There’s nothing more entertaining than standing at a backcountry trailhead and having someone walk by, stop, and ask, “Is that thar one of them splitboards?” While splitboards have been around for a decade or more, they have remained largely out of the mainstream until the last couple years. Teton Gravity Research’s new Film “Deeper”, which features Jeremy Jones and a number of other high-profile riders on splitboards, is showing people there’s a whole other world of snowboarding out there. If you’re willing to work for it… Find best splitboards here.
Jones and crew were using splitboards to access remote big-mountain lines in Alaska, Tahoe and elsewhere. Why? A splitboard is a snowboard that splits in half, into two “skis”, for climbing up mountains and then riding down in the backcountry. They enable snowboarders to go places that are difficult to access via bootpack or snowshoes, due to deep snow or long approaches, because gliding on skins is a more efficient and faster way to travel on snow than walking/booting. Because you can “ski” up and ride down, splitboards offer the best of both worlds in the backcountry.
Essentially, when you are in “ski mode”, a binding is mounted to each half of the board, facing forward, with a pin that slides into an interface, which allows the binding heel to rise and fall similar to a telemark ski binding. Splitboarders typically use 3-piece collapsible poles for climbing, because they are more compact when attached to your pack for the descent. Dakine, and several other companies make a variety of packs that are suitable for backcountry snowboarding. With touring skins attached to the base of the split skis, you can climb mountains as well as skiers using an alpine touring setup—and even better—you get to snowboard down.
When finished climbing, you reattached the two board halves so they form a snowboard, engage the two hooks and two tip-and-tail clips, slide your bindings over the “puck mounts” and slide the pin through the toeside of the binding to lock them on. Burton’s new splitboards like the 2013 Burton Freebird, or Rome’s Whiteroom Splitboards are a strong evidence that the sport is growing.
Smart Shredding in the Backcountry
Whether you’re going to build a backcountry booter and ride a steep mountain face, keep some things in mind and carry the proper equipment. Bring a beacon, shovel and probe—and know how to use them. Carry extra food and clothing. Check the weather and avalanche forecast, especially if there’s been unsettled weather of late. And have fun… -MH
In addition to a splitboard, you’ll need several other pieces of equipment for riding in the backcountry.
For bindings, you can use either-
• Voilé’s full hardware kit, which includes aluminum plates to which you can mount standard snowboard bindings
• Splitboard Touring skins – also made by Voilé
• 3-piece collapsible poles
• Backpack that will carry a board if you need to bootpack
• Avalanche Safety Gear: beacon, shovel, probe, first aid kit
• Extra layers, food, water