Rome Snowboards Presents : Find Snowboarding : ALEUTIANS
This year Rome Snowboards set out to explore snowboarding in places you would not expect. For their first trip they traveled to Kazakhstan. For this second trip, the crew set out to the far removed Southwest peninsula of Alaska to a range of mountains called the Aleutians. Little was known about the zone, how the snow was, or if you could even snowboard there. Rome riders Cody Booth, Aspen Rain Weaver, and Thomas Delfino were up for the adventure, so see what happened in the second film of 'Find Snowboarding'.
Interview by Ben Birk
How did you get to the Aleutians?
Thomas Delfino – Rome booked my plane just few days before I had to leave. If you are patient it’s easy to get there. First I went to Anchorage to meet Theo and Aspen—it took me one day or something to get there from France. Then after one night of rest, a few more hours from Anchorage to Cold Bay. The weather was really bad in Cold Bay so we had to wait one full day before flying to King Cove. It was a good introduction of the weather to come. In total, it took me something like three days to get there.
Where did you stay?
Cody Booth – In a small fishing town’s only motel. Apparently they thought we were celebrities so our whole stay was comped! Even better, the only bar in town was directly below us for those days when we had to hold out for weather.
How did you find zones to ride?
Aspen Rain Weaver -Both Cody Booth and Zach Clanton had a pretty extensive collection of topographic maps for the area so we were able to see all of the surrounding terrain and good places to explore in the snow. But by the end of the trip we were basically just looking out of our windows to peaks we could see and try to get there. Our zones ended up being dictated by the weather and what IT wanted us to do.
Did you run into any gnarly animals or Inuit people?
Thomas Delfino – When I was fishing on the docks one time I heard a big FWOOOOOOOOSH. I was so surprised, I just turned my head and it was a big seal just chilling there, looking at me. Man, I was so shocked. That moment was magic—you’re there in the middle of an empty harbor with no one around except this beautiful animal… It was the first seal I’ve ever seen! Thankfully, no bears. Bears are so big there that if we had saw one I might not be here to tell you.
What was the biggest storm that rolled through?
Thomas Delfino – We had so many down days. We were stuck on the meteorological map, waiting for a high pressure system. I think we waited the whole time for this. It was so frustrating because sometimes between two low pressure [systems] we thought it was okay to go ride but actually it wasn’t.
Cody Booth – Zach and I got pinned down in a storm for three days where we couldn’t leave our sleeping bags, soaked all our layering pieces and had borderline hypothermia. With the crew it was more or less the shelter of our motel in the worst storms, though we tried a handful of excursions to get up high on the mountain in hopes of a quick weather window. Multiple times we sat in complete whiteouts high on ridgelines or even just below the summit to no avail.
Did you meet other snowboarders?
Thomas Delfino – There was this kid, Timmy, who was so stoked about snowboarding. He was shredding down the low elevations slopes. One weekend he went with us on a mission. We brought him to the top of a lower peak. He was so stoked! We all rode down the face and then it was his turn. We showed him an easy line that he could come down and he rode it. I think we gave him the taste of exploration.
What were the mountains like?
Thomas Delfino – The mountains there are so majestic, straight into the ocean. The volcanoes really give a unique feeling to your ride. Probably the most insane feeling I’ve ever had snowboarding.
Cody Booth – The mountains were very dynamic. Volcanoes are all unique and we saw spine lines, massive couloirs, little chutes, open faces and more. The biggest trademark to them was they jetted straight out of the ocean going from sea-level tundra to rime encrusted alpine in no time.
What was up with the four wheelers?
Aspen Rain Weaver – Holy Toledos man we had an epic adventure on those wheelers! Well Chris Burkard and a sick team of surfers had come down to the Aleutians and used some ATVs to get around earlier so we figured we could do the same. In turn we could find some gnarly terrain that we could NOT get to on foot. Luckily we acquired a couple of four wheelers from several different people around town; One with bald tires, one with the front and back tires switched, and the last had very little power so we were kind of struggling from the get go.
Our whole idea was to go out by the airport and cross about 4 miles of tundra to the beach. Then we could catch low tide and make a crossing below some cliffs that were inaccessible during high tide. There was supposedly a trappers cabin just past that and we could stay there the night to shred a different aspect of the mountain the next day. That did not go as planned! Our little four mile journey from the airport to the beach was supposed to take around 30-45 minutes through the tundra. It ended up being about 4 hours of struggling through knee-deep mud, marshes, and sinkholes. We were literally stuck in 100 yards for a little over an hour. We finally made it to the beach and were so spent! That was the hardest I had worked for just getting to snow ever.
