Snowboard Saga Chapter 2: The Peak & Major Heat

By Alex Andrews, FOW

The crew: Matt Sterbenz, his son Rune, Pep Fujas, Brian Bakken, Jeremy Matherley, and myself. Photo: Rune Sterbenz (@runewolfgang)

Thank you all for joining the second chapter of our snowboard development saga here at WNDR Alpine. For this part of the journey, we find ourselves on the beautiful glacier of a live volcano: Mt. Hood, Oregon. 

Mt. Hood holds a special place in my heart. Since I was 14 years old, I’ve ventured to the volcano every summer to get on snow during the warmer months, but this time my objective was different.

High above lift operations on Mt. Hood, Alex and Pep discuss the approach to the top. Photo: Matt Sterbenz (@mattsterbenz)

We had some great intentions on this trip, the first one being to test our first solid prototype snowboard. We also talked about summiting Mt Hood, weather permitting. The only known issue was news of a major heat wave enroute to the area, which dropped our chances of climbing the mountain to 50/50. Classic Mt. Hood style, we grouped up at the airport strip to camp just below the glacier at Trillium Lake, which made for some post shred swimming and forest wandering. 

Brian, Matt, and Alex climbing the white ribbon. Photo: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas)

Day 1 - The on-slope team consisted of Alex, Pep, Matt, and Brian Bakken, an elusive splitboarder out of Bozeman, MT. Brian is a dedicated gear nerd and is no stranger to big days in the mountains.  His typical skinning commute to mountains is 5 miles and one reason for his nickname, “Bulldozer Brian.” I was so stoked to have the dozer along knowing he’d give some critical and honest feedback on our second round of boards. We decided early on a summit attempt given the impending heat wave. It would be Brian’s and my first time at the top so we were very excited. Given the heat, we started our trek exceptionally early to try and beat some wet sluffs and glacier rock fall. Our tour of the volcano started out fairly mellow keeping abreast of the fumaroles that emit steam from the giant cracks in the volcano. It's a beautiful but ominous sight. As we approached the steeper part of the mountain it was necessary to put on crampons and start the boot pack approach. As we neared the summit, the heat began loosening rock and ice. 

Matt, Brian, and Alex booting the last pitch. Photo: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas)

It was intimidating. The mountain was talking to us and our time on it felt limited. We persevered through the heat in t-shirts covered with sunscreen drenched in sweat finally climbing to the 11,249 summit. If you haven't had a chance to stand on top of Mt Hood I would highly recommend it. The views are incredible and the 5,000 foot descent to Timberline Lodge is a very appealing ride! 

Summit stoke. FOW: Alex Andrews and Brian Bakken // Photo: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas)

If you read my last post, I mentioned that the snow wasn’t ideal in Alaska… Well, due to the rising temps and solar effect we were once again in a similar situation, with variable, sticky, and wet snow conditions. 

Frothpuppy enjoys all 5000 vertical feet. FOW: Alex Andrews // Photo: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas)

FOW: Brian Bakken // Photo: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas)

Brian and I rode the second prototype splitboards with some slight changes in the flex.  We added a heavier fiberglass for stiffness. I decided to keep the same waist width because I had ridden the first prototype in some late season powder conditions in Utah, and really liked how it felt and rode. 

Descending in sticky corn snow, my immediate reaction to the board was that it felt a hair too wide for this type of riding. It took more effort to get edge to edge in the variable conditions. I also noticed that adding heavier fiberglass for stiffness made the board more aggressive than I prefer. Brian’s comments also aligned with my reactions. He liked the shape, size, and taper, but mentioned the board took effort to get on edge, and felt too aggressive. This insight solidified the changes we needed to make to achieve this board's intended purpose. After a full day of touring, we gathered in the Timberline lot, had some cold beers, took in the sun rays and discussed what changes should be made for our 3rd prototype. It was a radical day and the intel we gained informed our decision to make some slight adjustments.

Day 2 crew heads to the hill before the heatwave shuts her down. Photo: Alex Andrews (@therealfrothpuppy)

After a nice evening in the woods, we woke up on day 2 with the heat wave escalating. I was frothing because today’s plan was to test our first solid snowboards. Pep Fujas and Matt Sterbenz left their skis at the car and stood sideways with the crew to surf the glacier with the rest of us. As an added bonus, we were also joined by my good friend and Portland local Jermey Matherly. The crew rode open to close, lapping groomers, park and pipe in really fun slush conditions. Both Brian and Jeremy felt the boards needed to be narrower, and a bit softer. There was one particular board that was a standout, which featured a cross block core and noticeably improved torsional flex. It was also notable that the split - since it’s cut in half - needed to have a different glass layup than the solid. Pep thought the boards ripped because he was ripping, but had great feedback. Matt is new to snowboarding so he was simply stoked to be snow-surfing the volcano. 

Board swap with Jeremy Matherly, Alex Andrews, and Brian Baken. Photo: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas)

After de-rigging, we caught wind that the heat wave was hitting an all time high of 117 degrees Fahrenheit and the mountain was going to close. We were stoked to have another snowboard R&D trip under our belts, but put an end to our prototype test trip at Mt Hood. We made our way back to Utah excited to digest the feedback from everyone. The major takeaways from this trip included narrowing the waist width, increasing the camber’s early rise, raising tip and tail height, as well as changing the glass weight to add performance while maintaining playfulness! 

Alex tests the solid. Photo: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas)

Thank you all for joining the second chapter of our snowboard saga. Over the rest of last summer, we set out to fine tune our craft. I can’t wait to show you all what we have coming up next. 

Stay tuned and happy New Year,

- Frothpuppy 



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