We met Mitch Tölderer at the busy ISPO trade show, Munich, during the month of February. Munich welcomed us with grey days, but Mitch received us with a huge smile and lots of positive energy. It was very refreshing to meet someone so laid-back as him. Don’t miss what he had to say about his projects in the past and in the future, the life of a top splitboarder and the evolution of splitboarding.
We recently watched Further, the latest video from TGR. How did you feel being part of this great adventure? How was the experience of camping in the extreme cold? We saw Jeremy always smiling and being a motivator, always pushing people and giving energy. How did you feel being with him during this trip?
To have Jeremy and his film crew here was for sure an extra motivation to realize some of the stuff I was looking at for a while! It was great to be out on a project with this crew. Jeremy is one of the most motivated guys I have been out on a mission with. Normally I am the one pushing and motivating people but being out with him and his crew I felt that everybody was always trying to get the maximum out of what we got meaning we were constantly putting all our energy in the project. If the conditions are that difficult and/or cold it even takes more energy and motivation to make things happen.
Unfortunately, we also watched the avalanche accident that caught you and Bibi (Bibi Tölderer-Pekarek, Mitch’s wife). What are the risks of being in the mountains with someone that important for you? How do you manage that? How did she feel after the accident?
We were watching the face for a day, digging some pits around it which were OK but we knew that the biggest danger would be the last 100 vertical meters when climbing up the face. After discussing the risks all three of us finally decided that we wanted to give it a go the next morning. In that situation, I would have preferred that Bibi would have stayed and let me and Jeremy give it a try. But when she decided that she wants to come, of course I totally respected that because she is a full member of the team, responsible for herself and her decisions, the same way Jeremy and myself are. What happened then is the 10%, the residual risk we had in our calculation and we were willing to accept. In that last section Jeremy climbed up first and Bibi and myself were waiting, hiding under a rock. When Jeremy was climbing out of the couloir from deep snow to more shallow snow he most probably stepped on the hotspot and triggered the slide that took us down. Of course it would be a nightmare if something would have happened to Bibi, but that is always the risk when you go out in the backcountry. When we go out together we always try to play safe but sometimes it happens that you cross the line. I think the important thing is to be aware of the risk and then decide if you are willing to take it, and that is something everybody has to decide for him/herself…
The last couple of seasons you got us used to the HIKE projects, and we loved them. Why didn’t you film it last year?
I started the HIKE project the same year Jeremy started to film for Deeper, and with the help of all the different riders, camera-men and friends that were involved, I could make this three, low budget, HIKE films. It was really cool and fun to do all three of them but it is also difficult to get the budget together to pay the hardworking camera and editing crew a fair salary, and also to distribute the movies on a bigger scale. Thats why it was a great opportunity to hook up with the Further (Teton Gravity Research) crew for the Karwendel segment last winter. This segment almost feels like Hike 4 to me but without taking care of budget, camera crew or distribution.
To have Jeremy and his film crew here was for sure an extra motivation to realize some of the stuff I was looking at for a while! It was great to be out on a project with this crew. Jeremy is one of the most motivated guys I have been out on a mission with.
The Freeride World Tour is on, and you hold a champion title from 2011, but we haven’t seen you competing lately. Why is that? Is it just something temporary or will we see you again competing?
When I started competing at the Verbier Xtreme in 2001 it was an annual social gathering of all the different Big Mountain/Freeride snowboarders from all over the world. Since the start of the FWT 5 years ago, and also through the union with the skiers, it all went from one very special annual snowboard event to a whole World Tour series with different levels of competitions around the globe. The whole thing really grew bigger and it is nowadays a business model were the most important thing is the media coverage for the sponsors of the tour. For the riders it also turned more into a full time job during winter: to go from contest to the other to collect points and to be part of the tour. As a rider you have to decide if you want to be a rider doing the freeride tour, or a freerider achieving other projects. I was part of it through that whole progression and after finishing second in 2010 and first in 2011, nowadays my heart beats to spend my time going out searching and riding mountains and lines with a small crew of people at the best possible conditions. The only possibility to compete on a Tour stop for me would be to join one of the competitions with a wildcard.
Here at ISPO Munich we had the chance to see all the new stuff coming for next year in the splitboard market. What do you think about the evolution of the splitboarding?
