SPLITBOARD FESTIVAL'S SKIN TRACK EXPANDING
Three dozen athletes with split personalities descended on Jasper to Ascend the mountains of Jasper National Park earlier this month.
On March 5, fat flakes fell on a dozen riders as they skinned their way up Portal Creek in the Tonquin Valley. Another dozen were making their way towards Marmot Pass while yet another group was making some of the first tracks of the year in the Bald Hills area.
“That’s a pretty sweet line, that one,” said Mike Packham, an apprentice ski guide based out of the Cariboo Mountains.
Looking up at the north side of Peveril Peak, Packham was impressed by the size and scale of the Rockies. He, like many of the weekend’s participants, had never toured in Jasper National Park. Although the stability of the snowpack left much to be desired, he could see why lead guide Matt Reynolds described Jasper as an underrated ski touring mecca.
Introducing splitboarders to the area is one of the goals of Ascend. Collaborating with Parks Canada, Avalanche Canada and a bounty of local sponsors, Matejovsky said as the sport grows, splitboarders are hungry to explore new locations.
“This year hit the nail on the head,” he said. “People were having fun, exploring and learning.”
Three certified ACMG professionals not only led groups safely through complex avalanche terrain, but led discussions on decision making and snow assessments. Lead forecaster for Avalanche Canada, Grant Helgeson, was particularly engaging as he created a learning opportunity at seemingly every kick turn.
Hosted by the Astoria Hotel, participants started the day with a discussion of the day’s objectives over bacon and eggs and ended the tour with draw prizes and avalanche trivia. Camaraderie born in the hills was easily transmuted to fellowship over pints.
Matejovsky, who founded the festival with fellow Edmontonians Geoff and Julie Kramer, of Olive Snowboards, said in the future they’ll stick with what’s been working, namely: small, intimate groups that help grow the splitboarding community.
“We’ve seen that this event brings people together,” he said. “People get in touch with each other after the festival and go riding together.”