Splitboarding 101: The Ultimate Guide About Splitboards

Splitboarding can open up a whole new world of possibilities for the average snowboarder. If you have ever watched a skier head straight uphill to access an untouched powder run, splitboarding could be the magic recipe you’ve been seeking. 

My name is Lorraine, I’m a CASI-certified snowboarding instructor, and I’ve been riding for most of my life. I’ve had many splitboarding adventures along the way and am well versed in this branch of the sport. 

I wanted to use this first-hand experience to write a post that shares my knowledge and expertise of splitboarding with regular snowboarders. Whether you are familiar with this riding style or not, this guide will provide you with some valuable information. 

I’ve also done a ton of research into splitboarding, including some of the most commonly asked questions related to the sport. You should find everything you need to know in the sections below but if not, feel free to reach out in the comments. 

Time to head uphill and get after it!  

What is Splitboarding

Splitboarding is a hybrid version of snowboarding that utilizes the climbing power of skis with the downhill riding ability of a snowboard. This branch of snowboarding allows you to access backcountry terrain more easily. 

A splitboard literally splits into two pieces that you attach to each foot when you want to climb uphill. You attach skins to the bottom of each piece of the board, which gives you the grip to climb uphill effectively. You can also use ski poles to help you climb. 

Once you get to the top of a peak, or any other area you want to reach, the splitboard is put back together into a single board through a few clamps. You take the skins off, rotate the bindings around, and you’re ready to ride downhill like a regular snowboard.  

The History of Splitboarding

Splitboarding doesn’t have as long of a history as other snowsports, but it still owes much of its development to the history of snowboarding. Here’s a snapshot of the splitboarding timeline. 

  • 1965 – Modern snowboarding Snurfer was invented in Michigan by Sherman Poppen.
  • 1977 – Jake Burton Carpenter founds Burton snowboards and creates the first snowboard with attached bindings. 
  • 1990s – The snowboarding movement begins to gain momentum, and resorts worldwide accept riders and promote the sport. 
  • March 7, 1990 – The first splitboard patent application was filed.
  • April 1990 – An article featuring a picture of a splitboard appears in SKATESNOWBOARD magazine. 
  • 1994 – The first splitboard kit was available to the public in the DIY Voile Split Kit. 
  • Early 2000s – Companies like Prior, Venture, and Never Summer begin to manufacture more and more splitboards. 
  • 2010 – The snowboarding movie Deeper was released and had a strong splitboarding focus that brought new attention to the style. 
  • 2021 – Splitboarding continues to gain momentum, with more riders taking to the backcountry and more brands offering equipment that caters to this category of the sport.   

What is a Splitboard Snowboard

A splitboard is essentially a snowboard that splits into two pieces. At first look, this might look like a regular board. But on closer inspection, you’ll see that there are attachments near the tip and tail of the board that hold the two pieces together. 

The board also has special bindings and other necessary equipment that allow it to function going both uphill and downhill. Many companies now sell splitboards, and there are also DIY splitboard kits.

What Are Splitboards For

The primary purpose of a splitboard is to allow snowboarders to access backcountry terrain. By splitting into two pieces, the board can function like skis and enable you to move more efficiently uphill than you could when hiking through the snow in snowboarding boots

Splitboards can allow you to reach untouched terrain and ride fresh powder that regular snowboarders cannot access easily. They are a great way to experience more technical terrain, which is a growing segment of the sport. 

Splitboards have also been a critical aspect of the progress of snowboarding. By blending skiing and snowshoeing with snowboarding elements, splitboarding has expanded the horizons of what is possible on a board. 

How do Splitboards Work

Splitboards serve two main functions – to get you uphill more effectively than hiking and let you snowboard downhill essential the same way as a regular snowboard. The key to making both of these things happen is that a splitboard splits into two pieces. 

When it’s time to head uphill, a splitboard separates into two pieces. This essentially turns each half of the board into a ski, and you can take advantage of this to propel yourself uphill. Skins are attached to the bottom of each section to grip the snow and pull a rider uphill.  

Splitboard bindings can rotate to either face forward (like skis) or perpendicular to the board (like regular snowboard bindings). Modern splitboard bindings have a puck system that makes changing the setup very easy.  

When the bindings are in hike mode, they face forward and have a free heel to give you a snowshoe-like experience. They can then be rotated and attached to the board when it’s time to go downhill. 

