Serving Up Splitboards
Local restaurateur retrofits snowboards for the backcountry
Story and photo by Ian Ferguson
Maple Falls business owners Trish and Serafino Gesmundo have provided delicious, locally-grown food to hungry adventurers since opening Cafe 542 on the Mt. Baker Highway last May.Now Serafino’s passion for backcountry snowboarding has led to the growth of a second business: turning snowboards into splitboards.Splitboards are snowboards with reconfigurable bindings that have been cut longitudinally allowing riders to use the boards like cross country skis. With skins and poles, riders can hike up slopes before reassembling their board and riding downhill as they would on any other snowboard.
Serafino was first turned onto the concept several years ago while working as a manager for the Glacier Ski Shop. He went splitting in the backcountry a few times with rented splitboards and wanted a pair his own.
He was considering getting his brand new Never Summer snowboard retrofitted when Tim Eberly, a representative for Never Summer, suggested Serafino cut it himself. The Michigan native dove headfirst into the project.
His new splitboard worked out perfectly. Soon, friends who saw Serafino’s homemade rig were asking him to work his magic on their own boards.
“Word started getting out and it just grew organically from there,” he said. Serafino now receives several orders a week, and Mt. Baker Recycled Splitboards is steadily growing.
Using a dialed-in assembly process, Serafino turns his customers’ snowboards into light, strong, and well-balanced splitboards. First, customers bring their snowboard into Cafe 542, where they fill out paperwork describing their stance and component preferences. Then, Serafino sends the board to a local guy who uses a water jet to cut the board in half. This half-million dollar machine creates a hairline split, removing less than 1/32 of an inch of board material in a perfect cut every time. If you hold one of Serafino’s assembled splitboards up to the light, no light shines through the crack, and the connection doesn’t wiggle no matter how hard you thrash the board.
Once back from the water jet, Gesmundo assembles the boards according to the customer’s specifications using top-of-the-line components from Karakorum, Voile and Spark. Assembly involves drilling through the board, installing inserts with p-tex backings (they mesh seamlessly with the base of the board) and mounting the components. He does the assembly in a shipping-container workshop in the parking lot of Cafe 542. He’s renting the container, which is just big enough for a couple of workbenches and a drying area, but he’s hoping to move to a bigger space above the cafe.
Turning a snowboard you already own into a splitboard is an economical way to get into backcountry snowboarding, Serafino said. New splitboards can cost up to $1,500 but, depending on the components the customer chooses, a board taken to Serafino can be had for $350 to $400. If a customer just needs a board split, Serafino will do it for $90. If he or she wants it cut and ready to accept hardware, with holes drilled and inserts installed, it will cost $250.
“I want it to be cost effective for people to get out into the backcountry,” Serafino said. “It’s a fun place to be, and I want everyone to be able to experience it, even though money is tight for a lot of people.”
Like many residents of Maple Falls and neighboring Glacier, Serafino is fanatical about hiking for turns. Anyone visiting turns-all-year.com, the cyber-home of backcountry skiing in the Northwest, has probably seen Serafino’s silhouette on the homepage (he’s climbing Goat Mountain with a board on his back), and anyone visiting Café 542 can get all the trip information they need from the friendly guy behind the counter.
Trish and Serafino are raising their two kids, 6-year-old Canyon and 4-year-old Kaia, to be equally in love with nature. This was the impetus behind a new line of Mt. Baker Recycled Splitboards: splitboards for kids.
“It’s something nobody in the industry is doing,” Serafino said. “Some parents might want to take their kids into the backcountry but it’s also for 9 to 12-year-olds who just want to walk up the hills in their backyards and ride around the hills and trails.”
The one downside to all this business?
“Now I can’t get out splitboarding as much as I’d like,” he said. “But business is good, and I enjoy doing it. I was a builder in my past, so this gives me some self-fulfillment.”
Find Mt. Baker Recycled Splitboards on Facebook or at Café 542, located at 7466 Mt. Baker Highway, Maple Falls, 360/599-1347. X