Been a while since I’ve done anything board-related. Don’t need to go into details or excuses though.. (gnarly case of the flu and some expected seasonal depression took up most of my energy throughout Jan.) But that was then, and today is today. And it was a good one.
Here’s the trip report from the maiden voyage on my new splitboard.
I’d been wanting to get into splitboard touring for a while, but didn’t quite know where to start. All the stuff online about avalanche training is intimidating, the gear is pricey, Vermont is a decent drive away, and Connecticut isn’t necessarily known for its stellar backcountry skiing. So it took me some time to figure out how to enter this sport.
This morning was a perfect first tour though. A great stepping stone. I was able to practice using my gear, which was really my only objective, in the comfort of non-avalanche terrain.
Talcott Mountain in Simsbury was the place. A hike I’ve done a handful of times in the summer. The plan was to meet up with someone from the Backcountry Touring in the Northeast facebook group at 6:30 AM, and get at least one lap in before work.
We got dumped on yesterday, and the storm let up in the pre-dawn hours of the morning today. Lucky for me, the guy who’s been neglecting to replace his tires for months, the roads were clear. I met up with my new touring buddy after getting a text from him to park in a different, freshly plowed lot.
My biggest goal this morning was to learn how to use touring skins and my splitboard bindings. So this short, 1 mile hike was perfect. Before I left, I switched my board into touring mode so that all I’d have to do when I got to the trailhead was put the skins on. I watched a few YouTube videos on it last night and it was easier than I thought. The key is not to let the glue backing get snow or dirt on it. (I had already gotten some of Maggie’s hair on them when I cut them to width last night… oops)
I learned this pretty nifty technique of sticking the tip of the skin on before fully unfolding it. Then, holding the tail against my hip, I could just peel the skin back and it was nicely situated over the base. All I had to do was stick it on and clamp the tail strap on.
We were off. And holy shit trekking on a splitboard is so much easier than snowshoeing, which I’ve done in the past. Granted, it wasn’t a cakewalk. I’m not in peak hiking shape, and the skin-track wasn’t packed down yet. Thankfully Jake from Facebook took the lead.
Wasn’t long before we reached the top. What a cool feeling. I took in the view for a moment before I realized it was time to transition into ride mode. I remembered the technique for removing skins I saw on YouTube as well, but first I unmounted my bindings. The Union expeditions are pretty dang easy to use. The only thing I couldn’t quite figure out was if I could engage the heel risers with my pole. I kept having to bend down to set them up when the trail got steep.
Once I set the bindings off to the side, I grabbed one half of the board. I stuck the nose in the snow and starting at the tail, I peeled back the skin. I pulled it halfway, then grabbed the middle, knowing that would be the halfway fold point. I continued peeling another quarter of the way, and then folded it back on itself, just to start the fold. Once I had that, I pulled the rest of the tip off and stuck the backing together. Piece of cake, I just need some practice getting the exact middle… but it was way less of a hassle than I expected it to be.
Putting the board into ride mode required more snow-cleaning-off than I expected. But once I got the binding pucks lined up, twisting the bindings into place was easy. I accidently put the pin through the toe as if it was in touring mode… good thing I caught that and correctly moved them to the center.
Then it was time to drop in! I haven’t ridden at all yet this season, let alone in such powdery conditions. The ride was honestly pretty slow, but there was one steep-ish section where I was able to pick up some speed. There was also a fun bank to my right that felt a bit like a wave. I made a few turns on that. Overall it was great!
I was able to get one more lap in before heading home for work. The second trek up was way easier now that the skin-track had been packed down by us, and the two other guys we saw there this morning. When I got home, I hung the skins up right away since I read that they need to dry.
I am psyched to have gotten out and done this! And I’m especially pumped to know that there is a local place just 15 min. away for me to get a quick tour in whenever there’s snow!