Ty Mills was one of the first splitboard guides to obtain the ACMG certification. He is a deeply experienced guide, having worked for several mechanized and touring backcountry mountain operations; including Eagle Pass Heli-skiing, WhiteCap Alpine, Baldface Lodge, Retallack, Golden Alpine Holidays and 40 Tribes Backcountry as lead guide. He also manages his own guiding company, All Aspects Alpine, located in Golden, BC, Canada.
Words: David Perez | Translation: Elena G. de Murillo
1. Hey Ty! How was your summer in Chile guiding for 40 Tribes?
It was fantastic! I guess I’ve always known South America has so much to offer but I was still blown away with the amount of potential in Chile for backcountry shredding and guiding. The people, culture and mountains were so great and in many ways made me feel right at home. It’s definitely somewhere I hope to return and experience again as a recreational splitboarder and or as a guide. With over 3000 kms of mountains to explore the Andes have a lifetime of potential.
2. The Fall is the time to plan the winter season. What do you have in mind for this winter?
I’ve always been a bit of a mercenary when it comes to guiding. Preferring to work at multiple operations and locations with a mix of Cat/Heli Skiing and Ski touring ( Splitboarding ) versus working full time at one place. This coming winter the bulk of the season will be split between Eagle Pass Heliskiing in Revelstoke and Golden Alpine Holidays in Golden ( touring ) with a trip to Japan in January and Kamchatka in April and lots of days working for my own business early late season. This kind of schedule allows me to have variety and use guiding as a means to explore and shred around the world and in different regions of British Columbia which I love. Saying that, the late fall and early winter are when I get to go shred with all my pals and that’s always great. 3. You were one of the first guides certified on splitboard by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Please, can you explain how your riding evolved until you became a guide?
Like most of us I fell in love with Snowboarding for the pure joy of surfing powder snow down a mountain and picking my own path. I spent many years as a ski bum and eventually found my way to Golden, BC. There, I had my eyes opened to the big mountains and how the type of terrain you ride changes your approach and riding style. After a few seasons of getting stronger in the steep’s of the resort, I was drawn to the amazing side country off the resort and my love of backcountry touring was born.
Evolving my riding style from point it super fast straight lining, hucking jumps and inbounds freestyle to learning how to manage couloirs, sluff, variable snow conditions, deep untracked powder, moving around with skiers and the use of a splitboard and all the skills that go with that tool including split skiing.
I slowly got better at billy goating around in steep exposed terrain, turning in control slowly and fluidly in no fall zones, using cliff’s and pillow lines for air.
4. You have worked as guide for several operations such as Eagle Pass Heliskiing, WhiteCap Alpine, Baldface Lodge and 40 Tribes Backcountry, nevertheless, you have also managed your own guide company for a while now, All Aspects Alpine. What kind of services do you offer to your clients?
Initially it was just myself guiding in and around Golden, Rogers Pass and the Canadian Rockies. Now, AAA has a team of experienced guides offering guided days in those same regions, as well as, hut trips , remote basecamps, introduction to backcountry, avalanche safety training courses, glacier travel rope courses and full custom trips. We are also starting to offer international trips to must do locations.
5. All Aspects Alpine is located in Golden, BC, in the heart of the Purcell Mountains. What kind of terrain can we find there?
Golden is nestled in the Columbia Valley, between the Purcells and Canadian Rockies. We are surrounded by several National Parks. The Purcell, Selkirk and Monashee ranges are all a part of the Columbia/Interior mountains of BC.You can literally find every type of terrain imaginable within a 45 minute drive from Golden; including steep and deep powder skiing in the Selkirks, sick featured alpine in the Purcells, big faces, glaciers and alpine in the Rockies. Golden really is a Split Boarders paradise.
6. You guide in one of the regions with the highest snowfall rates on Earth, therefore, one of the most challenging terrains when it comes to avalanche risk. What are your daily tasks to grant the highest possible safety for your clients?
I am a member of The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and The Canadian Avalanche Association. They maintain very high standards, and over the last 50 years have developed through partnership with the backcountry and industrial industries some very awesome resources and standard techniques we can use and draw upon.
Usually my planning starts the night before. I look at current weather and hazard trends, the next days forecast and info on the web such as guide reports, snow profile tests and even social media for visual confirmation of conditions. In the morning I look for changes in the forecast, overnight weather, snowfall amounts and wind. I then make a decision based on my client profile, ability and experience about where to go that day.
7. Working in the Canadian Rockies or in remote places like Kyrgyzstan or Kamchatka seems like a dream job for any of us, but regarding the risks you have to assume it also implies a great responsibility. What are your main concerns when you get out there?
Safety is always the top of my list. The remoteness, problematic emergency communications and nature of our activity are the main considerations. Often a high level of medical care is hours away and not often to North American standards. I expect my clients to assume part of the risk and stay diligent and aware of these factors when making choices regarding speed, air, and energy management. I try to ease groups into a week allowing me to properly assess their abilities and be able to deliver the right product, terrain, adventure for them with just the right amount of risk and exposure. I want people to feel challenged and invigorated at the end of a trip. Enabling them to experience the trip of a lifetime.
