Amusement MTN: Education Through Collaboration

Days in the backcountry are often times long and start very early in the morning. Much of your time is monopolized by hiking, scouting, sledding, building, and snacking. After the sledding, hiking, scouting, and snacking Possom Torr makes the most of the small in-between by kicking up some diamond dust underneath Mammoth’s iconic Crystal Crag.
Packing a bag in the mountains is an ancient and highly regarded art. Kimmy Fasani can fit all she needs into her bag and still has room for Reese and a bag of Mimi’s Cookies. Here she is with her split board accessories, avalanche gear, extra layers, snacks, and the all important first aid kit including a SAM splint. Looks like Reese escaped with the cookies.
Did you know that a cell phone too close to a beacon can make you impossible to find once buried? Check everyone’s beacon before heading out in the morning, just because its on doesn’t mean its working! (Thanks Jay Hergert for sharing your experience)
The record breaking snows in the Eastern Sierra made for a multi-stage approach, even in the middle of May. After snowmobile shuttles in on the trails near Lake George, Faye Gulini prepares her split board for the trek ahead.
Do you have a plan for the day and a plan for when shit hits the fan? Jenna Kuklinski does. By recording your intended objectives, observing weather and snowpack, and sharing phone numbers to use in case of emergency any person in the crew can take the lead if something goes wrong.
Stefi Luxton knows that adjusting your crampons at the trailhead, before you need them, is a lot easier than chipping out a platform to do the same when the bootpack turns to ice.
Speak up when you’re not sure what to do. Christine Savage assists Maddie Mastro in fitting her crampons at the trailhead as any good backcountry pal would.
Long splits up quiet snow covered creek beds are just as good for mediating on the rhythmic pace as they are for singing with your friends.
Maddie Mastro takes to split boarding like a fish to water, like cookies to milk, like a dog to a bone, like peas to carrots, like a convex roll to a narrow chute, like a sledneck to a full tank of gas.
When you find a zone that the whole crew can dig. Splitting up the lines between riders was surprisingly easy and this zone provided an excellent viewing point to observe each other’s line selection, riding style, and sluff management.
Before there were cameras in cell phones riders would take a polaroid of their line as they approached the top. The package may be a bit shinier than the old days but the basic idea is still the same. Elena Hight discusses the possibilities with Gabe Taylor before dropping in.
Finding a sheltered and flat space at the top of your line to transition makes the process much faster. Possom Torr and Jenna Dramise enjoy a well earned rest before making the descent.
The best part of any hike is the ride down. Amanda Hankison en route.
Using that photo from earlier, Elena Hight carefully executes the beginning of her line above a bit of exposure. A Full Moon alum, Elena shared her stylish and committed riding style with the rest of the crew.
Sluff. Management. Say it with me - sluff management. The crew was able to learn the concept of not being swept off your feet by snow released in earlier turns first hand as Elena set the example. Thanks Elena!
Warming up on a slope with natural anchors and low exposure is a great way to get a feel for the snow in the area you’re riding before committing yourself to bigger lines. Jenna Kuklinski demonstrates how much fun testing the snow can be.
Making a perfect entrance into the steepest chute on the first lap of the first day of the event, 17 year old X-Games halfpipe rider Maddie Mastro gives us a peek into her plans for later next spring.
Although the snowpack was thicker and less exposed than Iris Lazzareschi’s winter headquarters of Jackson Hole (think snowboarding down the Tetons) she was right at home powering through turns in the Sierra.
After casually driving from LA due to a canceled flight and arriving at 3:30am Hana rode this line, met the wind with a hearty laugh, cannon balled into our snow shelter, and climbed Crystal Crag the next day. She's as at home in the mountains as a person can be.
Whether traveling in a crew this big, or a crew of 2, communication is key. While preparing for the second ascent of the day we made sure each other was ready for the more intense weather that lay ahead by fueling and layering up while still sheltered.
Up, up, and away! Iris Lazzareschi leads the pack for the next tour of the day while Kimmy runs sweep - accompanying those with less experience to ensure everyone in the crew can enjoy this blustery hike.
Halfpipe Olympian, Elena Hight, has pioneered more in snowboarding than many modern day professionals. Already an accomplished competitor and Full Moon member, Hight has no where to go but up.
On this day we met the wind. Not everyday in the backcountry is a perfect fairytale with blueberry skies and marshmallow landings. But in times like this, when plans to ride lines are foiled and weather holds you down, are some of the times when the most laughter can be found on a mountain.
On the second day of the event the snow gods smiled on us and presented a horizon illuminated by the sun. Needless to say we were psyched.
The clouds began to roll in on our approach and Kimmy took the opportunity to let participants decide where to go. With three potential zones highlighted options were weighed as education and experience helped the group make a decision.
Kimmy’s years of riding, filming, backcountry explorations, and giving back to the snowboard community may make her the sage of Amusement MTN but with every step she encouraged the crew to voice their own evaluations of conditions, line selections, and objectives for the day.
TWSNOW’s Rider of the Year, Kimmy inspires strength and focus in all corners of snowboard culture.
To liken Kimmy’s split board to a lightsaber and her knowledge to a Yoda-like bank of wisdom wouldn’t be too far of a stretch.
Iris can keep her cool on spicy lines but the real joy of riding in the backcountry with her lies in her boisterous laugh and ability to rewrite any pop song with lyrics inspired by split boarding.
Better together. Amusement MTN is exemplified here in the demonstration of a kick-turn, working side by side Amanda Hankison helps Nirvana Ortanez through one of her first switchbacks. Split boarding is best to learn while doing and having friends by your side makes the learning curve infinitely smaller.
Speedy Luxton uses home court advantage in scoping this line. She’s familiar with the terrain not only because she lives in Mammoth but through extensive exploration both by hiking in the winter and running the trails in the summer. Ya’ know they don’t call her Speedy for nothing.
If tandem split boarding were a thing you can bet Christine Savage and Jenna Kuklinski would give it a try.
With her prescription filled Christine Savage is sure to take the knowledge she gained in her time at Amusement MTN and apply it to all the Powanoia filled adventures coming up next season.
Remember your landmarks and enjoy the ride! Iris navigates a rock filled slope with ease.
Trust is a must. With radios above and below Faye had extra sets of eyes to ensure she was in the right place at the right time to drop. Trusting your crew to be your eyes can be tough but well worth it.
Jenna Kuklinski finds an open field among the sluff to get her turns in.
The shortest point from A to Z is a straight line. Here’s Elena checking out points E, F, and G.
Maddie respects her elders. Maybe that’s why she’s just as comfortable as them while riding rock filled chutes.
Stefi Luxton knows the ingredients of a well balanced mountain diet. Starting off the day with a hearty helping of split board equipment and a side of avy gear she heads out alongside a crew of knowledgable backcountry partners. Drinking in her surroundings she stays hydrated on her multiple laps of the day. Seen here snacking on a cornice below iconic Crystal Crag, Stefi (aka Speedy Luxton) shows the importance of essential vitamins Freestyle, Stoke, and D. Speedy’s diet enables her to keep hiking all day long and gives her the chance to make the most of everyday in the backcountry.
Kimmy Fasani. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen
…“Party wave!”

