Hey Mitch, How did you get involved with Karakoram?
2 Years ago Jeremy was telling me that he was testing a new binding system on his spiltboard and that he was super stoked on it. Last year I met Bryce and Tyler at the ISPO and after the tradeshow they came over to check out Innsbruck and brought some bindings to try…
Splitboard technology has come a long way within the past few years. How do you feel that your own perception of the mountains and terrain has evolved along with the technology?
The evolution of the splitboard hardware makes the ascent easier and the descent more fun. To charge a line on a Splitboard these days feels almost like riding a normal board… Splitboarding itself gives me access to a lot of mountains and lines that were far out of my range before so the perception of what is possible did change and is changing with every mission I go out for.
It’s taken a long time, but splitboards are now regarded as a legitimate mountain travel and shredding tool by the mainstream snow industry. What do we still need to do to catch up to the skiers?
Right now I think the biggest chance for the splitboard movement is to convince the strong snowboard boomer years, the generation that already passed their 30`s, that todays splitboard equipment is the way to go for them to ride epic powder away from the crowds. The snowboard industry and the snowboard media didn’t take care of this generation since they grew out of the freestyle/teenage focused snowboard community. Many of them lost their connection with snowboarding and started skiing. Today I see splitboarding as a great opportunity to enjoy snowboarding until I am really old (80 or so) its also a chance for snowboarding to grow up.
What is your favorite component to the design of the Karakoram Bindings? How do you feel they can become better?
I like the handling of the bindings and the riding performance created by the symbiosis of the board and the binding.
I think somewhere in the future there could be still potential in reducing the weight of the pieces screwed on the board and their function maybe by integrating them already more into the board design.
I am also stoked on the option to use the binding as a connection for the crampons(harsch eisen) when climbing up steep hard snow with the board on the back. There is also still potential for optimizing the setup to work the best for splitting and for boot packing up steep hard snow.
There are definitely some cultural differences between European and North American ideas on what’s super rad. Any special feelings towards Glow-in-the-Dark florescent green heelcups?
I am more the function over design kind of guy…
How would you describe your home mountains? What type of terrain makes them unique?
The eastern alps, the Austrian alps are part of hold all different types of terrain, from mellow tree runs to steep exposed stuff. For some reason I am mostly attracted by the steeper stuff
Winning the Freeride World Tour in 2011 was a huge accomplishment for you. What did this mean to you personally, and what did it mean to you as a snowboarder?
For myself it was a mirror of my riding and mental strength evolving over the years. I finished the Tour 2nd behind Xavier the year before and kept on riding very consistent on a high level. It felt great than to take the title from Xavier in his last full on FWT season so far. It did prove to me that men can do what men can do…J
Xavier de la Rue is largely regarded as the most incredible freerider on the planet. What does it take to beat him in a competition setting?
Just ride better them him that day J
He is very strong but he is not perfect neither…
Riding massive lines in wilderness environments can leave a truly lasting imprint on one’s character. Have you had this experience? How has it changed you?
The more experienced I get the bigger the respect grows for the dangers out there.
For years it has seemed that the snowboard industry has had a strong disconnect from the alpine mountaineering component of riding big lines on foot. Being based in Europe where these specialized skills are essential, how important is the climbing and mountaineering component to your riding?
It depends on what I am aiming for.
If I see some mountain out in the backcountry I really want to ride I start thinking on how to get up there, that is when for me the mountaineering process starts and the learning begins. It is just essential to learn as much as possible on everything connected to this project to have the biggest possible chance to succeed and to come back home safe!…and then from up there you might already see the next line you want to get yourself into…
When riding in steep, exposed places where the snow quality can be questionable, how do you plan for toeside vs. heelside turns? Does one side feel more exposed to you than the other?
It depends a lot on the situation, I dont really plan for toeside/heelside turns it happens naturally with the terrain…I think in super steep extreme situations toeside might be better to get your weight on your ice ax…
Most people might say that skis are a superior mountain tool when it comes to steep, technical terrain. Do you personally see any advantages to being on a snowboard when it comes to this style of riding?
I was riding steep technical terrain with some of the best skiers and as soon as it gets more narrow and tricky I think you are better off on the snowboard. One advantage skiers have is that they have double the edge length to hold them on firm, icy conditions but that terrain is not much about the riding anymore…J
Speaking of risk management, there was a section in Further where you and Bibi were swept off a line in Austria. What impact did this have on you, and what do you feel is the most important factor in making sure you come home from the Backcountry?
Checking the risks and knowing what you get yourself into. The accident in Austria while filming for Further was a good example on how we try to deal with risk: We checked carefully for a whole day for that run after being in the mountain range for two weeks. We gave it a 10% chance that the upper part might break, for backup we did choose a line up we thought that we wouldn’t die if we would fall down…the 10% became true and it ripped but luckily our backup plan worked out…Of course there is no guarantee that a backup plan works out and of course you don’t take on an estimated 10% risk for going down with an avy every day…
I think everybody has to decide if he is willing to take a certain risk or not on a certain day but to have a choice at all you have to do your best to know the risk…
Helmet or no helmet?
Helmet, beside the protection of your head you are not loosing goggles so much, no fogging in the tram or while hiking and in case of an accident it’s a great insulation for your head that save energy.
How would you define a successful day in the mountains?
Everybody is coming home with a big smile on the face.
What part of the process of human powered big mountain riding excites you the most?
I am super excited when I see, find some big line I wanna ride. Than I like the whole process to make it happen and than I really love the feeling when starting the mission stepping out in the backcountry and leaving civilization behind.
Your wife and climbing partner, Bibi, is an incredible snowboard alpinist herself. You guys have basically created your own Mitch-Bibi Brand Name! How is it doing big mountain projects with your significant other?
Bibi was always motivated for some project or mountain adventure so over the years it naturally grew that we ended up doing a lot of stuff together. Its great to share these adventures and experiences in the mountains with each other but sometimes it can be scaring as well.
What is the personal significance of a life focused on the mountains? How does it foster a greater sense of personal meaning for you?
The mountains are right there so we climb up and ride down. In winter my rhythm is totally adapted to the weather and snow conditions on the mountains. I also like the down days. I like the whole rhythm it gives my life.
What would you say has been the most powerful splitboarding / alpine experience you’ve had thus far?
There have been some different strong experiences every year, an early one that still comes with strong feelings and powerful pictures to my mind is more than a decade ago when I climbed a steep face(wall) on the Fox Glacier, NZ on my own after traversing the flat glacier. I borrowed two ice axes from my friend and photographer Georg Schantl who did stay with the rest of the crew in the hut. I worked my way straight up that face and at the top the ridge was sharp like a razor blade. So when I looked over the edge it dropped down deep on the other side as well. That was an incredible feeling to find out that this solid wall of snow did end in this super narrow sharp ridge divided the two sides and you couldn’t even balance a snowball on top of it. I had to work for a while to dig a platform to be able to get into my bindings at all…
How do you see yourself evolving and growing into the future? Where do you want to explore? Are there any specific mountain ranges you want to go to?
There is a lot of terrain to explore in the alps, that would be enough riding for several lives…If going abroad I would like to go back to the Andes one day and one day I also would like to go for a trip to the Himalayas…
How bad is the bushwhacking in Europe? Ever heard of “Devil’s Club”?