Splitboarding for beginners. Film by Bergfex.
We hear it, too. Unbounded nature is knocking at the door and it’s time to give splitboarding and the backcountry a shot. Whether you’re a seasoned resort shredder, professional athlete, or have dabbled in snowboarding for a few years, the rules of the wilderness are the same for everyone: Avalanche risks are inherent.
Before you head to the top of Berthoud or Teton Pass have all of your safety gear, a completed avalanche safety course, knowledge of the snow conditions, and an understanding of how to use the gear, so that you and your crew stay safe.
Also,Know Before You Go: Watch the video, digest, learn, play safe!
The local avalanche center is one excellent resource with up-to-date information, and you can check it each night and a second time in the morning before you head out.
Below is our 21-item launch pad of the basic splitboarding gear (pre-mountaineering phase) to help you begin to build your backcountry kit.
Fifteen years ago, Voile Founder Mark Wariakois teamed up with Brett Kobernik—who’d handmade the earliest-recorded and unrefined version of a cut-up snowboard for backcountry use—to develop the DIY Voile Split Kit. The kit allows you to saw your old board in half.
Now, innovative splitboard designs (read: a solid snowboard that is engineered to separate in half, so that the rider can ascend and traverse terrain via two pieces) continue to trickle into the market each season including more women’s specific models from Burton, Furberg, Gnu, Jones, Never Summer, Pallas, Nitro, K2 and OZ among other brands.
Regarding splitboard selection, consider the same characteristics and preferences you would with your solid board: twin versus directional shape, stiffness scale, and profile options—including early rise, hybrid, full camber and flat—are all on the menu.
Most splits fall within the $800-$900 range.
2. Clips or Hooks
Splitboard clips or hooks are a piece of hardware that (you guessed it) clip or slide together to keep the splitboard halves sandwiched while riding. Unless you cut your own board, your splitboard will most likely come with a Voile or Karakoram connector already attached.
Pucks are four discs with a Pacman silhouette, which are screwed into the board’s binding mounting holes. They’re set at the degree of the rider’s binding stance, so that she or he can quickly switch to ride mode—pretty cool.
When boarders switch from tour to ride mode, the splitboard bindings slide out of the touring brackets, the board’s halves are rejoined, and the bindings slide onto the pucks. The rider now, facing sideways, can take a snowboarding stance.
If you buy splitboard bindings, you’ll need to purchase pucks separately, with options currently made by Voile and Spark R&D. A canted design allows the knees to be directed inward, which can help support some riders’ body alignment.
Or—if you need to use a set of standard snowboard bindings, you can buy a full hardware setup that allows a traditional pair of bindings to be used on a splitboard.
Pucks $55-$75 // Voile Splitboard Hardware for Standard Bindings $160
4. Splitboard Bindings
In general, compared to regular snowboard bindings, the queen focus of splitboard bindings is uber-lightweight design. The largest visible difference is with the baseplate, which is thinner and may even have segments cut out.
Phantom sells reconditioned binding setups—which is sweet.
Regardless of the binding setup thatyou choose, consider carryingspare parts for your setup. For instance, Spark R&D sells aBackcountry Kitwith extra emergency hardware.
Overall, there’s a big price range, which mostly reflects the materials: $270-$850.
Byron Bagwell demonstrates fitting skins to a splitboard inSplitboarding 101: Pucks, bindings, skins.Film by Dylan Hart.
First off, splitboard skins are wider than those designed for skis—make sure you get the kind made for boards. For most skins, you’ll select one that’s within the range of your board length (example: 153cm to 169cm) and choose between a synthetic (nylon) or mohair mix. The skins are kept in place via glue on the bottom and tail clips. Skins need to be taken care of properly so that the glue isn’t damaged or doesn’t dry out.
When you get your skins, you’ll trim them to match the width of your board. Typically the package includes a cutter, like this G3 Skin Trim Tool ($6). Have fun fitting your skins! Just don’t mess up.
Splitboarding 101: Pucks, bindings, skins with Byron Bagwell. Film by Dylan Hart.
Many backcountry riders wear their regular snowboard boot for splitboarding, too. Overall, your choice backcountry boot should match your preference on the stiffness-to-softness scale, just as that component would be considered for resort snowboard boots or even hiking and running footwear.
