Words & Photos: Frankie Devlin
There are a few things you can count on every year at the Mt Baker Splitfest: friendly faces, a killer raffle, endless terrain and unpredictable weather. The first Baker Splitfest was started in 2010 by Bob Rodgers and Terry Schmidbauer with the hopes of connecting the community, having a good time and promoting backcountry safety through educational sessions and fundraising for the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). Since then, there have been super deep years, super wet years and everything in between but the good times with great people are present regardless.
2017 was no exception to these expectations. An epicly deep week had preceded the Splitfest with 140" of snow falling in the Mt. Baker Area in the first 10 days of March. In typical Baker fashion however, the temps rose and the rain rolled in right as it couldn't possibly get any deeper. This knocked away hopes of chest deep turns for the splitfest attendees, but also helped to flush out the avalanche danger and settle the snow pack back down to a reasonable level for punching in new skin tracks and exploring the legendary Mount Baker terrain.
On Friday night the demo tent was a fury of screwdrivers and tech talk, but more importantly a great place to catch up with friends new and old. "How's your season been?", "What board are you riding right now" and "what are your plans for spring missions?" were commonly heard phrases. The vibe was good and the sound of the rain on the demo tent outside Chair 9 in Glacier was drowned out by the clinking of beers and cheerful greetings of reunited splitboarding buddies.
Saturday morning brought warm temps and soggy conditions, but the dedicated headed to the mountains anyway. Others hunkered down and enjoyed breakfast with hopes of dropping temps in the afternoon. As the clear pow turned to flakes those that stayed out until the afternoon were rewarded with plenty of fresh, thick, Baker storm pow. Everyone returned to the tent wet but smiling with their expectations exceeded.
Saturday night is traditionally the "bigger night" of the Baker Splitfest. A raffle is held to benefit NWAC which starts with a heaping table of awesome prizes and ends with some really stoked splitboarders and plenty of heckling. This is also a great time to stock up on free Voile straps to replenish the ones that your dirtbag buddies borrowed and never returned. With the band going on late and the Chair 9 Bar cranking out drinks, it was tempting to stay up and party, but the weather forecast for Sunday was looking good. While some whooped it up late into the night, others opted to get some sleep in preparation for the new snow.
On the drive into the Heather Meadows parking lot, it was obvious that the forecast had delivered. The entire area was coated in about a foot of fresh snow completely covering the previous days tracks. To top it off, the sun was working hard to force itself through a low and thick cloud layer. The Splitfest presence did not go un-noticed in the area. Throughout the parking lot you could see that the majority of the groups were splitboarders switching their boards into ski mode and getting skins on before heading out in different directions. This area, at it's core is a snowboarders paradise. All of the Baker classics got a fresh set of tracks throughout the day with the Swift Creek Drainage and Table Mountain at the top of everyone's list. As the clouds gave way to full sun in the afternoon, some of us headed out the Shuksan arm on skins for some legendary Baker sidecountry, while others pushed on for their 3rd, 4th or 5th lap in the other zones.
When everyone got their fill, the Splitfest crews slowly made their way back down towards Glacier to return their demos, grab a final beer and say goodbyes to their distant splitboarding friends. After a day full of sun and powder, the stoke was high indeed. While the travelers packed their rigs, those of us lucky enough to stay and ride made plans for a longer mission on Monday.
With all of the powder, sun, friends and refreshments, the 2017 Baker Spitfest was everything it should be; a positive gathering of our splitboarding family. Thank you to all of the organizers, companies and participants that keep our community thriving. Here's to a safe and adventure filled Spring. We hope to see you all in Silverton!