Splitboarding in the PIOS
“The Pioneers are so close to Ketchum, as far as personal missions go, it’s easy”
Says local mountain guide Erik Leidecker. I would agree if we were talking about my usual mode of transportation into the mountains, a Skidoo 800 equipped with snowboard and backpack racks. But when I took ten steps from the slushy snow bank my truck wouldn’t bust through, with a 60 lb pack on my back and my own two feet as my only way forward, ease was the last thing I would call it.
Not far up the skin track, my brother Wyatt and I, the only two snowboarders in a group of 6, realized something we inherently already knew. The skin track set by skiers, especially hardcore mountain guides like Leidecker, is not necessarily the best route for splitboarders to follow. Spring crusts and frozen slopes make it damn near impossible to sidehill with the soft binding set-up of the average splitboarder. Rather than unstrap and hike with our boot crampons or switch out the stock Voile pin guides for the unimpressive Mr. Chomps ski cramp set up, the best way about it was to route find on our own accord, which I find even more enjoyable.
This remained the key strategy for spring travel the rest of our trip. Some might call us weak or revert to the old cliché of the lazy snowboarder. But while the other guys zig-zagged across the steep icy face of the Salsburger Spitzel and eventually rattled down a peppered chute off the Northwest side, Wyatt and I stuck to the lower ridge line where a variety of cornice drops, wind lips with fresh deposits of pow, and softening sun exposed corn snow were the most enticing options.
The Pioneers have largely been explored only by Ski Mountaineer enthusiasts with heavy goals of major ascents and fabeled descents to claim at the local water holes. However, when looked at through the eyes of some seasoned shredsters, the unique rock formations and amazing backdrops provide for a plethora of photogenic possibilities and some serious airtime attractions.
Although the massive couloirs and intricate options for a puckering first descent off even the most prominent well-known peaks remain our ultimate goal, we won’t rule out the Pioneers when weighing alternatives to the usual honey holes and paved paths to powder. The bottom line is, we need to spend much more time exploring the closest mountain range from our back porches.
Check the video from our trip!