My name is Michael Wigley and this is a story of how splitboarding changed my life. A splitboard is the ultimate tool for a snowboarder to explore this world cheaply.
A bit about myself, I'm Canadian and grew up where mountains were thousands of kilometers away. It was the first day of winter and I was in exam week in college. I looked out the window and saw the first snowflakes falling to the ground. At that moment I stood up and told my friends around me I was over this. I was over school and living in the flats, so I dropped out of school, packed my bags, and headed west. I did what every Ontario kid would do, stop and live in the first mountain town, known as Banff in the Rockies. I did my first season there and then moved to the interior of BC to a small town known as Rossland where I have been the last 7 years. It's a quiet town with a rich ski history, rad locals and a lot of powder.
I began splitboarding 6 years ago, where I would tour the Rossland Range, Kootenay Pass, Nelson Range, and Rogers Pass. Splitboarding has been a blessing in disguise. It's taught me more than I could ever learn in school, to be a human, to be patient in the mountains. My best friends in life at the moment are the people I tour with everyday. You build an unspoken bond out in the wilderness, for these are the people I trust with my life. As they trust me.
In the last few years I've taken the route of guiding myself with the most knowledge I can, with becoming a professional member in the Canadian Avalanche Association and arming myself with first aid courses after first aid courses. I've also spent time learning snowpacks in many parts of the world from the Rockies to the coast of Vancouver island. All the way up north in the Yukon, travelling south in the summer to Chile and Argentina. I'm obsessed with snow and I'm obsessed with standing on top of mountains. I've spent a year in total living in the Yukon out of a tent and a bivy just to explore the vast tundra and catch the incredible show of the northern lights. I spent 3 weeks in -20°C weather in a bivy just to learn how to manage the cold and everything freezing.
Everything to do with Splitboarding I'm in love with; I love hiking, exploring, the views, learning, yoga, hut life, winter camping, Food!, building with snow, snow in general, friends, and I haven't even mentioned snowboarding yet!
I've been really fortunate with the luck I've had being able to tailguide for catskiing operations, snow patrol at resorts, helping build backcountry maps, and hut keeping at backcountry lodges. But for the most part I don't enjoy working for the mechanized industry. So, I don't and just splitboard every winter now.
I'm going to leave you with what I did in the last year of my life, you can tell how random I am;
I was living in the Yukon out of my bivy while working at an outdoor gear shop. I'm huge believer in letting go and being in the moment so I sometimes challenge those actions and I go with the flow. I quit my job and headed to the Tombstone Range to watch it change from summer to fall to winter. My friend and I went for a multi-day hike as the colours went from green, to red, to brown to snow in a week. Fall doesn't last long when your so close to the Arctic Circle. I was also on a mission scouting lines for future spring time goals. We were also shown the most beautiful northern light show I have ever seen. From there I went to Kluane National Park on the edge of Alaska to explore the range solo while camping out in one of the largest grizzly bear habitats. I then was able to hitch a ride to Haines, AK where I took a 4 day ferry from Haines to Bellingham, WA. While exploring harbour towns and camping out on the deck staring at the stars and watching Orcas. I made it back to Rossland, BC a few days later in October to see fall again and do an over-nighter hiking the Rossland Range which stretches 32km. I actually came back in March to do this trip on my Splitboard. It was then time to work, so, I jumped the money border and headed to Calgary to work for 2 months till Christmas to fund a 10 month splitboard season. I spent the start of my season in the Rockies, then to the Kootenays, I then flew to India, toured around the Himalayas, back to the Koots, spring missions in the Rockies, and then New Zealand where I'm currently writing this. During that season I dealt with avalanches, 2 big first aid scenarios requiring heli evacs, and hearing of friends dying while we traveled abroad. That's when the heavy stuff comes in, when those amazing perfect days change to the scary ones. One of the first aid scenarios required 16 hours to get him to safety. A lot of things go through your head, but I will never let my friends down and I will be there till the end. The only thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge and be smart in the mountains. Listen, the mountains will talk you just got to be open to hear it.
In the end of it, splitboarding is my life. It's my excuse to travel the world and it's my tool to explore and build friendships. I believe snowboarding has gone full circle, it's like back in the day when you saw someone with a board you were stoked, you bonded. The same can be said with splitboarding you see someone with a board and your stoked, you become friends right away. Now that we have splitboard festivals all over the world it's an amazing way to meet the locals and get to know rad people.
I haven't bought a pass in years, don't need one. Just need my split, it's the cheapest way to snowboard the world.
Thanks for reading,
-Pow Slashing Wigley.