Time to be honest. The best powder turn is done on a snowboard. Don’t go throwing your ski pole at me. I’m not even a snowboarder, but game recognize game. I won’t get into the whole history of it—there are plenty of great movies that illustrate the point quite well—but today’s skiing culture is deeply indebted to snowboarding. The only Achilles heel was getting to the top of mountains outside of the resort. Getting a snowboard to the top used to require snowshoes, legs of steel and a will to match. But not anymore. The age of splitboard is here.
Don’t be mistaken, splitboarding has been around for a few decades now. Brett “Kowboy” Kobernik—yes, the one from the Utah Avalanche Center—made a DIY splitboard in the early 90s using a sawed in half snowboard along with some bits and bobs from the hardware store. He brought it to local Salt Lake City backcountry ski and binding manufacturer, Voile, which started making DIY kits and ultimately full-fledged factory setups. It took a few years to gain wider acceptance but the groundwork was laid.
Today, we’re living in the splitboard boom and there are as many types of splitboard setups as there are splitboarders roaming the hills. I’m talking superlight carbon boards paired with featherweight hardboots and pin bindings to progressively shaped swallowtail freeride splitboards paired with soft boots and highbacks and everything in between. A company like Rossignol sells multiple shapes to suit your taste along with pre-cut skins to ensure a seamless fit.
The gear is every bit as advanced as the alpine touring gear out there, and arguably far more advanced than the telemark gear many—myself included—still tote around the backcountry on the regular. If you’re a snowboarder looking to explore beyond the resort boundaries, it’s never been a better time to get started. If you’re a former resort snowboarder who sold your soul to the lightweight promises of AT gear, maybe it’s time to give it another try.
Sure, the transitions take a smidgen longer because you do have to put the board back together. But guess what? So do mine! I like to chat and have a snack with a view once I’ve reached a hard-earned summit, so what’re an extra 45 seconds getting a splitboard board dialed? Not to mention, I’ve been put to shame by no shortage of splitboarders both uphill and downhill, including this past winter by a French-Canadian guy named Seb in the Purcell Mountains who somehow left me in the dust kicking steps into a bulletproof 50-plus degree couloir while wearing soft boots. He also made like eight turns on the descent where I made about 60. It’s the archer not the bow.
If my story isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps you should check out the exploits of Jeremy Jones, Xavier De Le Rue and Jordan Chamberlin, who have been absolutely annihilating legendary mountains around the world under their own power on splitboards for years. If you could do what they're doing on your skis, you wouldn’t be reading a splitboarding article by someone who spends the majority of his time as a profoundly mediocre telemark skier.
I’d say snowboarding is back, but it never really left, and it’s always been the best powder turn. I’d say splitboarding is the new thing, but it’s been around for years with plenty of accomplished acolytes slaying steep lines and powder. That said, there’s never been more opportunity to get started splitboarding where the powder is deep and the moguls are just a distant memory. Strap in, and give it a try.
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