Forrest Shearer, californian rider based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, is a good example of passion and mindset in the mountains. From the Wasatch mountains to every corner of the planet, this backcountry rider from Jones Snowboards is also an activist for preserving the environment amongst the snowboarder community.
1. As an introduction, explain us a little bit of your evolution in snowboarding until you became the current freerider that you are. What were your first steps? What does snowboarding mean to you and what does it give you on a personal level?
Snowboarding has been a life long passion for me. It will continue to be that way until I’m a grandpa shredder hiking the mountains and watching the young kids find their way. When I got into snowboarding it was pure. Simply going riding with friends, searching for terrain that was cool, and learning new tricks and techniques along the way. It’s still that same way for me. Having deep roots in surfing and skateboarding culture allowed me to always have an open mind about where snowboarding has come from and where its going. Possibilities are there, you just have to experiment. I’ve grown to combine different elements with my snowboarding. First it was the freestyle aspect and applying that to the backcountry. If you look at the mountains with some imagination you see its just one big snowboard park and the options are limitless. Learning about the mountains is where it starts. Reading terrain and having avalanche awareness. Its half the equation. The ocean is the same way. You got to learn to swim before you can surf. My snowboarding naturally evolved into becoming more of a freerider. It’s kept things fresh for me, allowing endless new runs and lines to hike and places to go. Right now for me combining freeriding, splitboarding, and the mountain environment is the most important.
2. You moved to Utah from the Californian mild weather. Tell us a bit of the mountains where you spend most of your winter. What do the Wasatch offer to a splitboarder willing to spend a season there.
The Wasatch offers every aspect for snowboarders. Its the perfect place to call home. I choose Utah for its central location and accessibility. If you look at the roots here. There’s a serious history with splitboarding and backcountry ski touring. Voile and Black Diamond were both founded here. Brett Kobernik (now a utah avalanche forecaster) fabricated the first splitboard in his garage. Guys like Andrew Mclean and the late Alex Lowe pioneered steep backcountry ski touring. The Utah Avalanche Center is at the forefront of avalanche forecasting. And Powderwhore productions makes some of the best backcountry ski and snowboarding movies on the market. Splitboarding the Wasatch range is similar to the northshore of Hawaii. It’s a epicenter. Everything is packed into relatively small range in comparison to the Alps but the Wasatch has a lot to offer. Depending on conditions theres something for everyone.
3. It’s been a while since Teton Gravity Research’s Further, where we worry about your accident in Japan. It seemed that the conditions that day were a bit sketchy. We loved that you guys showed the mountain the way it, not everyday there are perfect conditions. What’s the lesson to learn from all of this?
Theres a lot of factors that come into play with big mountain riding. In the end each one of us makes the decision wether or not a line is safe and rideable. Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way we want it to; thats how cookie crumbles. The key is to be able mitigate the dangers; avalanches, terrain, weather, and human factors – working well with your partners and making good group decisions. When we rode those lines in Japan, that storm cycle had some serious wind loading happening. Having spent a good amount of time in that area I felt confident about riding that line. But got caught in my sluff and had to ride out the wave. Coming out the bottom I dusted myself off took the lickings and got back out there. Its all part of the game – lesson learned. Know matter how much you train in backcountry safety theres still that chance you can get taken off guard.The mountains are humbling. You get put in your place real quick. I can’t say how important it is to keep your skills sharp. At the beginning of every season myself and everyone at TGR (Teton Gravity Research) and Jones Snowboards gets together for the IPRW (International Pro Riders Workshop) at Snowbird, to learn and refresh our skills in avalanche safety, wilderness medical rescue, and drills to get us ready for the filming season. Being their for each other when your in the mountains is huge. A good backcountry partner is worth his weight in gold. If you get caught in an avalanche or get injured out there its up to your partner to help you out. It’s the most important thing as a rider. Knowledge is freedom.
4. We enjoyed you part in Dopamine, from Absinthe Films. To be honest we were surprised to see you skinning on an Absinthe movie even though only for a few seconds! How do the big producers see splitboarding in the market? Will we see more splitboarding sections in future snowboarding movies?
Thanks! I’m glad you guys like it. Splitboarding was something I for sure wanted to be in there. It’s a big part of my snowboarding and what I spend most of my winters doing so was really stoked Justin Hostynek put that skinning shot in my part. Production companies are definitely looking at splitboarding for inspiration (TGR, Sherpas, Brainfarm, Absinthe, Sweetgrass). Theres exploration involved, which I really enjoy watching in films; the whole journey.Theres a refreshing sense in that. For snowboarding filmers and photographers, it’s a great way to travel in the mountains. I would think it makes accessing some film angles way easier. Will we see more splitboarding in future snowboarding movies? Yeah would I hope so. Looking back, Dave Downing’s part in TB7 was all filmed on a splitboard. That was a rad part. Doing lines as well as tricks was next level. Plus it was on equipment that was archaic compared to what were riding now. He was way ahead of the curve. Todays snowboarding films are insane. There’s a lot of creativity and energy being put in there. Splitboarding is a big part of that.
5. Splitboarding. It has changed the way to see and understand mountains for many people. How was it affected you and your riding?
The sense of enjoyment I get from it is contagious. I definitely get the same feeling with my snowboarding, doing tricks and riding powder. But there just something about the purity of splitboarding that is out of this world. Or maybe it’s just bringing it back to a simpler form, where it just you and the mountain; nothing else. Theres a zen moment with hiking to get to your line, I almost feel like a buddhist monk, meditating on the way up and becoming one with all things in the mountains. Than the way down is total bliss. Splitboarding has brought me a greater connection with the mountains on all levels. Also opening up new possibilities for riding places never thought imagined.
