Splitboarding is a new offshoot of snowboarding, which is a relatively new sport. Although it’s history harkens back to the nineties, it hasn’t been until the last 6 or so years that it has really taken off. The rise of splitboarding is partly due to a advancements in tech and partly due to high profile snowboarders who have chosen it as a primary means to access the backcountry. Here’s a look at where it started and where it is now.
In 1994 Voile released the first DIY splitboard kit officially marking the beginning of the splitboard revolution within the larger snowboard industry. Just a few years earlier in 1991 the first splitboard proto-type was being cobbled together in a basement in Provo, Utah by a USFS avalanche forecaster, Brett “Cowboy” Kobernik. Kobernik had some time on his hands after a snowboard injury sustained at the resort where he worked. Going on an idea his friend gave him, he decided to cut his board in half and figure out how piece it back together using an assortment of brackets and strips of rubber he found at the local hardware store.
Kobernik managed to pull it off and immediately started touring up backcountry ascents like a skier and then riding freshly cut lines all the way back down like a snowboarder. Soon afterwards Kobernik was introduced to Mark “Wally” Wariakos, the owner of Voile, a local manufacturer of backcountry ski and telemark equipment. Wariakos let Kobernik use his workshop to improve the design of the splitboard and later took on the project that would eventually make the first commercially available splitboard products.
Sixteen years later big mountain rider Jeremy Jones came out with a movie that had a big impact on the snowboard industry. The movie was “Deeper” and it focused on Jones’ adventures in the backcountry like many of his previous video parts. What was different about “Deeper” was that Jones wasn’t hopping out of helicopters onto mountain peaks, or travelling on snowmobiles into remote areas. He was getting out in the backcountry of Tahoe using his splitboard. He was getting to the top of his lines in enormous and remote mountain ranges all over the world- using a splitboard! No major shred flick had ever embraced the DIY approach to snowboarding in this way before. Since then he has made two more movies, Further and Higher, both focusing on what can be accomplished with just a splitboard and your imagination.
Changes in Splitboard Tech
Voile DIY Kit
There have been a lot of advances in splitboard technology since 1994. When Voile first came out with the DIY splitboard kit customers had to cut their board(s) in half and drill out the insert patterns where the pucks, clips, touring brackets and climbing wires would mount. The DIY kit is still available, and customers, if they so choose, can still build a split themselves using the board of their choice. But I assure you that this is not an endeavor for folks who get stressed out easily- one mistake and your board is toast.
In 2005, Spark R & D, a small outfit from Bozeman, MT led by Will Ritter began making bindings specifically designed for use on a splitboard. Before Spark, splitboarders had to mount their bindings on adapter plates. This situated the rider a couple of inches off the top of their board making the riding experience feel a bit awkward. The new bindings slid right over the pucks putting riders right on the top of the board where they could get the most feel from the snow and a lot better response. Quicker turning capability meant riders could negotiate more technical terrain, go faster, and have more fun!
Since then another company Karakoram, has started making splitboard bindings that work with their own proprietary interface. Karakoram also came up with latching board clips that give you a very solid-feeling ride. In addition, Voile has a splitboard binding called the Light Rail, and as the name suggests, it is a lightweight alternative to using your regular bindings with the adapter plates.
All splitboard bindings used to attach to your board using a pin and cable system that would hold the binding in place in ride mode and act as the pivot mechanism while touring. But today we have Karakoram’s system, which uses levers on the binding and board. And we have Spark’s Tesla system, which simply snaps shut and locks the binding into place. Both of these systems save the rider time when transitioning and are a lot easier to use.
All Shapes and Profiles
Today splitboards aren’t just camber versions of your regular all-mountain board cut in half and sporting an interface. Splitboards have now found their way into every major brand on the market and reflect each brand’s ways of doing things. You can find splitboards that have rocker profiles, hybrid profiles, twin shapes, tapered shapes and even fish tail shapes. There are brands like Jones and Venture who specialize in creating splitboards that perform outstandingly in backcountry. There are also boards made by some of the big name brands that will do for the recreationalist/hobbyist.
If there were ever a time to enter the splitboard market, now would be it. With the advancements in better boards, bindings, interfaces and accessories, it’s no wonder more people are skipping crowded ski areas and heading to find their own lines on their own terms. Splitboarding will not only change how you think about snowboarding, it will also change your body- into a much stronger one. While we will never go back to the days when ski areas were off limits to us, it is good to know that we can access the backcountry as well, with nothing more than our own two feet thanks to the great advancements in splitboard technology.
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