SPLITBOARDS: TOURING WITH A SNOWBOARD
If you love to snowboard in deep snow, but you can’t stand riding on crowded slopes and queuing at the lifts, splitboarding is what you need. A splitboard is a snowboard which is vertically cut in two halves that can be used as touring skis to hike up the mountains. When it’s time to ride down, you just have to attach the two “skis” together and enjoy your well-deserved turns in the untouched backcountry. But remember to stay safe out there!
- Which is the right splitboard for me?
- Interface systems and bindings for your splitboard
- The Voilé Puck system
- Karakoram: Board feel and efficiency
- Plum: The newest system on the market
- Touring equipment: climbing gear, telescopic poles and safety essentials
1. WHICH IS THE RIGHT SPLITBOARD FOR ME?
When choosing a new splitboard, you have to consider the same factors as when selecting a standard snowboard. Your height, weight, riding style level and the terrain which you like to ride all will help determine the right splitboard for you. Brands like Jones, Arbor, K2 and Burton offer top-quality boards with different shapes and profiles.
Women don’t have to buy a down-sized version of a man’s board. Most manufacturers now offer splitboards adapted to women: these boards are shorter, narrower and with specific flex patterns, perfect for shorter and lighter riders.
1.1 Freeride and Powder: maximum float and performance in soft snow
Wider boards with rocker or hybrid profile, elongated, high volume nose and tapered tail will offer you the most float, no matter how deep the powder is. The perfect choice for riding fresh, untouched snow in the backcountry. If you want more steep alpine terrain performance, longer, straighter and stiffer freeride shapes will work perfectly.
1.2 Freestyle: twin riding feeling
You can perform tricks even in powder, but you´ll need a twin-shaped board that will ride well in both directions – forward and switch. When you´re riding powder, your freestyle board should be a bit longer and wider for more float.
1. 3 Do-It-Yourself Splitboards
If you think of yourself as a bit of a handyman, you can transform your favourite snowboard into a splitboard. Voilé and Karakoram have special DIY sets for this process. You can convert almost every snowboard into a splitboard, so you can choose the profile, shape and flex – but don’t forget that flex and torsional rigidity will change when you cut the board in half! Pay attention to
2. INTERFACE SYSTEMS AND BINDINGS FOR YOUR SPLITBOARD
The interface is what makes it possible to connect the bindings to the splitboard and to change from touring to riding mode. There are two major interface systems on the market right now: the Voilé Puck System and the Karakoram System, you can use either system on any splitboard.
3. THE VOILÉ PUCK SYSTEM
The Voilé Puck System is the most commonly used system in the splitboard market. It consists of four plastic discs that you mount on the inserts of your splitboard; for riding, you slide the bindings over the pucks and fasten them with a pin. When you’re in touring mode, the same pin works as a pivot point that allows you to lift your heel and hike up. The Voilé system is older than other systems on the market, but not inferior: newer systems, like the Karakoram, use the same insert pattern as Voilé. Most splitboards come with the matching Voilé Kit. You can connect every standard snowboard binding to your splitboard with the Voilé Slider Track, a specific aluminium baseplate that attaches to your bindings with screws.
3.1 Spark R&D: the evolution of Voilé
Spark R&D aims at reducing the weight and height of the Voilé system. These bindings don’t need the Voilé Slider Track to connect to your splitboard, and this guarantees better board feeling and control. Another great feature of the Spark splitboard bindings is the possibility to mount the crampons while hiking, which is not possible with the Voilé Slider Track.
3.2 Voilé Light Rail Bindings
Voilé’s response to the Spark R&D bindings is called Light Rail: a splitboard binding that is lighter and lower than the standard soft bindings. Just like the Spark’s, it integrates the Slider Track into its baseplate.
3.3 SP UNITED SPLITBOARD BINDINGS
SP United offers several splitboard bindings that work with the Voilé system. They have light aluminium baseplates combined with the comfort of the rear-entry Fastec system. Like the Voilé Light Rail and the Spark’s, the SP splitboard bindings have the slider track already integrated into their baseplate – so there is no need for extra hardware. Furthermore, you can tune the highback and mount the crampons during the hiking, without having to take the boot out of the binding.
3.4 Kwicker: the step-in binding system from K2
Step-in bindings are back. K2 has developed a new splitboard binding based on the Voilé system, but with less moving parts than traditional systems. Thanks to its aluminium chassis and its step-in design, the K2 Kwicker is light, fast and easy to use. This system is only compatible with K2 Kwicker boots.
4. KARAKORAM: Board feel and efficiency
The Karakoram system consists of a locking mechanism integrated into the Karakoram bindings that work with a low-profile interface attached to the board. With this system, you don’t need the Voilé pucks – this means less material between your board and bindings and a better feeling during the ride. Attaching the bindings to the board also pulls the two halves of the splitboard together, improving its stability and riding. The transition from touring mode to riding mode is easy and fast, thanks to a quick release lever; if the conditions are right, you don’t even have to step out of the binding when changing mode. Just remember: you can only use Karakoram bindings with their system; you can combine the clips with Voilé, but Voilé clips don’t work with the Karakoram system.
5. PLUM: THE NEWEST SYSTEM ON THE MARKET
The French manufacturer Plum is the youngest player on the splitboard market, with its own system and matching bindings. Just like Karakoram’s, you can only use the Plum system with the brand’s matching bindings. The interface system is light and simple to mount, but also very solid and it tightens the two halves of the board. The Plum bindings are light as well, thanks to their aluminium baseplate, and the transition from touring to riding mode is very fast and simple – you just need to open and lock a lever on the external part of the binding.
6.TOURING EQUIPMENT: CLIMBING GEAR, TELESCOPIC POLES AND SAFETY ESSENTIALS
Board and bindings are not the only important things you need for your next touring trip. You should pay particular attentions also to skins which make the ascent possible providing traction on the way up, and telescopic poles. The more elements the pole has, the less space it needs in your touring backpack during the descent. When buying skins, you should consider the length of your splitboard, their material composition (nylon offers the best grip, mohair gives a better glide) and the hardware on tip and tail. If you plan to go splitboarding in challenging conditions, you should also consider buying crampons – they give much-needed grip when it gets steep or icy. In addition to this climbing tools, proper safety equipment is a must: snowboard helmet, avalanche backpack, avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe are necessary and potentially life-saving essentials. Safety first!