What is a splitboard?
A splitboard is regular snowboard that splits a part into two halves that become skis. This allows a backcountry snowboarder to ascend the mountain in the same manner as a backcountry skier...with skis on their feet not on their back. Climbing skins are used for traction and the same trail or “skintrack” can be used by both backcountry skiers and splitboarders. Once on the top, the user puts the two halves together and it quickly transforms into a snowboard again for the descent!
What are the advantages to a splitboard?
The main benefits of a splitboard are the added floatation it provides in powder snow while climbing, the ability to glide, and you no longer have to carry the weight of the snowboard on your back. You can even use the same skintrack as a skier which means less energy is spent than breaking your own trail on snowshoes. You’ll also be faster and able to cover more ground on a splitboard. The possibilities are now only limited by your imagination…and endurance, not your snowshoes.
How do you know if a splitboard is right for you?
If you like ripping the powder at your local resort after a big storm but don’t like standing in lift lines or riding tracked out snow by noon, a splitboard is for you. If you enjoy the solitude of the backcountry and don’t mind a little exercise to get to it, a splitboard is for you. If you like the sense of adventure and accomplishment in climbing a mountain on your own will…just to ride down it, a splitboard is for you. If you can’t afford or don’t use a snowmobile…you guessed it…a splitboard is for you.
What type of skill level do you need?
If you can ride a solid snowboard…you can ride a splitboard.
How much backcountry experience do you need?
You need to have some basic backcountry skills before embarking out on your splitboard adventures. If you don’t, you should take an avalanche and winter skills course in your area to get these very important skills needed to keep you and your partners safe. Many guiding services and backcountry organizations offer them. By attending these courses you’ll learn the basic “do-s and don’ts” of backcountry travel and snowpack analysis. They also serve as a great place to meet fellow riders and skiers interested in the benefits of the backcountry.
You should also start off with small tours to well known “safe areas” if you are new to backcountry riding. Snow parks and logging roads can serve as good places to hone some of the skills you’ll need like snow evaluation, route finding, and skinning. The point is to get some basic skills down before heading out to bag the big line. Pick a fair weather day as well over full-on whiteout conditions. The backcountry is beautiful yet dangerous place and should be respected. There isn’t any ski-patrol to rescue you out there so the buddy-system is mandatory. Stay close to your partner and never lose sight with each other. There are many books on winter travel available and even a few specific to backcountry snowboarding. There is also a lot of info out there so don’t be a dummy…do your homework and now your limits.
What type of gear will you need?
You’ll need the basic backcountry equipment like an avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, and most importantly…the knowledge to use them. You will also need a set of collapsible poles and a good backpack. Inside the pack should be items like your avalanche gear, water & food, a first-aid kit, map & compass, and an extra layer of clothing just to name a few. The splitboard itself will come with climbing skins and possibly crampons depending on the maker.
How do I convert the splitboard between modes?
Converting the splitboard into ski mode is very quick and easy after a little practice. The basic process usually goes something like this. The tip and tail hooks are unlatched first and the board is separated into skis. Then the bindings are moved from ride mode to ski mode. Next comes applying the skins to the base of the board and you’re ready to start skinning. Putting the board back together for the descent is essentially the same process only in reverse. Snow conditions can play a factor in the transition time but as with anything…practice makes perfect. Clean the snow and ice off your board before assembling and the board will fit together easier. The few moments you spend with the transition is nothing considering the time you saved skinning over using snowshoes or booting. Once you’ve practiced the transition and gotten it dialed, it should only take you 1-2 minutes, even in cold weather and with gloves on.
How do I “skin” up the mountain?
Skinning on a splitboard is an art form in itself. If you’ve never downhill or cross-country skied plan on feeling like a dork for the first few outings. It’s much different than using snowshoes or boot packing and requires more technique. Instead of lifting each foot out of the snow with every short little step you take, you can make nice long strides and glide on the snow saving valuable energy. See our Approach page for more specifics on the art of skinning but for now the main points to remember are: stand upright and look ahead (don’t hunch over and look down), push the ski forward with your heel not your toes, weight the ski firmly in the snow before taking your next stride, keep your approach poles close to your body not spread out, use the splitboard crampons if you’re slipping, drink lots of water, and when all else fails…curse quietly to yourself. You’ll be up the mountain in no time.
How does a splitboard perform in ride mode?
In the early days, the descent performance of the splitboard was suspect, but with the splitboard technology the manufactures use today the boards are more high performance than ever. Gone are the rumors of a sloppy ride and questionable flex patterns. The splitboards of today are improved and the ride feels just like a solid board, even in firm snow conditions. They can handle anything you throw at them from deep powder to the most heinous conditions. See our Photo Gallery for splitboards in action.
Where can I find splitboards to purchase?
If you’d like to purchase a splitboard in person there are many shops around the US (and world for that matter) that sell splitboards. You can also buy them online from our Splitboard Shop where we have affiliate links to the best online retailers on the web.