Scott Newsome: Doin’ Hard Time in the Mountains
People often ask me who I look up to in snowboarding, and for sure, it’s the big-mountain chargers like Nico Mueller, DCP, Roman, and Travis Rice, but there are also a few out there that fly under the mainstream radar, people like Scott Newsome, who I take my toque off to for riding mountains the way mountains should be ridden and for being able to transcend their passions and visions into careers.
On top of a lifetime of accomplishments such as pro-rider throughout the 90s, owner, and lead guide at Eagle Pass Helis, and still at the age of 36 holding down a slew of sponsors (his own guide-specific pro-model from Trapper Snowboards, First Ascent clothing, Spark R&D, BCA and Electric) Newsome also became the first snowboarder to challenge and pass the grueling and treacherous Association of Canadian Mountain Lead Guide (ACMG) exams on a splitboard (May 2012). Greg Todds, RIP, foreshadowing the future once put it like this: “Scott, you and all your accomplishments represent the true meaning of being a professional snowboarder: your sponsors can’t dump you, and you are guaranteed to have a job next winter.”
When most kids might have been glued to the boob-tube, Newsome grew up tagging along with his parents and watching the Lake Louise Ski Patroller’s do avalanche control. By 16, Newsome was snowboarding professionally, competing in halfpipe and slopestyle. Skipping school on a regular basis to go mountaineering and ride powder stashes was the norm, which eventually landed him smack dab in Whistler during the 90s, riding on a professional level, working with guides, and filming video parts in BC and Alaska. After a few close calls and seriously broken leg in 96, he was dropped by his sponsors and was left to make a life choice: what next? He hit the open road to Revelstoke in 1997 to pursue guiding and began by tailguiding for his uncle who owned Cat Powder Skiing.
At the time, Revy was a place with huge untapped mountains, no chair lifts, just a tough ski touring and mountain guide community. The first splitboards were just coming out, so Newsome built a home-made version with a skill saw and a drill, and spent the following years climbing and riding many mountains in the Selkirk, Monashee and Rogers Pass areas, which had not seen a lot of snowboarder travel at that time. While guiding for his uncle with his Canadian Ski Guide Level 2 certification (he was the first snowboarder to obtain this), Newsome applied to the ACMG as an assistant guide, yet was denied because the old-school two-plankers could not foresee splitboarding to be as efficient in crevasse rescue and glacier travel. After a long battle, Craig Kelly persuaded the ACMG to allow splitters into the Assistant Guides training program, yet passed just months before his first exam. His efforts, however, opened the doors, and Newsome was accepted into the ACMG training program the following year. It wasn’t an easy ride: The first year he took the Assistant exam, Newsome failed. “I felt I had a solid nine days in the mountains on the exam,” says Newsome, “but now in hindsight some skills needed to be strengthened.” The following year he succeeded, a first again for any snowboarder.
A few years back, Newsome purchased the Eagle Pass Helis with tenure and terrain in Revelstoke, which mostly lies on the western divide of the Moneshee mountain range. Flying two A-star choppers over a tenure that spans 463 square miles, featuring high-alpine, Alaska-style spines, ramps, open bowls, natural half pipes, and pillow-filled old-growth cedar trees, it’s no surprise that Travis Rice’s crew are solid clients, and it’s no further surprise Newsome will ride the same high-level lines as these crews. “After the last talent has made it down, typically I will pick a more conservative route on the face and manage the terrain on my way down quite differently and safer than those rock stars,” he admits. “My personal safety is just as important while operating deep in the mountains.
He pauses and explains how Rice and him work well together and how their friendship developed from 10 days of him guiding in the Glacier National Park (during the making of Jeremy Jones’ movie Deeper) into working out the safety logistics with the Brain Farm crew for both years during the Nelson and Revelstoke segments. “We share a very similar upbringing and past experiences, both good and bad,” says Newsome, adding, “mutual respect goes a long way in the mountains. Mutually understanding snow pack conditions, exposure, personal risk tolerance’s and experience, then mixed with talent can sometimes be very challenging for a guide, but not with Travis. He has amazing mountain sense that you can’t teach to most people.” Without missing a beat, he adds, “Nicolas Mueller was extremely impressive to watch ride – truly amazing style and consistency. I don’t think I saw him crash once that whole month.”
On top of crushing perhaps his biggest challenge by becoming the first and only ACMG Lead Guide on a splitboard last May, it’s apparent that Newsome still strives to progress and challenge himself on a board. “With the invention of the split board, my passion for snowboarding has only increased dramatically over the last 17 years,” he insists. “Snowboarding for me is a career, and I want to have a long one. Being in the mountains every day holds its own inherited risks, so to limit risk and exposure at this point in my life is the name of the game. All guides and backcountry enthusiasts never lose the passion to explore and ride new terrain – that is the number one drive for me still. Even if I have rode the same run 10 times before, I still look at 10 different ways to ride it, picking alternative lines, entrances or exits.
The last few years have been surreal learning all the areas in Eagle Pass Tenure. There are still areas I have not even seen yet, but I will.” As for advice for aspiring guides, he cracks a smile, and says, “This had nothing to do with snowboarding; twelve years of heli-logging in the summer months made me a very hard man.” Pausing he adds, “The mountains can be your best friend one day and your worst nightmare the next. I found this out the hard way. My suggestions are to become a dirtbag and go ski touring and mountaineering every day for a whole winter (no chair lifts). Learn how to read a map and use a compass, put in big days climbing in shitty weather, go winter camping, become efficient with mountaineering skills and rope handling/rescue techniques, and harden yourself. Be the one who makes decisions when out in the mountains with your friends, and question peers, avalanche professionals, and old guides on their decision-making processes and snow pack understanding. Spend time in different types of interior and coastal snow packs places like the Rogers Pass, Columbia Ice Fields, Alaska, Coast Ranges, Rockies, Percells, Monashees and Selkirks. Always remember no matter how much experience you might have, the mountains don’t care if you’re an expert.”