Weekend Warm-Up: Truffle Pigs

In 2018, buddies and pro snowboarders Travis Rice and Chris Rasman left on a 10-day quest for utopian powder in Alaska’s little-explored yet surprisingly accessible Tordrillo mountains.

But what does snowboarding — or any winter sport — have to do with truffle pigs?

Well, much like pigs trained to sniff out highly prized forest fungus, Rice and Rasman register as focused, tenacious, motivated to seek out the most exceptional mountain terrain. And that’s precisely why the pair chose to explore the Tordrillos.

 

The Tordrillos: untapped Alaskan backcountry

Situated nearly 3,500m above sea level on Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna and Kenai Peninsula Boroughs, the Tordrillos receive 15m of snow each year. The area may be known by non-adventure crowds for its exquisite, tiffany-blue glaciers which feed the peninsula’s lower lakes and rivers in the warmer months.

Limit-seekers and elite mountain athletes like Cody Townsend have traveled to the Tordrillo range because of its renowned winter sports environment. The region lies just 110km northwest of Anchorage and is reasonably accessible.

Yet Alaska’s Tordrillo mountain range remains one of the least explored spots in the state.

There are just two problems for Rice and Rasman: The Tordrillo range spans 3,200 sq km — more than 400,000 hectares. And the weather proves particularly tumultuous during their stay. It means they have an unimaginable canvas to cover and very little time to cover it.

“Somewhere out there is the perfect gap,” Rice says from atop a pearl-white massif. “We just gotta find her.”

“Yep,” agrees Rasman.”Just gotta keep on sniffin’ ‘n’ searchin’!”

 

“Seek, persist, and manifest…A truffle you will find”

So, like pigs sniffing out truffles, the adventure-hungry mountain slayers find just what they were looking for, but it doesn’t come easily.

A snowstorm becomes the savior and scourge of Rasman and Rice’s trip, dumping a heavenly 1.5 metres of fresh powder down before kicking it up in 160kph gusts of wind. The blizzard makes for long, often unrewarding search missions and wine-laden evenings cooped up indoors.

In concise order, the film crew gathers surreal footage of the mountain athletes at play and at rest. From exquisite jump tricks off-ramps into a world of untouched, perfect alpine snow to the precise carve-ups down steep, exposed couloirs.

But Truffle Pigs’also pays heed to the majesty of the boundless Alaskan backcountry, the sled dogs, and the creatures that thrive in it.

“What is the find without the hunt?”

Without trying, the film also seems to capture the levity and warmth possible when kindred spirits combine.

We witness, for example, a simple scene over morning coffee. From the comfort of their alpine lodge, the two boarders express their starkly diametric “ideal day.” Rice wants to hunker down and prepare for the next strip of good weather. But Rasman is champing at the bit to get out, even if it means they’ll hike 12 hours through the unforgiving wilderness just to snowboard a little.

Watch the two carve up the vast Alaskan canvas — and take in the generous mountain views in Truffle Pigs: An Alaskan Odyssey.

Runtime: 13.5 minutes

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life. She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network. She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.


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