Hailing from Durango, Colorado, Skylar Holgate grew up in the San Juan Range. He is a good example of a mountain passionate. His work as mountain guide at Silverton Mountain, Alaska and SASS Global Travel, have made his life evolve around his profession. Hereby, we try to find out which are the keys that have enabled him to live his dream.
I started off working as a climbing/mountaineering guide when I was in middle school through High School. I didn’t make the switch from skiing to snowboarding till I was a Junior in High school. Once I found snowboarding it was a natural transition to ski/shred guiding.
1. As an introduction, could you explain your evolution in snowboarding to the point of becoming a mountain guide?
It was actually the other way around, I started off working as a climbing and mountaineering guide when I was in middle school through High School. I didn’t make the switch from skiing to snowboarding till I was a Junior in High school. Once I found snowboarding it was a natural transition to ski/shred guiding.
2. How is an ordinary day at Silverton Mountain?
Haha! There is no such thing as an ordinary day at S-Mountain that’s why I love it so much. You just show up ready for an adventure, and the fun times begin.
3. With 400” of average snowfall per year and a complex terrain accessible through a single chairlift, it must be every freerider’s dream paradise. In a resort like that, we guess that security protocol must prevail above anything else…
It’s really easy to navigate the mountain. During the Guided season we split up groups of 8 based on their hiking ability and pace they want to move throughout the day with a Guide. So as long as you listen to your guide you will be taken to the goods all day. During the unguided season we set up ropes separating each run (slide-path). The boot pack heads up the ridge with ropes on each side. At the top of each run there is a gate if the gate is open it’s fare game if it’s closed keep hiking. At the top of the chairlift there is a sign with a list of runs that are open and Ski Patrol to help with any questions. As far as security ducking ropes mid run or going into closed runs isn’t tolerated at all, if the mountain doesn’t kill you the sheriff will be waiting at the bottom to make an example of you. This is rarely a problem since we have so much open terrain everyday and only 80 or less shredders on the mountain.
4. You also own/manage The Bonnie Belle Cabin, a cabin located in the heart of the San Juan mountains. Tell us what are you offering there and what do these mountains have to offer for splitboarders willing to explore them?
The Bonnie Belle (www.bonniebellecabin.com) is a backcountry cabin that sits above tree line at 12000’ looking over the head waters of the Animas river and historic mining ghost town Animas City. With all the amenities of a modern house i.e warm cozy beds electricity, full kitchen This is the perfect base (at the top) for exploring the San Juans with 13-14000’ peaks all around you. There is great touring in every direction. From steep couloirs, open bowls, and steep gladded trees right out the front door. If you are not comfortable with navigating in avalanche terrain you can hire a guide for your trip through www.silvertonmountain.com where the sky is the limit on terrain to access via touring, Heli or a combo of the two.
This is the perfect base (at the top) for exploring the San Juans with 13-14000’ peaks all around you. There is great touring in every direction. From steep couloirs, open bowls, and steep gladded trees right out the front door.
5. Tell us about the beginning of SASS (South America Snow Sessions). What is exactly your task within SASS Global Travel these days?
We Started SASS back in 2004, to be the first backcountry/Freestyle camp for skiers and snowboarders. Taking place in the heart of the South American Winter (July-Sept). It has evolved into what is now called SGT (www.sassglobaltravel.com). From powder vacations to training grounds for the sports up and comers we teach our clients about snow safety, and making good decisions in the backcountry. So they can have a long safe career exploring in the mountains.
6. We are thrilled about the idea of a Freeride oriented camp. What can the campers expect if they decide to take part in one of your camps and what would you like to transmit to them?
Campers can expect to have the time of their lives. Its all about having fun and conquering your goals on snow. From getting confident in using your beacon and avalanche gear, route finding in the mountains, learning new tricks on backcountry jumps/jibs, building jumps, learning a new language, exploring a new culture, meeting new friends with the same love of snow and mountains, all with some of the industries top Pros/Guides leading your way. To make sure you have the experience of a lifetime. It’s pretty rad!
7. On the other hand, you also work as a guide in Alaska with Silverton Mountain Guides. Where do you operate and what could we experience there?
We mostly operate in the Northern Chugach outside of Palmer Alaska, but hold permits through out the whole state from the Tordrillos to Petersburg in SE Alaska. Depending on snow conditions we are able to move around so clients have the best/most skiing for their trip. As far as trips the sky is the limit. Similar to Silverton Mountain you must be an expert skier/shredder. Being the only Heli opp that runs two guides per group of four we are able to run longer pitches and get into heavier terrain with a guide on each end.
8. Last summer/winter in Chile, we had the chance to take a look at your pro model with Venture Snowboards, what can you tell us about this board and what is your relationship with this brand?
We call it the “SKYLAR” it’s a true twin 160cm 25 waist. With rockered tip and tail and flat in between the bindings. The nose and tail are stiffer with a softer middle so at high speed when you initiate a turn or throw on the brakes it takes on that mustache profile (rocker camber rocker). The graphic was original art by Shanna Duncan who does all our art for The Levitation Project (www.levitationproject.com). I am pretty stoked after ten years of riding and doing R&D stuff with Venture Snowboards that I could do a board of my own.
Having a way for snowboarders to travel long distances up hill has definitely changed our sport on how we go uphill. Before we had Verts for going straight up steeps, but other than that it was big snow shoes, or boot packing. The efficient motion of touring just lets us save energy and go further.
9. Which splitboard model do you use mostly for your backcountry missions? Do you spend many days per season on it?
My Splitboard this past season was a 61 Venture Zelix with the Spark R&D Tesla Magneto binding and Sabertooth crampon. I also use my Mountain Approach Skis for certain missions like building jumps, powsurfing, sledding we even keep them in the helicopters BLS pack for emergencies. I use my touring gear all year long from Silverton to South America, it’s the one tool that is always reliable to get me to the top of the mountain. No matter the weather conditions!
10. What has splitboarding added to your touring? Has it changed your approach towards the mountain?
Of course! Having a way for snowboarders to travel long distances up hill has definitely changed our sport on how we go uphill. Before we had Verts for going straight up steeps, but other than that it was big snow shoes, or boot packing. The efficient motion of touring just lets us save energy and go further.
11. Splitboard specific gear is changing continuously. How do you live this evolution and how do you see the future of splitboarding?
I have been really lucky to have worked with the industries leaders of the evolution of the sport from the beginning. From Spark R&D’s first pair of sheet metal bindings that got us off of the giant plates we put our bindings on, Venture making the most bomber boards built to take the abuse and handle like a board should, to the first Mountain Approach ski Cory Smith concocted in his garage. All these huge leaps forward that helped push new ideas to grow this part of snowboarding. All helping people get out there and enjoy the mountains. People are always going to want to explore deeper, faster, and easier. So it’s exciting to see where it goes.
12. Last, is there anything you’d like to add?
For everybody that is getting out in the backcountry be sure to have all the appropriate safety gear: Know before you go! Get educated and continue learning so you can make safe confident decisions to contribute to your friends enjoying the mountains. Big thanks to Venture Snowboards, The North Face, Smith Optics, The Levitation Project, Spark R&D, Mountain Approach, Air Blaster and Union Bindings for all the years of support and keeping me out in the Mountains.
Thanks for your time, Sky!
WORDS: David Pérez | Translate: Elena G. de Murillo | PHOTO COVER: Ben Girardi
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