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 welcomed sign. The end of winter and the beginning of spring have arrived like cold water to a parched throat in the days that lead 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 splitboard 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 loke dawg possees. 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 soggy nook of the North Cascades in Glacier Washington. Throughout the night, the host of the event, Chair 9 Pizza and Bar, turned out pizza pie after pint and rippers chatted with vendors about products while free demos were setup for the following days 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 weekends tours and clinics. The night silently faded, then 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 ground breaking snowboard progression 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 Excited splitters slid out on new demo gear towards Artist Point, Herman Saddle, Table Mountain and deeper into the Mount Baker Wilderness towards Ptarmigan Ridge. Lap after lap of pure powder pleasure, P cubed, depleted energy reserves, and splitters trickled back into the parking lot. As afternoon wore onto evening, Chair 9 kept the stoke high with frothy refreshments pouring down thirsty throats, as shredders shared stories of steep lines with snow filled grins. Saturday night is a Splitfest highlight. Demo gear exchanges take place with new setups, a splitboard transition competition rallied under the white tent, and of course the raffle. This is an opportunity to purchase tickets for a chance to win prizes from sunglasses to splitboards. All with the purpose of supporting our local avalanche forecasting center, The Northwest Avalanche Center.
Day three had cast a shadow weariness after a night celebrating this sub-genre of snowboarding. The mountains put on a new kit with light snow falling and a milky white fog drooped, sagged, and 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 exploring the legendary Baker backcountry. Where, when, and how entered the thoughts of the uninitiated. For those of us accustomed to northwest ping pong ball shred conditions, moving through flat light and fog comes with experience and the territory. For those unfamiliar, finding well contrasted slopes 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 split crew was rewarded with a classic, rarely traveled, circumnav and a phenomenal climax to everything Splitfest has to offer. Reluctantly, crews of splitboarders headed downhill, leaving behind the high walls of North Cascade snow, back down to 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!