Random Thoughts for New Splitters

 

Friday morning we woke up to a fresh 7-11″ at our local here in VT.  After getting my lift serve shred on that morning, I sat at my desk daydreaming on how I might extend the stoke of riding some natural snow on the following day.

I came up with hitting another part of the resort that would A) be deeper thanks to wind and B) wasn’t open for the season yet via my Whiteroom.   Additionally I had been fortunate enough to  ride 7 out of the last 8 days at that point, so I was ready for something different.

Safe to say the idea turned out perfect, but I forgot my earphones, so I was left to my mind’s devices as I toured up the hill.

One thing I thought about is  ‘things someone should know’ as they are getting into splitboarding, and there’s a lot of you getting into it right now.  So here you are, in no order of importance, and by no means comprehensive (and by all means my personal opinion):

>>Before getting yourself into any backcountry/sidecountry scenario I would recommend getting your AIARE Level 1 avalanche certification.  This blog/article/story is not meant to be a primer on avy issues but it’s your responsibility for yourself, family, & friends to be personally prepared and to travel with someone who knows more than you.  It’s okay to be the dumbest person in your group and ask questions; it’s much more valuable to the group than pretending to be a know it all (and you never will…so start off by accepting that).

>>Try out a pair of Cross-Country skis before investing in your splitboard set-up.    You shouldn’t scoff at the idea of going out on cross-country skis if you’re planning on splitboarding.  I got my first pair of nordic skis at 11 or 12 and it wasn’t until a year later that I first tried snowboarding.     Let’s generically estimate that you will tour a minimum of 80% of the time you are using a splitboard.  A big part of the point of it is to go where there’s less people and to enjoy the mountain environment, touring is to be enjoyed.

>>I’d recommend hiking at your local mountain early morning before investing in a splitboard.  Hopefully you will find it worth it to get exercise and fresh tracks, and a good way to get your dog tired.  Like a lot of the best things in life, sometimes the best shred requires a little work.

Breaking trail while hiking early morning  a few years ago.

>>You need skins to climb.  Voile is the splitboard originator and that’s what I use, but the Spark tail clips are rad.     When weighting you board/skin, you want to apply pressure evenly to your foot, and, in turn, your board/skin.  Too far forward and you won’t apply enough pressure to engage the skin.

>>Snowboarders need three-section poles; they compact smaller on your pack when riding.  I like BD poles; they used to have an asym basket that I prefer, as I’m not afraid to step on it (but it looks like the new one’s don’t have it)

>>When touring, your sidecut should be between your feet.  Some of this is the history of DIY boards which had no edge up the middle, but you will find it easier to have sidecut on the inside edge of your downhill board as you skate, tour, or climb.  You also don’t want to be banging your connection hardware the whole way up the mountain.

>>When picking a spot to climb, first see where others have gone.  An established skin track will be much easier to climb than breaking trail.  Sometimes it might get glazed/icy, and you may find it easier to blaze a new track in that case.  Also you don’t want to ruin a slope with a bunch of skin tracks.

>>If setting a new track, consider where you or others may want to shred.  Don’t skin right up the middle of a cherry bowl.  You want to leave plenty of the good stuff for yourself and others when you are descending.    Set your track as steep as your group can manage; for obvious reasons: a straight line is faster, but also it will leave you more of the slope to shred.  Also, think about alternate routes that may give you a more consistent pitch to your overall ascent, it may be easier/faster in a macro sense then grinding right up the steepest pitch on the hill (do give yourself opportunities to observe snowpack, aspect, etc. on the pitch you intend to shred though… )

>> If your dog shits in the skin track, clean it up.

>>Learn how to fold your skins.  Well folded skins will reduce how much you add to the swear jar, particularly with splitboard skins.  They are really wide, so they have lot’s of adhesive.    [Once you know what you’re doing this video is funny]

>>Know the terrain you are planning on shredding.  Maybe hike it in the summer.  Some backcountry ski zones are not fun splitboarding and may require a lot of change-overs or hiking out of dips.  That said, embrace the adventure; making these types of mistakes is what makes getting it right that much more awesome.

>>Be creative in thinking of terrain to split on.  Closed ski areas and seasonal roads (closed in winter) have been some of my most enjoyable human powered shreds.

>>Be mentally prepared to hit a rock or two on your expensive splitboard. You’re riding in a natural mountain environment with a variable snowpack.  It’s a bummer, but think about all the other awesome turns.

>>Find a good spot to do your change-over.  I’ll switch from touring to riding in a spot sheltered from the wind.  I also carry extra base layers, and if you decide to change into them, it’s much more enjoyable not doing that or drinking some water or eating a rice krispie treat in a howling wind.

My first split set-up

>>Tour in breathable clothes.  Put your snowboard jacket back on for the descent; you’ll prefer it retaining your heat then.

>>Practice your change over outside.  Swapping from touring mode is worth having a comfort level that you can do in a driving wind at the top of a mountain.  Practice in the cold.

>>Practice your kick-turn.    (if you check out the video, also note how he’s standing on his heels, that’s what I was getting at about even pressure above)

>>Your binding interface has climbing wires under your heels; these allow for more efficient climbing of steeper slopes.  Practice raising and lowering your climbing wires while strapped in and in touring mode.   You do this with your pole tip.

 

A couple good books and resources on these topics:

-Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book – good visuals, easy read, all sorts of stuff that comes in handy on your first tour, or an extended trip.

-Andrew Maclean’s Straightchuter.com blog –   He’s a skier, but everything you dream of doing on your new splitboard, he’s done.   Outside of following his adventures, he also has great tips.

-US Forest Service National Avalanche Center - including this good description of how to set a skin track

Well, hopefully you found something in here helpful, I know some of it was basic, but you never know what someone might find helpful.   Think snow and see you in the hills.   -MW

 

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