Do You Know What A Splitboard Is?

Splitboards aren’t very common – you’re almost guaranteed to not see them within the resort boundary. Why’s that? Because a splitboard is designed specifically for backcountry use, because they enable you to get up the mountain as well as come down it.

Getting fresh lines with a splitboard

If you’re a snowboarder who wants to hike to get your fresh lines, to venture into the real backcountry away from lifts, crowds and the ski patrol, your initial problems is getting up the hill – there are no lifts.

Putting in a boot pack, by simply hiking in your snowboard boots is one way, but you’re not going to get too far; it takes a lot of effort, effort that’s hard to maintain over repeated ascents/descents. Snowshoes help – they distributes a rider’s weight over a larger area, reducing the amount that they sink into fresh snow, and therefore reducing the effort required to walk… you’ll see plenty of videos and photos where a snowboarder has a pair of snowshoes attached to their back pack.

However, in the past it has been ski tourers and telemark skiers who have had the best tools. They can attach skins to the base of their skis to help them walk up the mountain. Apparently, and I say that because I’ve not experienced it myself, this method of ascending the mountain is much easier. Once you’re at the top, you take the skins off and the skis are then back to normal, good for skiing down.

And this is where the splitboard comes in. A split board is a snowboard that splits into two parts – the split runs centrally down the full length of the board – so the separate components are close to skis in shape. Detach the bindings, split the board, reattach the bindings pointing forwards – and you’ve got two planks that are capable of getting you up the hill.

Just like a skier, a splitboarder will use skins to provide the grip that makes the walking motion more effective. Gear-wise, split boards, the bindings and other accessories are fairly expensive. It’s a specialist niche targeted at backcountry enthusiasts. As you’d expect, there are less manufacturers with splitboard hardware. The main ones, at least as far as I’m aware, are Prior, Voile, Burton and Duotone. Does Jeremy Jones have a model out as well now?. If you want to look some gear, dogfunk has a few examples of boards, bindings and skins.

Image taken from wikimedia commons

Me on a splitboard?

I discovered splitboarding a couple of years ago, reading Wade’s blog, Tree Pilot He’s all about working for fresh lines, avoiding resorts, putting the effort in, it’s pretty inspiring.

Splitboarding is something I’d love to try out – I just haven’t made the time/effort to structure a snowboard trip around full on backcountry snowboarding. There are some good reasons for that:

  • I don’t really have enough experience, and there aren’t others in my group that could step in and provide that
  • I don’t have any of the equipment – so there would be a financial hurdle to get over with the “first time”
  • There isn’t a great desire from the other snowboarders in my group – we’re all pretty stoked travelling to different resorts

Given the recent series on powder boards, I wanted to mention splitboards and true backcountry snowboarding as an area that I’d really like to explore, but don’t see anything changing soon, that would get me into that environment.

What about you? Have you heard of a splitboard before? Have you got one? How do you see the difference between riding off-piste/slackcountry compared with the real backcountry, for the holiday snowboarder, or even, for the regular snowboarder? As usual, drop a comment with your views.

Looking to buy one? There’s a decent selection of splitboards at dogfunk.com.

2 Comments

  • Reply November 10, 2010

    mjd

    I’ve been grappling with this issue for a couple of years now. I’m totally into getting into the side country or just slapping on my snowshoes and hiking out to some well known spot. Usually it’s either in VT or NH but I also make a lot of trips to Utah and Tahoe with the occasional South America summer trip or I head off to BC like I will this year.

    My biggest concern is how reliable are split boards. When I was in Chile two years ago one of the guides used one for a day and every time he turned you could see the board open up in the middle. He checked and re-checked all the latches and everything was perfectly in place but he said it felt a lot, a real lot different from his other boards. So that’s my biggest concern. Is it going to perform like my regular powder/all mt board or is it going to be a lemon on these gnarly back country lines? Because it might be more worth it to just suck it up and snowshoe out there with your favorite board on your back so you can you shred the way you normally do. I might be wrong about this performance issue because I’ve never tried split boarding but going on what I’ve seen and heard from other folks it might be worth it to wait and see if they develop a better system.

  • Reply November 10, 2010

    Gavin

    Hey mjd,

    sounds like you’re right at the in between stage: getting good hiking action, so would benefit from a split when it comes to getting up, but also perhaps benefiting from riding down on your freeride board of choice.

    It’s a really interesting point – clearly there’s got to be ‘some’ difference between the stability of a splitboard compared to a normal board; one is seamless and the other has latches.

    I’d be interested from anyone who’s rode a split?

    Thanks for commenting!
    Gavin

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