Photos: Steph Nitsch
The Backside Sessions, hosted by Pallas Snowboards and friends, is an evolving women's splitboard series where each trip taps into a different set of splitboard skills. It combines classroom workshops with on-snow trainings to promote skills and progression throughout the season. The four-part series kicked off with the first course in Park City, UT, and now ups the ante with a hut trip in Sun Valley, ID, then heads to Mt. Baker for Splitfest and wraps up with a snow camping trip outside of Bend, Oregon.
As the brainchild of Pallas Snowboards' Steph Nitsch, the series is invested in building the collective community of women riders and strong female trailblazers. The courses also provide attendees the opportunity to demo free boards, bindings and avalanche tools.
We caught up with Steph about the series, the first event, and what to expect with upcoming sessions. There's still room to sign up for the Sun Valley trip next week and for the remaining courses this season. Check it all out here.
Tell us about the idea and goals behind the Backside Sessions?
The Backside Sessions was born from the events we've hosted at Pallas Snowboards. We want women to demo our boards and splits, but I noticed a disconnect between the women who aspired to ride our splits and their knowledge or experience to do so. We hosted a few intro clinics last winter with the underlying intention of getting women on our boards, and they were a huge success. So we pushed the idea further, partnering with brands who have strong women's lines or a passion for snow safety, and developed it into a really fun series.
The Backside Sessions is an evolving and progressive women's splitboard series, where each trip taps into a different set of splitboard skills. We absolutely want to foster women splitters from the start and give them a strong foundation of backcountry basics, but there aren't as many learning opportunities once you've grown out of that beginner stage. But just because you aren't a beginner doesn't mean you aren't hungry to learn. Hence the progressive element of this series.
We have professional guides on every trip to ensure we're teaching to high standards and we partner with local shops for the best insight on local terrain.
How was the first event in Park City?
It was an awesome learning experience. We had a wicked snowstorm on the night of the evening session, making the event challenging right off the bat. Everyone was late, including myself and the guides. We were dealing with sketchy avy conditions and sub-zero temps the next day, and there was definitely some trepidation among the group. I mean, it wasn't exactly an easy intro to splitboarding. But that's how the backcountry goes. It doesn't always go in your favor, and you have to be okay with that. Prepared for it, at the least. We took it slow and cautiously, really emphasizing the importance of self-care—because when conditions don't line up, you gotta put your personal needs above all else. Otherwise the consequences can be extreme. That said, we still managed to drill down the companion rescue essentials and ride some nice pow lines.
What was the overall vibe?
Because of the stormy conditions on Friday night, I think we instilled a bit of (healthy) fear into them. When the skies cleared on Saturday morning, the vibe was more optimistic. Everyone came with a good attitude and ready to learn, and they kept that up all day.
What were highlights of the session?
There were a couple of highlights. Watching the women open up to each other, ask questions and communicate as a team was powerful. There's so much to be said about fostering communication in the backcountry. It can be detrimental when it's lacking, but they picked it up right away.
The transition race was also a fun moment. The ladies were cold and tired by the end of the day, so it was nice to end with a friendly competition…and the prizes were a nice perk, too.
Now the next event is coming right up with a hut trip in Sun Valley. Tell us about what we can expect with this session?
The biggest takeaway will be learning to make the transition to multi-day touring: what goes into overnight trip prep, reading snow observations when you aren't in cell service, geeking out on snow science, honing in on navigation skills, solidifying your gear knowledge. Of course, there are the other requisites like eating good food, chillin' in the mountains and riding pow, but there's a big emphasis on education (and free gear demos) with all Backside Sessions trips.
What are you most looking forward to with this event?
Selfishly, lounging in the yurt sauna. Riding pow is obviously another highlight, but it's the subtle moments that really make a trip. I'll consider it a great event if everyone is laughing, asking questions and skinning out without an injury.
How can riders get involved?
Last-minute spots are still open for Sun Valley. Late registration is open til Feb. 15 at backsidesessions.com/sunvalley. The rest of the clinics can be found at backsidesessions.com.
What other sessions are you hosting this season?
We've got Glacier, WA (March 17-19) and Bend, OR (April 7-8) still to come. Glacier is gonna be badass. It's timed during the Mt. Baker Splitfest, which is one of my favorite events of the year and usually one giant sausage fest. So we're filling a whole house of ladies for guided/unguided tours, discussions, swag giveaways, good food, and piggybacking off the splitfest's free gear demos and parties.
We chose Bend for its spring and summer season touring opportunities. It'll kick off with an evening session at a local shop, followed by a full field session the next day. There might even be some optional craft beer tastings and extra unguided tours for ladies who want to stick around another day.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Shout out to the brands that are backing this series: Pallas Snowboards, Spark R&D, Backcountry Access, Splitboard Education Collective, Pret Helmets, Spacecraft, Trew Gear and SheJumps.