Split-skiing can be a roll of the dice. I’ve fallen on my face as many times as I’ve successfully pizza-french-fried my way through a skintrack. But Kyle England, a fellow splitboarder I met at this year’s Mt. Baker Splitfest, seems to be a pro at it. He’s standing roughly 50 feet upslope from me with his board still split in two, calling his drop. “This will be entertaining regardless of the outcome,” I think as he rolls in. Kyle somehow manages the terrain and joins me at the bottom of the pitch, and together we head back up for another run in the 45-degree weather, with corn snow sitting under the sun and patches of powder stashed in the shade around us.
The morning started out cold, but as the sun hit it quickly became too warm to wear anything other than a t-shirt, and every pant vent open. The upper lot of Mt. Baker Ski Area’s Heather Meadows lodge is filled with splitboarders—from fledgling rookies to seasoned, highly knowledgeable enthusiasts—collectively prepping their gear. A sprawl of music blasts from a few different cars as people prep for backcountry tours, and guides walk around offering up the last few spots of the free informational clinics they’re hosting here today.
Although the backcountry community is made up by often-solitary individuals, the horde of splitboarders at Splitfest this year are anything but. Despite crowded skintracks, everyone is in good spirits enjoying the sunny skies and surprisingly good snow.
As evening rolls in we file down the mountain and gather at Glacier, WA’s Chair 9 to feast on plenty of pizza and maybe a-bit-too-much beer, satisfied with a full day of splitboarding in the Cascades. A charity raffle for the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) and a forecast discussion for Sunday fill the early part of the night, followed by a gear auction and dancing for the rest of the evening. By the looks of the fun everyone’s having, I’d be willing to bet that by tomorrow some of these people may be fighting off a bit of a hangover. I wonder how that will affect their split-skiing.
A special thanks to Bob Rogers, Terry Schmidbauer and all the Splitfest organizers, guides, Chair 9, event sponsors and participants who helped make the 2018 Splitfest one to remember. Since 2010 Splitfest has raised over $30,000 for NWAC, with plans to keep that number growing in years to come. We’ll see you on the skintrack again next March.