How many bald eagles did you see?
Thomas Delfino – Bald eagles are like pigeons there and we were screaming each time we saw one. Actually I was screaming out of joy every second I was in this crazy wild place.
Cody Booth – Unfortunately, the town of King Cove has possibly the worst landfill in Alaska. Peter Pan Seafood Company—a major distributor to McDonalds—dumps all their waste there (some illegally). Winds are notorious down there and it just gets blown into alder brush and the ocean. It’s very sad nobody had come and done anything about it yet. Thus, brown bears are hugely attracted to the landfil,l as well as hundreds and hundreds of bald and golden eagles (or trash birds as the locals say).
What did you do on down days?
Thomas Delfino – One day, Lennie, a local guy who helped us a lot, came to us with some fishing lines, no rod, and we went to fish on the dock. That was so insane, we caught so many fishes, and big ones. I was so stoked. Big Cod fishes, it was so intense.
Cody Booth – Sometimes we’d drink a whole bottle of whiskey. Some days Thomas and I would practice karate. Other days we’d fish for cod or even jump off deadliest catch crab boats.
Aspen Rain Weaver – We had a lot of down days so there was a whole plethora of adventure open to us. First and foremost we would try to get any kind of snowboarding in on the lower aspects of the mountains where we wouldn't get lost in the snow or clouds. If that wasn't possible then we would go do things like four wheeling the surrounding area, trying to find bears/nature, Fishing any and all bodies of water, playing cards, doing Ninja Training in the hotel room, Cooking, Looking at maps and pictures of the surrounding area, Getting wasted, Playing pool, Shooting guns, Jumping off of Deadliest Catch boats, exploring, and anything that we could find in a town with 600 people. At one point we resorted to having our own dance parties but those didn't have a great attendance record.
How was the condition of the snow?
Aspen Rain Weaver – The conditions were all over the charts throughout our whole trip. We experienced Rain and very damp wet snow/slush. We also experienced some crazy ice infested days where every wall and aspect of the mountain was sheets of ice. Once we were able to hit the higher altitudes, that was when we started to experience the powder and huge frozen rime ice walls, shaped into castles. We experienced all sorts of stabilities, instabilities, wind-scowered, and some wind filled zones. Everything was out there from Ice to Pow
Was there any danger of avalanches?
Aspen Rain Weaver – Yes! I actually had a super scary experience on our last day out there. We had finally gotten our one and only big pocket of sun so there was a lot of motivation and push to get shit accomplished. We made it to the top of Mt Dutton and were midway through shredding lines. I thought it would be fun to shred a line on the other side of the bowl. Our team had a quick meeting and decided that everything was insanely safe based on all of our prior snow knowledge. I proceeded to go for the line alone. As I was traversing along a face, the aspect changed and immediately I felt the snow whumph around me. I saw the crack about five feet above me and tried to hop up to the safety zone but as soon as I did I heard the second crack in a deeper layer underneath. At that point I tried to get to the side of the avalanche but it was too wide so I just turned over and back paddled for a solid 700-foot ride. I had to dig myself out from the waist and hike back up. To say the least I was super spooked. Its experiences and times like that which really make you value life and want more though. Knowledge, teamwork, and good decision-making are the things that will bring you home at that point.
What was your favorite line of the trip?
Thomas Delfino – On the last day we were able to reach the top of Mt. Dutton. There were so many lines and the main face of this mountain was so insane. Big ice formations with spines and jumps everywhere. That was so cool. I just have one regret—I wanted to ride “Rimes Job” huge face. We planned everything, all the lines and stuff, if we just had enough time. We have to go back there to ride it.
What kind of guns were you packing?
Cody Booth – We brought a small .45 down that a local told us we’d have to cram down a bear’s throat for any luck. Later, we borrowed a 12-gauge pump shotgun filled with slugs that was only slightly more reassuring.
Would you go back again?
Thomas Delfino – For sure, man. I really wanna go back there. Even King Cove to ride the still unridden spots or elsewhere in the Aleutians. I really hope we’ll be able to do another trip there with the same crew.
Cody Booth – Absolutely! I feel if we were able to come down on a fat snow year and score some high pressure we could really blow people’s minds on the terrain out there. However, it’s very expensive and hard to get to and the weather down there is so unpredictable you just have to be at the right place and time to pull the trigger. Maybe not next season, but I’m definitely needing to come back and settle a few scores!