Neil McNab/The Purity of the Turn

Some of that classic McNab sea to summit action, this time in Lofoten.

Now this one has been a long time coming. I get a lot of requests to feature specific guests from listeners to the show, and one name has been coming up consistently since I started: Neil McNab. 

Most snowboarders would count a line like this one in Greenland as the highlight of their riding career. For McNab, it’s all in a day’s work.

Why? Because among the European and global snowboarding community, Neil McNab is a legend, respected as a rider but above all somebody who has always followed his own unique path.

A vintage mute grab in Morzine, another lifetime ago.

From the early days bashing gates as a racer, to the progressive decision to set up his freeride-focussed company McNab Snowboarding back in the mid 90s, McNab has always been a visionary, shaping his lifestyle to enable him to concentrate on what he has really been his life’s work – a dedicated investigation into the purity of the turn. 

There’s another theme at work in Neil’s story, too: how your relationship to action sports and the pursuits you love changes as you get older. And about how, if you’re lucky, that relationship might deepen and mature with each passing season. 

Digging deep in Kamchatka

As you will hear, Neil seems to have it figured out. It is why he’s such an inspiration to so many people, and why he’s my guest for episode 060. 

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Neil on the one thing ordinary snowboarders can do to improve their technique.

Connect With Neil

Show Notes

  • Bobbing about.
  • Moving to Hossegor from Chamonix after twenty years.
  • An impulsive move – from ten years to ten days.
  • How the move has changed Neil’s perspective on life and snowboarding.
  • Finding flow.
  • ‘Carving does something for me‘.
  • How your action sports focus narrows as you get older.
  • How Neil discovered skiing…
  • …and eventually snowboarding.
  • Neil’s early path through the industry.
  • The British party scene back then.
  • Neil’s lost years.
  • The beginning of the freeride years.
  • Kommunity and then McNab Snowboarding.
  • Deciding to become a mountain guide.
  • Neil’s background as a climber.
  • Linking each area through the guiding qualification.
  • The reality of taking a UIAGM guiding course – in France.
  • French lessons.
  • The stringency of the course.
  • Neil’s reasons for getting the qualification.
  • ‘Watching clients ride steeps is the scariest part of my job’.
  • The different courses through McNab Snowboarding
  • The relationships Neil has forged over the years.
  • How the courses have evolved.
  • Why Neil has decided to drop his Japan trip.
  • Exploring the Pyrenees
  • Environmental concerns as a result of so long in the mountains.
  • Scale of glacial shrinking in Chamonix over the last two decades.
  • ‘August used to be the key period – now I don’t even work’
  • Environmental observations.
  • The more you know, the less you realise you do know.
  • How Neil rescued an Army team of climbers.
  • Denali rescue
  • Remaining climbing ambitions
  • Best ever wave.
  • The one thing an ordinary snowboarder could do to improve their technique.
  • A three-dimensional view of snowboarding.
  • Learning to listen to your body when it comes to exercise.
  • The places left to explore.
  • Neil’s necklace
  • Musing on death rate stats
  • Losing friends in the mountains.
  • Dealing with age the right way, and making it work for yourself.

People Mentioned

Places Mentioned

  • Vienna
  • Hossegor
  • Chamonix
  • Les Houches
  • Sheffield
  • Vars
  • Pas de la Casa
  • Meribel
  • Ensa couloir
  • Japan
  • Pyrenees
  • Les Bossons
  • Le Tour
  • Denali
  • Innsbruck
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Canada
  • Greenland
  • Easkey Right

Company/Brands Mentioned