Want to hit to best backcountry slopes but are only into snowboarding? The splitboard is here to make your alpine ascensions a possibility.
A splitboard is a snowboard that can be separated into two parts, similar to skis, with climbing skins that allow you to ascend slopes the same way a skier would. The two halves can then be reconnected to form a snowboard for descent.
Backcountry boarding is where more pristine powder snow can be found. It has primarily been restricted to skiers, as snowboarders have limited backcountry range away from lift systems due to the fact that both feet are locked into one board.
Splitboards also save you from having to trek in snow boots, which takes a longer time than skis to ascend.
We took a look at some of the industry’s top splitboards and here are our Top 5 Picks for best splitboards.
Our 5 Best Splitboards
Big mountain slopes
|Lib-Tech Gold Member|
|K2 Joy Driver|
Big mountain slopes
1. Jones Solution – The Best Splitboard for the Advanced Rider
The Jones Solution is a great board for more advanced backcountry terrain. It is built more for carving big mountain slopes and less for freestyle air jumps.
The Solution has strong climbing and descending capabilities in firm snow environments but will also shred the most pristine powder. It utilizes the Jones Blunt Nose design which allows for slightly raised side nose edges. This saves weight and improves powder performance.
It is quite a stiff board, which also makes The Solution a great choice for riding on firm snow. This board is equipped with Mellow Magnetraction, a serrated edge that helps with grip, on both the outside and inside edges.
Further Reviewing the Jones Solution
Due to the lightweight, stiffness, and Magnetraction, this board is a great contender for climbing. The biggest benefit to climbing with The Solution is its lightweight design, making trekking through challenging sidehill sections a bit easier. The nose also stays on top of the snow when climbing, which is a huge energy saver.
The Solution has small notches cut out to accommodate the Jones Skins and their Quick Tip Tension Tail Clip system. Jones has eliminated the metal nose and tail guards common on many boards, which saves weight and makes the notches easier.
The stiffness of the board presents a challenge for lighter weight riders who may find it tough to flex and bend. However, with the right rider this board is capable of spinning and playing.
It is also available in wide sizes, and has a carbon fiber model as well. Binding Adjustability: this splitboard has the standard insert pattern.
2. Jones Explorer – The Best Splitboard for a Beginner Rider
The Explorer is an extremely playful board for a really great price. This board is for riders who mostly enjoy softer snow and do not seek steep gullies or firm snow. If you are new to splitboarding, The Explorer is a great choice for a first board.
The Explorer’s core has been re-profiled for better torsional response between the feet. Hyper-fast and stronger, the nose floats and surfs above the snow with little rear leg pressure. It comes with a camber under foot that includes more rocker toward the nose and less toward the tail.
The board does not have exceptional performance on firm snow due to its softer flex. This is something to keep in mind, especially for heavy riders. Its lightweight design is definitely a benefit when ascending the slopes, but the softer flex can occasionally make climbing a bit of a challenge.
Further Reviewing the Jones Explorer
Like the Jones Solution, this board features a small tail notch to accommodate the Jones Skins Quick Tension Tail clip. This clip system is smaller, lighter, and less bulky than standard tail attachment systems. The Explorer has also be designed without the metal nose and tail guards.
The tip and the tail have the same width, which allows this board to ride switch quite well. You can center mount the ski bindings to increase switch performance. The switchability of this board is a key factor in making it a go to option for freestyle enthusiasts.
3. Lib-Tech T. Rice Gold Member Firepower Split – The Best Splitboard for Speed and Performance
The Gold Member is a lightweight board that rides with smooth power and stability. It is equipped with a C2x profile that has lengthened camber zones for a more aggressive feel, which maximizes power, precision, and edge hold while still maintaining some float.
The Gold Member comes stocked with Magne-Traction edges to give even more grip on those steep summits. It has a pointed nose, notched tail, and slightly set-back stance to enhance drive and float when you’re shredding up the deep powder.
Spin-slim tip and tails reduce swing weight for smooth rotations and an extremely light feel underfoot. This board is equally responsive and stable.
When it comes to performance on the way down, the Gold Member is at the top of the game. However, it has a bit more challenges when skinning uphill.
4. Arbor Coda – The Best Splitboard for Lightweight Performance
The Arbor Coda is a versatile board with a surfy design that provides plenty of float and smooth turn initiation. It allows lightweight performance that is ideal for backcountry powder.
This board comes with a reclined parabolic rocker system that ensures that the outside contact points are close enough to the snow to engage when maximum performance is required – higher speeds, fully loaded turns, and bigger landings.
The base is sintered with a higher molecular weight that provides added durability and speed. When combined with Arbor’s new Carbon Fiber Uprights at the tip and tail the Coda Split seems to want to spend as much time in the air as it does surfing on snow.
