Evolution of Revolution

Splitboarding

Split boarding has come of age. A few years ago they were a novelty, now they are everywhere! It’s not as though they are particularly new, Voiles 1st split dates back to the early nineteens.  This growth set against a back ground of declining regular snowboard sales is fuelled by advancing equipment, awareness and a need for adventure.

In part this is down to the average snowboarder getting older. The average profile of the rider in my store is 30 to 50, riding for 10 years plus, probably done a season or more, and now searching for something new in their riding. The park and kickers lose their appeal once you no longer bounce like a teenager, and the lure of endless powder bowls, empty mountains, and adventure, is addictive as ever. As a non skier I see a similar vibe with skiers, the backcountry pull is strong and in fashion!

This is coupled with an evolution in the hardware, it now works in a way those early pioneers back in the 90’s could only dream about. Less compromises means more fun and more function (Skiers look back to those old Silvretta 404s!). Splits today are only fractionally heavier and less ‘together’ than normal snowboards, so accessing areas is only limited to motivation and fitness. Plus the alternative of hiking, snowshoes, or access skis are all so painfully flawed and inefficient.

My first split was a 2002 Burton S Series. Equipped with Burtons brand new, state of the art, and as it turned out, short lived, interface system. It was heavy, complex, fiddly, unreliable, and rattled. I was hooked straight away though and loved it despite its many faults, but for most it was a compromise too far. Burton binned their system after 2 seasons, adopted the then new Voile hole pattern (now industry standard) and the ubiquitous Voile puck system. They limped on for a couple more seasons before pulling the plug on splits altogether, ironically just missing the start of the boom. They rejoined later of course, keen to cash in on one of the few growth areas in snowboarding. But Burtons ‘failure’ in split boarding shines a light of the real phenomenon of split boarding; the real innovation and success has come from small companies that are split focussed. Voile started it, but Jones, Spark and Karakoram are now pushing the technology forward.

The new bindings that have emerged over the last two seasons from Spark and Karakoram are simply a revelation. Both started as back room businesses with innovation and passion as their driving force. Spark have stayed with the Voile puck system and built lightweight, reliable binding around it. Whilst Karakoram have evolved a whole new interface system, initially the Split30 (since transition was  a mere 30 seconds) and new for 2015, the Prime system. Take a look at their new Prime Carbon and tell me your not impressed with the engineering and focus!

Jeremy Jones has almost singlehandedly pushed splitting into the spotlight with his trilogy of films based on back county riding. ‘Deeper’, ‘Further’ and 2014s ‘Higher’ have captured the imagination, focussing on backcountry lines, rather than the standard park, kicker, and a bit of powder, riding featured in films over the last 20 years. His brand, Jones Snowboards, are all designed around this type of riding, and his signature split board, the Jones Solution, is the worlds best selling split for the last 3 seasons. Generally speaking a good split board is designed around being two halves that work together, rather than simply cutting a normal board in two (though plenty of DIY split boarders do precisely that to get a cheap start in the sport. Voile even sell a kit!). The smaller brands like Jones, Unity and Venture, know this, and have the time and flexible production to cope with it. Jeremy Jones also works with Karakoram on design and testing.

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This all mean that snowboarders now have a real touring option. We can go where ski tourers go with only a slightly slower transition time, opening up a huge range of terrain and opportunities.  So what does the next couple of seasons bring? I’m not really sure, but it will be interesting as technology and development push on. One thing I am certain of is split boarding is here to stay and we are all benefiting from, and will continue to benefit from, the new technology.

Split boarding has come of age!

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The Sick And The Wrong

sick-wrong-logo1Steve Giles is owner of ‘The Sick And The Wrong‘, a specialist split board and snowboard shop, that focusses on backcountry riding. They are the largest UK stockists of Splitboarding equipment having been involved for over a decade in this section of the sport. He’s been snowboarding since the late 80’s, and splitting since 2002.