This Year Will Be Different: Backcountry Skiing And Splitboarding

A Q&A with backcountry splitboarder Dani Reyes-Acosta and intro to our Going Deeper Series.

I’ll be completely frank: My first few days of backcountry skiing were a mixed bag of frustration and amazement. They tested my skills and patience on ice-luge tree runs and bone-rattling high-altitude sun crust. They also opened my eyes to the quiet freedom accessible by ski or board in the heart of winter. I found out how crucial having the right gear is—as well as the right partner and the right knowledge. This season, with a pandemic throwing a wrench in many of our plans, the backcountry means even more to us. That’s why we’re collaborating with OR ambassadors and nonprofit partners to bring to life our backcountry series, Going Deeper, exploring the methods behind safe out-of-bounds snow travel and the passion that drives us to go, well, deeper. 

[Stay tuned for more in the Going Deeper series: An Introduction to Backcountry Safety with Paul Diegel of the Utah Avalanche Center, a Backcountry Skiing and Splitboarding Safety Q&A with AMGA Certified Ski Guide and OR Ambassador Jessica Baker, a list of Backcountry Safety Resources and a Guide To Finding Your Perfect Ski Kit.]

 

When I think of backcountry stoke, splitboarder Dani Reyes-Acosta comes to mind. She’s a multi-sport mountain athlete—and OR ambassador—who has methodically added to her quiver of backcountry skills over the years and seeks to make every single day in the mountains a mindful experience. From the Andes to the Cascades to the Tetons, she focuses on both community and the nature around her as she carves her backcountry lines.

 

We reached out to hear about Dani’s first time boarding in the backcountry, and what she’s learned since then. 

 

 

 

 

 

What was your first backcountry snow experience like?

It was surreal: snow-capped peaks of the high Andes encircled the boulder field of Choriboulder. I’d gone to Valle del Arenas in the Cajón del Maipo (Chile) to camp, bootpack, and see the sights. Near the city of Santiago, where I was based briefly in 2014, I knew that I’d be able to explore some of the mellower slopes via bootpack. I was also attending a No Alto Maipo event held by local lovers of this zone: backcountry skiers and climbers that wanted to prevent a mining company from destroying the area. This formative experience uniting stewardship and the lands we all love still drives who I am today.

 

 

What do you wish you'd known that you know now?

The objective isn’t the only reason to be in the backcountry. As much as skiing a beautiful line or summiting a peak can be, there are so many other ways to just enjoy being outside. I wish I’d known that learning to be patient with myself would empower me to push myself harder down the line. 

I also wish I’d known that backcountry partners and mentorship help me be a better splitboarder. Peers and teachers can help us learn the technical and non-technical skills required to succeed in the backcountry—and life.

What's your favorite thing about boarding out of bounds?

La nieve virgen is a blank canvas upon which I can draw, dance, or dive. I love the uninterrupted possibilities for movement I get out here.

 

What's a word of advice you'd give to every first-time backcountry user?

Give yourself the space to feel whatever you need to feel: whether you’re tired, frustrated, or stoked, lean into those emotions. Then talk to your partners about what you’re experiencing. This can help you be more honest with each other about your objective, the snow or weather conditions, and your stoke for the day.

 

Communication is a key part of being a good backcountry traveler and partner. Build these habits early, and get ready for some honestly good stoke when it’s on tap.

 

For more of Danis’s thoughts on backcountry splitboarding, check out her piece “Women in the Backcountry: Why Women's-Only Spaces Matter” on Outdoor Prolink’s Dirtbag Diaries blog: https://bit.ly/AWomansPlaceIsOnTop.