Tracking the many vertical miles of Kyle Miller is exhausting, even when just keeping tabs on his travels from the couch. And since we bought him a plane ticket to the Southern Hemisphere, Miller has been on a counter-seasonal, high-kilometer tear with visits to club fields, van sightings at tourist attractions, and speaking engagements at splitfests. But the biggest challenge is predicting where he will turn up next and what his story will be—because Kyle Miller travels by no set plan. His latest report from New Zealand gives us a window on the recent ups and downs of his grassroots splitboard exploration, from The Remarkables and Cardrona to Arthur’s Pass and Temple Basin. —LYA Editor
Words by Kyle Miller, Images by Kyle Miller and Adam Fleming
Life is all about progression and moving forward, so when I got an opportunity to come down to New Zealand, with a stopover in Australia, to present slideshows at both of their splitboard festivals and to take advantage of spring skiing in the Southern Alps, I hit the ground running.
New Zealand especially is similar to the Cascades in many ways, from long approaches to brutal weather. This is what attracted me to this place, but there is one difference: there are huts, well over 900 of them. I wanted to experience this place in the proper way, so I decided four months should be enough to satisfy my appetite. So within the first week I bought a van, got a bank account, and prepared for another benchmark in my life… so here is the start of yet another epic journey!
You see, this isn’t my first time in New Zealand. Actually, it’s my second time, but the first time I was here I was a completely different person. I was new to snowboarding and, more specifically, splitboarding. Holding an edge on icy slopes was a huge challenge. Understanding weather and topography was far beyond my abilities at the time. Never in a million years did I ever think I would return to tell the tale of my life and to see the mountains. This was a benchmark in my life and I wanted to return not only to see how much I had changed, but to also see how much splitboarding had progressed since my last adventure here, a decade ago.
In all my travels, I have been fortunate that I seem to bring snow with me, and it seemed I came right at the end of a two-month drought. A fresh deposit–almost a meter of new snow–awaited my arrival, as well as Adam Fleming, a local splitboarder from Queenstown and someone who knew the lay of the land. I have a saying–“always trust the locals”– and it definitely applied here. Over the next week, we would run back and forth between the backcountry of The Remarkables and Cardrona, tracking out massive untouched bowls day after day and surprising local ski-tourers with our speed and savviness of conditions, a skill I learned in the hard-knocks world of Cascadia. Within a week, I had ridden more powder than I had in two months of visiting these mountains ten years ago.
Before long we went north to an area called Arthur’s Pass and, more specifically, Temple Basin. New Zealand is known for many things, but this resort is part of a larger network called club fields. These places have rope tows that pull you up the mountains instead of posh chair lifts. As one local said to me, “You never get a moment to rest.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I was at Temple Basin to help out with the New Zealand splitfest, and that is what I did by putting on a slideshow and showing people the hard knocks of skinning and cramponing in variable conditions. Powder was there to ride, but it was interspersed by icy slopes and an ice axe was a must. The culture has changed so much since I was last here, and what once was a range with a handful of splitboarders has now become abundant with them. This first leg of my journey has been awesome and a great learning experience, both within myself and within a constantly changing mountaineering culture. I look forward to my plan, which is to have no plan.
Check out more info about splitboarding in New Zealand at splitboardnz.com
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