Warm sun rays on the back of your neck, snow under your feet, and a snowboard strapped to your back. Winter is over, and the fun is just beginning. This is Volcano Season.
If you've ever enjoyed backpacking or mountaineering, you’ll understand the feeling when you finally stand on top of the summit, with a mix of exhaustion, excitement, accomplishment... and the dread of climbing back down.
Instead, imagine that the best part is yet to come. After your long climb on foot, you’ll be descending with a snowboard under you. Sliding down a perfectly blank canvas that you’ve been anticipating the entire climb. This is splitboarding. And this is what Volcano Season is all about.
The West Coast of the United States is littered with volcanoes that hold glacial snow well into the summer months, offering cooling refreshment from the scorching valley heat. These icy pockets present enough challenge for snowboarders to make each successful trip a rewarding accomplishment.
Oregon holds many of these beautiful mountains, where I spend a lot of my spring every year climbing with friends Destry Serna and Stratton Matteson. Finding these places can be a challenge in itself, as locals hold dearly to their secret spots the way North Shore locals defend their beaches’ perfect barrels. The only difference is that these guys have ice axes and crampons.
People have been splitboarding since the mid-1990s with the release of the first DIY Voile Split Kit in 1994. That was the beginning of the splitboard revolution. For the first time, riders had a truly innovative and easy way to access backcountry powder other than snowshoes or boot packing. In recent years, with ticket prices skyrocketing (thanks to VAIL), many people have taken to the backcountry and splitboarding to save money. This is both good and bad, as there are very important safety precautions to be taken to avoid avalanches.
Overall though, spring splitboarding is actually safer. During the normal season, snow conditions vary dramatically due to weather patterns and temperature. Snow can be unstable, so finding a window to go is more difficult in the middle of winter. But in the spring, the weather is consistently sunny, the snow storms taper off, and the base stabilizes greatly. That said, it’s always best to assess the snowpack to be safe.
So remember: just because Winter is over doesn’t mean your snow sports are. Hop on Google Earth, find some snow, and have yourself a Volcano Season.
Colton is a Seattle based freelance outdoor lifestyle, action sports and adventure photographer. He shoots for K2 as well as many other brands.