From shredding untracked powder to building connections with fellow backcountry enthusiasts, Mat and his buddy Brad were knee-deep in adrenaline at the annual Australian Splitboarding festival, Splitfest.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants, for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

As any diehard outdoor recreationalist knows, each sport has its own ethics, its own vernacular, and its own way of revering the places that enable us. There are the climbers getting pumped as they place gear while onsighting a cruxy finger lock sequence, the runners racing to avoid bonking, and the splitboarders shredding 20 centi’s of fresh pow on the Western Faces after skinning over a rime encrusted peak.

The latter describes the situation a group of us found ourselves in on the second day of the 2023 annual Australian Splitboard festival, Splitfest.

Read more: Finding Pow In Australia – Locals Reveal Their Secrets


Fresh Tracks

At 10am, already 10km and almost 1000m vert into our day, Brad Lindsay and I joyously ripped down Watsons Creek Run, revelling in the beautifully deep untracked snow that we found. Arriving at the bottom of the drainage with our yips and yahoos echoing around us, we were the first party out that far and the first tracks were ours to enjoy.


Ooft, that’s Brad shredding some big juicy lines


We’d made the decision to separate from the rest of the group in order to milk another lap or two out of the day.

The sun was already turning the bottom 100m of the eastern facing slope into elephant snot, so the bootpack out was a sweaty affair. But we needed to punch it out, so we could drop into our line on the Western Faces before it too started to warm up.


What’s Splitfest?

Held on the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains, NSW, at the end of winter each year, Splitfest is the coming together of an eclectic group of frothers, for whom the labour of earning their turns is half the fun. In few other places will you find a more relaxed and stoked community of mountain enthusiasts, brought together by the collective effort of a few locals to encourage skill sharing and friendship building.

Splitboarding, for the uninitiated, is rapidly growing in popularity. It’s snowboard tech that enables snowboarders to finally ditch cumbersome snowshoes in favour of a board that splits into ‘skis.’ This setup enables fast and efficient uphill travel, then readily reassembles back into a board for the ride down.

Read more: Easy Splitboarding Trip from Guthega Dam to Gills Knob (NSW)


This is livin’…and Brad on approach


Getting Festival Ready

Two days before the festival I was out doing laps of Mount Twynam, getting my legs back after a long stint off the board. It was a busy day in the backcountry with a large school group and several other parties enjoying the spring conditions and fine weather.

Read more: Alpine Back Country Winter Safety

I’m not sure what it is about the backcountry that brings out the best in people, but despite several fun laps in the gloriously sun softened corn, the highlight of my day was the interactions I had with everyone around me.


My Night in an Igloo (Yes, an Igloo)

On the recommendation of some skiers that I bumped into crossing the Snowy, I’d set myself up in a vacant igloo for the night. The igloo became something of a focal point for everyone on the hill that day and I had plenty of visitors that afternoon. People trickled through on their way back to Guthega and I shared a laugh and a smile with every one of them.

I started to really appreciate the calibre of the community here. As the day drew to a close, I sat melting snow to drink, enjoying the stunning alpenglow of a Main Range sunset.


Welcome to my humble ice castle, can I interest you in some melted floor?


Connecting With Fellow Enthusiasts

In the spirit of the festival, I made a point of approaching every splitboarder I encountered. I was alone and after all, the point of the festival was to build relationships. One such interaction was with Tim Priest, a local legend and a key player in the festival.

Tim knows the Main Range as well as anyone and is always happy to give advice about conditions or route selection. As a backcountry guide, Tim was taking a group of boarders out on day one of the festival. It just so happened that our group was heading to the same zone.

Read more: How To Become a Backcountry Guide and Share the Stoke of Ski Touring


These frozen snowgums may be beautiful but they aren’t your friends on the board


Festival Highlights

With the tail end of a westerly front blowing through, all of the east facing terrain immediately accessible from Guthega was loaded with a deep layer of fresh snow. Mount Tate offered the best turns of the day with all of us catching face shots amid the flat light and heavy gusts.

Floating back into the car park with wind-chapped faces, we were all riding high on a great day in the hills with good company. That evening, festival organiser Adam West, had put together an extensive kit raffle to raise money for Avalanche Australia. Beer and conversation flowed freely, and spirits were high in anticipation of clear skies and deep snow the following day.

Tim was heading out to the Western Faces and invited anyone who was keen to join him.

Read more: Skiing The Western Faces: A Guide to Backcountry Skiing in Kosciuszko National Park


Mat skinning in the sunshine


Our Best Run Yet

Known as the Western Faces, the gullies and spurs on this aspect of Tenison-Woods Knoll and Watsons Crags make up some of the steepest and most enjoyable backcountry terrain in the nation. For years it has captured my imagination, but this zone is not something to take lightly.

In certain conditions the slide hazard is significant and the approach requires an overnight stay on the route or very strong legs for a day trip. This is what brought me here and I was adamant that this was the year that I would finally ride these famous steeps.

After bootpacking out of Watsons Creek, Brad and I scoped out our line. Straight off the back of Tenison-Woods Knoll, the avalanche face runs into a beautiful 250m long halfpipe. It was full of untracked powder and at a hair over 30°, it was a long, playful run.

Both of us agreed it was easily the best run we’ve had in Australia.

Read more: Best Winter Backcountry Trips In Australia


Brad skinning out, already counting down until the next Splitfest!


Ambling into Guthega with over a half marathon of ski touring and near enough to 2km of vert under our belts, it only took two sips of beer for us to enter a state of nirvana.

While it took days for the high of riding those lines to wear off, the feeling of community lingers. My gratitude for the connections I made with numerous like minded people remains with me.