Before we get into the list…Safety first! Always keep in mind avalanche safety when traveling in the backcountry. Please do your homework. Read a book. Take a class. Take two. Find some videos on the internet. Learn! Get the gear. Practice using it. Practice. Practice. Find good riding partners. Read weather. Read terrain. Be safe out there! There are a lot of resources to keep us safe. Use them. There is also a lot of low angle terrain options too where avalanche risk is practically nil. Coming home alive should always be your top priority. Be safe! Have fun!
Splitboarding has opened up the snowboarding world to the vast expanse of terrain and thrills of backcountry riding. For those of you brand new to splitboarding, a splitboard allows your board to essentially become a snowshoe (but way better) and travel uphill. Here’s my personal list of why I think splitboarding is the most awesomest of awesome things ever:
#5 Connecting with nature
Splitboarding in the backcountry allows us to connect with your environment in a soulfully refreshing way! The backcountry has very few crowds, no loud chair lifts, and few people snaking your powder stash. All distractions when we are out in the hills, enjoying the mountains on your splitboard for all the reasons we are drawn into Mother Natures gardens. When we’re out there, we are OUT there.
Rider: Brendon Glenwright, Photo: Diego Munez Plata
Finding and riding that newly found line you have only dreamed of and studied brings you closer to nature. We study the fields of powder to be ridden on mountains of frozen ocean, waiting to be surfed. In that moment of riding that line, connecting with it, we are one with nature for that moment. Nothing else is present in your mind but the snow beneath your feet. You are free and truly connected with nature.
#4 Exploring new ideas and exploring all the terrain you can imagine
Getting into splitboarding in the backcountry, side country, and even uphill at a resort requires the learning new skills, mainly to keep you safe. Exploring new terrain makes you evaluate and look at terrain differently. You look at terrain from an avalanche safety perspective and from a not-get-lost or stuck in a flat perspective. It expands the experience of being one-with-nature.
Photo: Mike Page
When the terrain is endless and you can ride almost as far as the eye can see. Many backcountry zones you only hear tales of some far off land. With only a few pictures and topo graphic maps to help you find the stash of powder fields or gnarly big mountain line. We take a step into the beyond. The process of finding that next new line, unexplored by you, becomes part of the thrill!
#3 Enjoying the climb and getting fit
Sitting on a lift is cozy and easy. Only energy being is exerted is just keeping warm. Going uphill by leg power is quite a different experience and makes for a great work out. It’s the ultimate gratification of hard work, rewarded with views, solitude, great times with friends, and of course, powder. Pick your pace. Pick your challenge. Push yourself breaking trail, zig sagging your way up a 35 degree pitch at the apron of gnarly couloir. Or go for a mellow tour following a skin track at your local hill for some low-angle bowl to kick up some rooster tail flying soul turns. There is something for everyone with splitboarding to crank up that cardio and strength in your fitness goals.
Rider: Mark Koelker, Photo: Ben Koelker
Hiking in the summer is one thing, splitboarding in the winter is another. Not only do you have an additional 15-25 pounds of cloth and gear, you also have your pack which carries at the minimum your avalanche gear and first aid. On those longer trips and tours, the more prepared the better and that results in more gear! Add in a hut trip, add in even more gear! Get the point, you are actually building strength by actively touring in the winter time. Get strong!
#2 Getting a free lifetime pass
With splitboarding, every peak you look at, every mountain pass you drive over, every range you possibly see, every strip of snow, is your terrain. When you buy a splitboard, you get a free lifetime ski pass with it. For us along the I70 Corridor in Colorado, there’s Berthoud Pass, Loveland Pass, Vail Pass, Jones Pass, and every pass and mountain you wish to conquer. The backcountry has endlessly diverse and a lifetime of lines for anyone willing to conquer it. Not for the feint of heart though, with mitigating risks well, we get rewarded with endless powder, exploration, nature, and excitement.
Splitboarding up resorts is another way to get a free pass at resorts too. “Uphill skiing” at resorts is free at most resorts in Colorado. For a list of resorts uphill skiing policies, see this link http://www.ussma.org/resort-uphill-policies. With ski passes ranging from $800 to arm-and-a-leg, a splitboard investment might not be a bad alternative. On those powder days, splitting up before the lift turns is “safer” terrain (not including the lift accessed backcountry that is). Earn your turns even at the resorts is catching on.
#1 Endless Powder!!!
Topping out the list is that precious fresh powder cold smoke. Untouched fields of powder are hot and rare commodity at resorts. If you’re not waking at crack of dawn and getting 1st chair, the powder is only in the stashes. If you’re not a seasoned local (or really good friends with on) that’s gracious enough to share their stashes), getting the fresh powder at a resort is a challenge! Seems with more and more people showing up at resorts, we have to dig deeper and deeper to find the fresh white untouched goods. Splitboards get us there.
Rider: Matty Komar, Photo: Scott Bellows
With splitboarding, the fresh turns are a plenty for the entire season in the backcountry for those willing to mitigate the risk of avalanches. With an endless amount of terrain, its about reading weather and terrain and you can find the goods for days, sometimes weeks, after the storm. In the backcountry, we earn that fresh cold smoke of endless untouched powder snow. The work you put into to the backcountry pays dividends in powder. A short tour on your splitboard will get you turns that dreams are made of.
About the author:
I’ve been riding in the hills of Colorado’s backcountry for just over 20 years now and splitboarding for about 10. Skateboarder turned snowboarder. The backcountry was less about finding powder but learning new tricks and building bigger jumps. Hitch hike from the switchback, put in a boot pack or two, maybe follow a few other boot packs, build up a hug kicker, find a log to session, then ride down making some turns in the fresh.
After a while, riding down for the turns became the drive. Finding new zones, new powder stashes. Realizing that the terrain was endless if only we could get there. Snowmobiles, too expensive. Snowcat, maybe. Helicopter, I guess I have an extra kidney. Post holing, extremely hard. One day, snowshoeing out, I came across a guy on the skin track with this snowboard that was cut in half. Enter the splitboard.
In the early 2000’s the internet came along. At that time splitboards were just starting to get manufactured and we didn’t have to be a carpenter to Swiss cheese up a board any more. More and more companies were coming out with splitboards, splitboard specific skins, and universal hardware. The internet provided a whole new way of keeping up with avalanche forecasts, finding new zones, and learning about new equipment. Splitboarding has become my life.