If you were to ask, "What are the best splitboards?", you'd find that the list changes dramatically each year. Splitboarding has never been more popular in times where untracked powder can be hard to find and riders are becoming more willing to hike for it. Some companies are scrambling to get their foot in the game while others continue to innovate new technologies that make the trek up almost as cool as the ride down. Last spring, we spent a week touring the backcountry around Crested Butte, Colorado. We tested two vans full of splitboards, split boots, split bindings, and backcountry snowboarding accessories. This is the gear that performed the best.
PHOTO: JP Van Swae
One tester said the XV didn't rattle much flying over chop but also didn't float like some pow-specific boards. That's cool—Xavier de Le Rue needs it to charge hard down steeps more than float in low-angle trees.
Rossignol designed the board loosest in the rear and progressively stiffer toward the front, a pattern that adds maneuverability to its big-mountain freeriding nature. Another tester confirmed the camber center combined with Magne-Traction increased edge control, even in the skin track, while rocker in the nose and tail sharpened turns.
"It dug deep into carves and flowed from one move to the next," he reported. Another tester, who also took it for a few resort laps, said it "slayed steep hardpack and grooved through moguls."
Venture Storm – $899.00
PHOTO: JP Van Swae
The Storm excels in both waist-deep trees and crap snow after melt-freeze cycles. The soft shovelnose planes on top, and the short, stiff tail takes turns "like a Porsche through the woods, whipping through corners without losing momentum," one tester said, adding that he never lost control of the wheel until he landed far backseat.
Venture's freeride offering has flat camber between and under the feet with ash and poplar stringers in the aspen core to increase board strength. One tester said it felt more durable than most.
"Lots of sharks in the water today, but she came out unscathed," he noted. Another tester called it a great choice for times that require exceptional float, turnability, and shock absorption. "So most days in the backcountry," he wrote.
Lib Tech T. Rice Gold Member – $970.00
PHOTO: JP Van Swae "If you're ready to apply power, it's ready to charge," one tester said of the new Goldmember Firepower split. Edge-to-edge transitions were reportedly quick if driven hard, but the flex wasn't forgiving enough for the most playful riders. Some expected it to feel "sluggish like some of Rice's past models, which you had to ride even harder" as one said, but 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." Camber would grab edge better than the rocker in the middle, where the foot goes in tour mode, so traversing and kick-turning slick slopes felt sketchy at times. According to one, "The mini swallowtail might have aided pow turns. I was shredding too fast to notice." Weston Range – $899.00
PHOTO: JP Van Swae Testers touted the Range's excellent edge hold for carves and stability in both steep and bumpy terrain. Most were surprised with its all-mountain capabilities, thinking the playful flex would affect edge control on hardpack and over chunder. The poplar core is soft, but bamboo adds rebound, and camber runs the full board length to help stabilize the ride. "Overall medium flex but great energy," one wrote. 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. Early-rise rocker in the twin tips and a 20-millimeter setback stance kept it afloat in pow, and a couple testers were impressed with how well it handled being towed behind sleds on a bumpy Forest Service road. Smokin KT-22 – $900.00
PHOTO: JP Van Swae When naming a board after a lift at Squaw Valley that accesses rock-littered terrain, it better stomp landings. 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. The early-rise nose is soft for pow days, and camber runs from the front inserts into the tail, which is stiffer than the nose. "When I came down backseat and thought I would ass-check, it grabbed snow and just kept moving," another tester exclaimed. A few said the tail didn't feel snappy, partially blaming the all-wood core and dampening foil that absorbs vibrations, but that it still offered good pop. According to one, "It's awesome for backcountry freestylers with directional tendencies and a love for camber." Never Summer Aura – $849.00
PHOTO: JP Van Swae 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. It takes an experienced shredder to ride in the front seat through variable terrain and really engage the camber, which is beneath each foot, but once engaged, "it railed turns like Tom Sims," another tester said. Rocker between the inserts and at each tip gives it loft in deep snow, and testers confirmed the board excelled in all terrain. "Easy to load up, fun to butter and blast off hips, and stable for straight lining anything," one said. Yet a few reported it wasn't always easy to manage in the skin track, as the camber lies behind the foot in tour mode.
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