Whether on a single- or multi-day backcountry tour, accessing terrain is easier with one of this year’s hottest splitboards.
Splitboarding continues to grow in popularity, and for good reason. Splitboards allow snowboarders to access off-piste terrain without post-holing or carrying bulky snowshoes.
Long gone are the days of having to cut your own splitboards. Almost every major manufacturer now makes a wide range of splitboards. From ultra lightweight to surf-inspired alternative shapes, we picked five of this year’s best splitboards.
Use this guide to choose the right one.
How To Choose The Right Splitboard
There are a few key factors to think about when choosing a splitboard. From weight to mount system, it should all be taken into account when buying a splitboard. Here are some important things to think about before making your decision.
From approach to descent, splitboarding is a human-powered endeavor. As such, weight is an important factor. The heavier your splitboard, the more energy you will burn on the ascent, meaning fewer runs per day. If you are on a multi-day tour, weight becomes even more important, as you will likely be in ski-mode for long durations.
It’s often recommended to size up when buying a splitboard because increased surface area makes moving through deep snow easier. The increased length may also aid in overall energy conservation, as more overall volume will offer enhanced floatation in the deep stuff.
Picking a shape is not only an aesthetic-based exercise, but it also determines 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.
Ease of Use
The last thing you want to do atop a big backcountry line is fiddle with your equipment. Many splitboard manufacturers now offer splitboards with an integrated hardware system that makes switching from ski- to ride-mode a breeze.
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.
Favorite Splitboards for 2017–2018
1. K2 Snowboards Joy Driver Split ($1,100 complete)
From bagging Alaskan peaks to splitboarding around your local range, the K2 Snowboard’s Joy Driver Splitboard is built for big mountain performance. The board has directional camber for superior control on technical backcountry lines and plenty of float in deep, dense snow. The built-in nose and tail grommets make it easy to transition from tour- to ride-mode. The bamboo core helps offer superior pop, even with the split.
“In my experience with splitboarding, I have found that you will often ride drastically different conditions within the same run. Sometimes you find rhyme ice at the top, powder in the middle, and slush at the bottom. The Joy Driver split can handle any conditions that I have encountered. However, it excels in big, steep, and technical terrain, where you have to rely on the performance of your board to keep you on your feet.” – K2 Team Rider Kael Martin
This board is also the best value we found for the 2017–2018 winter season, with a complete setup costing just over a grand.
2. Jones Snowboards Ultracraft Split ($1,500 board only)
If weight and energy conservation are priorities, the lightweight Jones Ultracraft Splitboard is a top-shelf choice. With the Ultracraft, Jones built one of the most technologically advanced boards on the market. It has key features like a TeXtreme Carbon Topsheet and a boltless bridge. The Ultra Iso-core utilizes a foam and fiberglass composite to reduce weight without sacrificing strength.
The Ultracraft Splitboard is jammed full of tech and weighs little. But its essence is still its shape. The nose allows for maximized float in powder, and the tucked-in stub tail allows for radical turns even when riding in tight chutes.
3. United Shapes Covert Splitboard ($799.00 board only)
For those that favor long, drawn out, surf-inspired turns, the United Shapes Covert will fit nicely into your quiver. Developed by snowboarder Gray Thompson in the Sierra high country, the Covert is an alternative-shaped dream machine. It allows for nice cruise-y turns with its slightly tapered shape. While the Covert feels comfortable in some technical chutes, it really feels at home on powder runs and is the most playful of the group. The Covert only comes in two sizes, 152 and 161, limiting options. But if it fits, you’ll love this fun board.
“I wanted to design a do-it-all split, one board I could ride in the trees during a storm, and the same board to get up and down big Eastern Sierra couloirs once the skies clear,” said Designer and Professional Snowboarder Gray Thompson.
“We spent a lot of time creating a board that would bridge aggressive, big mountain riding and more playful, soulful, and cruise-y freeriding. The Freestyle tail comes in handy in so many ways, there’s plenty of scenarios when you need to maneuver around switch, or quickly ollie an incoming obstacle, that make this tail design a must-have.”
4. Lib Tech Snowboards Travis Rice Gold Member Splitboard ($970 board only)
Putting this board on edge is like a hot knife slicing through warm butter. Lib Tech revolutionized the snowboard game by introduced Magne Traction, which gives the rails a slightly serrated edge to increase contact points. This allows for locked-in turns even on the crustiest of faces, essential when riding exposed backcountry terrain.
Lib Tech has occasionally sacrificed light weight for durability, but Travis Rice insisted on marrying the two. Lib Tech used their lightweight Spin Slim Tip and Tail, and a balsa wood-blend core, to make this board tour friendly. The Travis Rice Gold Member is pretty stiff and definitely favors larger, more aggressive riders.
5. Capita Snowboards NEO Slasher ($750 board only)
The Capita NEO Slasher is based on Capita Snowboards’ cult favorite Charlie Slasher model. The NEO Slasher is lightweight, high-tech, and extremely enjoyable. While many of today’s splitboards feel terrain-specific, the NEO Slasher’s all mountain freestyle shape and mid-stiff flex allow the board to perform in a wide range of conditions. The NEO Slasher is affordable, well made, and easy to ride, which makes it a great choice for entry-level to advanced splitboarders.
“We based the NEO Slasher off of the cult classic Charlie Slasher, which was many people’s favorite resort pow board, including mine. The NEO Slasher is effective on the approach, and slays pow and varied terrain on the way down,” said Capita Founder Blue Montgomery.
Need to keep your hands warm? Check out our favorite winter mitts: