Jaime Van Lanen built his first custom splitboard in the year 2000. Living in North Lake Tahoe at the time, he’d watched lift lines on powder days increase to the point that the only way to gain a solid day of riding was to get in line at 6 a.m. with his MSR Whisperlite stove in his backpack so he could eat breakfast and drink coffee while waiting three-plus hours for the chairs to open.
Well, a lot has changed over the last decade and a half. These days, Jaime makes his home in Bear Valley, Alaska, working for the Alaskan state government on research and management of hunting and fishing for wild food.
A backcountry snowboarder through and through, today, Jaime is pushing the envelope as far as it will go in terms of what’s possible on a splitboard. He’s racked up countless descents on six continents and in 16 countries and has taken — with success — to hunting caribou from his splitboard — a practice that he views as helping to ensure that splitboarding plays a role in ecological and economic sustainability.
Born and raised in Lakewood, Colo., from a young age, Jaime’s father began taking him and brother Ryan to St. Mary’s Glacier, Loveland and Berthoud passes to hike for turns. The fire was ignited.
By the mid-‘90s, Jamie’s drive to arrive at the precipice of snowboarding had landed him as a professional rider, competing in freestyle. In 1999, he won the U.S. National Championship in Slopestyle and Overall Freestyle.
However, during his time as a sponsored freestyle rider, Jaime became disillusioned with the direction the ski scene was heading. Ski resorts were becoming more concerned with selling real estate than with fostering a deep connection between skiers/riders and the snow. And, in turn, skiers and riders were more concerned with their products and images on the mountain than with the mountains themselves. He didn’t retreat completely from the world of snow, however. In Jaime’s words, he simply “tuned in, turned on and dropped out.”
After moving to Alaska in 2008, splitboard mountaineering became a driving passion. Yet, with the inevitable close calls and loss of friends, these days Jaime is content with a good tour, some exploration, great snow and long, flowy, aesthetic lines. That said, when the snow is stable, you can find Jaime still trying to check off some of Alaska’s biggest, steepest and scariest routes.