My first trip out on my splitboard has been two months coming. For those of you who
have been following my journey…thanks! For anyone new to the story, here’s a brief recap. New Year’s weekend I hiked my first linewhen the lifts at Magic Mountain were down. It was fun-a lot of work, but fun. It was great being out there with no crowds and plenty of snow. The few people we ran into were also “earning their turns” and there was an incredible spirit in the people we met. No one was upset about the lifts being down. It was the way everyone left wanted it.
That day I became obsessed with the idea of splitboarding. Suddenly I started to get everything Mark had been talking about. Even though we were at an almost empty ski area, I got it. It’s at least as much (if not more) about the journey up, than it is about the line down. And it’s about being outdoors in the mountains and making your own way. It’s good.
So the hunt began for the perfect setup. After much deliberation and several setbacks, I had my board (Gnu B-Pro splitboard) and bindings (Voile Light Rails) and a nasty cold. Finally the stars aligned and we got our chance. We met some friends up at a “lost” ski area in southern Vermont. It was the perfect place to start! The gentleman that owns the ski area now still maintains it…mows it in the summer and even has a groomer and grooms out some of the lower mountain.
We got our backpacks packed up with water, snacks, goggles, gloves, and spare parts and then we got our boards separated and skinned up (yay for that stripe down the middle of the Voile skins that allow you to separate them!) I took off before everyone else because I wanted to see if I could work out forward movement. Not so bad. I could see how it would get tiring, but the general movement wasn’t bad. You basically just shuffle along keeping your skis on the ground and pointed forward. Any movement out to the sides wastes energy and that is not something I can afford to do…turns out I would need all of that to get back down.
Feeling pretty comfortable shuffling along, we got to a steep-ish section. I was not anticipating sliding back down the hill, but that’s what happened…and after checking out the video below, apparently it happened in rather dramatic fashion. Then it kept happening. Thankfully one of our new friends was an accomplished skier/skinner and advised me to lean back. Lean back?! It felt like if I leaned back I would go ass over teakettle back down the hill, but I gingerly tried to lean back. That helped as did digging in the poles behind me and pushing off. But ultimately I had to skin along the fall line and switchback to keep going up. In no time at all, the group got really far ahead of me. Mark finally had to stay behind and pitch a tent to wait for me since I rested approximately every 40 swishes of my skis.
When we finally neared the top, the group was just heading down. The fact that they didn’t lap us was a little victory to me. Once we made it to the old lift Mark asked “Do you want to go again?” I suggested he ask me that once we got to the bottom.
The transition from touring to riding was a little clumsy and Mark had to help me. The left binding refused to go on properly and despite the snow clearing design of the binding, if there is any snow behind the puck, it will not work. Lesson learned. With skins packed up, poles strapped in, and helmet on, we were ready to go. Our reward! Ya right.
If you follow us, you know I am not the most accomplished snowboarder out there. I get it done…I get down, but it’s not always pretty. Well, we were in some pretty varied conditions of a couple feet of snow, a not so nice crust, some groomed parts and a partridge in a pear tree. Not exactly my forte. As Mark yelled for me to keep my speed up, I naturally did the exact opposite and slowed way down until I just kind of toppled over. Oh oh. Stuck in a couple of feet of snow with my snowboard pinned behind me was not exactly a good start. After extricating myself from that I should have known better than to slow down at inopportune times….not so much. It was a long ride down! It takes more energy to repeatedly get up out of a couple of feet of snow that it did to trek up the mountain. Trial by fire.
When we made it down, it was time for lunch so we headed back to the car. Our friends got back from their second lap a few minutes later. I was wet all over…once snow gets up your shirt, down your pants, up your sleeves, etc…it melts-and you end up wet. So I was cold! We were planning to go back up, but Mark wasn’t sure it was a good idea because human popsicles are bad. But I wanted to do better than the first time, so he transitioned my board for me while I sat in the car trying to warm up a bit before going up again.
Once we started up again I warmed right up. I still had to rest every 50 or so swishes, but it went much better the second time. The spots that I kept sliding down the first time, were a piece of cake the second time. I translated “lean back” when you slip, to stand up straighter and it made me feel more secure and less like I was going to fall backwards. We took a different route up that looked easier, but longer than the first one. Well, it was longer, but I don’t think it was any easier.
It was encouraging that trekking was much smoother the second time. When we got to the top, I transitioned my board by myself (Mark only collapsed my poles while I was loading up my pack) and it was much faster and less clumsy than the first time. I cheated on the way down and took the “groomer” most of the way. I was tired and didn’t need to take any chances getting hurt on the way down since it was the first day of our “weekend”. I wanted to be able to snowboard the next day.
Having the first time behind me, I cannot wait to go out again. It has definitely become a bit of an obsession since that first hike up. There is something very freeing being practically the only people out there. And the people that you share the mountain with share the spirit too, and it is good. We got to pick our path down and really didn’t know what to expect until we got there. It was exciting, even on a mountain with very defined trails. There is a peace and exhilaration being out there…just you, the snow and the mountain. It reminds me of the feeling I get when paddleboarding…the meditative feeling of just you and the water and the sound of you gliding through it. Hopefully the snow sticks around this year so we can keep getting out there. I need to get my lungs and legs in shape to take on “bigger and better” things. But even if I don’t graduate from “small and groomer aided” this year, that’s ok…I’m out there getting it done and having fun doing it!
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