We know what this looks like ... but it's really a crew of snowboarders.

We know what this looks like ... but it's really a crew of snowboarders ... and a couple mountain guides.

Yesterday we embarked on a Mt. Baker mission with the K2 and Atlas crews for a day of product testing. We got an early start and arrived at the Baker parking lot to meet the American Alpine Institute (AAI) Guides. Backpacks loaded down with a sampling of new K2 Backside Tools, K2 Panoramic splitboards, Atlas Aspect snowshoes, Milano’s sandwiches, and expectations high for a heady day of pow shredding. The day before, according to K2 riders Shaun McKay and Aaron Robinson (and the Baker snowphone) had been “one of the best ever.” Hell yeah!

Equipped to split on K2's new Panoramic splitboard.

Equipped to split on K2's new Panoramic splitboard.

Shaun McKay leading the way ...

Shaun McKay leading the way ...

Well, things didn’t exactly go as planned. We got our new K2 Panoramic splitboards all dialed, extended our poles, put our snowshoes on our backs, and took off up the mountain. But, first things first—dig a pit. Our thorough AAI guide Cliff dug one of the most sizeable pits any of us had ever seen, and damn if the thing didn’t go “15 cm deep on C1″. Followed by a “C18 at 55 cm” on an even nastier ice layer. Well Cliff got spooked and we ended up taking a mellow lap down a little apron of snow. Not exactly the epic we had pictured, but whatever, we got out there … and deepened our snowpit knowledge (What was that Cliff? Fist, two finger, four finger, pencil hardness?)

Behold the snowpit.

Behold the snowpit of bad news.

Even though our plans of top to bottom powder runs were shut down, we still got a pretty good feel for the equipment shuffling around the mountain all day. K2′s new model Panoramic Splitboard is lightweight and was easy to switch back and forth from ski to board mode (using the Volle system), and as promised, the skins attach easily using this smart Z-clip system on the tip and tail. K2 is also introducing a probe/pack/shovel package called the Pilchuck Kit next season that goes for $189.95. The shovel, K2s first ever avi shovel, does double time as a shovel and then can be reoriented into a hoe (“hoe-mode); it also comes with hardware that allows you to tool your shovel and splitboard into a rescue sled. Meanwhile, Atlas’ new Aspect snowshoes did their job bootpacking through what our other guide Roger was calling “mashed potato with gravy” snow conditions, and they could be the answer to the old Verts for going straight up couloirs … but we didn’t get a good chance to really try them out on the steeps. We’ll keep them in the quiver and try them out first chance we get. More reasons to get back in the mountains.

K2 Panoramic Board plus Volle kit and custom skins, $899.95

K2 Panoramic Splitboard, $599.95

Atlas Aspect Snowshoes, $269.95

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Maybe not the best visibility ever either.