5. K2 Snowboards Joy Driver Split – The Best Splitboard for Steep Terrain
The K2 Joy Driver is designed for the most adventurous alpine shredders. This board is well equipped to handle steep lines due to its directional camber profile, Bambooyah core, and Split Track mounting system.
The camber in the center of the board makes it very responsive, while rocker at the tips enhances float capabilities in powder. It also comes with edge contact for precision and stable edge hold in no-fall zones.
The Joy Driver utilizes Carbon Torque Forks for high responsiveness and rapid precision. The mounting for this board is super easy. The pin-less design works well with gloves, which allows you to protect those cold hands in extreme conditions.
There are Z-Clip notches at the tip and tail of the board that take pre-cut skins. The tips have minimal flex and only where the camber zone meets the rock, so this is a pretty stiff board without a whole lot of torsional give.
Even though it holds onto edges quite well, The Joy Drive doesn’t rail turns as easily as other boards.
Choosing The Right Splitboard
Your riding style and needs will ultimately factor in the type of splitboard you should get. You should consider everything when shopping around for board options.
Your height, weight, riding style level and the terrain which you like to ride all will help determine the right splitboard for you.
Brands like Jones, Arbor, K2, and Burton offer top-quality boards with different shapes and profiles.
Women don’t have to buy a down-sized version of a man’s board. Most manufacturers now offer splitboards adapted to women: these boards are shorter, narrower and with specific flex patterns, perfect for shorter and lighter riders.
The heavier your splitboard, the more energy you will burn on ascent, meaning less runs in a day. Keep in mind that you will be in ski-mode for long durations, so conservation of energy is a huge plus.
However, heavier boards are great for heavier, more aggressive riders. They are the board of choice if you prefer to dig in and drive your board really hard.
It’s often recommended to size up when buying a splitboard because increased surface area makes moving through deep snow easier. However, be conservative when sizing up.
The increased length may also aid in overall energy conservation, as more overall volume will offer enhanced floatation in the deep snow.
Smaller splitboards are lighter on the way up and more nimble in the tight backcountry terrain. If your goal is to tour all season long you want to choose a size that is easily maneuverable in all-conditions.
Shape plays a huge role in how a splitboard will function. Many splitboards are slightly tapered and offer more volume in the nose for riding powder.
However, if you want to ride switch or enjoy more of a freestyle approach to the backcountry, a less tapered twin-tip shape might be more appropriate.
Wider boards with a tapered tail will offer you the most float. A twin-shaped board that can ride switch will be better suited for those freestyle riders looking to catch some air.
Ease Of Use
You want to make sure switching from ski- to ride- mode is easy, especially atop a big backcountry line. Make sure you don’t pick a board that requires too much fiddling with equipment.
If your splitboard is new, you should not need to adjust your tip, tail or split clips. All clips should slide smoothly and the board should feel securely locked together when clips are closed.
If your splitboard is used and the split clips are not pulling the board halves tightly together, you can adjust the clip tension. Tip and tail clips should require no maintenance unless clip is damaged or broken.
Flex is an important factor when choosing the right splitboard. It will determine how the board rides. Stiffer and more rigid boards offer more precision but are also less forgiving. Softer, more flexible boards offer a more playful, freestyle approach.
The number one priority of splitboarding should be safety. When ripping up the slopes in the backcountry, you are not protected by ski patrol. Avalanches are a huge concerns due to the untouched snow.
Some items you should consider:
Many entry-level splitboarders will skimp on the backpack; however, grabbing a backcountry-specific pack is a smart decision.
It will have an easily accessible pocket for all of your avalanche safety equipment, which trims off valuable seconds should your partner be caught in an avalanche.
Also, some models are equipped with avalanche airbag technology, which, should you be caught in an avalanche, will improve your chances of survival.
Avalanche gear is non-negotiable. There are three essential pieces of avalanche gear the must be used together. The three pieces are as follows: beacon, shovel, and probe.
The beacon allows you to search for buried skiers, or to be found if you’re buried. The probe is integral to effectively finishing the search process that the beacon starts, and the shovel is necessary for removal of snow.
Our Final Review
The main quality to look for in a good splitboard is lightweight yet high performance and stability. You want something that isn’t going to hold you down on the climb up, but will float on the way down.
Quality over price is definitely something to factor when shopping for splitboards, as you want to be sure your board can hold up in different situations.
You do not want to be struggling up a mountain slope because you decided to save some money with a less expensive board.
Be sure to go with a board that has a nose that will stay above the snow. You do not want to be digging through heavy powder, exerting a lot of unnecessary energy on your way up.
First, decide if you want a board that is more focused on freestyle or designed for grinding up big lines. Then, you can move forward with considering other factors such as weight, length, flex, and so on.