Once you are finished with an ascent, the two pieces are attached to form a single board. You then make sure the bindings are rotated, strap yourself in, and you are ready to ride just like you usually would.   

What is the Flex of a Splitboard

Splitboards will almost always have a stiffer flex than the average snowboard. This increased rigidity helps the board function in two pieces to give you stability when ascending and also comes into play when you are riding downhill. 

Experienced riders usually want a stiffer board because this gives you more power, response, and control. A stiff board can also help with the extra weight involved with carrying additional backcountry equipment on your pack. 

Splitboards are still available in different flexes to match your ability level or preference. If you are an aggressive rider who wants to dominate every line in the backcountry, a stiffer board is better. 

If you want a little extra versatility and a more playful ride, a medium-stiff flex splitboard is probably better. A little extra flexibility can be nice in powder to give you more effortless turning ability. I wouldn’t use a soft flex splitboard, even if you could find one.  

How to Size Your Splitboard (Size Chart)

Picking the right size splitboard is nearly identical to choosing a regular snowboard. You’ll want to take your height, weight, and any preferences you have into consideration. Your experience level and skills also come into play. 

My general rule of thumb is to choose a board that comes up somewhere between your chin and nose when you and the board are standing on the ground. If you are an experienced rider, go with the nose. If you are less experienced, go to your chin. 

Here is a quick chart that helps you choose a snowboard length based on your body weight. You can also use our snowboard size calculator to get a more accurate estimate.

Image courtesy of REI

This is a general guideline and not an exact answer to getting the right size of splitboard. You also want to consider the width and shape of your board. These considerations again reflect any preferences and your riding ability

Wider boards are good for riding powder because they give you more surface area, which translates into float. Narrower boards can be a little bit faster. You also might want a wider splitboard if you have really large feet. 

How to Make a Splitboard On Your Own

Even though there are many great splitboard options to choose from, you can also make your own. This can be a fun DIY project or a good way to repurpose an old board or one that you don’t use very often. 

Making your own splitboard is relatively straightforward, as long as you have some basic knowledge of power tools and the nerve to saw a snowboard in half. Just note that if you aren’t comfortable with a power saw, you should probably buy a splitboard instead. 

The Voile Split Kit is the way to go when you want to tackle this project. It comes with all of the important and necessary hardware you need to do the job right. You also need a chop saw and a snowboard that you want to split in half. 

If you want in-depth instructions, take a look at this how-to guide from Snowboarder magazine. And if you want to see the Voile Split Kit in action, check out this video

Splitboarding Tips

In the sections below, you’ll find some quick tips relating to splitboarding. Make sure to check out the links or drop a line in the comments if you want to learn more about any one area in particular. 

How to get started with splitboarding?

Getting started with splitboarding is pretty straightforward. All you really need to do is get yourself a splitboard and some skins and head uphill. I would highly suggest going with riders who have experience as well. 

It’s also a good idea to try splitboarding at the resort before you head deep into the backcountry. Most resorts will let you skin uphill during regular operating hours, and this will let you get a feel for everything before you start to explore more challenging terrain. 

I’m sure there might be lessons available, but I don’t know any specific instructors specializing in splitboarding. You can always call a resort and see if this is a possibility. Making friends with fellow splitboarders is the best way to go, in my opinion. 

Check out this beginner’s guide to splitboarding from Burton for some other good information. This video also has some good tips and suggestions for getting started.  

How to transition on a splitboard?

Transitioning from hiking to riding on a splitboard is a skill unto itself. You might be a very accomplished snowboarder but turn into a complete newbie if you’ve never dealt with all the moving parts involved here. 

The two most important tips I can say here are to keep your gear well organized and practice your transitions before you ever even get out into the backcountry. This will help you be far more efficient when you are tired, cold, and sweaty after a long uphill ascent. 

It also pays to keep some general snowboarding advice in mind when transitioning as well. Always strap in with your edges perpendicular to the downhill slope and always clear your bindings from snow before putting your boots into them.

Here’s a good post with some additional information relating to transitions.  

How to walk with your splitboard?

Walking with your splitboard, also known as skinning, can be easy and intuitive for some riders and quite challenging for others. If you have experience with skis, you’ll probably pick it up in no time, but it could take some practice if you don’t. 

Once you have your skins attached and your feet in your bindings, it’s time to start heading uphill. You lift one foot (and the half of board it’s attached to), slide it forward, drag your other foot up, and repeat on the other side. 

