There’s no denying how fun it is to snowboard at resorts. You’re able to spend time with your friends, enjoy a few handfuls of laps, and then relax afterward at a cozy fireside pub. However, anyone who’s ventured outside those friendly confines knows, there’s nothing that beats taking to the backcountry. Aside from the fact that you can access more terrain and ride all day without crossing a single track, there’s something special about earning your turns. When you’ve spent the day trudging through deep snow and skinning up steep inclines, the payoff just feels better.
If you spend any time in the backcountry, you already know you need a top-of-the-line splitboard to truly enjoy it. One that’s lightweight, easy to carry, and unclips with ease — even when covered in chunks of ice. Most importantly, it needs to perform well when it’s time to ride and you don’t want to sacrifice quality just because it has a seam down the middle. We’ve rounded up the best splitboards out there to help you narrow down the option that’s best for you and your ride style. When you find your favorite, don’t forget to grab the best warm jackets, gloves, and winter gear, so you can enjoy a gorgeous weekend on the hill.
Venture is a company that’s all about the backcountry — even its regular boards are designed to perform best in big mountain, freeride scenarios. With a veritable winter playground surrounding its Silverton, Colorado factory, the Paragon was tested amid steep Rocky Mountain backcountry and the attention to detail is evident. This ultra-light, playful board features a directional shape with a slight taper that’s designed to glide over powder while offering freestyle and resort-riding performance elements. The Paragon is brand-new for 2018, though a solid version of the model has been popular for years.
This year, the company added TX30 glass and increased the tip-to-tail flex to six, making it much livelier and poppier. Medium torsional flex offers excellent edge response yet is still pressable. The Aspen core — sourced down the highway from its factory — features ash stringers down both the center and edges which, along with its P-Tex sidewalls, make it wildly durable. Venture’s Straight-Line Rocker profile also gives it snap while allowing it to stay afloat in soft snow. It features a Voile clip system that remains damp and stable when ridden. A versatile, all-mountain rider, this board performs beautifully in various conditions.
Jeremy Jones’ name is virtually synonymous with freeriding. The snowboarding legend is best known for carving giant lines amid steep chutes, narrow spines, and pillowy staircases. His sturdy boards are built to handle backcountry features and the Ultracraft is no exception. Its most notable feature is how unbelievably lightweight it is, making it great for carrying and skinning, as well as offering a floaty feeling during descent. It has a wide, blunt directional nose with rocker for deep powder and a mega-stiff, stubby tail that offers stellar control for chutes and tree lines.
Jones’s licensed Magne Traction provide expert grip for skinning up and when you hit crust or hardpack on the way down. The top sheet features Textreme Carbon, making it one of the lightest splitboards around. Its Sintered Ultra base that’s modified with fluoro and paraffin additives features a fast, slick ride. It comes with convenient pre-cut skins that not only save you the hassle of cutting them yourself but also to ensure a precise fit. With Karakoram Ultra Clips and a Boltless Bridge which eliminates base hardware, this remains one of the best splitboards available. At $1500, it’s not cheap but if you can swing it, it’s worth the money.
Hailing from the burly mountains of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Travis Rice is a bonafide big mountain slayer and his namesake splitboard shows it. The unique profile offers banana rocker at the waist that’s a touch shorter with camber underfoot and a tough tail, making it aggressive while still feeling buttery and floaty. The shape is directionally tapered yet the board feels nearly as effortless to ride switch as it does facing forward. Mervin’s original Magne Traction on the edges gives the outback deck solid grip that locks in turns and performs well on hardpack.
The board is made with a whip-fast sintered base and Spin Slim Tip and Tail construction, a combination of balsa and paulownia woods that allow it to be super lightweight yet durable — its minimal swing weight even makes it smooth and responsive. This board is definitely not made for a beginner but then again, neither is the backcountry. If you’re a solid, advanced-to-expert level rider who shreds hard and knows how to take command of your board, you’ll love The Gold Member.
Simply put, the Solution is one of the best splitboards on the planet. Like many backcountry splits, it’s shaped with a blunt nose and tapered tail, giving you mega-rise up front for powder bowls, aided by its front-loaded hybrid profile with extra rocker in the nose. The slightly smoother rocker in the tail keeps it stable without letting it catch when turning. Surfing powder is further assisted with the company’s castor bean ECO-plastic top sheet that sloughs snow as you ride, preventing pile-up — this also gives it a touch of snap without adding more weight.
To give it a bit of extra pop, Jones injected carbon quadrax stringers and fiberglass into the poplar-beech core. The company’s Traction Tech is featured on both the inner and outer edges, offering extra grip in tour mode, as well as on crust and crunch and its stone-ground sintered P-tex makes the board incredibly fast. The Karakoram Ultra Clips lock in torsional flex and reduce washiness on the way down while the Boltless Bridge eliminates the need for base hardware. It’s no wonder this ultra-tough, high-tech board is one of the best-selling splitboards around.
Pallas is one of the few women-owned, women-operated snowboard makers and its dedication to designing elite performance boards for women is on full display in the Zeitgeist. Built by a crew of hard-charging ladies in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, this is the ultimate backcountry weapon. With a big nose keeping you afloat and a tapered tail for rear-end stability, this board gives you the lift you need to glide over powder while maintaining technical precision on hardpack surfaces. Its profile is flat but fades to smooth camber near the back foot for stability and edge control, and features a tight sidecut for clean transitions.
This board boasts a 100 percent aspen core that’s light with minimal fill in the top to keep the swing weight low for snappy turns. Pallas layered the wood with carbon support, making it torsionally stiff and ensuring it won’t get washy at high speeds. Its licensed BUHMPER edge technology replaces traditional steel with a high-density plastic sidewall material to offer grip during climbs, and damp, chatter-resistant rides down. The board comes with Voile clips by default, however, you can have Karakoram clips substituted on request.
It’s no surprise the Arbor Swoon was born in Big Sky country. Built in Montana and ridden by Whistler-based pro-rider Marie-France Roy, is a versatile backcountry board designed for big mountain exploration. The reclined parabolic rocker gradually reduces bend toward the tip and tail, creating low-riding outer contact points that deliver precise control and grip on your ascent. The board is light, soaring effortlessly over powder but remains blazing fast with its durable Single Malt Poplar core that lets you ride at high speeds with confidence.
Arbor’s 360-degree Rails technology — essentially a fully-wrapped sidewall — means there’s no fill in the tip, making the board lighter with reduced swing weight. It has Karakoram clips that lock it together, maximizing torsional stiffness while riding — even at high speeds — while reducing wobble at the seam. Overall, this board is extremely versatile and fun.