So what happens when your son loses their board and it disappears far down the slopes and across into the middle of a frozen lake? Well plot a snowboard rescue of course... Ed Leigh takes up the story...
It is mid November, the opening day of the season in Verbier and I have just finished building a jump off the side of the piste with my 8 year old son who has side slipped the run in, unstrapped and let go of his snowboard. It is now gently slipping away from us towards a huge partially frozen lake. It hits the ice and skids at an impressive pace more than 100 metres out on the lake.
As a rule I would not even entertain the idea of trying to retrieve something worth £200 from a lethal partially frozen lake. So I enquire about a new board and not wanting to let go completely speak to patrollers and the Verbier lift company about the reality of getting onto the ice. To their credit they go and have a look and then inform me that it has nestled itself over the intake pipe for the snow cannons and the ice will be thinnest there so a rescue is not possible.
Then it comes to me, an idea so cunning and brilliant that Blackadder would be proud. A friend has an inflatable stand up paddleboard, it’s perfect, it will slide across the ice and if the ice breaks it will float!
3 days later I blag my way onto a worker’s lift to Ruinette and from there it’s a 2 hour splitboard up to the top of Attelas. I ride down to Lac des Vaux at 3pm, text my wife and tell her that if I haven’t texted again in 20 minutes she should call the rescue services and start setting up. I strip down to my thermals so if I do go in I won’t sink, put crampons on my hands and grab my probe to check the ice.
It is only once I’m on the ice that I realise how stupid this is. I am alone (friends found convenient excuses not to be complicit in my demise) and if the ice does break I won’t be able to get back on it and breaking a channel home will be hard if not impossible while kneeling on the wobbly board.
I opt to ignore this dawning realisation and in 15 minutes have dragged myself out to the thin stretch of clear ice where the snow cannon intake is clearly visible. I probe it carefully and decide it’s strong enough to risk. I make it over but not before panicking at the thick layer of slush coating the ice. Three minutes later I have the board in my hands and, becoming ever bolder ditch the crampons and run back to shore.
It may have been idiotic but the look on Oscar’s face when I give him the board is reward enough, not to mention the satisfaction I feel at seeing the idea through. The only slightly disturbing thought was that my wife hadn’t seen my text until 5.30.