Splitboards are nothing new in the snowsports world. As snowboards that split in half to become “skis” for climbing uphill or going across country, the product category has been helping shredders access the backcountry for years.
But this week in Utah I tested something new. It was Tuesday morning, a bright day in the backcountry near Solitude Mountain Resort. Under my boots was a new board from K2, the Ultra Split model, equipped with the brand’s to-be-released Kwicker Backside bindings.
The setup had served me well as I ascended with a dozen snowboarders up a backcountry line on a pre-release product test. The company calls the setup the “lightest, fastest splitboard system on the planet.”
It seemed to be right on the money as I reached down, pulled up on a small lever, and disengaged the boots from the bindings to step onto soft snow.
I ripped the skins from the bottom of the board and snapped the two halves together. In a simple motion that only removed the two large binding plates from the board, I realigned the setup for snowboarding.
I was breathing hard still from the long skin up the mountain as I converted the board for downhill mode. It took only a few minutes to make the complete transition from climbing machine to a solid snowboard for going down.
Unfortunately, I am a pretty mediocre snowboarder and the face below was darn steep. At least the snow was soft for my big crash!
After a few hours in the backcountry, my first impression of the setup (including the brand’s Stark Boots) was that it is a solid system — it rides well, is easy to use, and it makes the transition from touring to riding simple and intuitive.
The binding uses the Voile interface to mount to a slot in the board. They slide over two “pucks” to link up to the board in riding mode.
When the board is broken into skis, the bindings snap easily onto a permanent bar that is part of the mounting system located on each half of the board.
In both modes, boots lock into the binding with a step-in motion. The Kwicker is featherweight in the world of splitboard bindings at 330 grams each. The board weighs 3.9 pounds.
K2 claims that the entire system — board, boots and bindings — weighs in about the same as a standard, in-bounds snowboard system.
The system includes splitboard, boots, bindings, skins, and crampons. It will cost $1,250. Available for purchase later in 2013 in time for next year’s snow season.
—Sean McCoy is a contributing editor.