Truth be told, I consider myself one of them since there was a time when I enjoyed the experience of only making a dozen turns on slopes that used to call for 50 or more. Riding with two legs on one plank offers a powerful dose of adrenalin. Better yet, pull out the stops and ride a longboard where three turns to the bottom is all you need to peg the thrill meter in the red zone.
In case you haven’t noticed, splitboarding has come of age. Interest has grown and the key components are being refined. Here’s a quick round up of two things I tripped across while wandering the aisles at the recent Outdoor Retailer show. There is a ton more going on in the splitboard world, so consider this a mere teaser of things to come next year.
Splitboarders who are trying to save weight may celebrate the return of K2′s Clicker binding system, specifically for splitters, not the resort bound rider. The basic Clicker binding returns as an integrated binding on a slider plate that locks to the pucks without using a locking pin at the toe. To lock out the release bar you spin the handle 90 degrees. In the original version of the Clicker binding this was an optional setting, allowing for the ability to rig an avalanche release cord. The new binding appears to require the manual locking of the bar to stay in the binding.
While many loved the promise of the Clicker binding for backcountry weight savings and system versatility, the Achilles heel of the system was the boots. In a word, they sucked, regardless of manufacturer. Whether or not K2 has resolved that problem remains to be seen.Nonetheless, it does appear that K2 has recognized one of the elemental problems with Clicker boots – their inability to hold down your heel independent of an external instep strap. K2 addresses that – it remains to be seen if it is solved – by providing a second, internal BOA lacing system with a solid band of cord hugging your heel in the pocket. The shell of the boot cinches around the liner using another BOA system. It has a solid forward lean, but no touring mode in the cuff. As a re-entry into an abandoned market it is a step in the right direction, hopefully enough to fuel renewed interest in the Clicker, at least for splitters.
Bob Athey and I compared notes and we both agree, the best boot for splitboarding is a soft AT boot, or a telemark boot without the duckbill. The boot is great for climbing in crampons or on rock, holds your heel down well, and has a soft enough cuff that you can bend your leg sideways for bowing your board. It would be easy to add a forward lean mechanism in the cuff like on the Maestrale, or Mercury, only with 3-4 settings, or more customization of two, and of course, a walk mode. I dare say it will take some time for the field to recognize that. Renewed interest in the Clicker system give such dreams a booster shot of hope.
Burton is renewing their interest in splitboarding by striking some strategic partnerships to offer a well thought out system. Burton sticks to what it does best, building boards. They partnered with Spark R&D to build a better mousetrap, and they did. They partnered with Voile to develop a better mousetrap to plank interface. The result is a puck system that allows infinite stance adjustments by angle, fore-aft position, and lateral stance with the bindings attached. You merely loosen the locking screws and in combination with Burton’s rail mounting system you can maneuver the bindings to any position, then tighten them down to lock the position. As the bewildered colleague at Burton exclaims in the video below, “that’s sick!”
And there’s a ton of new splitboards and boots and suicide strap bindings but those will have to wait for another report somewhere down the road.