Dan Fogarty and Mira Mackey, both 20, say they're "totally stoked" to spend the season helping people hurtle head first down the ski slopes.
"Hangboarding throws a completely new spin on the mountain,"says Fogarty, who along with Mackey and a handful of other test pilots took the new rig through more than 1,100 runs at Mt. Washington Apline Resort on Vancouver Island last year.
"Slopes feel steeper, edges feel more sensitive, terrain feels closer, air feels bigger and speed feels faster."
Hangboarding mixes elements of mountain biking, snowboarding and hang gliding.
The rig attaches to a standard snowboard and the pilot, wearing a harness, hangs from a T-shaped bar. Arms push against handlebars in front and feet clamp into stirrups at the back to the work rudders, which also function as brakes. Like hang gliding, most steering is done by weight shifting.
"It is such a different experience — you’re so low down, you get really in tune with the terrain," says Fogarty, who is also an avid snowboarder and soccer player. "When you’re carving turns it feels like flying."
The HangBoard was developed entirely in B.C. by a group of outdoor enthusiasts that includes inventor Don Arney (who was also one of Canada's first hang gliders), designer Charles Buchwald and Canadian mountain biking and snowboarding champ Everest MacDonald.
HangBoard Snoflight, which developed the rig, is based on Salt Spring Island, where both Mackey and Fogarty grew up.
"Hangboarding sort of reminds me of tobogganing head first," says Mackey, a snowboarder, skier and competition-winning skateboarder. "It’s the same excitement, but on a toboggan you can’t stop. With hangboarding, you can."
Both students say their experience as the world's first hangboarders has been exhilarating and — without having the benefit of any instruction — a little scaryintimidating.
"That very first day, I felt a bit discouraged by the of amount time it took me to stay upright," recalls Mackey. "But then I got really excited by every little bit of progress I made. By the end of the first day I was sore and beaming. I couldn’t wait for tomorrow."
Fogarty said, "At first, your body is a little confused about how to handle the rig, but after a run or two, it all starts to make sense and then you're cruisin’!"
Once they figured out the new sport, the two had a wide open opportunity to test the rig in different terrains and then develop tricks and manoeuvres.
"We found groomed snow is great for consistent turning and spinning—probably the best conditions for learning," says Fogarty. "Powder is always a rush. Imagine how soft it feels riding fluffy po’ on a snowboard or skis, then imagine you're suspended in midair!"
"In terms of tricks," he adds, "the HangBoard book is yet to be written. Cutbacks, tail sliding banks, 360 flat spinning, spin stops, quick stops, and bank 180s are just some of the stunts we mastered last season."
Now, as instructors, the two will be teaching the basics this season, and watching what new ideas emerge.
"I can’t wait to see what people start doing with the HangBoard," says Mackey. "I’m sure that this year’s riders will develop new moves that I never thought of."
Snow lovers who want to meet Mackey and Fogarty on the slopes and test pilot a hangboard this season should check out the company website at www.hangboard.ca for a tour schedule.
Demos are free, but riders need to sign up ahead of time on the website and obtain a lift ticket.