Using poles for balance and push can also come in very handy. Take a look at these tips for some extra help walking with your splitboard. 

How to keep splitboard pins from getting loose?

I always like to check my pins before I venture into the backcountry to ensure they are tightened and ready for action. This allows you to deal with any issues before they appear in the comfort of your home instead of in the middle of a blizzard. 

Typically pins will have either a screw or a hex nut holding them in place. You should always have the proper tools with you when you ride, so you can make these adjustments when you are in the field. 

If a pin seems loose, you might need to repair it or get a new screw. This doesn’t happen very often, but if you can’t tighten it despite your best efforts, it’s probably time to take it to the shop.  

What to do when splitboards coming apart during riding?

Unfortunately, sometimes a splitboard can come apart when you are riding. To prevent this from happening, you always want to make sure you have the board set up for downhill riding with all the clamps, hooks, and pins in place. 

If you notice your board coming apart or starting to get loose, try to quickly gain control and come to a stop as soon as you can. Find a safe location where you can take the board off and try to fix the problem. 

Typically, you’ll just need to make a few adjustments, and you’ll be back on your way. If a critical piece of hardware is broken or faulty, you might have to hike or even ski back down the mountain. 

How to get into splitboard touring?

My best advice on this is to make friends with other riders who already do splitboard touring. If you can go out on your first trip with riders who have experience, you can learn everything you need to know and get help along the way. 

You also need to educate yourself on the dangers of backcountry snowboarding and how to deal with an emergency situation. A little preparation can go a long way in a worst-case scenario, and you want the tools with you to ensure you and your friends are safe. 

Other than that, it’s all about going for it and pushing your limits. Splitboard touring can be challenging, but the rewards of fresh powder and no lift lines are very alluring.  

Buying a Splitboard

Here are some tips and tricks to help you find and purchase a good splitboard. 

What companies make splitboards?

There are a lot of more well-known snowboard companies that offer splitboards in addition to their regular models. There are also a few companies that specialize in splitboards specifically. There are more options available today than ever before. 

Jones makes some of my favorite splitboards currently available. They have high-performance options that are built for more experienced riders. Arbor also has an extensive lineup of splitboards. 

Here is a comprehensive list of all major and minor brands with at least one splitboard for sale. Also, remember that the DIY Voile Splitboard kit can turn just about any board into a splitboard if you want to get handy. 

What’s the best time to buy a new splitboard?

There’s no time like the present, right? If you want to get a splitboard in time for the upcoming winter season, keep your eye on any sales or new releases from any of the brands mentioned above. 

You can get a good board any time of year, but there are often better sales to be found towards the end of the season or during the summer months. Usually, you can get a previous season’s board for cheaper, even when it’s brand new. 

If you wait until the season starts to get a new splitboard, you might end up paying more for it because there is increased demand, which keeps prices up. You can still get an excellent new board; you just might end up paying more for it. 

Also Read: Best Time to Buy a Snowboard (and Why)

Should I buy a used splitboard or a new one?

That depends on how serious of a splitboarder you think you’ll be. If you have never attempted this style of riding before, it’s probably a better idea to get a used board, just in case you end up not liking it that much. 

If you are an experienced splitboarder and love to go into the backcountry often, getting a new board will give you the ability to take advantage of the latest innovations and tech that come on current models. 

Cost is another concern that comes up when buying a new or used splitboard. A used board will almost always be cheaper than a new one. You just want to make sure you find a used board that is in good condition. 

Where to buy splitboards for the best price?

If you want to buy a splitboard for the best price, it can pay off to shop around a bit. Check-in with your local rental shop or snowboard shop towards the end of the season, and they might be able to hook you up with a good deal. 

For used boards, Craigslist is also a good option. If you search for split boards in the region you live or are visiting, you can score a cheaper board – and often haggle down the price along the way.  

Online retailers like Evo and Backcountry are good resources as well. These sites will give you a large selection, and they also have sales from time to time.

Also Read: 4 Best Places to Buy Used Snowboards

Where can I rent a splitboard?

Not every rental shop will carry splitboards, so you will want to call ahead to ensure the resort or town you are visiting has them. If you visit a larger resort town or population center, your chances of finding a splitboard to rent will be higher. 

