Every year a group of intrepid winter outdoor enthusiasts partake in an activity that is growing in Australia despite what some thinking it unsuitable sport for our flat, sun-drenched country. Backcountry splitboarding.
No, it’s not a group that gather and sacrifice last years unwanted snowboards burying them in a deep unmarked site never to be found. This is a group of people who enjoy the serenity of the outdoors and have a sense of adventure. Not only does it get them away from the crowds but also not having to pay the exuberant expenses one experiences when lining up at the ticket counter of one of the many resorts in the Australia mountains. This doesn’t mean they are against the resorts, but simply want to experience different places and slopes not to be enjoyed by sitting on one of mechanical lifts tethered to a predestined mountain peak.
To feel the rush of pointing your board tip downwards, you need to return to the lift start over and over again, this can get repetitive and limits you to the same slopes each time. So, this is why splitboarding was invented. How do we get up the mountain so we can enjoy the rush of going down again no matter where we won’t to go, no matter where that mountain is?
It all started with people boot hiking the mountain but that was too impractical and tiring. Skiers have the right idea using their long ski’s so not to sink in the snow but could not enjoy the flowing turns that only a snowboard can bring. Through need and creativity, the splitboard is making trips in the backcountry simple by eliminating the need to carry your traditional snowboard. Rather, it makes the traditional snowboard more functional whether ascending or carving turns.
So, with nearly 50 people meeting on a Friday night in Jindabyne for an inspiring movie night they then headed for Island Bend to make camp. From here, Guthega became the base to launch the two-day festival heading out in groups to various locations depending on skills and wanted adventure rush.
Of the group, many are first timers adventuring away from the resorts grasp of mechanically chauffeured lifts lead by the more experienced on where to go, what to bring and how to stay safe. Yes, the group are not a wild bunch throwing caution to the wind and simply splitting up the first steep wind-loaded slope only to be engulfed in a roaring slide of snow.
Many cautions are taken in the backcountry by partnering up, carrying safety avalanche beacons, probes for searching and snow shovels for digging. Not only the correct gear but a healthy knowledge and respect of snow pack, weather and the outdoors as its your companions that will save you not the resort ski patrol.
The festival is a great way for people to meet other like-minded adventurers and try something new, many joined the largest group who tackled the closest slopes of Guthega Trig while others glided away to further slopes.
The best part of about Splitboarding would have to be the freedom of having no restrictions on where you can go and the enjoyment of simply just being outdoors. It’s not about how many runs you get in before lunch, you may only do a handful all day but it about the whole process. Selecting a run, ensuring its safe through knowledge and awareness. Pushing yourself physically to get to peak, briefly enjoying the view over a bite and hot drink before feeling the excitement of making the first turn into a slope you worked hard to get too. Things always seems more rewarding when you have to work for them, more enjoyable when you appreciate the journey not just the destination.
Different mountains and locations like Kosciusko National Park and Hotham have hosted the event, which is now in its fifth year.
Join the group next year in 2017 as Adam West, who runs the SplitFest festival, is always happy to impart knowledge and make this sport safer and more enjoyable. Information about the past events and when the next one will take place can be found via the SplitFest website.