7 Essentials for Beginner Splitboarders

So you’ve con­quered the in-bounds ter­rain of your local moun­tain, maybe ducked a few ropes into the side coun­try (which you should nev­er do alone or with­out train­ing) and now, you and your friends are ready for the next chal­lenge: the back­coun­try. The mere thought of get­ting into the back­coun­try is exhil­a­rat­ing. The world is your oys­ter, and the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. It’s enough to make any snow­board­er salivate.

But before you begin your back­coun­try escapades, you’re going to need to gear up. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, your resort gear won’t be enough to take you out of bounds. Here are sev­en essen­tials you’ll need to do it right.

Pho­to Cour­tesy of splitboarding.eu

An Avalanche Safe­ty Course
The most valu­able tool you can equip your­self with is an avalanche safe­ty course. When you under­stand how to read the snow and assess the con­di­tions, you learn how to man­age your risk and to keep your­self out of dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. Of course, you will also learn what to do if you do find your­self in the worst-case sce­nario. You can have all best tools and lat­est tech­nolo­gies, but with­out knowl­edge, you have noth­ing. Be respon­si­ble and take an avalanche safe­ty course before you attempt the backcountry.

A Split­board
More com­pa­nies are tap­ping into the expand­ing back­coun­try mar­ket, offer­ing more split­board options than ever before. While some say that brands are sell­ing to ama­teurs who don’t belong in the back­coun­try, you’ve com­plet­ed your train­ing (or are at least plan­ning to) and now you’re ready. Many of the big play­ers offer split­boards, like Bur­ton, Rome and Lib Tech. There are also spe­cial­ty brands, like Pri­or and Voile, who are renowned specif­i­cal­ly for their split­boards. Do your research and if you can, demo a few boards to find your best fit.

Anoth­er option for the handy folks out there is to make a cus­tom split­board using the good old DIY tech­nique. Kits are avail­able to help make this process a lit­tle less daunting—believe it or not, chop­ping your favorite board in half can be a lit­tle terrifying.

You’ll need split­board-spe­cif­ic bind­ings so you can switch from skin to ride mode. Some of the brands that offer this are Spark R&D, Karako­ram and Voile although more and more split­board com­pat­i­ble bind­ings enter the mar­ket each year. These offer tech­nolo­gies to enhance your back­coun­try experience. 

If you’re using reg­u­lar bind­ings, you’ll need to pur­chase an inter­face kit to make them com­pat­i­ble with your split­board. These kits include slid­er tracks, climb­ing bars, climb­ing brack­ets, pucks and an assort­ment of met­al hard­ware to put it all together.

Climb­ing Skins
Most resort snow­board­ers are used to slid­ing down a moun­tain on their board, not trekking up one!  You’ll need skins to pro­vide trac­tion on your climb so you can glide smooth­ly when you’re mov­ing for­ward (uphill) and grip when mov­ing in the oppo­site direc­tion, pre­vent­ing you from spilling backwards.

Shov­el, Probe and Trans­ceiv­er
Most back­coun­try enthu­si­asts will agree: your trans­ceiv­er, shov­el and probe are prob­a­bly the most impor­tant phys­i­cal tools you can car­ry with you in the back­coun­try. Should you find your­self in dan­ger, these tools will help keep you and your crew alive.

Your trans­ceiv­er, or bea­con, well help you find a buried vic­tim as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, pro­vid­ed that they, too, are equipped with a trans­ceiv­er. Many dif­fer­ent mod­els exist, so be sure to know how to use your bea­con before head­ing out. And always make sure you have plen­ty of bat­tery power.

Your probe will help you reach through the snow, which will be com­pact­ed by the avalanche activ­i­ty, to find your victim’s exact loca­tion. These alu­minum poles con­sist of mul­ti­ple sec­tions, which are extend­ed to pro­duce a long pole to make con­tact with the victim.

Your shov­el is need­ed to dig your vic­tim out of the snow. If you think you can plow through the snow with your arms, think again. Snow that has set­tled from an avalanche will be heavy and dense.

A Pack
A good tour­ing pack is essen­tial for keep­ing your gear togeth­er, includ­ing food, extra lay­ers, shel­ter (if going on an overnighter) and emer­gency pro­vi­sions. The first thing to con­sid­er is capac­i­ty which is mea­sured in liters. You should con­sid­er what you intend to use your pack for when decid­ing on the size: will you be tak­ing short side­coun­try tours, or will you be tak­ing part in mul­ti-day treks?

Sec­ond, con­sid­er if you want to get a pack that will help you sur­vive dur­ing an avalanche. Aval­ung is third par­ty tech­nol­o­gy often inte­grat­ed into back­coun­try spe­cif­ic packs.  They offer a mouth­piece that will draw oxy­gen from the snow­pack sur­round­ing you, which could pro­vide you with a lit­tle extra time in an emer­gency. Airbags are anoth­er option: they inflate mid-avalanche and pre­vent the vic­tim from being buried beneath the snow. There are many vari­ants of these gad­gets and they can be life-sav­ing, but they can also be expensive.

As a snow­board­er, you prob­a­bly aren’t used to need­ing ski poles. But when you’re ascend­ing on your split­board, you’ll need poles to help pro­pel you for­ward. Look for lighter mate­ri­als, and con­sid­er col­lapsi­ble options, which can be tucked away easily.