By Alex Andrews, FOW
The sign for frothers' paradise. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Insatiable is our appetite for all day, powder-filled frolics in nature's abundance, disconnected from keyboards and screens, highways, defined schedules, and deadlines. Disconnecting in order to reconnect with ourselves, our partners, our values, and our environment is admittedly a contradiction, but it's an important irony that we embrace. It’s not that our lives are not rewarding or our needs aren’t satisfied, but transporting ourselves into a remote environment provides space to focus on meaningful, soul-satisfying activities. Our objective was simple: test our final splitboard prototypes in their intended habitat while pushing our endocrine and cardiovascular systems to the limit. We set out on this mission equipped with 156cm splits, food to feed 5 frothers, safety gear, a handful of Friends of WNDR (FOW) and enough medicinal plant species to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Our destination, Meadow Lodge in Interior BC.
What dreams are made of. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
We were happy to say goodbye to our beloved Wasatch for the time being, where a long bout of high pressure and warmth continued to preserve a persistent weak layer. Matt Sterbenz was at the helm while our director of manufacturing Daniel Malmrose sidled up to the window out of respect for our olfactory senses and the tumult his bowels were experiencing. Nick and I took the time to review the changes we made to the new prototypes and had insightful conversion throughout the drive. We swooped up the ever charismatic Dan Corn outside of Idaho Falls and continued North to the border.
We arrived armed with all the right tools for the job. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Pep was in the midst of finals prep week in his last semester of college so he traveled separately.
At around 5pm I received a text, “I just got denied entry at the border.”
Apparently a new mandate was enacted at 12am that denies entry to any traveler who has been in another country in the previous 2 weeks. I got back from Mexico 10 days ago. I’m livid!”
After a few more exchanges Pep went dark. I assumed he must be out of cell range somewhere in northern Montana.
2 hours later I got another text. “I’M IN, I’M F#$KING IN!” That story, we will leave for another time but it’s safe to say persistence and research into the details of government bureaucracy pays dividends.
Our Canadian contingent greeted us at the hostel in Golden. This half of the party included FOWs, Connor Hurley, Paul Greenwood, and Brandon Gulstene, along with Chris and Tyson from VPO Squamish. Also joining us was legendary photographer Jack Dawe, who was poised to grab some of the first professional shots of the new splits. The crew was complete and excitement levels were off the charts.
“I have a dental issue.” Matt informed us at 7am. “I found a dentist who will see me at 8. I’ll meet you at check-in.” 2 hours later he showed up sans tooth just in time for lift off.
Welcome home, Nick! Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Nick Russell // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Arriving at Meadow Lodge, we willingly replaced the responsibilities, duties, and requirements that punctuated our daily routines with collaborative meals, planning for future ascents and descents, prepping gear, hydrating, heat induced sauna hallucinations, cold beers and complete exhaustive sleep comas. The perfect recipe for disconnected connectivity was complete.
Simple rules for simple living. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Meadow Lodge sits in the heart of the Esplanade range, perfectly placed just north of the Selkirks and offers 50,000 acres of self-powered deep chow. It’s a paradise for those who seek the purity of the mountain experience with access to a multitude of terrain options ranging from 2,500ft alpine chutes, glades, pillows, avy paths and open powder fields ready for grazing. Isolation makes this place special, without connectivity, being present with your crew and environment are realized. It also requires group cohesion and effort with the mandatory daily tasks like retrieving water from the frozen lake and taking shifts cooking, cleaning, and chopping wood for the sauna.
Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Oh the glorious sauna and powder plunge - a saving grace for exhausted minds and bodies. If you can withstand the initial shock of the plunge and the urge to abort the mission and retreat to the comfort of the sauna, the intensity turns to peaceful calm and tranquility.
Hot tip for withstanding a torturously cold polar plunge: dive in head first, roll onto your back and immediately pack snow around your extremities and think about anything but your current predicament and just breathe. Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Jack Dawe // Photo: Alex Andrews (@therealfrothpuppy)
Our daily objectives for our stay were simple: review the changes we made to our splitboards, give Nick Russell a wholehearted welcome to the crew and most importantly bring our community of forward-sliding and side-sliding homies together.