Words| Amanda Hankison Photos| Chris Wellhausen

Less than 40 miles east-northeast from where we have stopped for a late lunch, a 3000-foot cliff casts a shadow over the Yosemite Valley. The gale force winds blowing over the top of our snow shelter perched just below the summit of Hamil Bowl at 10,500 feet in the Eastern Sierra are a stark contrast to the concurrent beautiful spring day over in the valley.

Birds are chirping, Yosemite Falls is swollen with the spring melt from an overwhelming winter snowpack, and mule deer are grazing in a meadow below daunting El Capitan—a granite wall famous worldwide for its ability to inspire the impossible. Our party of 17, however, is not basking in the sunlight of this imagined serenity and there are no birds or wildlife—any life, really—to speak of within sight. We are in the belly of a bowl high in the Eastern Sierra alpine, watching our major objectives of the day disappear into the increasing cloud cover of a mid-May blizzard, all the while enjoying each other's company and treats from Mimi's Cookie Bar in Mammoth.

TWSNOW's Rider of the Year, Kimmy inspires strength and focus in all corners of snowboard culture.

We've all made the choice to be here, in this frozen place, together. The journey to this snack party in the sky began with an invitation to Amusement MTN that came in the form of an email last fall sent by a powerful mountain woman who has been working hard to open the door for upcoming riders with their eyes on big mountain lines, Kimmy Fasani.

For those new to the backcountry, an American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education avalanche class was in order, a three-day course in snow safety and backcountry rescue open to anyone looking for more knowledge. At the end of the third day, participants receive an AIARE Avy 1 certification, meaning they now have an idea of how much they do not know.

Maddie respects her elders. Maybe that's why she's just as comfortable as them while riding rock filled chutes.

For the mentors and other participants more experienced with backcountry travel, the invitation is an opportunity to not only spend time with an amazing crew of like-minded snowboarders but a chance to share the knowledge we have gained through our own experiences.

There is a lifetime of learning to be done in the mountains, and by working together we are starting to create an informal version of open-source snowboarding, seemingly shortening the learning curve and making the backcountry a more inviting space while keeping safety and education number one. The end goal is to make each one of us into a reliable member of any crew venturing into the backcountry, capable of making important decisions and confident enough to speak up when others don't.

Remember your landmarks and enjoy the ride! Iris navigates a rock filled slope with ease.

