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5 Reasons Why You Should Take A Splitboard Course

Photo: Mats Drougge/Stranda Snowboards Splitboard Clinic/Rikgränsen, Sweden

After teaching, riding, and snowboard touring in and around the Canadian Rocky mountains since 2009, I made a move to Sweden with my family and decided to embark on this journey towards exploring what this place has to offer in terms of snowboarding. Of course, this Nordic country has tons of resorts, but that's not what I am after. Spending so much time in the big mountains of British Columbia has made for some epic rides in shoulder deep pow more than once (a week sometimes), and with Scandinavia having generally less snow than North America, one must venture out of the resort boundaries and distance themselves from crowds to get close to the same quality of snow as one could find on a pow day in Canada.

Getting out into these "uncharted" territories requires a large repertoire of skills if one wants to do it safely, with confidence, all while finding good snow. Time in the mountains, extensive understanding of weather and refined decision making skills, strong snowboarding and skiing skills, and avalanche safety and off piste guide trainings are all things I have gained since I began snowboard touring. There are probably additional skills I need to make the experience even safer as well as being able to maximise every single day out even more, and that is why I am planning on continuing my education towards becoming the ultimate snowboard adventure guide. That being said, all these skills and tools I have acquired over the years have made it possible for me to go out and explore terrain that is completely unknown to me, and if you're planning on doing the same, you should either take it slow and spend the 13 years it has taken me to reach this point, or get out and get educated.

There are a multitude of avalanche safety courses and first aid courses out there that will be a great part of ensuring your safety in the mountains and I highly recommend those. But before you sign up for that first avalanche course you'd like to attend with your splitboard, I would recommend getting to know your gear and how to take care of it by following a Splitboard Introduction Clinic. So, without further ado, here are five reasons you should sign up for one.

1. A Guide's Job Is To Guide You

Photo: Emily Fridh/Stranda Snowboards Splitboard Clinic/Riksgränsen, Sweden

It is true that you could learn to splitboard on your own, but here is why you shouldn't. The first thing you should do before heading out in the backcountry is think about your safety. There is a major difference between riding inbounds and out of bounds at a resort, and that is the uncontrolled snow pack, without forgetting delayed access to help in case of an emergency. Stepping out of bounds, or heading out into the backcountry, without proper education makes it impossible to know what the snow is doing under your feet making it possibly treacherous for you and your party. So 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.

Hiring a guide or signing up for an avalanche safety course can be costly. 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.

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.

2. Your Buddies Can't Show You How To Splitboard

Photo: Mats Drougge/Stranda Snowboards Splitboard Clinic/Ramundberget, Sweden

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.

It takes a vast wealth of knowledge to conduct splitboard courses. People show up on different types of equipment which requires knowing how to use and maintain each one of them. There are many manoeuvres and walking techniques for going uphill that your buddy knows about, but that your splitboard coach will spend time teaching you how, why and when to do them, as well as giving you feedback when you're attempting them for the first times. Your instructor will take care of all that, include lots of repetition to ensure learning, AND will show you some awesome lines to shred down.

3. Try Out Splitboarding Without Having To Buy One

Photo: Mats Drougge/Stranda Snowboards Splitboard Clinic/Riksgränsen, Sweden

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, AND have enough of them for everyone. You also get to discuss your options with a pro who has a good insight into what are the best products out there, and what to look for in a splitboard system, all while trying one out. 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.

4. Practice Does Not Make Perfect. Only Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. - Vince Lombardi

Photo: Clarence Gagnon/Splitboarding with friends in the Lizard Range, British Columbia, Canada

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. If you think snowboard videos were all made on the first shot, think again, click here for some wicked snowboard video bloopers from a certain Travis Rice and his crew.

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.

When I started splitboarding in 2009, I first went with a guide on an avalanche safety course. I have to give him mad props for being such an awesome guide who went out his way to show me and the 3 other splitboarders on the course how to splitboard for the first time. But so many details fell through the cracks. Like kick turns for example, one of the hardest things to do when you start out. He said we should do them when we had to switchback on steep terrain, but he didn't say how. He had too much on his plate. His job was to talk to us about snow safety so he could verify our competency and hand us our certificates before the 2010 Olympic Men's Hockey Gold Medal Match between Canada and USA would start (EPIC win by Canada btw).

For the next 3 years or so, I struggled with kick turns, sometimes scaring myself to death on steep slopes trying to find balance while attempting to switchback some ridiculously icy steep slopes. Until one day, when my life changed forever for two reasons. I went out with a roommate of mine who was patroller, but who also had an academical background and tonnes of experience ski touring. He watched me struggle. He told me what I should INTEND to do to get better. I'll never forget all the things he said to me. Ten years later, I still use his tips. The other reason my life changed forever that day, is because I dislocated my shoulder for the first time, and it does get a bit loose still sometimes, but that's not the point.

5. You Can Take Control Over All These Variables

Video: Clarence Gagnon/Private Splitboarding and Freeriding Camp/Åre, Sweden

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. There are a lot of different options out there, so make sure to research what's happening close to you. If you're interested in coming to Sweden to learn how to splitboard, and there are another multitude of reasons why you should, make sure to check out the courses I conduct at different locations around this part of Scandinavia. You can find them by clicking here. You can also get in touch with me for recommendations on boards and bindings, and to help you find a suitable clinic near you if you can't make it here for some reason.

Looking forward to shredding with you soon!

CG out!

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