Despite all her achievements, Marie-France admits that her trip to Golden with Robin and Maria was a real highlight of her winter. “I seriously had some of the best powder I’ve ever had,” she says. This is not a statement to be taken likely, coming from a woman who’s scaled ridges and conquered couloirs in some of the world’s best powder spots. Marie-France and Robin already knew each other from the freeriding scene, but they’d never ridden with Maria DeBari before. However, they were soon taken aback by her energy and passion for splitboarding. “Maria is awesome, she’s such a sick shredder. At the end of every day, we’d all be dead and ready to head back to the hut. Maria would always do an extra run or two with the guide. She’s just such a charger.”
Maria would always do an extra run or two with the guide. She’s just such a charger.
It was splitboarding that the 27-year-old became known for across the North American freeriding community. “We came across Maria by world of mouth,” says Robin. “We knew she was a Mount Baker local who was a real strong splitboarder – and that’s exactly what she is. It couldn’t have been a better choice asking Maria along to Golden.” Unlike Robin and Marie-France, Maria had grown up surrounded by world-class freeriding terrain. “It was my dad that really got me into splitboarding when I was around 21”, she says. “He’s a telemark skier, so he took me out and showed me how to skin.”
Maria was born into a family of snowsports enthusiasts and spent her youth riding with her brother, the now K2 and North Face pro rider Lucas DeBari. As her riding improved, Maria began competing in local freeriding contests with friends. However, it was only three years ago that she entered her first national freeride competition, The North Face Masters of Snowboarding at Crystal Mountain, Washington. She finished in a spectacular second place. “I did pretty good and thought I guess I’ll try another one. I’ve just been along for the ride ever since.” She spent the next year taking part in the whole North Face tour across America. “I really liked the North Face Masters because it was all about snowboarding. It had the best community and I met so many girls from other states that I’m still tight with today.” After championing the North Face Masters, Maria was invited on the Freeride World Tour and travelled the world, meeting new riders from other continents.
During the summer Maria works full-time as a commercial fisherman, allowing her freedom in the winter to ride as much as she likes.
While Maria is sponsored by North Face and Gnu, she’s never tried to turn snowboarding into a career. In fact, she’s actively chosen to avoid the limelight since finishing the Freeride World Tour in 2012. During the summer, she works full-time as a commercial fisherman, allowing her freedom in the winter to ride as much as she likes. “It was a really great experience but competing isn’t really for me. I haven’t done any competitions this year and don’t plan next year either. It’s a lot of pressure; I’d rather just go snowboarding with my friends.”
She explains to me that a unique community has emerged in Mt. Baker among female backcountry riders. “Mt Baker is really cool because no-one cares about being a pro snowboarder. Everyone is just there to ride. I’ve travelled to a lot of different places, I’ve never run into a women’s community like there is at Mt Baker. There are just so many girls killing it.”
I’ve never run into a women’s community like there is at Mt Baker. There are just so many girls killing it.
For Robin, Marie-France and Maria, it’s not a case of analysing gender ratios on the mountain or their number of full parts compared to men. Determination has seen them inspire other female riders to push themselves to new limits and not feel pressurised into competing. It’s ultimately about discovering a more grounded, soulful experience of snowboarding. “Powder riding is the roots of snowboarding,” explains Robin. ”I don’t know many freeriders that are just there to get a shot. It’s not about hitting cheese wedge after cheese wedge. It’s lines, cliffs, pillows, jumps. All of us just want to be out there to be progressive for ourselves, and for freeriding.”