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Amusement MTN is a unique event for an array of reasons.  Not often do you see snowboarders from such varying disciplines—Olympians and video part riders, X-Games medalists and splitboard mountaineers, pioneers of freestyle snowboarding and rookies making their mark—gathered together. Together, this crew becomes a stream of colors ebbing and flowing up a mountain by foot power. The basic format of the event creates an environment that brings together those in attendance, working as one to create a rhythmic soundtrack of gliding as bindings click heel-risers and faint labored breaths are heard amid bouts of laugher and spontaneous song.

We are brought together in the absence of modern distractions, closer to the mountains we are exploring, as we become in tune with the environment and the people that surround us. With this stage set we are better able to share our experiences, our knowledge, and collaborate both during and outside of the event with others to realize our true potential as both snowboarders and ambassadors of the mountains.

 

Anything is possible.

 

If tandem split boarding were a thing you can bet Christine Savage and Jenna Kuklinski would give it a try.

For as long as humans have existed under the shadows of the great walls in Yosemite Valley, it was certain that any attempt at climbing the vertical rock would result in failure with a likely side of death. It wasn't until 1957 that the smaller of the two walls saw its first ascent, over a five-day period.

Even with that success, all but Warren Harding, a diehard rock climber with a penchant for alcohol and the impossible, were certain that the tallest wall—El Capitan—would remain unclimbed. Using tactics never seen before in the Valley, Harding and a team of dedicated misfits proved the world wrong after 18 months when they topped out on the 3000-foot precipice. It was possible. It may have taken a year-and-a-half, but the moment they stepped out of the vertical world and onto the summit of El Capitan the impossible suddenly became possible. Modern day climbers, with a fraction of the gear used back then, have been clocked from bottom to top at two-and-a-half hours. In 60 years, the time to scale this vertical granite wall went from impossible to 18 months to 190 minutes.

 

I share this geographically convenient history lesson as testament to the incredible power of possibility. To know that something is already possible creates room for improvement, room for progression and evolution. As pioneers tick off NBDs it is important for those coming up to understand what has been done so that they may improve upon it. A quick online search for TB3: Coming Down the Mountain will take you to a full version of the 1993 snowboard flick by Standard Films. Alongside Jamie Lynn, Noah Salasnek, and Peter Line you can find Victoria Jealouse and Morgan Lafonte ripping AK lines—big lines, in Alaska, in 1993.

Kimmy Fasani. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

 

Amusement MTN isn't reinventing the wheel but rather keeping it turning, more rapidly and more efficiently. Women have been in the backcountry for decades: Barrett Christy, Janna Meyen, Tara Dakides, Annie Boulanger, Marie-France Roy, Hana Beaman, Jess Kimura, and Leanne Pelosi—legends of snowboarding all with years logged out in the backcountry.

From lines in Whistler, to the Baker Road Gap, to stomach-churning descents in Alaska, they have been there. And not only have they been there, they know how to be there because they took the time to figure it out. You don't simply walk out the boundary gate and succeed. The greatest success in the backcountry is returning at the end of the day with the crew you went in with in the morning.

Halfpipe Olympian, Elena Hight, has pioneered more in snowboarding than many modern day professionals. Already an accomplished competitor and Full Moon member, Hight has no where to go but up.

Can you use your beacon, shovel and probe effectively? Did you read the avy forcast? What is the weather supposed to be like this afternoon? Will there be cell service? What's your emergency plan? What's your first-aid kit look like, and do you know how to use everything in it? Did you top off your sled with oil? Do you have an extra belt and spark plugs and know how to change both? Can you maneuver your sled up the track to Chocolate Bowl? Is that slope going to slide? How do you manage your sluff in the choke of that chute? Where is your exit point? Are your radios charged? Did you take a photo from below? Can you even find your line from the top with a photo? Where's your extra pair of gloves and goggles and a dry facemask for the ride out?

The laundry list of must-have answers goes on and on. Amusement MTN provides answers to some of these questions but more importantly gives resources to the participants so they know where to look for answers. The event, by design, packs up a previous generation's worth of knowledge and passes it on.

 

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton summarized a concept centuries old even by 1676—to discover truth by building on discoveries of those that came before you. Mentors have been a viable source of education in all types of sport and academic pursuits through the ages. A mentor hands down their lifetime of knowledge in a sometimes neat, sometimes disheveled and cryptic, formula. This package is a living, breathing body of information.

The advent of Amusement MTN seeks to create a place for this within snowboarding to ensure that more women have access to daunting lines, helicopters, big jump builds, whatever is waiting over that convex roll. By spreading knowledge, practicing safety, and educating those close to us we can share in the beauty and power of the mountains while continuing to push the boundaries of the impossible. The foundation being built by this event hosted high in California's Sierra Mountain Range has the potential to be the groundwork for a long-lasting lineage of big mountain explorers. I encourage those with careers that have landed them on faraway Alaskan peaks to look toward the future generation and welcome them with open arms as Kimmy has.

I, for one, can't wait to see what happens in the next ten years.

…"Party wave!"

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