Learning to splitboard has been high on my to do list for quite sometime now. I have become increasingly adverse to crowds and lift lines in my old age! More and more I want to be alone in the mountains, to just get away and soak up all the energy, fresh air and silence that they offer. Maybe it’s a reaction to being cooped up in an office Monday to Friday, over stimulated by electronics and people. Maybe it’s just the natural progression of my snowboarding, out of the snow park and into the deep mountains. Whatever it is, it appears to be inline with what many people are thinking. Ski touring and splitboarding are the zeitgeist of passionate snowboarders my age right now. So this winter, I promised myself I would dedicate time to learning to splitboard and increasing my knowledge of the Australian backcountry and the main range (NSW).
Each year I’m lucky enough to play in Alaska’s Chugach mountains with some of the world’s most experienced heli guides at Points North Heli Adventures. I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can from the people I play with but the reality is, I know very little in the grand scheme of things. Saying that, I approached packing my bag like I would for a heli or sled day-trip. Ski touring is completely new to me so I knew I would have a lot to learn, mostly through making mistakes. There are a few things that after this first experience I would ensure I had in my pack. I wanted to share these and ask you guys what else you would recommend? I guess you never know what you need until you need it!
Things I wish I had in my pack on my first day splitboarding
1. Blister plasters – My feet rubbed on my snowboard boots in places i’ve never felt before! It didn’t get too bad but if it did, I had no way to prevent the onslaught of pain that was coming my way (well I had pain killers!).
2. Alan key tool – I had my snowboard tool and leatherman but splitboard bindings need various alan keys. Get to know your kit before you take it out into the mountains. I had no issues on the day but I also had no way to fix them if any issues did arise.
3. Sunglasses – Major rookie error! In the Australian sun, my googles were just too hot across my head when touring. I made do, preventing burning my retinas but sunglasses would have been perfect.
4. Sunscreen – The sun was hot and I forgot I was in Australia! I now have pretty epic goggle marks but it’s probably not great for the future of my face.
5. Spare batteries – For my radio or transceiver. I didn’t need them but I should have had them. On a day of heli or sledding I would always have spare batteries in my pack.
6. Spare snow socks – Mine were old, thin and wearing through and the individual threads were rubbing my heels raw and bringing on a blister. Wearing good quality socks in the first place would have been the go but having spare socks to swap over should your feet get wet or uncomfortable is always a good idea.
7. Headband – Most of the day, it was too hot for a hat. Wearing no hat started to fog my google. A headband to soak up the sweat while keeping the top of my head cool, would have been ideal.
8. A decent compass – I kept my bearings because I could see the backside of Perisher ski resort in the distance but I know I shouldn’t have relied on this landmark (or Google maps on my phone, with a depleting phone battery).
Things I did have with me that were useful and needed
1. Duct tape & spare ski ties – Matt’s skins broke as soon as we took off. We were able to ski-tie and duck tape them to hold for the day. Without this we probably would have had to turn back.
2. A whistle – I didn’t need to use it as we could communicate by radio but a whistle is always a good thing to have in your backpack.
3. Foil survival sheet – Again didn’t need to use it but it lives in my backcountry bag just incase (in my first aid pouch).
4. Enough water and food – I took 2 litres of water, 2x pre-cooked salmon steaks, a protein shake, 3x bananas (which went black very quickly in the cold), 2x tangerines, 4x protein balls from my own kick-ass protein ball recipe and trail mix.
5. Leatherman / Swiss Army knife / Snowboard tool – Access to a screw driver, knife etc. to fix bindings (except splitboard bindings are different to my regular snowboard bindings).
6. Puffy down jacket – I needed this when the wind picked up and while we were resting (I was damp after the ski uphill and cold when resting). A puffy, down jacket packs real small, is light weight and keeps you really warm.
8. Transceiver, shovel & probe – Mandatory backcountry kit. Know how to use them. Practice, practice practice.
9. Big enough backpack to fit my skins and poles in – This is a big one to pay attention to. Your skins take up a fair bit of room, as do your poles. I put my puffy jacket on to make space in my pack, as well as eating most of my food by the time we were ready to descend. Pay attention to the size of your pack.
10. Light weight, breathable outerwear – I am lucky enough to have an amazing outerwear sponsor in PureBrandz. Their 45,000mm Sympatex lightweight shells were absolutely perfect for splitboarding. I was carrying no unnecessary extra weight in my clothing and I could move easily and stay the perfect temperature.
If you have any tips or tricks when it comes to learning to splitboard and packing for a day trip please share in the comments below. I’m excited for my next splitboarding trip out to the Australian main range. May need a quick park day first though. It’s going to be a slow progression but i’m up for it :-)
My recommended retailer for all backcountry gear is Backcountry.com – they have a huge selection of kit and stock the largest variety of brands. Still Stoked readers get free 2 day (U.S) shipping on orders over $50.