It isn’t easy to talk about the Provo brothers separately. And even though we believe that Ian Provo would be a great fit for this interview, we will reopen again the old debate between snowboarders and skiers and will focus on Neil, leaving Ian in the background. Born and raised in Connecticut, Neil Provo migrated to Utah with his family at the age of 12. This might have been his first step to evolve his snowboarding to big mountain riding.
1. When did you start snowboarding? Tell us a little bit about the snowboarding scene in Connecticut before you moved to Utah.
My folks started me out on skis at the age of 2. My mom was on the Ski Patrol at our local hill, Ski Sundown. It’s a great little hill with only 625 ft of vert, but it was the perfect place to fall in love with the sport. When I was 7, i got my first snowboard and immediately got hooked. It was 1996 and freestyle snowboarding was still pretty new to the East Coast. Only a few resorts had terrain parks then. Our ski hill was small but we had an awesome crew of friends and we would build kickers all over the place. That place and those years had a lasting impression on my life.
2. We found some videos of your early days with a very freestyle influenced riding. When did your riding evolve to a more freeride oriented riding? Who has been your biggest influences to take your snowboarding towards big mountain riding?
Coming from Connecticut that was the only type of snowboarding I knew. I was 12 when I moved to Utah and still too young to really see the potential of snowboarding in the backcountry. After living in Utah for a few years i started to realize i enjoyed snowboarding on fresh pow way more than concrete, rails and man-made parks. When I discovered the splitboard it open’ed the door to a whole new world, just a few steps from ski resort boundaries. I still enjoy riding the park every now and then, especially in the early season to get the skills back. I think having a freestyle background has helped me in many ways with splitboarding.
As far as biggest influences, guys like Craig Kelly and Terje, Terry Kidwell and Tom Burt. Those dudes really took the sport to the next level through freestyle riding, yet they all evolved to riding big mountains as time went by. It seems like the natural progression for most big mountain riders out there. Jeremy Jones has also inspired me a ton with the things he’s done in the mountains over the years. It’s been amazing to watch his transformation from helicopter to splitboard.
3. You live and ride in the Wasatch mountains, in Utah. What’s the terrain like there? Is it your favorite kind of terrain, the one you feel more comfortable with? What makes it special?
The Wasatch has all kinds of terrain from long tree runs to big alpine peaks and everything in between. It is very accessible compared to a lot of places, which makes it so desirable for splitboarding. There is riding for every kind of skill level and a great place to learn the ropes. I feel pretty comfortable in the Wasatch, as i have become so familiar with it in my 10 years living here. Although the kind of terrain in BC and AK is my favorite thing to ride, Utah is a good place to prepare for that.
I like that the splitboard can take you to a new place everyday. Riding the same runs at the same ski resort for a whole season can get old fast.
4. How is the splitboarding scene in Utah?
Splitboarding in Utah has grown a lot over the last few years. I cut my first board in 2006 and only saw a handful of people out on splits that year. Nowadays it’s common to see multiple splitboards on any given day. More and more snowboarders are starting to get into it.
5. More into a personal level, what does splitboarding mean to you? How do you see the evolution of the sport in a close future? Do you think that it’s here to stay or it’s just a trend?
I like that the splitboard can take you to a new place everyday. Riding the same runs at the same ski resort for a whole season can get old fast. The sense of exploration you can get on a good day of splitboarding is unlike any experience inside resort boundaries. I think snowboarding in general is still so young and is only going to continue to grow. As long as the snow keeps falling, splitboards are definitely here to stay!
6. Are you aware of the splitboarding equipment evolution? For someone who spends a lot of time on his splitboard, what are the weak points where manufacturers should put their efforts on to improve it’s performance?
With splitboarding simplicity is key, too many moving parts/screws/bolts or parts you can loose is a bad thing when your deep in the backcountry! I feel like my current splitboard setup rides just as good as my solid snowboard, just a little bit heavier. Thats where I think the biggest improvements can be made, in the weight of the splitboard and the kit/binding weight.
We’re not afraid to share our opinion, and sometimes argue, but thats a good thing! Good communication is essential for safe travel.
7. You ride for Voile, splitboard pioneers and a true backcountry brand. What’s your relationship with the brand? What’s your quiver of splitboards? Voile is an awesome company, true innovators. If it weren’t for Kowboy and Wally bringing the splitboard to life, snowboarders would still be struggling in the bootpack, or relying on heli’s and snowmobiles to get on big lines. Voile single handedly created a whole new dimension of the sport when they came out with the idea. I’ve gotten the chance to work closely with them developing and testing new splitboard shapes and designs. I’ve been riding the Artisan board for the last 2 years, and recently the new Revelator with the new channel puck system- next level! It’s an honor to ride their boards and represent the brand. They are on the right track and have some cool stuff coming in the future.
