Sitting in the Monarch Cat Skiing yurt, seven testers laced up boots and turned on beacons when first-year tester Alex Spectorsky spoke up. “So, how’s the snow?” he asked the Monarch guides.
“Terrible,” one replied.
Everyone laughed until we realized there was no smile peeking out from behind his beard. “To use a technical term, there’s some dust on crust,” he explained. And while the three guides were serious about the conditions, they weren’t going to let snow quality hinder plans to visit the best terrain available.
Later, as testers worked their edges into an impenetrable crust below Waterdog Ridge, everyone agreed the theme of the day was “not as soft as I’d hoped.” Despite a lack of powder, tester Alex Austin was still thrilled.
“Regardless of the little snow we had to work with, I could’ve kept riding Monarch all day,” she said. “The guides brought us around to all the hidden gems with traces of soft snow. I definitely want to go back for a real powder day.”
With a three-mile skin into Lost Wonder Hut looming that afternoon, however, we decided to pull the plug on post-lunch riding and head to the hut.
With packs strapped and poles extended, we began a short hike to the receding snow line where we came across snowless dirt patch after snowless dirt patch until there was consistent snow to skin. Walking through the woods with snow gently falling through the evergreens, the group fell into a lucid state.
“Skinning is tiring, but I love it,” tester Kelley Wren said later. “It’s about the simplicity of your independence and your own strength. You get to stop and keep things slow because nature is a silent story, and you have to listen carefully.”
We arrived to find splitboard specialist and nominated hut mother Marca Hagenstad looking out over the mountains and offering beer to celebrate the last leg of Board Test Week.
“Ending the week at the Lost Wonder Hut was the perfect way to end an action-packed week of snowboard testing,” she said. “Having everyone together in a remote setting got to the heart of what splitboarding is all about—adventure in high alpine environments and camaraderie.”
With the woodstove cranking and a cold beer in hand, I looked up to see some of the crew that had arrived earlier ripping down an east-facing bowl coated in a thin layer of fresh snow.
“Watching the crew crushing up the ridge off Clover while drinking a beer with snow falling is about as good as it gets,” Alex Spectorsky said before the evening culminated with ukulele tunes, pulls of whiskey and previewing maps for the last morning mission.
There hadn’t been soft snow all week, but we awoke to powder—the night’s storm had vanished, leaving us with blue skies and building hype. Crews formed to tackle nearby Vulcan Mountain and to head to 13,700-ft. Mt. Aetna right behind the hut.
Later, the crew regrouped at the cabin to the sound of gentle wind sifting through the valley’s forests before testers leisurely left Board Test Week for the real world.
“The test was an amazing experience,” Ben Gardner said before leaving. “You get the opportunity to ride bell to bell with a group of amazing people who all have unique styles and influences in their riding. Experiencing so many different boards is a treat because it makes you confident in your riding ability when you’re able to feel subtle differences in boards. And I now have a new group of people to shred with all over the country.”