Eric, tell us about yourself and how you started snowboarding and splitboarding.

I’m from Lake Tahoe, Truckee to be exact. I moved there in the mid 90’s from the Southern California. I grew up riding the Southern California park scene and it wasn’t till a trip up North to Tahoe in 94′ that I got my first real taste of powder. I soon after moved there. I quickly realized that there was more opportunities to be had in the backcountry for me than in the resort. I got into the backcountry through initially bootpacking everything I could and used the verts to access steep couloirs. Splitboarding came immediately after that, too bad technology didn’t, but those were the good old days of splitboarding and I’m not sure I would change anything about that. Its great to see the progression of our sport.

What fueled your desire to become a guide?

Spending time in the outdoors and being able to work on my craft and fine tune it as I learned and found new possibilities for myself and my guests. I just like to share turns with folks and be able to give them the same experience that stokes me!

Having been one of the first to take the AMGA exam on a splitboard, how have things changed since?

Personally for me, not much has changed other than being recognized as a lead guide or a certified guide. I’d say the microscope is pointing at me a bit more lately.  Its’ definitely opened up more work and the business seems to have a buzz around it, but then you could also say that the microscope has been lifted in some way and people just expect you to perform a certain way now that you’ve certified, so Id say there’s a bit more pressure personally from myself to perform and execute a successful day of guiding.

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Why was there a reluctance to allow splitboarders to take the exam on a splitboard?

I think there has always been a bit of reluctancy to certify splitboarders, one is because its called a ski guide course/exam and thats the way its always been. It wasn’t until recently that splitboarding, became very efficient and now they have a better understanding on the limitations of our tool. The AMGA is an elite club of guides, with skills in all discipline. Most snowboarders usually don’t fit into the category of mountain athlete with skills in various types of climbing, so understandably I see why they were reluctant, but the times have changed and with the recent innovation and technology in splitboard gear and the movement by snowboarders to get further and deeper into the backcountry safely and efficiently their views and opinions have changed

What are some of the shortcomings that come with taking the exam on a splitboard compared to on skis? What changes have you made to reduce those shortcomings?

Any shortcomings one may find on an exam would be dealt with in the transitions, technical skinning, flat sections and undulating terrain. I personally think the hardboot setup is ideal for split guiding. Being fast and efficient is key. I also prefer to be in Phantom Snowboard bindings, which also allows a quick transition and maximum performance. The simplest, but hardest thing for a snowboarder to do is ride with poles, but that’s what I do when I guide or when the terrain dictates it. Poles are probably one of the most important pieces of my equipment, they are so useful through flats and traversing along the top of your line to have a look at it, not to mention they’re great to have for doing a hasty test and also checking for changes within the snowpack.

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Where are you guiding these days?

I currently spend my Winters, Dec-March in British Columbia guiding for Baldface Lodge and Eagle Pass Heliskiing. Spring time I find myself up North In Alaska guiding for H20 Heli Guides and come May I’m back in Tahoe running trips throughout the Eastern Sierra and Shasta for International Alpine Guides and Shasta Mountain Guides along with various Splitboard trips from the Cascades to South America for Splitboard Guides International.

What led you to create Splitboard Guides International?

SGI was created out of the need for more splitboard guides due to an increased demand from backcountry snowboard users. I want to be able to provide a platform for the upcoming snowboard guides to showcase there skill set. I want to be able to support splitboard guides through mentoring and development of there craft and help create more guiding work for themselves and the future of our sport. The direction of the company is to offer unique splitboard trips throughout the world and really help the younger generation of backcountry snowboarders. Its about giving them the knowledge and the power to understand avalanche safety and rescue skills so they can make there own decision in the backcountry.

It’s great to see Truckee as your home base. Why did you choose to locate yourself in the Sierra?

The Tahoe Truckee area in my opinion is one of the best places. Its proximity to Shasta and the Eastern Sierra, where huge amounts of snow fall, there’s a mostly stable snowpack and huge vertical relief, nothing beats it, not to mention the best spring corn shredding around!

What types of services does Splitboard Guides International offer?

We offer everything splitboarding, from one day splitboard tours to full blown expeditions to remote places sound the world. Our splitboard camps are designed to progress through, taking an intro to splitboard camp 1 to an advanced glaciated splitboard camp 3. We’ve taken a traditional avalanche course and designed it around shredding and terrain evaluation and management. We believe that a hands on approach to avalanche safety is the best. We try and and tour with the mindset of shredding and evaluate our hazards and risks throughout the day. Its a great course!!!

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What can someone expect from a guided trip with Splitboard Guides International?

By choosing to tour with SGI you are choosing to go with certified splitboard guides who are passionate, hardcore backcountry snowboarders with decades of knowledge and expertise.

SGI is a network of the best splitboard guides the industry has to offer. We believe our first commitment is to you, the splitboard guiding client. Your well being and safety are paramount. We prides ourselves on experience and safety to expand your backcountry splitboarding skills. Come join us for an adventure, its what we do.

What recommendations do you have for people who would like to start splitboarding?

Get out there, its so fun!!!

About The Author

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Colin Balke is a content editor for Splitboard.com who lives in Northern California. When not plucking away on a keyboard, he can be found splitboarding, camping, backpacking, or hanging out with family and friends.

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