Rob Vandervoort

Rob Vandervoort started skiing Crested Butte Mountain Resort at the tender age of 2, but by the time he was 9 his interest had turned to snowboarding. He had started skateboarding the previous summer and was hooked on riding a board as opposed to two planks.

“The flow of surfing a board on snow down a mountain is addicting, and that’s what keeps me coming back,” he says. The 30-year-old has lived in Montana, Washington and California but has since returned to his hometown. He’s received numerous podiums at Freeride World Qualifier events, including a second-place finish at Crested Butte in 2016 as well as third overall on the tour that season. However, his first big result came three years prior at the Rahlves Banzai Tour in 2013 at Squaw Valley. Vandervoort finished second at that event, and third overall on the tour.

Yet, the backcountry has become a big draw. His introduction to off-piste came in high school, when Vandervoort and friends turned to “car laps” off roadsides. He split his first board himself in 2010 and says the experience changed his live. “I used to split boards for friends in my dad’s garage in Crested Butte,” Vandervoort recalls of the shop, in fact, about two blocks away from the facility where Cold Smoke’s factory Voodoo is made today.

Of course, powder is the biggest factor that draws Vandervoort to the backcountry, not to mention the fact that a splitboard is such an enjoyable way to experience the outdoors when the snow piles deep. “It’s low impact and feels great on my knees,” he says. “Also, my dog absolutely loves to go splitboarding with me.”

Vandervoort’s perfect day in the backcountry starts with an early rise, quick stretch, breakfast and he’s out the door, splitboarding from his doorstep before hiking multiple laps in his favorite backyard zone. “Shred deep, stable powder all morning. Lunch somewhere in the woods. A few more afternoon bonus laps. Splitboard back to the house to enjoy victory beers on the porch. Ahh …”

Vandervoort has ridden the Cold Smoke Voodoo off and on for about two years, but this year is his first full season on the board. “The Voodoo is SOOO easy to turn,” he says. “Think left, it turns left. Think right, it turns right. It’s effortless. Also, It’s a stiff board yet has great pop. Finally, its durable.”

In addition to Cold Smoke, Vandervoort also is sponsored by Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Handlebars Bike and Board Shop, Bearcat Builders, Crested Butte Snowsports Foundation (scholarships) and Patagonia (proform).

Elizabeth Koutrelakos

In high school, Elizabeth Koutrelakos was introduced to the competitive side of snowboarding through boardercross. Later, rails momentarily drew her attention. But working on a trail crew in college sparked a fascination with exploring remote and wild places that only backcountry snowboarding allows.

“Working on the trail crew you see all these places that are hard to get to in the summer because they’re rocky,” she says. “I just wanted to explore those places in the winter.”

Elizabeth is originally from Maryland — where there’s cows and trees, not the city part, she clarifies. She started snowboarding in seventh grade at a small ski area in Pennsylvania called Whitetail Resort.

“I was terrible, it was icy East Coast stuff, but I made it,” she says.

Her ties to Jackson, Wyo., stem all the way back to her youth, when her parents would tote her along on month-long family vacations to the Tetons.

“All we would do is hike every day,” she remembers, “and not just a little bit. It would be like these 20 or 30 mile hikes. When you’re 10 or 11, it’s not cool.”

That outlook changed entirely when she went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder and realized that she could hike with a snowboard. And her trips to the Tetons as a kid planted a seed that would bring her back to Jackson in the decades that ensued, moving to the area full-time about 10 years ago.

“What kept bringing me back were the mountains themselves,” she remembers, adding that scrumptious Teton huckleberries had a lot to do with it as well. “I just really like the Tetons. They’re so accessible. Everyone says they’re crowded now but they’re really not.”

Around 2007, Elizabeth obtained her first splitboard after becoming tired of post-holing for turns. Since then, she’s climbed and descended many of the peaks in the Tetons. Her perfect day consists of waking in the dark to some good coffee, carpooling with a friend to the trailhead while jamming out to shitty pop music and starting to skin under still-dark skies amid a sea of crystals. Then comes the sunrise as the touring crew reaches a high spot, stopping for warm beverages and a snack.

“And both people have really surprising and delicious snacks to share,” she says, adding that she prefers to avoid ski partners with shitty treats.

Then the descent — in corn, powder, that doesn’t matter so much. “I actually think any condition is good if it’s with good people,” she says.

After a season atop a Voodoo 154, she prefers the control the board offers on slick terrain, as well as the deck’s penchant to float over powder.

Briant Wiles

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Briant Wiles graduated high school a semester early, and by the following Monday morning he was living in Arapahoe Basin ski area’s parking lot — a testament to the no-questions-asked, nose-to-the-grindstone ethic that has defined his snowboarding career. Styley, fluid and aggressive. That’s how Briant rides.

Born and raised in Lander, Wyo., Briant started snowboarding at the age of 10 at Jackson Hole. But since the nearest lift-served slopes were hours away his home in Lander, Briant and friends began looking to South and Togwotee passes for turns.

“I just find something so fascinating about traveling in a winter environment,” he says. “There’s something so stimulating about being out there and knowing there are all these inherent risks and you’re in control of your own destiny. Couple that with getting to carve a line down a mountainside, which is an art form in itself.”

Living in Summit County, Colo., after high school, Briant began competing in United States of America Snowboarding Association boarder cross and slopestyle events. Not long after, he was picked up by Kubi Snowboards and a handful of local sponsors, going on to film with Full Room Productions from 2004-2007. In 2004, Briant acquired use of a splitboard for the first time that belonged to his then-girlfriend. “I lost it with the girlfriend, but good God, it was a revolution going from snowshoes to that,” he says.

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Living in the midst of a dedicated backcountry community in Summit County, Briant and friends frequently headed to Loveland Pass for backcountry turns. The backcountry in Summit County sparked a passion for spring snowboard mountaineering descents, which meant exploration of the nearby Ten Mile and Gore ranges. To date, Briant has boarded from the summit of nine 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, but he admits that the draw of 14ers is somewhat over-hyped. “I think there are a lot of peaks just below 14,000 that are equal to the challenge,” he says.

By 2009, Briant began competing in the North Face Masters series — racking up two top-10 finishes in just three events. The same year, he moved to Colorado’s Gunnison Valley, where he now makes his home as a graduate student in Western State Colorado University’s Master’s in Environmental Studies program.

When his nose isn’t buried in a book, Briant can be found on steep lines in the Elk, Sawatch and San Juan ranges, or hunting and fishing in nearby mountains when there’s not enough snow to ride. After completing an avalanche Level 2 class, Briant plans to begin teaching Level 1 classes this season through the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education.

For Briant, spring conditions still spell the perfect recipe for the best days on the slopes. “The perfect day is probably about mid-April, when we’ve gone through an extended melt freeze phase and a storm rolls in really warm and heavy and leaves really cold,” he says. “Then it clears up the next morning. That and I get to go ski a big couloir.”

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