Celebrating 11 Years of Turns in Revelstoke.
By Mark Hartley
This article was originally published in the Revelstoke Mountaineer in January, 2020.
January 2021 marks the 11th annual Canuck Splitfest, which was started up in legendary Rogers Pass by a guy from the flatlands, Wade Galloway. This may be significant in that, while we local Columbia snow bums were content in our mountain powder paradise, rummaging around for face-fulls of snow, Wade as an outsider was so much more impressed by the majesty of this place that his idea was to bring other like-sliding people to show them the way.
In the beginning.
2010 feels just like yesterday, but so long ago that many people still believed in the positive potential of the interwebs. For backcountry snowboarders there was an active and passionate community that shared ideas, stories and stoke on splitboard.com, where Wade put out the word and people promised to come. This niche community was united in solidarity against the marginalization that snowboarders had experienced from those who thought we didn’t belong in the wild mountains. Forum members shared the bond of the snow as well as the fellowship of the craft. Beginners were given good advice and encouragement; new ideas and equipment were debated, developed and promoted; and anyone’s achievements were celebrated by all, as they showed we all were capable. These people came and the snow fell.
In 2010, Glacier Park Lodge in Rogers Pass was still fighting for life; the nachos and beers were classic, although the small horde of knuckle-draggers was perhaps a bit of a denouement from its glory days of the swingers parties and gad knows what else. Wade was the ringleader, directing action for slideshows, presentations, sponsors, contests and raffles. His jeans, hockey jersey, and long hair paid tribute to his roots.
Splitfest was organized to bring together a tribe and also to raise money for Avalanche Canada. The early-January timing was chosen to expose the tribe to the best chances of experiencing the legendary deep snowfalls of the Columbia Mountains around Revelstoke. It should be noted some people thought exposing a posse of slowboarders to the legendary snowfalls that coincided, as planned, along with the logistics of Glacier Park’s winter permit system and their armed forces artillery unit, was actually a bad idea that would end in disaster. Clearly, we got lucky. The first two Splitfests, held up at the lodge (and many more after down in Revelstoke after the lodge shut down) were blessed with snowfall warnings. I think it was the fourth year that the sun came out and people realized where we had been all along.
MOVING TO TOWN.
When the lodge closed, Wade asked around about where to continue the event, then surprised us by booking the Coast Hillcrest Hotel. Honestly, it was above our pay grade—a nice place, home of Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing, but, generally speaking, we were dirt bags, not heli-skiers! However, Wade, despite looking a bit like he’d stepped out of Fubar, or maybe Mallrats, was actually a successful businessperson with an inherently high degree of respect for himself and others. He believed in us and in our potential. When we found the STHS apres snack bar was seriously lacking a security detail, we also believed in him. Wade got a haircut for the next Splitfest; we’re not sure if that coincided with his election as a city councillor in his hometown of Lethbridge, or if it was because he’d anticipated the security improvements around STHS’s apres treats.
Subsequent years get a bit blurry for me. Maybe it was the dehydration caused by the sweat-boxed conference room at the Hillcrest, or the lack of apres appies, or the sponsorship of Mt. Begbie Brewery, or a combination of those things. Maybe it’s because I recognized so many new friends that came back every year, or because it was always so deep and snowy that the pow runs all blended together. Or maybe I stopped paying attention so much after that one guy won four snowboards in the raffle and all I got was a lousy T-shirt.
Sadly, Wade passed away in an avalanche accident in Waterton Lakes National Park in 2014. Rest in peace, bud—we won’t forget you.
Splitfest hits the big time.
Prior Snowboards, the original main sponsor of Splitfest, took over organizing by putting Emilie de Crombrugghe on the job. Emilie moved the festival to the community centre when we outgrew the Hillcrest. Revelstoke’s own Trapper Snowboards took over as title sponsor when Prior stepped back, which meant locals were, at last, shouldering some of the workload, or at least helping Emilie. Jennifer George at Avalanche Canada does a lot of the work to legitimize the raffle, which is quite a popular attraction due to the generosity of the many sponsors of the event, and there’s always a good bunch of Avalanche Canada staff volunteering to help out. The raffle raises a good chunk of change for AvCan (over $12,000 last year!). Some of the funds go to support the Craig Kelly Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded to snowboarders pursuing a career as a guide or avalanche professional. One upon a time, some people thought snowboarders had no place in the guiding world; in 2021 it’s clear that idea has long been proven wrong.
This year, because of COVID-19, parts of Splitfest have moved online. Splitfest was born from Revelstoke pow, but this year, enjoy the riding at home in your bubble before joining the tribe online for some virtual socializing. Instead of one big tradeshow, raffle, and speaker series at the community centre, there will be three nights of online presentations from Jan. 8‑10. Instead of a raffle, there will be an online auction. Eagle Pass Heliski is the new title sponsor and they’ve donated a day of heli-assisted guided riding for four people as the big kahuna prize.
One last note is, although the festival is nominally for splitboarders, Canuck Splitfest is a LGBTQIAPK2SAATMAT+ friendly event (the last four letters stand for telemark and alpine touring, and the + includes slow-shoers and Nordic skiing). If you’re passionate about, or maybe interested in or curious about any type of playing in the snow, then you’re welcome here with us.
Have fun, make friends, safety third, let it snow… and see you on the interweb!
Mark Hartley is the long-time emcee of Canuck Splitfest, an unsung legend in the splitboarding world, and the owner of Stoke Roasted Coffee.