More than ever before, snowboarders are passing up the lifts and heading into the mountains on their own two feet. Since its inception a few decades ago, splitboarding has grown, and matured into a sophisticated backcountry culture all its own.
What's a splitboard?
It's a snowboard that is divided into two halves that can be used as pair of skis to tour the landscape and ascend slopes. Once on top of the mountain, the skis are reassembled as a snowboard and the descent begins.
Unlike their colorful cousins swarming around the resort, splitboarders approach things differently.
They're keen to weather patterns, tracing weather from first to the last snow of the season. They watch the wind, practice rescue scenarios and think a great deal about terrain choices and navigation, often carrying and reading maps. They study avalanche observations and even attend lectures on snow safety. The only aprés-ski touch is whatever is shared on the drive home in the dark.
“The experience is just completely different than what you get at the (ski) mountain,” said John Agnew of The Boarding Haus in Durango, Colorado. “You hear nothing but the birds and maybe the wind and the trees, and your heart beating.”
Agnew says it's peaceful and a good time among friends.
This is the quiet side of snowboarding, where mountain winds blow and the views are forever.