Team Ambassador Rob Hopkins Update - December 31, 2018

Words by: Rob Hopkins (Splitboard HQ Ambassador)

Photos by: Mike Hopkins @mikehopkinsphotography

After a few weeks of work, home renovations, and bad avalanche conditions limiting me to only a few half days at the ski resort, I had been frothing to get out into the big mountains again to stretch my legs and mind. So earlier this week when my brother Mike got the green light to go riding the following day and conditions looked good, I knew I had to make time for some shredding.

Splitboarding Banff

We picked a line which was relatively high and sheltered in hopes of maximizing our snowpack depth and stability, and avoiding the thin and poorly layered terrain that seems so common lately.

After parking the car and skinning up the popular summer trail, we caught a glimpse of our target face and picked Plan A, B and C lines to give us our best shot at some semblance of success. Most of the options on this face are capped with some very large cornices that you can see from valley bottom, and without the benefit of a rope to rappel into (or out of) anything, our only choice today was to find something we could ride cleanly from the top.

We cut into the woods toward the shoulder we would use to access the lines. I have been to this area a few times, and am always amazed at how long it takes to climb the peak. It’s not that your perspective of the mountain is foreshortened – the mountain looks and really is only maybe 600m of vertical – it’s more just that the approach is steeper, more strenuous and more time consuming than you expect. After a few hours of battling alders and facets we threw out all plans of doing a second lap, and settled on just one.

Splitboarding Lake Louise

Finally we reached the summit ridge, and with the majority of the vertical behind us, all we had to contend with were some very large and menacing cornices, closely guarding the entrances to the prize lines.

Scrambling with Splitboards

We tiptoed around these beasts as best we could in an attempt to catch a glimpse of our lines; clinging as close as possible to the steep rock dropoff on one side while trying to get good footholds in the edge of the snow that protruded off into space on the other side.

Getting ready to drop

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find the weakness that allowed entry to Plan A, and the entrance to Plan B was completely unrideable, so we found ourselves awkwardly backtracking down the summit ridge toward Plan C, which looked to be in excellent shape and had a very obvious and mellow weakness allowing you to sneak into the fun without having to mess around with questionable cornices or rappelling.

Dropping in Splitboarding Canada

A quick couple of ski cuts yielded no scary reactivity, and pretty excellent powder, so we committed to the rest of the line and were treated to some really nice turns, interrupted by the occasional vicious shark attack to keep us on our toes (shout out to Ptex for keeping my boards alive!)… At the bottom we high-fived and reveled in the feeling of having finally ridden something from the top this season. We still need a few more significant snowfalls before it’s time to open up the throttle, but if you pick your aspect carefully and keep your feet light there is plenty of great snow to be ridden!

Coulior Splitboarding Canada