It’s all about terrain.
Snowboarding on un-groomed backcountry slopes is about reading terrain, says Chucky Gerrard, Great Canadian Heli-Skiing’s snowboarding guru.
And, he adds, trusting your skills.
“For first-time heli-boarders, I remind them this isn’t the hill anymore,” Chucky says. “The snow is bottomless, particularly earlier in the season. It’s a bit difficult to figure out the balance at first, so you have to learn to trust the new feeling. Then you learn speed is good. As soon as you get speed, you get power and balance and float. Then you gain the ability to maintain that speed where you are in control.
The biggest thing is trust.”
Growing up in northern Saskatchewan, Chucky learned to cross-country ski on the flat prairie. Living in Quebec when he was 16 he took up downhill skiing and snowboarding, until eventually snowboarding won out.
“It was the movement of it all, everything about it,” he says.
While attending CEGEP (Québec college) he began teaching. Now he instructs snowboarding at all levels, including teaching other instructors up to level four, all across Canada. Also a skilled kite-boarding instructor, Chucky has learned how to read wind, a skill that’s proving useful on snow, too. Teaching instructors, he adds, invariably becomes a melting pot of ideas.
“I’ve learned that people’s imaginations are everything on a board,” Chucky says. “Imagination stems from what you can’t and can do, and you realize there’s not a lot you can’t do.”
For Chucky, that imagination includes competing, first racing and now freestyle competitions. And, he exercises his imagination building his own splitboards, even designing and constructing custom boards for others.
“I don’t start making a board unless it’s for someone,” Chucky says. “Their own style is very much considered when I design the shape, flex, length, how I want it to perform for them, the kind of snow they like to ride. It’s the whole process of how I build boards that challenges me. That’s probably why I like it so much.”
Now having earned his ACMG Assistant Snowboard Guide certification, Chucky is embracing the challenges guiding presents – and loving that too.
“I really like the small groups of Great Canadian and I like the small heli,” he says. “I’m constantly amazed at what the pilots can and can’t do.”
But at the end of the day, what constantly inspires Chucky is riding his snowboard.
“I’m still having way too much fun,” Chucky admits. “Every run still piques my imagination, every time.”