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Learning to Splitboard | Episode seven

Season 2 Kickoff

Video: Simon Coward

Simon and Matt here from Splitboard HQ, and we are back for another season of getting into the backcountry. It's been a slow start here in the Rockies. At lower elevations, it's still early in the season, so we’re dealing with a lot of deadfall, open water, and other early-season hazards. To mitigate these challenges, we are using our season passes at Sunshine Village to get to higher elevations where conditions are better.

Prepping for the First Day

The night before our first day out, I went through a meticulous gear check. I pulled everything out, checked all the screws on my bindings, and made sure all my gear was in my backpack. I discovered that my first aid kit was missing, so I had to scramble to find it. I also ensured my spare parts kits were intact, with all the cable ties, duct tape, and other essentials.

Trip Planning and Safety

Given it was the first day of the season, we took things very easy. We checked the forecast and planned for a shorter day, intending to dig a couple of pits, explore different aspects of the terrain, and learn about the snowpack. It’s all about easing our legs back into it because we’re not as fit as we were last spring.

First Run of the Season

As Simon mentioned, we’re out on our first day, and it’s mid-December—a bit of a later start. I’m about ten days into my splitboarding journey from last season, and I’m really excited to continue learning and growing in my knowledge of the backcountry and the sport. We’re out the back of Sunshine, cruising down to our starting point for skinning up.

Enjoying the Powder

The first run of the season was pretty fun, definitely a powder day. The trees are really caked, which is crazy for this area. A great way to kick off the season!

Early Season Oversights and Gear Tips

If you find that your calves are burning more than they should, you probably didn’t flip your binding high backs from ride mode to ski mode. It’s a common early-season oversight. Getting back into these little processes helps us be efficient in the backcountry.

The Importance of Poles

We didn’t talk much about poles last season, but they’re a pretty important tool. Snowboarders might not be as familiar with them. My poles are pretty banged up because I grabbed them last minute from my garage, but they still do the job. One of them has a loop, which is generally not recommended for backcountry use because it can be a snag hazard in an avalanche.

Proper Hand Position

For better blood flow, I encourage people to rest their hands on top of the poles with an open grip, especially on flat or mellow terrain. As things get steeper, adjust your grip lower on the pole to save energy.

Digging a Snow Pit

Given it’s the first day out, there’s not a lot of beta out there yet. We selected a representative slope to dig a snow pit. This process forces us to get our gear out and start using it again—shovel, probe, and saw. Here’s a quick, non-scientific guide to digging a pit and doing a compression test.

Setting Up the Pit

First, use the probe to find a consistent depth of undisturbed snow. Start digging and excavate snow downhill. We want the walls to be vertical, but they don’t need to be perfect. Look for layers of note in the sidewall. Measure the snow’s stiffness using fists, fingers, a pen, or a knife.

Compression Test

Build a column approximately 30 cm by 30 cm by 30 cm. Isolate the column from the snowpack. Perform the compression test: 10 taps from the wrist, 10 from the elbow, and 10 from the shoulder. Observe if the column drops or pops, indicating potential weak layers.

Filling in Your Snow Pit

Always fill in your snow pits. Unfilled pits can freeze and become hazards for others. Make the transition soft to avoid potential injuries.

Wrapping Up the Day

We’ve taken a mellow morning, dug a snow pit, and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day. Our legs are feeling the burn on day one, but we’re having fun with some mellow, nice powder turns. After some easy breezy skinning back up through low-angle meadows, we’ll ski down a fun little gully and make our way back to the ski hill.

Final Thoughts

If you’re still with us, thanks for joining our first day out. We’re all about keeping people safe in the backcountry and easing into the season. There are plenty of videos out there with specific skills and tips, we aim to incorporate them as we go and come up with processes to help you improve as a beginner or intermediate splitboarder.