Goal is to ride state’s fourteeners on a split board

Laura Hadar wants to become the first woman splitboarder to ride all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot-tall mountains. Hadar and partner Nicky Anastas will share their quest in a slide show tonight at the Ute Mountaineer that begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

After a successful climb and splitboard descent of Castle Peak in spring 2016, Hadar and Anastas, the son of two longtime Aspen School District educators and administrators, next targeted South Maroon.

Then, “With our experience and background, we knew we had a good chance of doing North Maroon,” she said. “After that, we decided we could try and do them all.”

They are 21 peaks into the project, which is being recorded on GoPro cameras for what they hope will evolve into a documentary.

The idea to become the first female splitboarder to ride the fourteeners came as an epiphany one night while Hadar and Anastas were camping at Crater Lake and following a time in her life when she was emotionally vulnerable.

As an 18-year-old, Hadar left the valley for Salt Lake City, where she developed a good career as a pro rider, one that was bolstered by sponsorships from both Oakley and Nike.

After retiring a decade later as a pro athlete — her forte included urban features like rails — Hadar was involved in the start-up of a casual wear store called Fice Gallery. It was there she came to the realization that something in life was missing.

“I didn’t feel complete selling shoes. I needed to figure out if there was something else out there for me,” she said.

The mountains around Aspen called and Hadar moved back home to live in the basement of her mom’s Carbondale home. Despite days spent on the mountain teaching Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard kids the finer points of riding, she started to get depressed.

During one of the late April 2016 weekends of extended lift service at Aspen Highlands, she met Anastas, who is helping her to write life’s next chapter. They became further acquainted during a hut trip and set about to summiting Castle Peak. It was a game-changing event during a period when she most needed it.

“It was the first time I had felt alive and happy in a really long time. That changed everything,” Hadar said. “It totally changed my perspective on what I was doing in Colorado. It gave me a really solid goal.”

By partnering with the Aspen Strong foundation for tonight’s presentation, “We are hoping to bring awareness to mental health checkups and open the conversation about mental health,” she said.

Her own loneliness upon returning to the Roaring Fork Valley was exacerbated by thoughts of what she’d left behind.

“I bought my own house when I was 22, was a pro snowboarder and opened a really fun, successful shop. All of a sudden, I’m living in my mom’s basement,” Hadar said.

Emerging from depression came easier in the great outdoors and thanks in part to Anastas.

“I’m really lucky,” she said. But there were months when she didn’t feel so lucky.

“I thought, I shouldn’t be depressed. I live in Aspen. I live this life. … You feel so alone and then you feel guilty. I want people to know it happens to everyone,” she said.

Journey before destination

After Castle Peak, they made plans for Quandary and the infamous Dead Dog Couloir on Torrey’s. In spring 2016, the pair took six weeks off of work to compete 16 peaks.

“We were aiming for 20. We got 16,” Hadar said, suggesting it was a good ratio given the difficulty and potential weather delays.

Her favorite peak was La Plata, in part because of the terrific spring snow. The most challenging? Quite possibly Blanca, where “Nicky was able to sidestep down. I had to get on my stomach.”

Like other backcountry and uphill-oriented equipment, the use of splitboards is growing in the industry; rentals are available at Radio Boardshop in Aspen. Hadar said her split board weighed in at only one pound more than Anastas’ tele gear. In cruddy snow, the larger gliding surface afforded by a board can be advantageous. The Blanca belly move is an example of where skis prove superior.

As they chart out a course to climb and ride more fourteeners for the project, it looks like Pyramid and Capitol Peak will be last on the list. It won’t come until they’ve thoroughly prepared for the expeditions.

While scoping out North Maroon, “We watched Ted Mahon and Christy ski down,” said Anastas, a competitive junior athlete in hockey, soccer and skiing. “That gave us confidence because all of a sudden, we saw the route,” provided by these experienced and well-respected Aspen mountaineers.

Hadar emphasized that the journey is as important as the destination in this quest, and that safety comes before record setting.

“I’d be really impressed if some other girl wants to snowboard Pyramid and Capitol before me. It’s not going to change our objective,” she said.

Twitter, @Madski99