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Learning to Splitboard | Episode eight

Mellow With a side of adventure

Video: Simon Coward

Hey everyone, it's Simon and Matt from Splitboard HQ, back with another episode of learning to splitboard. Today, we're heading up the Dolomite shoulder just off of the Icefield Parkway. We've got a good little crew of four and a bit of fresh snow. We're hoping for some better conditions at the top to score some sweet turns.

Navigating the Season's Challenges

As we think about today's trip in the context of beginner to intermediate splitboard progression, it's important to remember the season's conditions. We've just come out of a very dry early winter, followed by an intense cold snap that deteriorated the snow. This was then followed by a rapid warming cycle. Now, we're getting back to a more typical winter, albeit still quite warm with some new snow.

Given this, we're taking a super conservative approach today. Despite the forecast showing low avalanche risk at treeline and moderate risk in the alpine, our lack of recent outings and the uncertain conditions warrant caution. This season has been a lesson in patience, and a key learning point is the importance of waiting for the right conditions.

Aiming for Mellow Turns

Today, we're focused on finding some mellow turns, having fun, and making the most of the new snow. We're keeping things chill, especially since we haven't been out touring much and aren't as fit as we were this time last year. Patience is key—it helps you stay safe and enjoy the snow longer, so remember that when planning your trips.

Observing Avalanche Debris

Recently, we've experienced a big natural avalanche cycle, and we've seen the remnants of these avalanches. Here's an important observation: people often think that if there are trees on a slope, there aren’t any avalanches there. That's not true. We encountered a significant debris pile, large enough to bury a person, yet there are still many trees standing above it.

This area avalanches fairly regularly, especially in the spring, but not with enough force to knock down all the trees. Below, we noticed flagging on the trees, where lower branches are broken off. Awareness of these signs is crucial when traveling in avalanche-prone areas. We’ve discussed this in other episodes, but it’s a great opportunity to highlight it up close.

Answering Your Splitboarding Questions

A lot of what we address in these splitboarding blogs are questions from those new to splitboarding or just curious about it. As someone in my second season in the backcountry, I (Matt) have a unique perspective and always have questions for Simon. We hope our discussions are helpful for both newbies and seasoned splitboarders alike.

An Unexpected Turn

We planned to keep things mellow today, but as it turns out, we took a wrong turn in the trees and found ourselves atop a very steep gorge. We had to skin both down and up to get out of it, which was exhausting but weirdly fun. It wasn't part of the plan, but sometimes adventures take unexpected turns.

A Challenging Descent

As we navigated the gorge, it was the most technical downhill ski section I've (Matt) ever tried. There were rocks, super loose snow, and a fair share of challenges. Miraculously, I didn't fall, though it got pretty dicey. Now, we're facing an equally tough trek uphill.

Cruising to the Finish

We're cruising through some little evergreens now, heading up into the alpine for some turns. It’s a long run, and our legs are feeling it, but it’s so much fun. This kind of snow riding is the best—I could do it all day.

Stay tuned for more adventures from Splitboard HQ!