8. Let’s talk about splitboarding. How and when did you come across it?
Well, I had heard of it prior to seeing or buying my first Split, but in those days (2002) they were still pretty rare. I had only seen a few being used in the mountain’s and they were very expensive back then with only a few companies to choose from. I was using my snowshoes for access to big lines and ticking off most of the classic tours around Golden via snowshoe/snowboard. Eventually though it became pretty apparent that I needed to change my equipment so I saved my pennies all summer and bought my first Splitboard from Prior for $1100 Canadian. It was a 172 Backcountry (for all the deep pow) and I was so proud. But man was it heavy with the Voile interface and K2 bindings. I was young and strong though so I put a lot of miles on that first Split. Since then my passion has only grown stronger.
9. How has splitboarding influenced your evolution as a rider and the way you look at the mountain?
Good Question, personally I feel like Splitboarding has been a gateway to my true calling as an avid backcountry enthusiast, big mountain shredder, Guide and powder pilgrim. It’s more than a sport or lifestyle, its me, a part of my life force, mantra and chi. It has enabled me to find a balance and harmony with nature, my own spirituality and mental health. The mountains are my temple.
I look at mountains everywhere I go , picking my lines down faces, couloirs, pillow lines and mostly see all the possibilities. A big part of my evolution has been a maturing in my decision making. I’m still up for an adventure and love to get gnarly with my friends but I have a very large respect for the mountains and i’m constantly working on knowing when not to go or when to turn around. Risk versus Reward.
10. You are a committed hardbooter. If you had to persuade riders who are currently thinking about switching to a hard boot system, what would you say are the main benefits and downsides?
I honestly don’t try to persuade people. I feel like there are so many different factors to consider when choosing your equipment. Cost, location, preference in terrain, riding style, amount of use, exposure to other people and their equipment and whether this is your only set up or part of your collection.
I think it makes a lot of sense for me as a professional guide based on the amount of days I put in, the longer approaches in N America, the often variable snow and seasonal conditions I find from 6 month seasons, my predominant big mountain riding style (not booters) and the fact that i’ve been doing this a long time.
I really like all the progression throughout the industry and believe there are a lot of great soft boot and bindings available now that are easy to use and well proven. Saying that, as those products go up in price and become stand alone purchases the argument to switch becomes stronger. If you put a lot of days in, crush vertical, like to boot pack, want to be better at split skiing and are drawn to Splitboard Mountaineering than it’s a no brainer.
If you want really efficient touring, comfortable boots with good liners, the ability to side hill, kick steps and easily use crampons it may be time to consider a change.
As a guide, I want to be familiar with all the different products my guests will show up with, whether that’s soft boot split boarder’s or technical ski tourers, so i can talk about the gear, fix it, or share techniques and tips.
11. What is your current set up?
I’m fortunate to have two primary setups. When i’m mechanized guiding ( Heli ) I still really enjoy the more classic combo of K2 soft boots , Spark bindings and Chimera Split.
But the Majority of the time you will find me Splitboard guiding sporting my Chimera Sceptre Split with the Phantom Splitboard Bindings and this year i’m using the Atomic Backlands ( split modification )
12. How are Phantom splitboard bindings different from the rest of the hard boot systems?
Phantom Splitboard Bindings are the first splitboard bindings designed around lightweight alpine touring ( AT ) ski boots . While the term “hardbooting” is often used to describe the setup, Phantoms are designed to flex, ride and feel like traditional snowboard bindings and perform as well in deep powder conditions as they do during the spring snowboard mountaineering season. What really sets them apart in my opinion is the man behind the bindings. John is a Nasa Aerospace engineer and has a passion and eye for precision engineered parts and progression of design. That coupled with their other components such as the Hercules hooks are game changers, with a focus on weight, strength and simplicity which is crucial in the backcountry. I have yet to break anything from Phantom and I can’t say that about any other snowboarding equipment ever.
13. Speaking of splitboard specific hard-boots, is there still much room for evolution?
I believe there is a ton of room for evolution. We are in a renaissance period in Splitboarding after many years of stagnant growth and design. The industry is growing, almost every board manufacturer is making splits, there are multiple binding manufacturers and we are seeing innovative boot design in soft boots. The issue, as usual, is the size of the hardboot market and lack of large demand for this type of boot, plus the huge cost of design and production. I think at some point someone will design a new system that includes a super boot borrowing from soft boot and ( AT ) hard boot technologies. We are close in many regards already.
I have been building Frankenstein boots for many years and have refined many techniques to make the boots very functionable and shreddable. I do know however that Phantom has a sweet new mod kit coming out soon that will be a huge step in the right direction.
14. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Thanks for your time!
I’d like to acknowledge my amazing wife and the gratitude i have for her putting up with me and my passion for the last ten years.
Also all my friends and the amazing adventures we have had over the years who continue to inspire me with their humble approach and amazing talent. The companies i’ve worked for and mentors who helped show me the way and the clients that have allowed me to call this obsession a job.
And finally Phantom Splitboard Bindings for awesome, bomber gear, Chimera Snowboards for providing strong , reliable , purpose built Splitboards and Splitboard Mag for the stoke.
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