Some call it “Sufferfest,” but all in good taste.
The Oregon Splitfest takes place annually at the Tilly Jane Cabin, nestled just below the treeline on the Northeast side of Mt. Hood. Unlike other splitboard festivals that start in a parking lot, in order to participate in the Oregon Splitfest you must make your way 3 miles and 2,700 vertical feet to the cabin. You’re responsible for your own food and gear for the weekend, which makes for a heavy pack. Since it’s intended to be a fun time, attendees tend to bring more than is necessitated in order to indulge in gourmet meals and entertainment for all. Eight to 100 liter packs were not uncommon. But hey, it’s a good way to get into shape for the alpine season.
About a mile into our trek to the cabin, and after countless times unstrapping my splitboard to get from one patch of snow to the next, I think to myself, “Why did I bring so much stuff?” My brother, this being his third time at Oregon Splitfest, simply replies, “It’s Splitfest. That’s what you do.”
Upon arrival at the A-frame cabin, we were greeted with a pleasant fire and upwards of 80 beers from Hopworks Urban Brewery. A few gracious souls had hauled up the beverages the week prior and stashed them for the event. More splitboarders continued to trickle in and about 25 people would eventually sleep in the comfort of the cabin’s second floor sleeping loft.
The next morning, most of the group made their way up the Cooper Spur trail, across the mighty Elliot Glacier and up to the base of the iconic “Snow Dome.” The top of Snow Dome sits at about 8,500 feet, but wind blown snow and cooler temperatures made the tour to the top a toss up. A few mustered up the courage to ride from the top and earned a bit extra to the 3,000-foot decsent back to the cabin. A natural wind lip would suffice to entertain the rest of the crew until the decsent.
We shared beers, whisky, and stories by the fire while resting our tired legs. We concluded that perhaps the stand out moment of the day was when an event organizer slipped on ice and dropped her board amidst a quick ascent to cross a moraine. Her splitboard slid down, pin-balled off rocks and ended up far down the Elliot Glacier. She continued down on foot while two others went and retrieved the board. The board took a few hard hits, so we decided as a group to give the $500 raffle check donated by Portland Outdoor Store Next Adventure to her for a new splitboard.
On Sunday, before heading back down the mountain, a bit of friendly competition ensued. The first event was a race down a pitch on a snowboard, transition, and skin back up. The next was a timed beacon search. The final, and most unique, was a moonwalk race. In this race, contestants put their skins on backwards and walked backwards around a designated course. Each winner earned prizes from the raffle, and the winner of the moonwalk race won a pair of Spark R&D Bindings. All of the proceeds of the raffle went to the Oregon Nordic Club to restore the quaint Tilly Jane cabin so it can continue being used by the public.
Following the moonwalk race the crew headed down to the Crooked Tree Tavern, located at Cooper Spur Mountain, resort for a raffle, more beers, and a well-earned, hot meal. Our legs felt heavy, but our packs felt light, and our hearts full. “Sufferfest?” All in all, I’d say it’s far from it.
A special thanks to all event organizers and attendees who made this year’s Oregon Splitfest a great one.