January 22-23, 2011, was a date set months in advance for the First Annual Canuck Splitfest at Rogers Pass, BC. This date also coincided with the most severe avalanche cycle that the area has seen in 30 years. A rotten early season snowpack had slides running down to dirt and beyond full path taking out 100 year old timber. Things get crazy when one of the driest starts to winter on record turns to above average snowfall in a manner of days. The highway through the pass was shut for better part of the week as the mobile howitzer cannon did it’s best to knock down the instabilities to keep traffic rolling.
Despite the delays on the road and the tiger country conditions in the backcountry, enough splitters made the trek to fill the Glacier Park Lodge to capacity for the weekend. Friday night kicked off with words of wisdom and caution from guide and avalanche forecaster Greg Johnson as well as Parks Canada’s head of mountain rescue Sylvia Forest. It was made crystal clear to pay attention to risk management and select simple terrain. The many alpine options in the park were no doubt a drawing force for the 80 or so splitters who came from as far away as California. However, bagging peaks wasn’t on the menu–waist deep blower powder in well-spaced trees would have to suffice. Who knew that playing it safe could be such a good time?
Item: Canuck Splitfest 2011
Displays the photo gallery for a selected Gallery Album.A national media outlet graced the event looking for some material to play up the reckless snowboarder angle, possibly thinking they could get the jump on a big story like the fatal turbo hill incident during a snowmobile event the previous season. No such incidents went down–hopefully the general public will start to understand that safe choices can be made in the backcountry during periods of snow instability.
Saturday night consisted of buffet, beers, and a raffle with all the proceeds–$2,185 all told–going to the Canadian Avalanche Centre. The big ticket prizes were determined with a splitboard change-over time trial. Washingtonian John Cocci took top honors and a custom Prior split of his liking. Revelstoke local Mark Hartley and Washington State’s Kyle Miller both put on slide shows of their mind boggling big mountain exploits from there respective home areas.
Sunday consisted of more suffocating turns and busy uptracks. Glad to say there were no incidents to speak of—definitely a load off of organizer Wade Galloway as he was in the media crosshairs at the start of the weekend. A big shout out to Wade for putting together a great event, and all the event sponsors for getting behind the splitboard community. Hope to see you there next year.
Words, Photos and Video: Nikolai Samson/snowsurf.ca