Touring with New Splitboard Partners

It’s safe to say that most of us who splitboard and tour in the backcountry like heading out with people that we know and trust. That’s for good reason—riding in the backcountry is fun, but it’s something to be taken seriously. Knowing your touring partners’ physical abilities, limitations, avalanche safety education, risk tolerance, and general temperament all help you know what to expect if something went wrong.

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Trust Is the Foundation

Trust is built over time. Trust in your companions is important and can help you enjoy your mission even more. So you might ask, “Why would I tour with people I’m not familiar with?” Good question. There are a couple of scenarios where you might head out with people for the first time. And before I get into those reasons, just remember, you toured with your very favorite backcountry shred friend for the first time once. You’ve got to start somewhere. But I digress. 

Where You Might Meet New Touring Partners

A couple reasons you might be heading out with new shredders include:

  • You moved to a new area. You’re going to have to find some new friends for a pow day. 
  • You’re at a splitboard event like a Splitfest. When I attend a splitboard event, I go out of my way to tour with strangers. I’m just more cautious about what we ride. 
  • You’re with a trusted companion, but they’re bringing new people out. 
  • Maybe you’re just a normal human that likes to do fun things with new people and try to make new friends. 
  • You’ve just taken an avalanche course and met a bunch of other potential touring partners with similar levels of education.
Photo Courtesy of Spark R&D

Approaching Your New Relationships

All that is to say, there are plenty of reasons why you might be riding with new people in the backcountry. Here are a couple of tips for heading out with a new person or group. 

Start Small and Work Your Way Up

Trust is earned over time. I think it is wise when touring with new people to pick an objective with low risk. I’m not saying you need to ride a fifteen degree low elevation glade to keep it safe, but maybe select terrain where a lot of decisions should be straight-forward. You can still discuss different aspects of the tour and conditions while you’re out, but it is nice to not have to rely on people you don’t fully trust, yet with high-consequence decisions. 

Ask Questions and Don’t Be Shy

You don’t have to grill people on their full backcountry resume, but a few questions can spark a conversation and give everyone in the group a better gauge on what different folks bring to the table. 

Here are few suggestions:

  • Does anyone have a med kit with them?
  • What spare parts or repair materials do you have in your pack? 
  • What’s your favorite skin track snack? 
  • Have you taken an avy course?
  • What bindings are you rocking? 
  • Do you use a navigation app?

None of these questions or the subsequent answers give a holistic understanding of who they are or how they approach the backcountry, but I might draw a few inferences. While I do care what their favorite snack is (as mine is always changing and I need inspiration), I’m also curious if they brought food. If someone hasn’t taken an avy course, I’m not going to put the brakes on the day, but I may ask some follow-ups, and maybe even reevaluate our planned objective. 

Show Up Prepared

While you suss things out with a new group or partner, they are likely doing the same. Make sure your gear is dialed the night before. Check your beacon battery. Download a map using onX Backcountry. A free trial gets you Offline Maps, ski tours in your area, sharing capabilities, and Tracking for seven days. Arrive early to the trailhead. This isn’t an audition, but have your act together. 

Photo Courtesy of Spark R&D

I know none of that is rocket surgery or brain science, but it’s all important to keep in mind. Going out with new people may be intimidating, but ultimately it can help you build a nice group of people that you trust in the backcountry. When you have a bigger group of people you’re willing to head out with, you have more options for interesting missions that get you fired up throughout the season. Let’s face it, you won’t be available for your favorite touring partner every time they want to head out, and vice versa. Having more than a few people you can call or text is a good thing—just start small and work your way up, ask a few pertinent questions, and be prepared. 

Dare to Be the Trip Leader
Make a plan and stick to it. With onX Backcountry’s suite of pow-chasing and avalanche safety tools, you can be confident you’ve got the best days in the backcountry ahead of you.

If you’re curious about Splitfest, check out Spark R&D’s Splitfest 101 blog. Splitfests are an awesome way to share the stoke for splitboarding, meet new touring partners, and demoing awesome gear.

Dan Ventura

Dan is the Marketing Manager at Spark R&D, the splitboard binding company. He lives in Bozeman, MT with his wife Kristen, two kiddos Finn and Ellie, and dog Penny. When he’s not working you can usually find him on one of the many skin tracks in SW Montana or on the magic carpet at Bridger Bowl teaching his kids to snowboard. He also enjoys hiking, fly fishing, photography, and eggs benedict.