By Fitz Cahall; Video still by Bryan Smith
In the last year, splitboarding has reached a tipping point. Ski movie stalwarts Teton Gravity Research released Deeper, which featured snowboards that transform into skis, to much fanfare. In the last three years, several snowboard companies have begun aggressively marketing these backcountry boards. Splitboarding may seem like a new sport, but in actuality, it’s been sitting on the fringe of snowboarding for almost 20 years.
In the late 1980s Brett Kobernick began tinkering with boards. He hand-cut standard snowboards in half to fashion skis for uphill movement and slapped a set of adhesive climbing skins to the bottom. At the top, a rider could simply remove the skins and reconnect the board for downhill riding. In 1992, Kobernick partnered with Salt Lake City, Utah, ski manufacturer Voile. By 1994 the hardware to split a snowboard hit the market. At first, snowboarders looking to hit the open backcountry away from resorts had to purchase the Voile kit and chop a snowboard in half on their own. For a lot of consumers the
Eventually, Voile began marketing factory-made splitboards for the small market. Snowboarding giant Burton offered a version for a few years, but discontinued it. In the last three years, as the pull of the backcountry has hit the masses, there are now a dozen or so splitboard manufacturers who produce different shapes and sizes to suit a rider’s ability, style, and size. The new boards are smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable than the previous generations. A few companies have begun to create bindings specifically designed for splitboarding, and now snowboarders can keep up with skiers. The sport is evolving rapidly yet the concept remains the same. Ski up. Shred down.
- Nat Geo Expeditions