In the last three years Splitboarding has become a hit with snowboarders tired of dodging the crowds; missing freshies after a dump because of work or family commitments and bored of riding the same terrain year after year. With Jeremy Jones’ documented splitboard adventures to exotic locations like Svalbrad and Antarctica in TGR’s movies Futher and Deeper, the growth in the number of people getting on a split each year has been phenominal. In February this year I was able to jump on the bandwagon and give my home-made Voile Split Decision splitboard a whirl.
Last summer I embarked on the challenge of building a spitboard. The very kind folks at Voile generously hooked me up with a “Split Decision Kit” and some of their touring skins, I sourced an old Option Freeplus 174 for cheap from a reader on the site (many thanks Dave) and then hit the local hardware shop and my Dad’s garage to find the tools and materials I needed to complete the build. Even including the few mistakes during the build and the lack of a belt sander (source a belt sander and save yourself days!), the build itself was fairly painless and actually pretty rewarding. A nice father and son project that even a son in his late 20s and father in his late 50s enjoyed. If you’d like to read the full article and watch the video about the splitboard build check out Voile Split Decision Review – The Build.
Although I had initially planned to ride my new split throughout the season, a change in circumstances meant that during the autumn I turned from local to weekend warrior and wasn’t able to get on the finished product for a ride until February. Dan from Ski-Review.com was doing a similar touring equipment article so we decided to meet mid-way between my new home in Bavaria, Germany and his humble abode on the banks of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Fortunately for both of us the midway point happened to be the powder mecca of Montafon in Austria’s Arlberg region, famous for its ridiculous snowfall and steep alpine terrain. Dan and I booked a guided weekend with Lineupexplorers because after a fairly exhaustive internet search it was the only company offering a package with lodging and guided touring. We’d also been seduced by the idea that ex-FWT big-mountain hero and Montafon local Eric Themel would be guiding us, unfortunately other commitments meant that Eric was unable to show us his backyard and instead we were taken-out by David, a great replacement. All we had to do was get ourselves to the Freeride Lodge, hidden on the flanks of Montafon’s main mountain range and get-up early to enjoy freshies.
The first day on the hill was spent familiarising ourselves with our new equipment. Although fresh snow wasn’t piled high in epic depths, recent snow flurries had delivered a good 8 inches of snow which had been moved around nicely by the wind to provide areas prime for rooster tails and ninja vanish clouds. An extremely generous base layer meant that what was visible was pretty-much ride able and a warmer period before our arrival had settled the snowpack so the Avalanche risk was low.
Little ventures into the sidecountry and blasting down the groomers allowed me to suss-out my new (or old depending on how you look at it) splitboard. What struck me first was how close to snowboarding on a normal board it was. If you’re expecting something completely different to snowboarding on a normal board then you will be pleasantly surprised. The two halves of the board were held together tightly by the various clips although there was a little play in the Slider Track a sideffect of a 4-5mm gap between the puck and the slider pin, it wasn’t noticeable in the powder but carving down groomers it could be felt. I also noticed that on firmer conditions the torsional stiffness of the board was significantly reduced by sawing it in half (no surprise there), so anchoring-in big heel-side stops and slashes I could feel the board twisting, sacrificing grip… fortunately, riding a 174 I had a little grip spare to sacrifice. The additional weight from the Slider Tracks when riding was also noticeable but would be easily resolved by upgrading to a pair of Spark RnD or Voile Light Rail bindings.
Day two came-around quickly. The cold temperatures had kept the 6 inch dusting of snow in great condition, but we’d already poached the good lines visible from the lift so it was time to skin-up and find some new terrain to ride a little further afield. The second day consisted of taking lines off the back of the mountain into areas that would usually involve 3-4 hour hikes to exit, touring we were able to cut this down to a quarter of the time. Touring isn’t a miracle solution, but we were able to travel at normal walking pace; it was also considerably less labour intensive than boot-packing though knee deep snow. One of my initial concerns was that my touring set-up dues to it’s length and weight would be really hard work to tour with , but for the hour to two hour long tours we were taking it was fine. My advice would be to leave the Down Jacket at home and pack layers with plenty of venting. The temperatures in Montafon were sub -20 degrees Celsius but after 20 minutes of touring I’d stripped down to a t-shirt.
Over the coming seasons I’m really looking forward to going on some more touring trips. It’s certainly not the most accessible snowboarding, even an own-build is a significant financial investment and you need other friends or enthusiasts to tour with. And then there’s the time; a five minute ride will take you a good hour of touring so you need to be physically fit and be prepared to spend a whole day touring to access a handful of lines. However, the rewards for your hard work are the ability to access new terrain off the beaten track; lines you scope from a lift or your car that just aren’t accessible by hiking. In the February holidays when the lift lines snake around resorts and any snow that falls is tracked-out before I’ve finished my complimentary continental breakfast, I’ll be making the most of my split to access the good stuff! Touring is fun and Voile’s Split Decision Kit is a great way of accessing the world of splitboarding without breaking the bank. I was impressed with kit and I’d certainly recommend it to anybody like me who is a touring virgin.
Posted by Rich Ewbank in Features.Next entry: The Endeavor Archetype Lab Previous entry: Venture Euphoria Wins Backcountry Mag Award
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