EVER wanted to snowboard, but just felt you needed two of them to stay upright?

A winter sports enthusiast from south Essex might just have the answer to your problems.

Matt Harper-Ward, 39, has developed his own "blades", which combine the speed and comfort of snowboarding with the stability of skis.

In fact, he credits his Fat Blades for escaping largely unscathed from a bad fall while skiing in France this week.

Mr Harper-Ward, of Western Road, Rayleigh, who damaged tendons in his arm in the fall, spent two years designing, building prototypes and patenting his blades, which are shorter and wider than usual skis.

He said: "The skis can take snowboard boots and bindings, which are often seen as trendier and are more comfortable.

"You can also wear snowboarding gear like the baggier trousers with them."

Mr Harper-Ward said he saw the blades as the compromise between skiing and snowboarding.

He said: "The idea came about because I wanted to snowboard and wear the boots, but I fall more on a board."

His recent fall happened when he was using the 80cm long blades at Claviere, on the Italian border.

Mr Harper-Ward said: "I was travelling at about 40 to 50 kilometres per hour, when I hit a bad edge and plunged off piste falling about 30ft.

"With the force of the impact I thought I had collapsed a lung because I found it difficult to breathe. I was starting to wonder how the helicopter could get to me to rescue me, but miraculously I recovered.

"I was able to stand and hike back up the mountain because the skis are like big feet. I couldn't have done that with normal skis. Back on piste, I was able to ski back down."

Mr Harper-Ward, co-owner of a telecoms company in Basildon, is currently marketing Fat Blades to snowboarding companies in the US and hopes to get them mass produced.