6. For someone as concerned about the environment as you are, splitboarding is not only a tool to access the mountain but the way to leave no trace, or at least the shallowest trace, on it. For us it’s a sign of maturity in snowboarding, back to the roots and maximum respect to Mother Nature.
The more time you spend in the mountains and in nature, the more you want to protect the places you love. Simple as that. Snowboarding has grown to be part of the mountain community with that I think it just comes naturally; having an open mind and rethinking the way we do things. We are all stewards to the environment. Splitboarding is the connector to nature for snowboarders.
7. You’re involved with different associations like Protect Our Winters and My Wilderness Society. What’s your task in them and how important it is to spread the word amongst the snowboarder community?
If your into something, live it. For me, I’m passionate about the mountains. There are certain issues and causes that I think need supporting and I’m stoked to help spread that message. Winters without snow sucks. Climate change is effecting our winters worldwide. Snow storms are becoming more extreme, theres no regulatory to them, making storm totals harder to predict. We are seeing shorter seasons here in the US. Winters that start late and end early.Getting the snowboard community together and raising awareness about climate change has major influence. You may think this task is way to big for one person to handle but collectively we can make a difference. Right now I’m helping support POW’s riders alliance – a community of professional athletes committed to environmental leadership and helping inspire and motivate kids through “Hot Planet/ Cool Athletes” assemblies. Mountains need a help. They give us such so much joy and lasting memories. Its cool to share that stoke with friends. Theres all sorts of things you can get into that relate to snowboarding and keeping it alive and well; Wilderness protection, Support renewable energy, Speak up about local environmental issues and engage your friends, Support local snowboard, outdoor shops, and read Splitboardmag, Reuse stuff, Support environment friendly brands in the snow industry, Carpool to the mountain, and of course hike; earn your turns.
Heres some good organizations that I’m part of protectourwintes.org, winterwildlands.org, bcorporation.net and wilderness.org.
8. We didn’t want to talk about Jeremy in this interview, but it’s impossible to avoid talking about Jones Snowboards. You are part of an incredible team with a freeride character in common. Tell us a little bit about its philosophy and what does Jones want from each of you.
Jones Snowboarding is all about making the best freeride boards possible. I couldn’t think of a better board brand to ride for. Everybody on the team is very passionate about snowboarding. We do it for the love. Giving 100% percent everyday.
9. Jones Snowboards is one of the leaders in the splitboarding market currently. As a team rider, what’s your role regarding developing hardwear?
We all work together testing shapes and trying new innovative ideas to make better boards year after year. The splitboard market is gaining a lot of momentum. It’s rad to see Jones splitboards at the front of the pack. When I first got into splitboarding I cut my board myself in the garage. To this day I like to think that I’m still bringing the DIY approach to developing new hardware for splitboarding. Putting products to the test and tweaking things to make them work better. Lighter and faster.
10. You are a Patagonia Ambassador, for sure one of the brands that is pushing splitboarding and with important environmental friendly and social politics. Do you help designing Patagonia’s splitboarding outerwear?
Patagonia has deep roots in making Alpine apparel. It started as a climbing company with Yvon and his friends. Eventually they added gear for other sports they were into like surfing, and snow sports. One of the things I really like about Patagonia gear is that it’s multifunctional. Theres a lot of pieces that work insane for splitboarding. As an ambassador I get really involved in the testing and design phase. Thats something that I really enjoy. Be on the look out for some cool gear coming out in the future.
11. While we are having this interview you are in the Dolomites, Italy. Do you travel often to Europe? Where would you like to splitboard in the future?
The Dolomites are great. Chamonix is insane. Theres so many good places to travel to in Europe. I try and come over at least once a year. Snow sports is such a big part of the culture, its great to see snowboarders embracing that and splitboarding gaining popularity. Will continue to splitboard around the Alps and hopefully get out to Scandinavia and the middle east.
12. Everyday there are new and more extreme lines in impossible places. What do you think about this trend that is bringing splitboarding to the purest Alpine style? Where is the limit?
Pure alpine style ski mountaineering has insane rewards it’s addicting. Wallowing in snow, sopping wet gloves, mixed ridge climbing, rockfall, and ice riddled chokes. To some that may sound terrible but theres something about really working for something and being at the mercy of the mountains. It makes us feel small but also feel so alive. Humans do crazy stuff, we like to live on the edge. I think seeing splitboarders doing Alpine style lines is cool. There is a limit but I don’t think we’ve seen it yet.
13. What would be the first lesson you’d give to all the splitboarders thinking about giving it a try?
First thing would be to invest in an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel. Know how to use your equipment. Learn about the mountains. Ask someone with experience to take you out on your first splitboard tour and have an open mind. Splitboarding is not only enjoyable but also a great tool for learning. But it’s also good to not take it too seriously at first. Don’t give up. Who ever has the most fun wins!
14. Anything else you’d like to add? Thanks for your time Forrest!
To my family and friends, thank you for all the support over the years. Respect to the Avalanche forecasters, guides and ski patrol that keep us safe. Huge thanks to my sponsors for believing in me. Patagonia, Jones Snowboards, Clif Bar, Hestra, Backcountry.com, Black Diamond, Goal Zero, Karakoram, Bluebird, Snowcru, Union, Tiny Empire, Snowbird, Brighton, Elemental herbs, Guayaki, Sambazon. And thanks to organizations Protect Our WInters and B Corporation for leading us into the future! Carpe Diem.
Cold and early alpine start.