8. You share most of your outdoor adventures with your brother Ian. Have you always spent time together in the backcountry? How does it affect your decision making in avalanche terrain when you know that your partner is part of your family?
Growing up learning how to ski and snowboard with 2 older brothers gave us a tight bond at an early age. I always looked up to them and followed in their footsteps. When Ian got a set of skins and touring binding for his skis, I could no longer keep up with him! He turned me on to the splitboard and we’ve been riding in the mountains together ever since. Being that we’re brothers theres a different dynamic between the two of us when it comes to decision making. We’re not afraid to share our opinion, and sometimes argue, but thats a good thing! Good communication is essential for safe travel.
9. Steelhead & Spines was a video recorded and produced by you and your brother, besides being your first time riding in Alaska. How was this experience? Is it difficult to produce a backcountry video? What are the downsides of it?
Our first taste of Alaska was amazing, yet tough at times. We learned so much about riding lines from the ground up and how to move around in those mountains. Shooting the video just took a bit of dedication as Ian or i would have to haul the film pack as the other would ride. We were camped on the glacier for 18 days with only 5 days of good weather to ride, so trying to film it we both had to sacrifice a few good days. That place blows my mind, i’ve been back 2 times since and hope to visit every spring if the conditions are right.
10. Talking about Alaska, when we think about AK what comes to our mind is big spines, helicopters flying around and big productions crew with a huge budget that the common splitboarder that dreams about going there can’t afford. But with your video Roadside Runs in Alaska you showed us a different way to do it. Is there another Alaska for those splitboarders that want to experience it their own way?
I always had the same impression about Alaska… helicopters, tons of money, way out of my realm. You can hire a bush plane to drop you off in the middle of no where for 2 weeks for the amount it would cost for half a day of heliskiing! There are thousands of huge peaks right of the side of the road, it’s just a matter of how far you’re willing to go. Affordable options are out there for splitboarders, you just need to have a solid crew who is willing to hike. Alaska comes at a high price, you either have to pay in money, or sweat!
11. Last summer you guys flew to Bolivia in search of big and unexplored mountains and also to flyfish in the Amazon river in the video called “What kind of meat”. How did this adventure go? How were the riding conditions in Bolivia?
Going to Bolivia to snowboard and Fly fish was a wild adventure. We spent almost all of our time fishing in the jungles at about 100ft above sea level. With our time running out we had only 3 days in the mountains to try to do some riding. That place has some incredible terrain, and huge alpine peaks. We should have allowed more time for the ski portion of the trip, but thats the way it went. I’d love to go back to spend more time focused on snowboarding out there, and i also want to go back for more fishing too!
12. You have been appearing in the Powderwhore movies lately. We love the way they see the mountain. Tell us a bit about their philosophy.
The Powderwhore movies are made by 2 brothers- Jonah and Noah Howell. They are really great guys with a strong passion for snow. Their philosophy is all about human powered Skiing and Snowboarding. This year is their 10th movie and i’m stoked i got to be a part of it. We had amazing conditions for the second year in a row on a camping trip in the Tordrillo mountains of AK.
I’ve always wanted to go to Europe to shred, but haven’t found the right time to do it. Plane tickets are also a lot cheaper to Alaska then to Europe from where I live!
13. USA, South America…What about Europe? Have you been riding here? Is there any mountain range around the world that are you dreaming of?
I’ve always wanted to go to Europe to shred, but haven’t found the right time to do it. Plane tickets are also a lot cheaper to Alaska then to Europe from where I live! Thats probably the main reason I haven’t been yet. I’d love to check out India one day, Japan, Russia, Chile, Argentina. So many places to go it’s hard to choose, but usually my bank account determines how far I can go!
14. We couldn’t do an interview without mentioning your passion for fishing. What does fishing give you? If you have to choose between a riding a big spine or catching a big fish, what would be your choice?
Fly fishing on a secluded river is another way to escape the city life and disappear into the wild for a while, much like touring in the mountains. It’s good to have something to keep your mind off snowboarding in the summer months. It’s like a meditation almost, sitting in the river casting all day, you loose track of time and focus on the now. Big Spines are hard to find here in Utah, but there is plenty of big fish, so i’d have to choose a big spine over big fish!
Thanks for your time Neil. Please keep inspiring us with your trips and adventures.
WORDS: Víctor Perisé / David Pérez | PHOTO COVER: Ian Provo
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