After returning from the recent SIA Snowsports Trade Show in Denver the term that comes to mind the most is "splitboarding is blowing up". Never before has our category attracted so much buzz and attention within the industry. It's seems as if almost all the major brands are making splitboards or some sort of product designed for us. As a long time splitter and advocate of the sport it's pretty amazing to see . I can remember a time when we had just a few brands and models to choose from...now women's splitboards make up a larger amount of choices than we had as a whole just a few short years ago. Some of our forum members have even gone as far to say that splitting is a fad and while that may be partially true, we thinking hiking and riding powder with your friends will never go out of style...it just took mainstream snowboarding a while to figure it out. This trip was my first real foray into covering the show from a journalistic point of view so needless to say there's a number of things I missed and will do better next year. Enjoy and let us know what you think in this thread.
The Spark R&D line up. The Blaze and Burner baseplates went on a diet to reduce weight. They both come in at the waist of the binding and the Blaze has additional material removed. The Burner baseplate stayed solid to keep the binding as stiff as possible. Both bindings have redesigned toe strap connectors that lock into place and no longer require extra hardwear. The heelcup connection points have been widened to add rigidity. Spark will also be doing their own skins and poles for next year as well. Check the sb.com homepage or Spark forum for recent videos.
Top - Blaze colorways, middle are the Burners, bottom left is the murdered out Burner in all black (my fav) and close up of the Blaze baseplate in the bottom right
Here's new Spark Edison binding and interface! (note - this is a working sample going through testing, not a production sample) So far the system looks impressive. The pins are fixed in place on the touring brackets and the baseplate has a lever to release the binding. Transition times should be improved and we look forward to testing this system later in the spring. The system also uses new overlapping metal connectors that will attach to a standard four hole pattern allowing for use on solid boards and DIY splitboards without the need to t-bolt.
DeeLux Spark XV boot. Similar to the Spark boot but now includes a rear heel welt to accept a semi-auto crampon. Unfortunately there's no additional protection for the toe-box (same as the Spark) which seems like it would make sense for a boot of this caliber. The fit improved in the liner and the powerstrap is non-removable (same as the Spark).
Icelantic will be offering a split again next year called the Gemini. The board is produced by Never Summer and similar to their SL model. Boards come with Voile tip/tail/hook hardware.
Lib will be making the Travis Rice split again this year with the Karakoram hardware. They're also getting into surfboards. Gnu will continue to offer the Billy Goat split and add a women's split to the line.
Rome adds two new splitboards for 2013 with the Special Agent split based on their Agent solid (almost twin) and the PowderRoom for the ladies based on the WhiteRoom split. Boards come with Voile tip/tail/hook hardware.
Arbor is stoked to offer a splitboard next year after many requests from their riders and customers. The Abacus split is a directional twin with bamboo sidewalls and a reclined parabolic rocker shape. Boards come with Karakoram tip/tail/hook hardware. Look for a splitboard.com review soon!
The patent on the beloved Black Diamond FlickLock is up so you'll see lots of other pole systems producing their own versions of the mechanisms next year. As such, BD has improved and revamped their design. It's now primarily made of metal making the already bomber design even more durable and less likely to loosen. The Compactor pole was cool to see in person and while it does collapse small enough to fit in your pack, they do not provide much in the way of adjustment range, specifically on the shorter side. Good for standard tours but if your skintrack ends with a steep bootpack you'll wish you had your shorter 3-section Expedition poles. A good excuse to have a BD pole quiver I reckon.
Pete at Unity has been making splitboards for a number of years and was great to meet in person. Unity will be offering their Dominion splitboard again next year (the split I rode all last year and loved) as well as their Whale splitboard which features a powder-specific shape. Boards come with Voile tip/tail/hook hardware. Special thanks to http://www.shayboarder.com for the pic!
Burton's history in splitboarding is long and deep going back 10+ years. In the early 2000's, largely in part at the request of the late Craig Kelly, Burton introduced their own interface and splitboard line. At the time there was literally only a couple other companies (Voile, Duotone) selling splitboards and while Burton's interface had it's woes, their interest and innovation in the sport was huge. Burton's interest in splitboarding has swayed a little over the years since then but I commend them for keeping at least one splitboard model in their line over the years. For 2013 it appears the candle has been lit again with the introduction of two new splitboard models to compliment their Freebird splitboard. Burton will offer a women's splitboard called the AntiSocial based on their women's Social board. They'll also be making a split version of their popular Nug shape called the Spliff. Boards come with Voile tip/tail/hook hardware.
