You wake up at dawn, hit the head, down a banana and slam a cup of joe. Grab your almost-dry boots and skins, and fire up the truck. At the trailhead, the number of vehicles in the lot is unsettling. Like it or not, backcountry usage numbers are rising, forcing users to search further for the untracked. But we're embracing the movement between lift chairs and skin tracks. It's inevitable. And as long as we're all making safe decisions, more healthy and happy souls finding freshies wherever their dreams–and legs–can carry them, the better.
Last spring we spent a week testing splitboarding gear in the rugged backcountry surrounding Crested Butte, Colorado. Boards, bindings, boots, beacons, and all the other important stuff you'd carry for a big day in the mountains. We also used the lifts at Crested Butte Mountain Resort to expedite testing, since relying solely on our legs to put all this gear through the proper paces would have taken far longer than a week. Then, in an effort to help readers make smart buys before heading to the hills, we chose the gear that performed best. Here it is.
To read the full review of each product below, click the images or title links.
Rossignol XV MagTek $700.00
"It dug deep into carves and flowed from one move to the next," one tester reported. Another, who also took it for a few resort laps, said it "slayed steep hardpack and grooved through moguls."
Venture Storm $899.00
"Lots of sharks in the water today, but she came out unscathed," one tester noted. Another called it a great choice for times that require exceptional float, turnability, and shock absorption.
Lib Tech T. Rice Gold Member $970.00
With rocker and most of the flex between the feet, plus some rigidity under the inserts where the camber is, it was called "a good balance of power and play."
Weston Range $899.00
With great response throughout, it turned quickly and satisfied the most aggressive freeriders and dynamic freestylers. This is the splitboard we saw the most backflips on last season.
Smokin KT-22 $900.00
The KT22 boasts a powerful twin shape that absorbs impacts well and transitions smoothly from edge to edge to offer "fast action between rocks and trees," as one tester put it.
Never Summer Aura Women's $849.00
One of our veteran testers called the Aura split "easy to control" and "a very enjoyable ride," complimenting both the responsive and playful aspects of Never Summer's only women's split.
ThirtyTwo J Jones MTB $600.00
Testers reported that with the walk mode open, which gives users a range of motion increase of up to 35 percent, it almost felt like they could have run up mountains…
K2 Aspect $480.00
With help from Lucas Debari, it was designed to take on the world's gnarliest mountains. It took over two years to develop, and boy does that show through its thoughtful design.
Fitwell Backcountry $600.00
More of a mountaineering boot that snowboards than a snowboard boot that climbs mountains, this is the footwear for serious splitboard mountaineers.
Rome Guide $360.00
The Guide fits the bill for riders who need their pre-work dawn patrols then want to rock the same boots inbounds all day.
Burton Hitchhiker $400.00
Now with a single climbing wire and an even easier forward-lean adjustment than last year, this bad boy was a force to be reckoned with during testing.
Karakoram Prime Connect $399.00
The idea behind it all? To craft a pair of stiff, performance bindings that's easy to swap between boards and rides well both in and out of bounds.
Spark R&D Surge $415.00
If there were a category for Best Splitboard Binding, the Surge would take the crown. Oh, wait…there is such a category, and this is it.
Voilé Speed Rail $350.00
Voilé finally removed the slider pin from their Light Rail binding. The new model transitions much more quickly, hence the name Speed Rail.
Beacon: ARVA NEO Transceiver $360.00
With a 60-meter search range, the NEO transceiver also had the most comfortable harness of the test.
Shovel: BCA Shaxe Tech Shovel $180.00
Not intended to support full-on ice climbing but worked wonders as an aide on bootpacks and a stabilizer on icy descents.
Probe: Mammut Carbon Probe 280 Fast Lock $85.00
It deployed quickly and the pointed tip pierced through heavily compacted, roadside plowed snow used during testing to simulate avalanche debris.
Skins: G3 Alpinist High Traction $199.00
Featuring more traction than counterparts with shorter nylon hairs, glue stuck well to board bases but still detached from opposing skins with ease.
Poles: Voilé CamLock 3 $110.00
The strong snow-scraper handle designed to remove wet snow buildup from skins also helped engage hard-to-reach splitboard heel risers.
Vest: Volcom Slack Vest: $300.00
Avalanche gear, snacks, two-way radio, smartphone or point-and-shoot—if you require it out there, it'll fit in here. Designed with input from Brian Iguchi, the slack vest is no slacker.