I think it’s great, I’m stoked that everyone is putting so much effort into making stuff better. When I was cutting my board in half I still could ride in perfect snow conditions, and I rode everything almost as fast and stable. But now with the new boards is almost like using your normal board, even when it’s hard pack it still holds the edge. I’m using the Jones Solution 164, it’s my everyday weapon to charge big lines, and Karakoram bindings. I used to ride longer boards but now with the rockered nose I can downsize my boards some centimeters and still be able to float in deep powder. I’ve just checked with Bryce (Bryce Kloster, from Karakoram) before and he showed me the buckle (new touring strap with a buckle from Karakoram to improve traversing), you guys too probably are using a strap when you traverse in the hardpack…
Yes, that’s a big problem for us in the Pyrenees.
And now with these buckles and all these little features we are getting there to make it, and still he told me the plans and I’m amazed about the evolution of the equipment.
You have been freeriding for a long long time, and about ten years ago, freeriding was like a trend. Now in the last 10 years, it has been more freestyle influenced, and now it seems that freeriding is back again. Do you think that it’s just a trend or maybe it’s some kind of cyclic situation between freeride and freestyle?
I think that freeriding was always there, just maybe the media it’s more on it sometimes, because they need something different to freestyle and then they come and go, but, I mean, it was always the heart of snowboarding. For people who really do it, it was riding powder. I mean that’s where it came from and what it is, and right now with all splitboard evolution, I think it’s just that snowboarding can grow up. It’s our generation that started with these sport from the beginning, you get to the age somewhere in the 30’s or older, and now we can grow up with snowboarding and go splitboarding taking it out there and enjoying. And splitboarding is a great chance for snowboarding to take it further. It’s like surfers in their 60’s they started longboarding or whatever, and we will be splitboarding still when we are old, I hope.
You have traveled a lot: Alaska, Norway, South-America, mostly everywhere… and Austria of course, your homecountry. Do you think that Austria is one of the best countries for freeriding or is there any other better place?
Oh… I don’t know, it depends on the year and on the timing I would say, there are really cool places out there. Austria is cool because it’s home, and you get a lot in a very short distance, a lot of different terrain. There are just so many great places out there, and pretty much every mountain range has its time and its perfect days I would say.
If you had to name 3 places in the world that you’d dream of, or that you have been and you really like for splitboarding or just freeriding, what would them be?
Three places! Top three…
The Alps are all-time… and Alaska, I’ve spent quite a bit of time there, seven or eight years always going back, and I like the mountains there, it’s great. I also like the people there… it’s wild. And… maybe the Pyrenees! I’ve never been there yet but I’ve heard it’s really good.
As a rider you have to decide if you want to be a rider doing the freeride tour, or a freerider achieving other projects.
I think that freeriding was always there, just maybe the media it’s more on it sometimes, because they need something different to freestyle and then they come and go, but, I mean, it was always the heart of snowboarding.
Bibi and you have this training program, Go Pro Fitness Training. Tell us a bit more about it, is it just your personal project? is it something that you want to do in the future? What’s the importance of being fit when you want to do ride big lines?The thing with the training project is that, I have been training for all my career pretty much, and I went through different stages of training. Some years ago, we started doing some functional training, that means like coordinative strength training, it came from the top athletes in skiing and other sports. Bibi is a physiotherapist, she’s working on sport physiotherapy, so she did two courses with top athletes to get them back on track, and I also started medicine, doing sports medicine courses on the side. So, then we started to train more and more in our own, we made a group with friends and we figured out our own exercises and just brought together everything we know about it and made it evolve.
We like to train with coordinative stuff, with balancing devices and still strength, and endurance and just bring it all together, that’s the idea behind it. And then we said: “Yeah, let’s make a blog about it, and share it”, so we made all this whole program on it, what we call GoPro fitness training, and we put it on the internet. You can get a membership and log in, get this full 6 week beginners course and 6 week advanced course, and we go back and forth if you have any questions about it. Bibi is doing these courses in Innsbruck, around 15 people that come and train: pro-skiers, pro-snowboarders, random people who want to be fit for the weekend, for the sport they love, skiing, snowboarding, surfing… The idea is to be fit for the sport you love to do, even if you have to work during the week, you can still train an hour a day maybe three times a week and then you will enjoy your holidays or your trip way more.
Is this something you want to do in the future for full time? How do you see your future?
I think that for sure continue working on it, and doing it. And… I don’t know, right now I’m riding a lot of time out in the mountains. In spring or summer I will work on the practice again, the doctor practice, I’m in training still. But I would say somewhere between mountains, sport medicine, surfing training… something in this field, I will float around.
Anything else that you want to add? I think that should be enough, we don’t want to take you here for too long.
No, that’s great! Thank you guys, and cool you make this splitboard magazine. Cool, I’m stoked, and happy to be part of it.
Thanks to you Mitch for being so nice with us and spend some time chatting. See you out there in the mountains!