Interview by Alex Andrews, FOW
Pyrenees, ES. FOW: Ana Salvador // Photo: Mike Othax (@mike_othax)
Who is Ana Salvador? From her freeride comp history to her current high alpine pursuits in the Spanish Pyrenees, she views splitboarding as a vehicle for discovery and community. Our resident Frothpuppy Alex Andrews caught up with Ana on her season, her objectives, and her love for the alpine.
Hi Ana, how has the season been this year in the Pyrenees?
This season has been the driest I can remember in a long time. We only had three snowfalls, but it hasn’t been a problem to enjoy the mountains and make days to remember. Adapting to the pure conditions of the mountain is a beautiful game and I think that's what defines me as a splitboarder. The riders of the Pyrenees are capable of crushing all kinds of snow.
Pyrenees, ES. FOW: Ana Salvador // Photo: Mike Othax (@mike_othax)
What type of terrain is found where you live? Or what is the spot you like to ride in your backyard?
In the Pyrenees, more specifically the zone around my house you can make descents of up to 5900 feet that you have had to climb with the engine of your legs first… For me it is very normal to access with my bicycle to the snow line, because the most interesting mountains are always further away from the common areas.
The terrain of my region and my favorite mountain is the massif of Telera, it is a beautiful mountain with about forty couloirs where mountaineers and steep riders coexist. I think it's where I feel the most comfortable and where I've spent the most time developing as a splitboarder and pushing my technique.
Sharing the knowledge. Pyrenees, ES. FOW: Ana Salvador
Tell us more about what you've been up to! Sounds like you work heavily in Education courses/ Splitboard training?
This winter I taught several courses on splitboard technique. We do courses for beginners, intermediate, and advanced levels, and it’s a job that I’m highly passionate about. It is very rewarding to observe how your students trust in your abilities and gradually gain their autonomy to progress safely in the mountains or push their own limits. I've taught these courses with my partner Felix, a great guide and skier whom I admire a lot.
On the other hand, I also work training snowboard instructors. It's a job that I have been doing for more than seven years and I am really passionate about that too. Combining both jobs is a good balance. Because our snowboarding technique will always determine our next steps as splitboarders, it's good to return to ski resorts from time to time.
I'm also curious about the splitboard/snowboard scene in your area—is there a good community of people who enjoy walking uphill to earn their turns?
The Pyrenees is perfect terrain to splitboard during all the winter months since the mountains are not too high (our highest mountain is 11154 feet), and the not abundant snowfall allows us to climb to the top in any month of the season. I mean… there are no longer mountains that you can only ride in spring. So it’s an advantage that it does not snow lately, hahahaha.
These characteristics of the terrain make the splitboarder community increase every year as well as ski mountaineering. Here you can find more and more splitboarders that use hard boots for the need to use automatic crampons and for the long days of ascent, but there are also many new splitboarders just learning.
Pyrenees, ES. FOW: Ana Salvador // Photo: Jesús Laiglesia (@jeslaiglesia)
You had mentioned that you have a big trip coming up soon? Are you able to tell us more about that, and what your goals are?
Yes. It's time to continue my project 6,000Split (6,000 meter mountains that I have attempted and descended over the last few years).
Now it's Bolivia's turn, my third attempt to travel to the country. In 2019 I bought my first plane ticket to Bolivia, but two weeks before traveling I had a climbing accident and broke my knee. In 2020 I bought my second ticket for this trip, but two weeks before traveling the Covid -19 pandemic arrived. Now I have the ticket in my hand for May 1 and as you can imagine it’s a mental challenge just to be able to reach the country for me. But to the third goes the definitive.
We’ll travel to the Cordillera Real to the north, although the conditions are better in the southern volcanoes, but really our goal is to try to ride three beautiful and aesthetic mountains even if the conditions are not the best. I will be accompanied by two good and strong friends, a rope team of women.
So I think that with the three women, in 2023, on the 3rd attempt to reach Bolivia, the stars will align for us.
What was the driving force that compelled you to want to take on such a challenge?
I really want to know the Cordillera Real of Bolivia for a long time, the country, culture, and everything that entails. Since splitboarding is the way I feel most comfortable in the mountains, if there is snow on the glaciers, why not try to ride them?
Do you feel ready?
For me, landing in Bolivia will be a goal fulfilled immediately!
Obviously we have objectives that we would like to try to descend like Illimani or Chearoco, but we will adapt to the conditions of the mountains, let ourselves be influenced by the Bolivian community and we will let fate decide. Many times you travel with a fixed goal and miss fascinating episodes.
I love that attitude! Let's back up for a second and hear more about your history. What brought you to snowboarding in the first place?
In my beginnings with snowboarding, I felt the ability to float (unlike my skis)—I think my first sensations of turning in powder are similar to the way forward for many snowboarders.
I have also wondered many times, if twenty-five years ago when I decided to progress as a snowboarder there had been wide skis that allowed you that buoyancy, would I have changed sides?
Pyrenees, ES. FOW: Ana Salvador // Photo: Ana Salvador (@ana__salvador)
What is your approach to splitboarding today? Are you more objective/goal oriented or free flowing? Or a combination?
My preference in my outings in the mountains is that every day is different. I’m not motivated to repeat lines, I seek more to program my activities towards a goal but always with the ingredient of improvisation, letting myself be seduced by unexpected lines that you find on the approach.
In my region, to find good snow conditions you have to go out and look for it, but what motivates me most is undoubtedly the aesthetics of the mountain and the route. The snow is obviously important, but for me it goes to the background due to the bad seasons that the Pyrenees have been having.
I think the motivations change depending on the terrain where you are, the conditions, and how the winters go by. The important thing is to have the tools and knowledge to continue having epic days in the mountains.
How has your relationship to snowboarding evolved?
Spain is not a country of snow and opportunities are few. I learned to snowboard and soon I trained as an instructor to be able to pay for the seasonal ski pass and thus be able to continue developing my passion. You could say that I have invested most of my career as a snowboarder in the evolution of others more than my own.
I competed in Freeride World Qualifier events in Europe for three years, getting very good results but not enough to qualify in the only place available for women snowboarders on the Freeride World Tour.
In fact. I don’t think I fought for that classification either. I was bored of competing on the same face of the mountain as in previous years, I knew I was able to ride that face, I had already done the same competition the year before… Traveling around the world to make a single descent and be judged was not my direction.
The mountain was always my source of inspiration both winter and summer and the splitboard my favorite transport towards my goals. It has given me the opportunity to draw the lines of my mind, express my style in my lines without being judged, and grow technically in the mountains. Each of us is what we represent in our lines.
Chamonix, FR. FOW: Ana Salvador // Photo: Sascha Geist (@saskuaz)
Do you have any secret weapons in your arsenal of skills?
Follow my instinct and let myself be advised by the local community.
We wish you safe passage and a successful trip! ¡Buen Viaje, y buena suerte!
Thank you Alex.
PS: I want to thank the entire WNDR alpine team for all the support. It is an honor to be supported by this community and its great values. Right now I dream of the great mountains of Bolivia but also of knowing the snowboard culture of the USA... so seductive for all of us European riders.
But thanks to you, you make me feel part of it.