1. Hi Chris! First of all, big ups for the excellent work you have been doing over the past ten years. Congrats! Before talking about the website and splitboarding in general, we would like to find out more about your past as a pro snowboarder. How were your first years in Squaw Valley and how did you live the snowboarding explosion at the beginning of the ‘90s?
Ha, those were the days! And some of my fondest memories too. Like many teenagers coming right out of high-school, I lacked motivation and the desire to think about my future… I just wanted to snowboard every day. I moved to Squaw Valley with a few buddies and got a job at the ski resort in exchange for a season pass. I was new to snowboarding but with a background in skating and surfing I quickly became addicted to the young sport. I returned each winter for 5 seasons from 1990-1995 in pursuit of becoming a pro-snowboarder.
The 90’s was a fun era in snowboarding, the sport was young and progressing quickly. Squaw was (and is) still known as a breeding ground for talent. It was really fun and influential to see the top level pros and filmers on a daily basis. After a few years of learning the art, I eventually tagged along photographer Sean Sullivan and ended up getting a full page shot published in Transworld Snowboarding magazine. The photo helped me get my first sponsors and ultimately opened up the door for travel to places like Canada, Alaska, and New Zealand. I was never really that great of a snowboarder but I was good at working with photographers and getting the shot for my sponsors. By the end of my career (4 years or so) I had over 50 pictures published in the magazines and a couple video parts. The main thing it left me with though was an appreciation for powder snow and backcountry adventure.
2. I guess that, like most of us, you must have gone through all kind of hazards while finding the right gear to get out and look for new terrain to shred; how did you end up splitboarding?
During my time as pro-rider I was introduced to the backcountry and heli-boarding… ultimately creating an addiction to untracked snow. As I got older and started a family, I found it harder and less rewarding to feed this addiction at ski resorts which led me to my local backcountry. I started with snowshoes and used approach-skis as well. I’d heard about splitboards but at the time there were only a couple of models on the market so I stuck with the other forms of ascent for a few more years. In the year 2000 I’d finally had enough of carrying my snowboard on my back and got my first splitboard, a Duotone with Voile hardware. It worked well and opened up new terrain, allowing me to go further into the backcountry.
3. After all this years, what has splitboarding meant for you?
California’s wet snow allows it to stick to steep, rock-lined couloirs in the Desolation Wildeness.
Every time I go splitboarding it’s an adventure, sometimes more than others, haha. Going to a new range or mountain means research and planning, but even with planning there’s still a lot of unknown. This drives me to continue splitboarding, discovery and adventure. I also enjoy the freedom to go where you want and be accountable for your own actions. The only limit is your own endurance, experience, and imagination. The camaraderie among friends in the backcountry is a big part of it as well. The bonds that are built in the mountains in these situations are second to none. The physical challenge is an attraction too.
4. And then Splitboard.com was born. What lead you to create the first splitboarding specific website. Tell us about the beginning.
The internet still felt pretty young in the early 2000’s and many folks were just starting to utilize it. There weren’t a lot of other splitboarders at the time so I started using the internet to find backcountry partners on ski and snowboard websites. After being on these sites for a while I realized there wasn’t anything similar specific to backcountry snowboarding or splitboarding. A friend of mine had a backcountry blog at the time and helped me grab the splitboard.com URL and cobble together a small website and forum. It didn’t take long for the word to get out and soon we had a modest following.
Since then our numbers have grown each and every year. The term SplitFest was also born, which are grassroots events to celebrate the sport of splitboarding and helped give the young, subset of snowboarding a face and sense of community. Soon manufacturers took note and started advertising their products on the website. Shortly after, we started seeing much needed product evolution with the introduction of split-specific bindings from Spark R&D and other specialized offerings from other companies. It was a really fun time…those early years. Since then, with the help from folks like Jeremy Jones the sport has really started to gain traction and take off. Now, it’s pretty well known and has matured into a what it is today. I feel very fortunate and honored to be a part of it all.
5. Your open forum is possibly the most active forum these days. What kind of participants are we most likely to find in it?
You’ll find a mix of old splitters, new splitters and everything in between. We’re very fortunate to have such a well rounded group of people. Everyone is respectful of each other and supportive. Basically the kind of folks you’d want to hang out with and be in the backcountry with. The organic growth the forum has enjoyed has been amazing to witness and be a part of.
6. What is your main purpose as a website?
Late season storms and cold nights in the Sierra Nevada can preserve wintery snow even through the end of April.
In the early days it was also instrumental in promoting product development and evolution within the splitboard segment. Finding backcountry partners has always been a big part of it too. Many splitters have connected with other splitters o the site and formed friendships for life.
7. Let’s talk about the present out there. We seem to be living a splitboard explosion. How do you see this from the States? How do you see the current scene?
Yeah, it’s crazy how much splitboarding has grown over the last 4-5 years. I always knew it would get bigger and better, it’s nice to see that vision come true. On one hand, we’re still a pretty small segment of the overall snowsports industry which can mean there’s still room for growth. On the other hand, the market seems a little saturated at times. I do think Europe is a few years behind North America’s growth. They seemed to be more reluctant to splitboards (2 piece anyway) at the beginning. Now things have changed and I see a lot of growth coming from Europe and the global market. It just took a little longer than North America, most likely because this is were the majority of product development and innovation has come from.
The current scene is pretty awesome I’d say. Splitboarding isn’t just for old guys, it’s attracting riders of all ages…and female riders too.
8. Despite being a minority sport, the number of followers increases season after season all around the world. Thus, we think that it is important to create a strong community to give the brands a platform to invest in the development of specific gear. How do you see the future?
9. Anything else you’d like to add?
Just wanted to say thank you for recognizing me and the site! It’s been an incredible 10 years for which I feel very fortunate and I look forward to the next 10 years. I also wanted to thank the splitter community and manufacturers for helping to make splitboard.com the amazing resource it is today. It’s the people that visit and support the site that make it so special. For without the community it would only be a website… and splitboard.com is much more than that. Splitters Unite!