Today, only a handful of brands are innovating backcountry specific snowboard boots. Features such as a waterproof-stretch Cordura gaiter, which protects the laces and helps to prevent any freezing action (on the ThirtyTwo Jones MTB Snowboard Boot, for men) and a semi-crampon Vibram sole (Fitwell Backcountry boot andK2 Aspect--each also men'sversions) can be extremely helpful in the backcountry, especially during icy, cold conditions and on longer or higher elevation tours. Consider your long-term goals and the type of backcountry objectives you want to pursue: the investment of a backcountry-centric or mountaineering-focusedpair may be worth the investment.
Note: Another option is plastic-shelled alpine-touring ski boots, which could be a good choiceif you intend to get into splitboard mountaineering. Though, they arenot a requisite and not all mountaineering splitboarders wear hard shells on their feet.
A few comparisons include that the profile is narrower than on a regular, soft snowboard boot. Thewaterproof shell doesn't soak up moisture on long tours and protects the feet when kicking into a firm slope, which is made easier by the harder material.However, with the development of more technical snowboard boots that are mountaineering and backcountry focused, it seems that a snowboard boot could meet those needs, too. Again, it all comes down to personal preference and the type of terrain you intend to ride.
*If you choose plastic boots, you'll need to get plate bindings instead of strap bindings, like theSpark R&D Dyno DH.
Splitboard poles are clutch; make sure they’re collapsible. The more compact the poles, the better, so that you can more seamlessly strap the poles to the outside of your pack or fit them inside your pack.
8. Avalanche Safety
An avalanche-safety kit is mandatory in the backcountry. The trio includes a beacon a.k.a. transceiver, shovel, and probe. When you take you’re AIARE Level I course (before you go into the backcountry) you’ll be able to practice how to effectively and efficiently use your avy equipment.
An Avy I class also dives into how to navigate and read the terrain and snow, so that you can make informed, safer decisions in the backcountry—and hopefully never need to use your probe or beacon.
Splitboarding for beginners. Film by Bergfex.
9. First Aid
Carry a first aid kit—and know how to use it. A Wilderness First Responder course is a good place to start. Include an emergency blanket or extra parka.
Your group realizes they need to ski option B—a longer return route—home. Or decides to do a sunset ascent. Or, a tail clip breaks on your skins and you don’t have an extra strap: a million ‘what-ifs’ could happen. Have a headlamp just in case. Pack extra batteries.
Have a laminated map and compass on hand. Know how to use it. You could download the GPS on your phone—but there’s also a chance the battery could die or a software update interrupts use or the phone breaks. Carry an extra energy source for a recharge, just in case.
Helpful andintuitive tips for new splitboarders. Film by Bergfex.
12. Emergency Shelter
Carry a nylon tarp. Knowing how to build a snow cave can also come in handy. This can also aid in arescue scenario.
If there is an injury or an avalanche, you’ll need to stay warm while you’re stationary for, possibly, a long time. Plus, snack break at the top of the track could get chilly. Pack extra layers including a puffy and extra gloves or mittens in case your current pair get wet. Hand warmers are a nice bonus.
14. Extra Lens
It’s never a bad idea to have an extra lens or goggle.
15. Fire Starter
Carry a fire starter and a lighter, igniter or stormproof matches.
If your bindings or hardware get loose you’ll be glad you have a multi-tool to tighten the components back up! The second helpfulapplication of a multi-tool is that you can use it to knock any ice off of your bindings when you transition from split to ride mode.
Byron Bagwell demonstrates how to set upsplitboard bindingsin Splitboarding 101: Pucks, bindings, skins. Film by Dylan Hart.
17. Ski Strap
If you have skin failure, you can use the extra strap to harness the skin to the board.
Pack 2-3 extra.
18. Backcountry Snowboard Pack
A pack with legitimate backcountry features means you’ll be able to reach your gear that much easier and faster. Choose a pack with straps for carrying a snowboard. Other elements on the checklist include a dedicated tool pocket—for the shovel, probe and skins—a fleece-lined goggle pocket, storable helmet carry, insulated hydration sleeve, and a hip belt.
Consider getting a pack with an airbag, too, and know how to use it. Practice grabbing and—if possible—pulling the handle, before you head into the backcountry, so that your muscle memory knows where to snag.
19. Field Notes
Carry a small notebook and pen with the day’s avalanche conditions, weather, and route details written down. Take notes regarding the terrain, snowpack and your timing, throughout the day.
20. Two-way Radio
Communication is key. Chances are you’ll lose cell reception or your phone will die right when you need it most—don’t depend on one in the backcountry.
21.Food and Water
Pack enough calories and hydration for the duration of your trip. Then pack extra snacks to share! Everyone likes snacks.
Check out what Professional Snowboarder Forrest Shearer Carries in His Backcountry Pack.