Spark R&D Surge

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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. Spark R&D’s most responsive binding for backcountry snowboarding (Spark’s Arc binding is better suited for freestylers and those seeking more flex) offered our testers’ favorite style of forward-lean adjustment, the best fit with most snowboard boots, and the quickest transition from tour mode to ride mode and back.

The Tesla T1 system is the industry-leading pin-free binding system, which requires no more than lifting the toe ramp and sliding the binding sideways half an inch to remove it from the toe brackets. To enter ride mode, slide the baseplate onto the pucks and push down on the toe ramp to secure it with the board. The flush fit and wide contact points transfer energy directly from binding to board, delivering an almost immediate response time, thus top-shelf ride performance.

With few moving parts, durable straps and ratchets, and minimal gaps to collect ice while skinning, one tester called the Surge “the most reliable binding for backcountry missions.” This year, Spark added a Whammy Bar ($25) to their line of splitboard accessories. It’s essentially a lightweight lever welded to the side of a climbing wire that engages with a quick flip of the fingers. The tool was useful on steep skin tracks and slippery slopes when testers didn’t enjoy being off-balance and having to fidget with touring poles. [Editor’s Note: Never taking a break from R&D, Spark improved the Whammy Bar in the short time window between testing and final production.]

If you saw our Gear Guide in print, you might have noticed the Whammy Bar handle looked different from the one pictured here. The new version engages by pushing down rather than pulling up, and it’s now shorter and straighter.] Spark also added Baseplate Padding Kits ($20) to their accessory line, to appease those seeking more cushion underfoot for really big days or long traverses.

Price: $415.00
Brand Name

Spark R&D

Product Type

Splitboarding Gear

Manufacturers URL


RAD: The first-choice binding on every tester’s wish list. BAD: A little highback padding wouldn’t hurt.

Product Showroom




Good Wood


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Guide Year


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RAD: The first-choice binding on every tester’s wish list. BAD: A little highback padding wouldn’t hurt.

Tested And Approved 2017 Presented by

Best snowboard gear of 2016-2017? We've got you covered. Going into winter, we want to know what gear can be trusted when put through the wringer. But testing over 500 boots, bindings, goggles, gloves, helmets, splitboards and powder boards, and other backcountry gear and accessories in every snowy corner of the country was a massive undertaking that the TransWorld staff couldn't handle alone. So we sent the latest developments in snowboarding goods to our team of testers spread across the country. With so many unique features in the lineup and different opinions from each tester—both compliments and complaints—there was plenty worth discussing. Some gear broke. Other pieces spoke volumes to functionality and durability. So here you have it: the most inclusive, all-encompassing gear test in snowboarding. If it's in here, it's been beat up and bent every which way – and tested, and approved.

Meet Our Testers:

Adam Broderick

As Gear Editor at TransWorld SNOWboarding, Broderick spent last season directing tests around the country when he wasn't testing gear himself. He administered the Good Wood board test, powder board test, and backcountry test, while leading the glove test and coordinating the others, plus editing all Gear Guide text. He is the point of contact for all things gear-related at TWSNOW.

Mike Horn

Mike Horn's first backcountry pack had bungee cords for snowboard straps. That's a far cry from the innovative gear he tested in his Crested Butte backyard this winter. Mike's been writing about snowboarding for a decade-plus, and he tends to get crusty when reviewing gear that's not quite up to snuff.

Devin Silverthorne-Lillie

A New Hampshire transplant, Devin's Ice Coast roots provide superior edge awareness, and with Breckenridge's Park Lane in her backyard, she practically falls from bed to her board. She put freestyle bindings on trial in and out of bounds—from frozen mornings to spring slush, backyard rail jams to sidecountry booter sessions.

Billy Brown

Billy Brown covered new tech for this year's guide. The California native grew up riding the terrain parks in South Lake Tahoe, but for the past few years his career as a freelance editor has allowed him to snowboard around the world—from heliboarding in Whistler to riding post-storm powder in Valle Nevado, Chile.

Alex Showerman

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Alex took his powder hunt on the road last winter. He schlepped freeride boots, backcountry boots—and enough shells, puffies, and base layers to open a small gear store—around the globe in search of snow in locales like Vermont, Wyoming, Colorado, and Iceland.

Morgan Tilton

Reared in the San Juans of Southwest Colorado, as soon as Morgan could walk her dad strapped her in, and Telluride Ski Resort became her babysitter. Over the past 13 years, snowboarding has taken her through Wolf Creek's whimsical powder days, USASA Slopestyle Nationals, and the cliff-riddled backcountry of Colorado and Wyoming.

Heather Hendricks

From the jagged peaks of Jackson Hole and the Canadian Rockies to the overt opulence of Aspen, the steeps of Alaska, and the striking faces of the La Sals, our contributing editor spent the season traveling to summits near and far. Heather toted along a bin full of boots and tested them all along the way.

Chris Brunstetter

From loitering shop kid to 22-year industry insider, Chris has spent most of his life in the snow and skate industries in Utah, even experiencing firsthand the rise and fall (and second rise and fall) of Forum. He tested freestyle boots and bindings in the man-made and natural parks at Brighton, Snowbird, and Jackson Hole.