By STEPHEN KRCMAR
For skiers and snowboarders who crave powder, it’s only a matter of time until they look away from the resort and toward the backcountry where pow is abundant — especially if you’re willing to pay to get to it (helicopter trips, snowcat tours or snowmobiles) or work for it. Snowboarders who want to get these turns under their own power have two choices: snowshoes or a splitboard. The former is the least expensive route, but snowshoeing is slow. A splitboard — a board cut down the middle that splits into two halves so it can be used like skis when ascending — is usually about twice as expensive as a traditional board. But splitboards, which have become more popular as of late, are quicker for most ascents because the rider can glide just like with skis.
After well over a decade of snowboarding, I took the plunge this season and completed a challenging avalanche training course to get me prepared for the backcountry. My board? A Storm by Venture Snowboards.
Designed for big-mountain freeriding, this board has significant rocker, which doesn’t always translate well to blazing fast speeds or edge-hold on hard pack and groomers. Just to get a feel for it, I took it out to make inbounds turns at Mammoth Mountain. First impression? Soft. Much softer than I expected. Second impression? I want to put a ring on this thing. An absolute blast on the groomers, it has incredible edge-hold. And contrary to what many critics of reverse camber claim, it had plenty of pop. In the powder it had great float, and on a medium storm day — when a foot or so had fallen — I had one of the best days of my season, even though it wasn’t the deepest.
It makes sense that the bible of out-of-bounds skiing and riding, Backcountry magazine awarded this deck “Editors’ Choice” for 2010 and said, it “weathers turbulent and placid conditions equally well. . . very fun to ride.” The review continued, “This board moves like a disc jockey’s hands: super quick.” Snowboarder magazine also gushed. “Great control and precision. This thing charged all over the mountain.”
Me? I’m crying in my fresh pow a little bit because I had to send my demo back a few weeks ago. But I’m also counting my pennies to see if I have enough for the $895 deck. Because here in California (it’s early March now) the backcountry is hitting prime and there’s at least three months of riding left.
Not only does the board ride extremely well, but the company has a cool pedigree: the small company is based in Silverton, Colo., and it is the “official board” of Silverton Mountain, a unique ski area that may have the steepest inbounds riding anywhere. Venture’s politics are also decidedly green: the boards are handmade in Colorado from scratch from sustainably harvested woods. The factory is powered by wind, and the company is a member of 1% for the Planet as well as Protect Our Winters, a non-profit whose goal is to unite the snowsports industry to help curb global warming.
So if you’re looking for a splitboard, you’d be foolish not to consider one of the rippers from Venture, who also make a big mountain twin and an all-mountain deck. All three decks are available as splits or traditional boards. www.venturesnowboards.com
—Stephen Krcmar lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He’s written about snowboard technology for The New York Times and his list of best boards of 2009/10 was published in Men’s Journal.