After four successful years at Tailgate Alaska, an event in which diehard snowboarders the world over descend on Thompson Pass, outside of Valdez, Alaska for two weeks of camping, camaraderie and world famous pow lines, event founder Mark Sullivan decided it was time to branch out.
Tailgate B.C., an event with the same mission as the original, but done in the interior of British Columbia, Canada, near Revelstoke, just wrapped up last week. We caught upwith Sullivan to see how it went.
Having produced similar events in Alaska were you prepared for what happened at Tailgate B.C.?
Well, it snowed a lot! This was a good thing, but it also made avalanche conditions very dangerous. It was a perfect scenario for some of the services that we provide to be implemented into real-time situations, though. For instance, every morning we had a snow-forecast briefing by the guys who were guiding Travis Rice and company during the filming of "The Art of Flight." I think, because of this, a lot of people modified their plans -- and wisely so.
What did participants end up riding then?
I would say it was evenly mixed. A lot of people flew Eagle Pass Heli. A lot of people went to the resort [Revelstoke], and a lot of people went skinning, with the least amount going out sledding. In total there were about 150 people, which is around the number I had hoped for.
This was a trial run and the last thing we wanted was to get in over our heads by and go beyond our means. This is grassroots, man. That being said, I do think there were some life-changing experiences up here.
So what is the main mission of an event like this?
We want to show that the backcountry is accessible, but not before it's understood that education is your key to survival out there. The way I see it, buying a splitboard or a snowmobile is a license to kill yourself if you are not prepared.
It needs to be understood that it is partly the responsibility of the industry and people like me to bring awareness to snow science and responsible decision-making. I have lost a couple of friends just this year because of questionable choices in the backcountry.
So it's your opinion that if you are pushing the exploits of the backcountry out into mass consciousness, you are also partly responsible for those who venture into it?
Absolutely. In the end, everyone is responsible for his or her own fate, but we can make it very clear that preparedness is paramount to anything before going anywhere in the backcountry.
Beyond the intensity of it all, Tailgate events never lose track of the idea that it is easier to learn if you are having a good time.That is why we have events like the Man Games, in which we test your individual mettle in activities like axe throwing, along side more serious affairs like avalanche awareness courses. It was interesting because some of our formal presentations led into open discussions where anyone who was willing to participate could get feedback on specific scenarios. I thought that was really valuable.
Tailgate Alaska is due to kick off in just a couple weeks -- April 1 - 12. What can we expect for this season's event?
This will easily be the best yet. Besides the fact that is our fifth year and we are more together with event coordination than ever, there is a new heli operation called Alaska Snowboard Guides. We will have an airbag jump at Base Camp and the snowfall this year has been phenomenal.
Valdez is about to eclipse every snowfall record in recorded history this season. So if I may be so bold to say, this may be the best year in Alaska in the history of skiing and snowboarding.