The Tale of One Man’s Epic Motorcycle Splitboarding Journey Across North America

Martin Kuprianowicz | | Trip ReportTrip Report
Hugo Tardif, 33, in Calgary about to head south on his motorcycle for the adventure of a lifetime. | Photo courtesy of Hugo Tardif.

This is the story of a man who took his motorcycle and splitboard from Quebec across North America to adventure and ride dozens of backcountry lines in one eventful spring season. He spent 50 nights on the road camping, never paying for a hotel or roadside accommodation. He did it completely solo but met countless beautiful and friendly humans along the way. He did it for the love of adventure itself.

Hugo Tardif is a 33-year-old man from Quebec who splitboards in the Chic Choc range near Gaspesie. He is a backcountry ski guide and trapper in Murdochville who lived out of a cabin in the woods last winter that he built himself. “It’s a six-mile tour just to get there,” Hugo says. After saving his cash from guiding and trapping last winter, Hugo decided it was time to go on the road trip of a lifetime, from Quebec to British Columbia, then south into the United States.

A chance encounter

I met Hugo in the Wasatch Mountains while I was on a late spring ski tour last season. I remember seeing a tan, bushy-mustached man who came out of the forest at the bottom of a backcountry line who was very happy, friendly, and eager to introduce himself. He spoke with a French-Canadian accent and asked if he could tag along with us for the day as he was visiting the area. “May I come with you?” He asked in his thick accent. We showed him around Little Cottonwood Canyon that day and that’s when I learned of his transcontinental journey.

But that was only the beginning. When I parted ways with Hugo, I never thought I’d hear from the happy French-Canadian again. But a couple of months had passed when I randomly received a text message from him in broken English, asking if I wanted to share his story of how he rode his motorcycle across the continent and skied line after line of pristine backcountry terrain from BC to Colorado.

This is his journey.

Hugo pictured touring near Circus Peak in Icefield Park, Alberta. | Photo courtesy of Hugo Tardif

From Canada, with love

In March, Hugo decided to leave Gasepesie and put his 1989 BMW K100 RS motorcycle in a U-haul trailer behind one of his friend’s camper trucks as they headed west across Canada. Hugo unloaded his BMW in Calgary and set off for Canada’s Rocky Mountains for two months of backcountry skiing. There he skied:

  • Kananaskis Country
  • Roger’s Pass
  • Yoho National Park
  • Chaperon Mountain
  • and the Icefield Parkway.

On May 6, Hugo went back to Calgary and prepped his bike for a long cross-country voyage into the US of A. He strapped all of his backcountry and camping gear to the bike, fixed his splitboard on the side with two Voilé straps, and crossed into Montana. Enduring a gut-wrenching snowstorm on his motorcycle heading south, he finally reached the long-awaited Wasatch Mountains.

Spring backcountry snowboarding in America

Once stateside, Hugo skied in:

  • the Wasatch range, near Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.
  • Great Basin National Park, Nevada.
  • Independence Pass, Colorado.

Here are the backcountry lines from his journey, with comments from Hugo:

Wolverine Peak, Utah. | Photo courtesy of Hugo Tardif

May 11: Wolverine Peak, Wasatch Range

“Skied two north facing couloirs. Great runs.”

Hugo dropping into Two Trees. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains

May 13: Two Trees, Wasatch Range

“Dropped on the north side of the Cardiff peak, met Martin and Juan. Skied on the north and south sides.”

Mt. Superior’s south face. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains

May 15: Mount Superior, Wasatch Range

“Went down the southeast facing couloir, one of the 50 classic runs with Juan.”

Looking down at Tanner’s Gultch from the top in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains

May 16: Tanner’s Couloir, Wasatch Range

“Spring conditions, 1,067 meters (3,500 feet) of boot packing to get to the top, and a lot of rocks at the bottom.”

Toledo Chute, Utah. | Photo courtesy of SnowBrains

May 18: Toledo Peak, Wasatch Range

“Skinned to the peak to first drop on the northeast side, where the snow was firm. Bootpacked to go to the absolute peak and dropped a southeast couloir to the bottom.”

May 19: Suicide Chute, Wasatch Range

“Bootpacked to the top, slushy conditions, went down quickly.”

May 21: Terminal Cancer Couloir, Ruby Mountains

“First run in Nevada.”

May 22: Dollars Peak – Liberty Pass, Ruby Mountains

“At the end of the Lamoille Canyon, skied a huge line from the peak.”

May 25: Jeff Davis Peak, Great Basin National Park

“Skied the longest ski patch on the mountain.”

May 26: Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park

“Skied a small couloir.”

Hugo posing with the Colorado River in Southern Utah. | Photo courtesy of Hugo Tardif

May 27 to June 6: Southern Utah

“Took a splitboarding break and just drove the motorcycle to visit the classic National Parks in Utah: Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capital Reef, Canyonlands, Moab, and Arches National Park.”

Independence Pass, Colorado. | Photo courtesy of Hugo Tardif

June 6: Independence Pass, Colorado

“Skied a north couloir on Ouray Peak, boot packed under a cornice, and skied another couloir on the east side.”

Twining Peak, Colorado. | Photo courtesy of Hugo Tardif

June 7: Twining Peak, Colorado

“Skied a couloir down to a blue lake.”

Hugo’s GPS track of the Silver Couloir, Colorado. | Photo courtesy of Hugo Tardif

June 9:  Silver Couloir, Colorado

“One of the 50 classics near the town of Silverthorne. Huge mission, nice ski. Third of the 50 classics on my motorcycle!”

June 10: Mount Evans, Colorado

“Dropped in on the north-facing couloir.”

Hugo ended up taking his motorcycle through all of the following states in the span of 50 days:

  • UTAH
  • IOWA
  • OHIO

He never paid for one hotel—only camping outside, out of his motorcycle set up. Hugo’s tale is one of passion and free-spirited youth—of raw adventure. He is a romantic in the purest sense of the word. Hugo’s travels serve to inspire others to get up off their couch, make happen that trip they’ve always wanted to take, and be their best selves by having the courage to live out their wildest dreams. In the words of the American writer and adventurer Jack Kerouac,

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”

Hugo’s bike pictured with the Great Salt Lake, Utah. | Photo courtesy of Hugo Tardif

Related Articles

Got an opinion? Let us know...