Another way you might be able to use a splitboard if you can’t find a rental is to borrow a friend’s equipment. You can usually use your regular snowboard boots with a splitboard set up, so you just need to borrow the board with bindings. 

Also Read: Renting Snowboards vs Buying Snowboards (Pros & Cons)

Splitboard Bindings

Splitboard bindings are another essential aspect of this riding style, and you need to get special equipment that allows you to ride uphill and back down again. The sections below will help you learn about these bindings. 

What are splitboard bindings?

Splitboard bindings are special bindings that are designed specifically for use with splitboards. They can rotate to let you position them in a way that gives you uphill climbing abilities. The heel also comes loose in hike mode to help you climb. 

Splitboard bindings look like regular snowboard bindings but are made out of lighter materials that help them perform better in the backcountry when every ounce matters. If you want to splitboard, you’ll need a solid set of bindings. 

Check out this write-up for an excellent breakdown of splitboard bindings.  

How do splitboard bindings work?

At first glance, splitboard bindings look and work just like regular snowboard bindings. They have a baseplate, highback, and straps that keep your booted feet in place on the board and allow you to get good power transfer and response when you ride downhill. 

The difference is that splitboard bindings can rotate and transition when the board is split to give you the ability to climb. The bindings will turn 180-degrees, and the heel comes loose as well. They almost function like cross country ski bindings in climbing mode. 

Here’s a video that explains a lot about splitboard and explains how the bindings work in detail. 

How to mount splitboard bindings?

Mounting your splitboard bindings isn’t extremely complicated, but it can be a little confusing if you have never done the task before. It’s also important to know that every brand of bindings has a slightly different setup. 

The best advice to mounting splitboard bindings will come from the manufacturer of those bindings. Make sure you get the instructions and manual from the company that makes your bindings.

Here’s a video showing how to mount Karakoram splitboard bindings. Here’s a video showing how to mound Voile pucks and bindings.

How to set up bindings splitboard stance angle?

Setting up your splitboard bindings stance angle is similar to setting up the angle on a regular snowboard. You’ll want to adjust things based on the style of riding you do and any preferences you have based on your ability level or body type. 

The angles are easy to adjust with the included hardware you receive when you purchase a set of bindings (or what comes included on your board). Usually, all you need to do is loosen a few screws or brackets, and you’ll be all set.   

How to switch splitboard bindings?

Switching splitboard bindings from climb mode to ride mode is pretty easy. While each model is slightly different from one another, the basics are essentially the same. 

All you do is loosen up the pins, rotate the bindings the way you want them to be oriented, get the pins attached, and then start climbing or riding. 

Here’s a good video showing how the process happens with Voile and Spark bindings. Other models will be similar.

Splitboard Skins

Skins are another critical element in the splitboarding puzzle. They enable you to climb, and without them, you’ll struggle to get uphill. 

What are splitboard skins?

Splitboard skins are pieces of fabric that attach to the bottom of each half of the board. They are made from a material that slides in one direction while gripping the snow in the other direction. This allows you to climb uphill effectively. 

Skins are essential for splitboarding because there is no way you will make it far uphill without them. These are the same type of material used on skis, and they have been used by backcountry riders for decades.

How are splitboard skins different from ski skins?

Skins for splitboards and skis are essentially the same material, but their shape and design and be different. You want to make sure you purchase skins for a splitboard so that the installation process is more manageable. 

The main difference is the shape and length. Splitboard skins are usually shorter than ski skins because snowboards are shorter than skis. You usually cut skins to fit your exact board, so you can use ski skins if you are in a pinch.  

If you want to learn more about splitboard skins and how they differ from ski skins, check out this informative article

How to apply skins to a splitboard?

Skins are attached to a splitboard using loops on the tips, clips on the tails, and sometimes glue. This installation process effectively holds the skins in place while climbing uphill without them coming loose. It also makes them easy to take off when it’s time to ride. 

You should practice applying your skins before you head out to the backcountry, so you know how to get the job done efficiently. Getting advice from an experienced rider is also a good idea if you have never done it before. 

Different skins attach in different ways, but the application process is usually pretty similar. Check out this post for some in-depth information and videos to give you a better idea. 

How long should splitboard skins be?

Your skins should usually be the length of your splitboard. You don’t want them to be too long because they can get in the way when hiking and slow you down. You also don’t want them to be too short because you’ll lose climbing traction. 