Top - Spliff, AntiSocial, Freebird, Bottom - The Family Tree, the boards in the line that are more about snowboarding and less about making money
Jeff from Burton also showed me the new Riglet system. My current home mountain Sierra at Tahoe is one of the only resorts to offer this program and the special park. The boards are super soft underfoot, bindings are easy to get in to, and the board features a towing string making it easy for the littlest of shredders to get started. Now your little one can start riding as early as 2 or 3 instead of 4-5. Look for more on this from us soon.
Jones is committed to the splitboard program again this year and adds a new Carbon Solution split that is stiffer and damper than the standard Solution and for the ladies they now offer the women's Solution. Boards come with Karakoram tip/tail/hook hardware. Jones will also be offering a basic pack this year and continue to work with Karakoram on bindings.
Left to right - New jones pack, the boards, Jeremy speaking to the crowd at the Backcountry Experience
Bottom - Carbon Solution, Hovercraft split, men's Solution, women's Solution, Mountain Twin split
Boardkor is a company doing some amazing work with natural wood inlays. They may offer splitboard someday too.
The Karakoram brothers were great to finally meet. They've been working hard to meet the demand for their bindings but have still found time to make improvements for next year. Across the line the straps and ratchets will improve for next year. The Split30 will get an improved highback as well. The boys also showed off their new concept binding they're working on called the Prime. The heelcup is removed and the binding features carbon inlays in the undercarriage to make it as light as possible. Also shown was their new heel lock system!
Top - Split30 and Split30SLs, Bottom - the undercarriage of the new Prime and the Prime on the Carbon Solution
The sleeper find of the show was the new Flow boot called the Talon. The boot features a waterproof lining, Vibram sole, BOA, and super clean design. Its very lightweight as well. Its designed as a freeride boot and I think it will be a great option for splitters that don't need a boot quite as aggressive and stiff as the Deelux Spark and Spark XV. Look for a review soon.
After making build-to-order splitboards since the early 2000's Never Summer continues to offer splitboards in their normal line for the second year in a row. They make the Summit split for big mountain/freeride and the SL split as the playful, do anything charger. Both boards have the snow shedding Carbonium topsheets and come with the Voile tip/tail/hooks. Never Summer owners are fanatic about the product and we look forward to sharing our opinion soon.
Our friends at Venture are making five splitboards next year with the Odin, Storm, Zephyr, Helix, and Euphoria. The Odin and Storm get some slight changes to the nose making them less pointy. The Euphoria split was a head turner at the show with its unique, old school surfboard-like shape. Mounted with the Almond Mfg pads it looked to be a sweet noboard. Boards come with Voile tip/tail/hook hardware.
Voile stepped up their game this year in the board department thanks to the new partnership with Sentury Snowboards founder Ben Harmon. Ben brings his experience in the way of everything from making cores, board design, manufacturing, graphics, and more. Gone is the cap construction and back is the sidewall. The new Artisan split comes in a mens and womens and features a directional twin shape. Voile will also offer a true twin next year and both designs feature a combination of rocker and camber. Dual climbing bars are now the standard. The Lightrail binding stays in the line and sees more canting options for negative lean while skinning. Laser etched hardware is also added for 2013.
Our friend Cory Smith at Mountain Approach made some improvements to his unique approach ski design. The design features improved hinges to accommodate larger riders and the pack has been improved as well. For most or our readers these wont replace your splitty but if you're going to use approach skis for noboarding or powsurfing, these are the way to go due to the way they collapse down and store in the pack.
Dakine is making an ABS pack next year that has an interesting zip off back panel. The panel can be swapped based on whether you're using the ABS system that day or not.
Other random info:
K2 will be offering their Panoramic splitboard again
Donek will be offering custom, build to order splits
Patagonia, Scott, The North Face all have some really nice outerwear planned for next year
BCA packs are looking great
Roxy (yes Roxy) is making a ladies splitboard
G3 is stoked to make skins for splitters
Frequency Mag has a new Tablet Edition coming out soon
....more as I remember it...
All in all it was a great show and I learned a lot. Next year I'll cover even more stuff and try to recruit an assistant to help get some stuff online in near real time. I've got a few more things from this year I'll share soon too.
Thanks for reading!