Splitboarding – the oh-so exclusive adventure into backcountry’s boundless and abundant terrain. Splitboarding first hit the snowboard scene as a minimalist means to access nature’s winter bounty. Many of splitboarding’s pioneers were mountain aficionados with workshops in their garages. Their time was devoted to customizing their own splitboard setup, restored from last season’s powder quiver. Conversion kits could be purchased online and the chance of salvaging a perfectly good pow stick was worth the risk. The other backcountry access alternatives were not so appealing: major purchasing costs, maintenance and the choking exhaust of a snowmobile OR the industry’s first manufactured splitboards, a heavy commitment of upwards to $1000 with limited size, flex and camber options.
Span forward to the current snow season and splitboarding has progressed faster than the triple cork. The snowboard niche is no longer limited to die-hard mountain men. The appeal of splitboarding; accessing untouched powder in a completely natural mountain setting using your own horsepower, has attracted thousands of pow fiends. What has followed in pursuit are snowboard brands, specialty shops and trusted e-tailers that offer an array of splitboard sizes, shapes, kits and accessories. There are even an array of options for the adventurous female. Push your neighbor’s table saw aside, buying a splitboard for the first time is easier than ever.
What to Look for When Buying a Splitboard
As with all snowboards, splitboards come in an array of lengths, widths, weights, flex, camber, shape and dampening. Take a look at the construction of your go-to stick for powder days. This is a great starting point. Still unsure? Here are some general guidelines:
Generally, a traditional snowboard that is suited for your height should come to about your chin. You may prefer to go shorter or longer depending on your riding style. Freestyle riders size down and freeriders size up. Opt for a splitboard that is approximately 5 cm longer than your everyday snowboard. The length will offer you more float in deeper powder
if you’re the unlucky oaf with extra big boots then you have no choice but to shop for a splitboard with a wider width. Toe drag is not your friend when charging down a face with a buttery frontside turn. The K2 Ultrasplit Wide could be your next mountain exploring vehicle.
something to consider when purchasing your first splitboard is the fact that your endurance and your endurance alone is skinning you to that summit. With additional hardware, splitboards are heavier than their traditional counterparts. Compare boards and opt for the lighter model to save your legs.
Splitboard Camber and Shape
Anyone will tell you that this is pure preference. While it can be difficult to test an array of splitboards, you can demo the endless variety of all-mountain traditional snowboard shapes. What feels good while charging resort sidecountry pow laps will likely serve you well in the backcountry. Try out a variety at your local mountain’s demo days and be sure to buy the demo guy a beer during après hour!
Flex preference is normally determined by your riding style: steep, white-knuckle coulouir descents require a stiff splitboard for maximum control at high speeds. Inspired by Travis Rice’s big mountain freestyle domination? Then shop for a split board with a shape that resembles your twin freestyle setup so that you have more play off wind lips, pack downs and pillows. Check out Lib Tech’s Travis Rice Splits. Still not sure what your riding steeze is? The Burton Family Tree Landlord Spit Snowboard is a great nimble and directional all-around splitboard. Best yet, the Split Channel mounting system provides endless stance options for just the right fit.
Nearly every snowboard brand offers all-mountain boards in traditional camber, reverse camber and camber hybrids. It’s common for shredders to prefer some sort of reverse camber for deeper snow as your nose naturally floats to the surface. Be aware that edge hold at high speeds can be compromised with reverse camber. Keeping your nose afloat can also be accomplished with board shape. Longer nose profiles and a set-back stance saves your back leg and keeps the ride floaty. The more freestyle your descents, the more you should opt for a twin-like shape.
Dampening is essential for splitboard performance. There are no grooming machines out there in the deep mountains. Rocks, chatter, chud, hot pow, crust…you will find any and all snow conditions. Dampening technology will keep your ride smooth. Compare the tech.
Just like traditional snowboards, companies design splitboard models specifically for women. To accommodate smaller frames and lighter weights, a woman’s specific split board will have a softer flex, narrower waist and smaller size options. K2 GNU, and Voile offer women’s specific splits.
When it comes to setting your split board up with bindings, don’t fret. The split board revolution has pushed technology and the Voile Universal Splitboard Binding Interface has become the standard. This interface kit has all the hardware necessary to mount up almost any pair of your favorite traditional snowboard bindings and allows you to easily transition from touring to shredding.
The bottom line is, just like buying a snowboard, there are a lot of factors to consider. Your local board shop in any mountain region with a popular and accessible backcountry or sidecountry scene will have employees full of passion for this purist’s version of snowboarding. He surely can point you in the right direction. Meanwhile, research the impressive line up from Jones Snowboards. Not only is this company founded by snowboarding’s most respected and accomplished mountaineer, Jeremy Jones, Jones Snowboards offers the most options in splitboard lengths, weight technology and shape options.
Boys and girls, be aware that all the splitboard research doesn’t prepare you for the unexpected when exploring the backcountry. As you prepare to venture into winter’s dreamland, be sure to read up, study-up and practice-up on backcountry, avalanche and snow survival skills. And never ever splitboard on your own.
Check out our complete guide to splitboarding here for more tips