[This story was first published on Guidedexposure.com on March 23.]
By Jere Burrell
Warm air, sun-reddened faces with goggle tans, firm melt-freeze crust on southerly slopes and facet pow hiding out in the northerlies are a welcome sign. The end of winter and the beginning of spring arrived like cold water to a parched throat in the days leading up to Baker Splitfest 2018. Every year the splitboard community rallies around the snowboarding mecca of Mount Baker. This is where splitboarders come to demo equipment, participate in touring and rescue clinics, shred turns, and of course, raise some funds for our local avalanche forecasters at the Northwest Avalanche Center.
To get in on the sunny pow action, many folks arrived on Friday morning. Line by line the Bagley Lakes cirque was sampled, slashed, and slayed by sponsored riders, board and binding builders, and lokedawg posses. The classically steep and intimidating north facing lines of Blueberry, Artist Point, and Little AK were poked, jammed, and pitted for the simple enjoyment of shred.
The official start to Baker Splitfest was Friday evening as the split tribe descended upon the fern- and moss-laden nook of the North Cascades in Glacier Washington. Throughout the night the event host Chair 9 Woodstone Pizza and Bar turned out pizza pie after pint, and rippers chatted with vendors about products while free demos were setup for the following day’s clinics and tours. At the same time, splitters greeted each other, listened to the avalanche forecast and “state of the snowpack” and registered for the weekend’s festivities.
The night silently faded and the morning beckoned rippers up to Heather Meadows. Gradually, the parking lot filled with splitboarders from all over the country. They would try their hand at some of the best advanced and expert backcountry in the nation. This area has a long history of groundbreaking snowboard and the immediate Bagley Lakes cirque holds some beginner and even more intermediate terrain. But for those looking to challenge themselves, what really shines are the big lines that may define their snowboarding lives. Fortunately, professionally guided splitboard tours and skills clinics launched out of the parking lot and introduced the willing to this gem we call home.
Kick turns and pow slashes were preceded by layers of sunscreen, cruiser skin tracks, and welcoming camaraderie. Splitters slid out on new demo gear towards Artist Point, Herman Saddle, Table Mountain and deeper into the Mount Baker Wildernes. Lap after lap of pure powder pleasure depleted energy reserves and splitters trickled back into the parking lot. As afternoon wore on, Chair 9 kept the stoke high with frothy refreshments as shredders shared stories of steep lines.
Saturday night is a Splitfest highlight: demo gear exchanges took place, a splitboard transition competition rallied under the white tent, and of course, the raffle, which supports the Northwest Avalanche Center.
Day three had cast a shadow weariness from a night celebrating this subgenre of snowboarding. The mountains put on a new kit with light snow falling and a milky white fog draped across the Bagley cirque, limiting visibility on the steep treeless slopes. Even so, crews of splitters flittered uphill to Heather Meadows for another day of adventure.
For those unfamiliar with the task, finding well-contrasted slopes inside a Ping-Pong ball can be challenging. Thankfully, we were able to bring my guided split crew into a zone that had less fog, rocky contrast, and quality turns in cold snow. The crew was rewarded with a classic, rarely traveled, circumnavigation and a phenomenal climax to everything Splitfest has to offer.
Reluctantly, crews left behind the high walls of North Cascade snow for the green valley below. Again Splitfest descended to Chair 9, drank and sipped pitchers of brew, chowed hot pizza pie and cheesy burgers, all while sharing the stoke that Baker Splitfest provides.
Contacts, connections, reacquaintance, and more importantly, friendships and camaraderie were forged during this regional splitboard pilgrimage to the legendary Baker backcountry. Thanks to all the event sponsors, gear and swag donors, Chair 9 Pizza and Bar, and Bob Rodgers for organizing Baker Splitfest 2018. See you all in 2019 while spreading the love of split!
Splitboard guide and instructor Jere Burrell left deep slab instabilities in continental climates for deep snow immersion in the North Cascades. As a stubborn and passionate snowboarder he won’t let anyone tell him what he can’t do on a splittie. As a patient and well-traveled splitboard guide he believes in spreading the split love!