Written by Clarence Gagnon
CASI-ACMS Level 4 qualified instructor and in charge of Strandas splitboard education program
1. A Guide’s Job Is To Guide You
It is true that you could learn to splitboard on your own, but here is why you shouldn’t. Attending an avalanche safety training course “should” be the first thing you do, in order to recognise the dangers and how to avoid them. But here is the thing: splitboards are a finicky piece of equipment and using them takes a little getting used to. Throw blowing snow, cold wind and freezing fingers into the mix, and your gear can become your worst nightmare if you haven’t developed proper routines when transitioning from ride mode to walking mode, or vice-versa. These routines is some of the things you learn when signing up for a splitboard clinic.
A guide is in charge of your safety on the mountain, and making sure you get somewhere you will have some amazing turns down beautiful snow fields or powdery forests. There is so much that goes on in the guide’s head, from assessing route choice and weather, to continuously evaluating the snowpack, and making sure all guests are keeping up the pace, and that’s not even mentioning all the preparation before a successful day in the mountains. Your avalanche safety instructor on the other hand is leading the group through a series of drills and exercises developed to teach people how to navigate their way through avalanche terrain, as well as showing how to dig out your riding partners in case things take a bad turn. Take time away from the mountain guide or avalanche safety instructor for them to show you the ropes with your gear (which they might not even be familiar with if they are skiers) and your money is going to the wrong place.
“Let the guide guide you, and the instructor instruct you on the subject he’s meant to teach you, and take a splitboard course. “
So let the guide guide you, and the instructor instruct you on the subject he’s meant to teach you, and take a splitboard course. Your splitboard coach will show you all you need to know from how to handle the skins and bindings, come up with transitioning routines, walking techniques and kick turns, mountain etiquette, what to pack in your bag on top of your safety equipment, and even line choice and riding tips to mitigate danger and maximise fun. That’s what you’ll pay them for, so you can then follow a guide or an avalanche course later and let those people do THEIR jobs, and make sure that you get the most out of THEIR knowledge.
Above: Clarence digging a pit to check snowlayers during our splitboardweek in Riksgränsen, Sweden.
2. Your Buddies Can’t Show You How To Splitboard
Actually, they can, but hear me out. Does your buddy have some kind of avalanche safety training? Does your buddy have a first aid certification? Does your buddy have almost two decades experience teaching others how to snowboard and splitboard? Does your buddy have a dozen or so years experience touring in avalanche terrain? Has your buddy taught others how to splitboard before? Does your buddy know how to operate YOUR splitboard and binding system? Is your buddy carrying the right tools and spare parts to make sure your equipment doesn’t breakdown to a point where you have to walk back in knee deep snow? If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, then I assume your buddy is either myself, a guide, or someone who could make a living out of this. If you’re not paying them to get out splitboarding with them, they are truely your friend, and they are more than capable to help you on your first splitboard outings.
3. Try Out Splitboarding Without Having To Buy One
If you’re showing any interest in beginning to splitboard, you already know a splitboard is expensive, and you’re also probably a bit confused about which one you should get because, let’s face it, there are SO many options out there. Although becoming more and more popular, splitboard rental is still something that is a bit scarce. I have also recently heard about a place who rents them out that are thinking of requiring an introduction course or proof of experience before they would let someone rent from them, because of the state the equipment tends to come back in. This scarcity tends to force people into buying some very expensive equipment, without knowing how to use it and if they’re even going to like it.
Splitboard courses will welcome everyone, without any prerequisites (other than knowing how to snowboard) and offer a pressure free environment, as well as generally offer splitboard rentals for a small extra. By the end of a course, you will also have all the knowledge necessary in order to take care of your very expensive new piece of gear to make sure you make the most of it. Book before December 31 2022 and we offer free rentals on our 2 day course in Åre!
4. Practice Does Not Make Perfect. Only Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. – Vince Lombardi
Or, I guess I should say, practice with intent will make you better, because perfect is for perfectionists. We’ve all seen montages of athletes trying insane feats, failing over and over again, but always getting closer until they succeed. Every try, every failure they learn something new.
The key thing here, is knowing where you stand as opposed to your goal, and knowing where to go from there, how to keep developing your skills. That is what is called intent. Here’s the catch: you need to know WHAT you intend to do next in order to get better. Only a coach or an instructor will be able to show you the right path. Try to take steps that are too big and you’ll just get tired of failing, take the right size step and you’ll be able to develop.
5. You Can Take Control Over All These Variables
By taking a splitboard course, you will make sure to be a step ahead once you hire a guide or go on your first avalanche safety course. You’ll also have a pretty good idea whether you like to hike and ride, without the huge expense of buying or renting and then doing it on your own without someone showing you how to do it properly. A splitboard coach will also give you some riding tips. Most of them are certified instructors who can help you ride the untouched snow and have more fun. Being teachers, they also have a very different mindset to guides. Both are very service minded and think of the guest first, but in different ways. The guide thinks about safety and showing you some good spots, the teacher will think about safety and helping you get better, all while taking you to some good spots.
So get out there and sign up for a very valuable splitboard clinic if you’re interested in coming to Sweden to learn how to splitboard, and there are another multitude of reasons why you should.
Looking forward to shredding with you soon!