FOW Conor Hurley whips up a stew with root vegetables from his own garden. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Alex finds himself thirsty after a long day of shredding. Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Alex Andrews // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
The water slog! Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Pep Fujas // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Just two of our favorite humans. Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Nick Russell and Pep Fujas // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Know before ya go! Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Nick Russell and Alex Andrews // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
The first day was dust on crust, but that layer quickly disappeared under new snow accumulation. Each morning, the reset button was hit, welcoming us to shred from sunup to sundown in all time conditions. The BC Snow Globe was in full effect.
Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Nick Russell // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
The resounding unknown in snowboard development is simple, did the changes we make result in the desired performance characteristics we wanted? We were eager to find out. I remember a few times where I was blown away at how stable the board felt at higher speeds, allowing for controlled turns throughout your line. Both Nick and I were testing our 156 WNDR splits, noting how it tours and rides in deep snow conditions. It was also a great opportunity to test maneuverability in technical pillows, and open it up in fast alpine terrain. With lots of touring and transitions it’s a great way to see how the boards interface with skins, bindings, and crampons. Some notable takeaways from the crew were how well it planes in deep snow. In these conditions, Nick and I would normally ride a longer board, but were surprised at the board's floating capabilities despite the smaller size, observed while blasting through pillows and deep landings.
"Chill ski guide bro" Dan Corn. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Major shoutout to Dan Corn for blazing the trail for us snowboarders… When he would get tired, which wasn’t often, it was nice to forge ahead and feel how the board tours when blazing trail. The board has a well balanced medium to stiff flex, giving it stability on the uphill and down. The positioning of the touring brackets made for easy kick turns and efficient walking. We tried to come up with faults in the board, but realized, this is it!
Nick likes to live on the edge. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Taking flight. Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Nick Russell // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Pep forgot his pillow, so he had to find a few during the day. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Alex finding his own lane. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Pep, with one foot still in the USA. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
To the top! Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Nick Russell, Alex Andrews, and Pep Fujas // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Dan Corn on a beauty of a run. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Throughout the trip, we were grateful to have industry veteran and WNDR Alpine Director of Product Innovation, Daniel Malmrose along with us. It was so exciting to have him in the field testing boards, and chatting after hours about every detail of their design. There isn't a better way to evaluate products in the field than doing it with the exact people who can bring our ideas to reality. Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Stand straight, stand sideways, stand for something. Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Pep Fujas and Nick Russell // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
Endurance mandatory. Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Pep Fujas, Nick Russell, and Alex Andrews // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
The best PB&J in the whole world. Esplanade Range, BC. FOW: Nick Russell // Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
The nonstop days filled with climbing and shredding left us all hungry, tired, thirsty, and content when we returned to the lodge. On our last full day, the crew hung it all out, ascending and descending lengthy lines. As we approached the summit for our last full group run, the sun was setting. 1500 ft of fresh turns on the west aspect stretched out below us followed by a 45 minute tour back to the lodge. But as we caught up to Paul and Connor on the ridge it was obvious that they had a different agenda. All of us were at the end of our rope energy-wise, but these two legends dropped in away from home base on the east aspect. We could hear them hooting and hollering, engulfed in clouds of white. The rest of us followed our original plan, trudging back with little to no gas in the tank. After dark, Conner and Paul strolled in. I asked them how they had the energy to take another lap after a full day of shredding? They both laughed and said, “Don’t you like skiing powder?"
It was truly amazing to be around like-minded people who pushed each other physically and mentally. By far the best part about the experience was getting to know everyone authentically without distraction. This environment naturally creates relationships that last a lifetime.
We want to thank everyone who made this trip one to remember. We learned a lot about our boards and materials, but most importantly brought our community together to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Esplanade Range, BC. Photo: Jack Dawe (@wdackdawe)
We can’t wait to share our finalized snowboards with the community.
We're currently building next year's production boards at our Design Lab in SLC... Be the first to know when they drop!