Hey Liz! We are incredibly stoked to be working with you! How did you get involved with Karakoram?
Well, I was looking for splitboard friends in Wa a couple springs ago and met a guy named Russman on Facebook. We ended up riding a sick line on Mt. Adams and he had Karakoram’s and a Jones split. He was out of this world stoked on his set-up and I decided I needed some too! I got a proto-type that Tyler put together for me in their shop (garage) at the time and have been rockin’ them ever since.
What does splitboard product evolution mean to you, and how has binding design impacted your mountain experience?
It was funny having Karakoram’s so early on in the scene in Chamonix three years ago. Everyone thought there were too many moving parts and people were skeptical. Turns out Karakoram was way ahead of their game. When I think about splitboard product evolution I think of one day being faster than skiers at transitions and traverses. I’ve already got some skiers beat on transitions!
In the current snowsports and backcountry industries, 90% of the products on the market are manufactured overseas in Asia. Is this a positive direction for us to be going?
One of the many reason’s I love Karakoram’s is that they are made in America! It’s important to buy locally these days when you’ve seen most of our production jobs moving over seas. It makes me feel more comfortable when I’m riding something sketchy knowing that someone with a splitboard-minded human eye put my bindings together rather than a mindless machine in China. Making products with such high performance expectation here at home is only going to drive the splitboard evolution more towards the perfection that consumers demand.
What do you enjoy most about the design of the Karakoram bindings?
I love how I feel unbelievably secure riding them all the time. I never feel like something is going to pop or break off. They feel super solid. I also love all the tiny details Tyler and Bryce have put into them like the walk mode, the front points on the crampons, heel lock-down (ski-mode!) and the self cleaning levers!
I’ve been brainstorming new color and marketing schemes for the first ever Women’s-Specific Splitboard Binding. There seems to be strong leaning towards a glow-in-the-dark florescent pink (or green) heelcup, with some possible glittery sparkles mixed into the powder coating. Is this something the ladies are going to go for, or is it WAY too girly?
Pink and Sparklez are my middle names! If you’re asking if that’s too girly, you’re asking the wrong girl! I think it’s important in a world filled of gnarly bro’s to embrace my girly side. I want to get rad like some dudes out there but I don’t want to be one of them. GLITTERY PINK ALL THE WAY!
What do we still need to do in order to be more efficient than those pesky AT skier, Drew Tabke types?
That’s a tough one. Spike his cocktail with Ex Lax?
Splitboarding is a pretty cool activity. It allows you to be as creative, gnarly or mellow as you want, and the whole time be enjoying the wonders of beautiful backcountry environments. What style of splitboarding, or splitboard mountaineering do you enjoy the most? I heard you occasionally enjoy icy steeps with some hop-hop, chink-chink ice axe style routes?
Honestly I try to stay away from too icy of lines. I still want to have fun while giving myself a good challenge. Ice is only fun while ascending and can be downright terrifying on a descent. I always have my axes handy just in case anything gets too gnar at any point in the descent. But for sure I’d prefer pow, nice consolidated wind buffed pow or corn But just like anything, ice happens if you have a serious line in mind and you just have to be prepared.
Rumor has it that you spend a lot of time in the Alps. Access is a little different over there than here in the Cascades, and I’ve heard that you can progress your steep hop-hop, chink-chink, ice-axe riding skills much faster in Chamonix than here in Washington? Is this why Xavier de la Rue is so shredtastic?
Yes, that’s true. In Chamonix you can get about as rad as is possible in the Cascades right off the Aiguille du Midi. There’s no 50lb pack or 6-15 mile approach involved like there is in Washington. It’s right outside the tram waiting for you. My interest in riding big and steep lines definitely triggered in Cham then coming back to Washington every spring I suddenly felt like these big lines all over the Cascades were more doable. It just takes a little more dedication, blood, sweat and tears out here. Changing it up every season is always refreshing.
In order to climb and ride big mountains on foot, it takes a whole different level of alpine skill. For years, the mainstream snowboard industry has had a profound disconnect from true alpinism. How important have your skills as a mountaineer become to your snowboard descents?
There’s a disconnect because alpinism is LAME. Shredding down something is so much more of an exhilarating experience and a reward for what hard work you’ve put in. But at the same time alpinist have paved the way for us splitters and skiers. Mountaineering and snowboard skills totally go hand in hand when riding bigger objectives. There’s all sorts of stuff out there to kill you not just avalanches, there’s seracs, crevasses, sluff’s, ice fall… the list goes on. You’re not just going into the side or backcountry to find some nice powder to slay, it’s a whole other game. But in a way it’s a safer game because as opposed to alpinists (fail-pinists), you’re touring up and shredding down much faster which decreases your risk to objective hazards. Thus it’s inherently safer to splitboard or ski.
I usually have a team and an objective in mind then a fair amount of reconnaissance and planning goes into the mission beforehand. You have to know what you’re up against, what dangers there are, how to protect yourself, how much time you’ll need, what gear you’ll need etc. You should know how to get yourself and others out of danger or out of an emergency situation if anything happens, if someone get hurt, if someone falls in a crevasse or if there’s an obligatory rappel. I’m still learning tons and I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning new techniques and ways of doing things. Choose your partners wisely and always take the initiative to learn!
When riding something big and exposed, how do you plan for your toeside vs. heelside turns? Does one side feel more exposed than the other?
I had a pretty scary 500+/-ft fall on my heelside edge down a big icy line in Cham. Heelside for sure feels more exposed. You can’t arrest and you’re going to scorpion if you don’t just fall on your butt. I always scope lines before I ride them and note which parts are going to be heelside.
Why is the method air important for the sport of snowboarding?
It’s a classic!
Speaking of risk management, we’ve all now experienced the loss of friends. Even friends who were mountain professionals themselves. What do you think is the most important factor in making sure you come home?
Knowing what you’re up against and being prepared for whatever that may be.
How would you define a successful day of shredding?
Blue bird, firm, consolidated pow, challenging climb, big, intimidating line, overcoming an obstacle, GS turns on steep pow, feeling of overwhelming satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of the day, sharing it with your best buds! Crisp, cold beer and a buffalo burger. Hell yea!
The mountains are infinitely powerful. How have have they changed you?
I feel that the challenges I face in the mountains carry over into everyday life. Climbing a big mountain and shredding a big line is extremely empowering. It makes me stronger in everyday mundane challenges.
You’ve recently become a certified Mountain Guide with the American Alpine Institute, and are working on teaching and guiding Splitboard Mountaineering Courses (this is awesome!). What excites you most about this career?
Getting paid to shred, travel and meet rad people with the same passions!
That Freeride World Champion guy Ralph Backstrom (he’s so hot right now) told me that you enjoy silly interviews more than serious ones?
Serious interviews are a dime a dozen. It’s fun to see another side of an athlete.
So to make this serious for a SPLITboard second, you’re an Ambassador for Patagonia now. They are an amazing company! How do you enjoy working with them?
I love being a part of Patagonia. The longer I’m with them the more I realize how great of a company it is. The environmental, sustainable and socially responsible practices the company lives by set a great example for other big companies out there. The athletes have a huge input in R&D and design. We get to test product and work a lot with the designers. So cool.