If you have a burning desire to explore the backcountry, get fresh powder and get away from the crowds in resort, split boarding might just be your next step in snowboarding. With the right equipment, knowledge and riding skills you can experience a whole new side to snowboarding and a true mountain experience. Not convinced?….. Just ask Jeromy Jones!
What is a splitboard?
Many moons ago in the earlier days of snowboarding, getting deeper into the backcountry and going touring involved a tiring hike often upto your knees and waist in powder. Snowshoes were a good option and stopped you sinking but were often cumbersome to carry and not the fastest mode of transport up the steep slopes. Skiers seemed to effortlessly slide up the slopes as well as down using their poles and a special set of skins that stuck to the bottom of their skies. These skins, which look a little like seal fur allowed the ski to move forward on the snow but grip on the snow when pushed back. They had a real advantage over us snowboarders and got to the deep stuff so much quicker than us without having a hernia in the process.
How time rumbles on and technology changes. Enter the splitboard. A splitboard to the untrained eye looks very similar to a regular snowboard with two bindings but has the ability to be split into two ski’s for travelling on the flat or up slopes deep into the backcountry. It has a special set of bindings that can easily be removed and mounted on each ski with a free heal to allow forward motion. A skin is stuck to the bottom just like on ski touring skis and provides the grip uphill. With a set of collapsible trekking poles snowboarders can now move as freely and quickly off piste to get to that far off summit pretty much as quick as any skier. Efficient snowboard touring is now a reality. Once you arrive at your chosen line and its time to ride, all you have to do is remove the skins and bindings, clip your skis back together to make a snowboard, remount your bindings, pack up your poles then strap in and your good to go.
So how do splitboards ride?
That all depends on your setup. In the last 10 years split boarding equipment has come on leaps and bounds, with every year seeing new and exciting innovations coming along to make split boarding easier, simpler and more efficient. The two biggest things that will effect how your board rides is the binding setup with hardware and the board itself.
Splitboard specific bindings are not all created equal. The current and best offerings on the market provide a stiff and supportive ride and give rigidity to the board. When touring they are both light and efficient. The not so good bindings out there are flexy, unsupportive and don’t give a lot of board feel. The last thing you want when you’re about to drop a heavy, steep line with serious consequences is a sloppy jalopy under your feet. Our top tips for great splitboard bindings are Spark R&D, Karakoram and Burton Snowboards.
Splitboard designs vary in shape and size much like regular boards do. It’s important to pick one that suits the terrain that you intend to ride. If you’re looking to ride bottomless blower Utah or Japanese pow, a rockered swallowtail might be just the answer to keep you effortlessly floating and surfing the soft stuff. However if your day in the mountain involves some technical riding and descending in variable conditions then a directional cambered board might be a better choice. Most of the big Snowboard manufacturers now offer a number of split boards within their ranges and there are many new companies that specialise in splitboards like Jones Snowboards. As always get out and try a few different shapes and sizes until you find one you like.
So why splitboard?
If you’re a fairly accomplished rider and are looking to get something a little more deeper and meaningful out of your days snowboarding, splitboarding could be just the ticket you’ve been waiting for. Imagine a day in the mountains away from the crowds, just you and a few friends with the wilderness to yourself. That chance to truly reconnect with nature and the rewarding feeling of knowing you’ve earned your turns. The uphill ascent can be a great workout to. On the descent the mountain becomes a blank canvas and is yours to paint as you like.
But wait….what about the risks?
Splitboarding carries extra risk as you delve deeper into the backcountry. It is important to carry avalanche safety equipment with you at all times, know how to use it and never travel into the backcountry alone. If you’d like to find out more, Onyxsnowboarding recommends you use a qualified instructor or guide to teach you the skills to splitboard safely. Onyxsnowboarding offers half day and full day splitboard courses or a 3 day Intro to Splitboard camp in Chamonix to show you the way.
For renting splitboards, snowboards and avalanche safety gear in Chamonix, Onyxsnowboarding recommends Zero G snowboard shop.