Most skins are sold in a precut length that you can match to the size of splitboard you are riding. Usually, these come in a small, medium, and large size that covers a range of sizes. Just make sure you get a size that covers the length of your board. 

You can also trim skins to fit pretty easily. You just don’t want to cut them too short because you can’t glue them back together. 

How to cut splitboard skins?

You need to cut your splitboard skins to match the width of each piece of the board. You want the width to cover the base of each piece without being too wide and covering the edges. If you cover the edges with your skins, you’ll lose traction and control when going uphill. 

I like to use a razor blade, utility knife, or Exacto knife to trim splitboard skins. These tools are very sharp and will cut right through the skin material much better than scissors will. They also give you a far more precise cut. 

Some skins, such as Voile skins, come with a unique trimming tool which makes the job really easy. Here’s a video showing you how to trim this type of skin.

How to dry splitboard skins?

Drying your splitboard skins is an important aspect of routine maintenance. If they stay wet, they can wear out quickly and lose their effective performance characteristics. Just like other snowboarding equipment, you want to keep things dry when not in use. 

Hanging up skins in a clean and dry area is the easiest way to let them dry out. This can be indoors or outside, but just make sure the area is free of dust and other debris that can cause damage. A clothesline works pretty well. 

How to store splitboard climbing skins?

Storing your skins properly is another vital aspect in keeping them functioning properly for multiple seasons. Drying them off is a critical first step. After that, try to put them away in the same packaging they came in. Store them in a cool place, so the glue doesn’t heat up. 

Here’s a video demonstrating some proper skin storage techniques. This example deals with ski skins, but the same advice applies to splitboard skins.  

What are splitboard crampons?

Splitboard crampons are attachments that fit onto your board to give you extra grip and bite into hardpack snow and ice. Just like crampons that fit onto snow boots, they are made out of light, but strong metal and have pointed teeth that dig into the snow. 

Crampons are a nice piece of extra equipment to have in case you need them. When the going gets tough, these items can come in use without adding much weight to your pack. 

FAQs

Here are a few quick answers to some commonly asked questions about splitboarding. 

Do you need to learn how to ski before using a splitboard?

Not really. While it can help to have a little bit of skiing experience, your board will only be split into two pieces when you are headed uphill. In that regard, splitboarding is more similar to snowshoeing than skiing. 

How different are men and women splitboards?

There isn’t a vast difference between men’s and women’s splitboards. You might encounter differences in size and slight variances in construction or design. But a woman could easily use a man’s splitboard and vice versa. 

What are the holes in a splitboard?

The holes in a splitboard are either for keeping the two pieces of the board attached so you can ride it downhill or for mounting and adjusting the bindings. The holes near the tip and tail of the board connect the pieces, and the center holes are for bindings. 

What kind of plastic is used for splitboard pucks?

Splitboarding pucks are usually made out of ABS or polycarbonate plastics. These are very strong and durable plastics that can hold up well under continued use and cold weather. Some pucks use a blend of plastic and lightweight metals like aluminum. 

How many runs in a day when splitboarding in the Tetons?

This depends on your ability and fitness levels as well as the snow and weather conditions. On a really good day, you might be able to sneak in four splitboarding runs in the Tetons. If the weather is terrible and you are not in shape, you might only get one run. 

What hardware do I need for splitboarding?

To effectively get uphill, you’ll need a splitboard with pucks and either splitboard-specific bindings or bindings that work with your puck system. You’ll also need skins to grip the snow going uphill, and ski poles are nice to have, even though you can get by without them. 

How to snowboard backcountry without splitboard?

Backcountry snowboarding without a splitboard is more than possible. It just might take you a little bit longer to get uphill. Without a splitboard, you hike uphill and either carry your board or strap it to your back or backpack.  

Final Thoughts

Splitboarding is an extremely fun and rewarding branch of snowboarding. If you have any desire to explore the backcountry, splitboarding can give you access to untouched lines of fresh powder, far away from the crowds you’ll find at the resort. 

You need to get the proper equipment to splitboard effectively, and you also need to keep safety in mind anytime you venture into the backcountry. Never go splitboarding alone, and always bring avalanche safety equipment along with you.

About Lorraine
I'm a certified snowboard instructor. My first experience with snowboarding occurred at an indoor resort. One run had me hooked, and it has turned into a lifelong passion ever since then. I'm here to share with you some of the tips and advice I have learned along the way.

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