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Splitboard vs Snowboard: Your Guide to Backcountry Bliss

  • Post last modified:February 12, 2024
  • Post category:Splitboards
  • Reading time:17 mins read

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As winter approaches and the mountains beckon, snow sports enthusiasts face an age-old question: should they stick to traditional snowboarding or venture into splitboarding? Both options offer thrilling experiences on the slopes, but understanding the differences can help you make an informed decision. In article, we’ll compare Splitboard vs Snowboard, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, read on to discover which option suits your style and preferences.

Contents

Main Differences of Snowboarding and Splitboarding

The main differences between snowboarding vs splitboarding lie primarily in their functionality and versatility. Snowboarding provides a playful and lively experience, great for groomed slopes and performing tricks, which makes it a top choice for park riders and those who prefer well-maintained terrains. 

On the other hand, splitboarding stands out with its unique capability to split into two separate skis for uphill climbs, making it a perfect match for backcountry explorers who enjoy off-piste adventures and untouched powder. Each has its merits, and the best choice depends on your riding style and preferences. However, if an unbiased opinion were to be given, splitboarding might edge out for those seeking the thrill of exploration and a taste of freedom in the backcountry.

Splitboard

What is Snowboarding?

Snowboarding is a popular winter sport that involves descending a slope covered with snow while standing on a snowboard, a flat board with bindings to secure your feet. It’s a thrilling recreational activity and competitive sport that captivated the world with its debut in the Winter Olympics in 1998. Here are some key elements to understanding more about snowboarding:

  • Origins: Snowboarding began in the 1960s in the United States and has become a beloved sport worldwide. It was invented by Sherman Poppen, who bolted two skis together to make a toy for his daughters.
  • Equipments: A typical snowboarding setup includes a snowboard, bindings, and boots. The snowboard is usually made of a wood or foam core, wrapped in fiberglass, and coated with a high-density polyethylene surface.
  • Styles: There are various snowboarding styles, including freestyle, freeriding, and alpine snowboarding. Freestyle focuses on tricks and jumps, freeriding involves off-piste and backcountry snowboarding, and alpine snowboarding is about speed and precision on groomed runs.
  • Competitions: Competitive snowboarding involves various events such as slopestyle, halfpipe, big air, boardercross, and alpine snowboarding. These events are part of the Winter X Games and the Winter Olympics.
  • Skills: Snowboarding requires a good sense of balance, agility, and control. Beginners usually start by learning to balance, steer, stop, and fall safely before progressing to more complex maneuvers.

In short, snowboarding offers something for everyone – from the adrenaline junkie seeking thrilling jumps to the nature-lover looking to explore the backcountry. It’s a versatile sport that’s as much about personal expression as it is about speed and competition.

Here is an article on snowboarding checklist that you may like.

What is Splitboarding?

Splitboarding is an innovative variation of traditional snowboarding that involves a specially designed board that can be separated into two skis for uphill travel. It has revolutionized backcountry exploration by offering greater access to remote mountain areas usually unreachable by standard snowboards. Here are some key aspects to know about splitboarding:

  • Origins: Splitboarding emerged in the 1990s as a solution for snowboarders who wanted to venture into the backcountry without the hassle of packing and switching gear. The concept was a game-changer, combining the best of both worlds: the freedom of skiing uphill and the thrill of snowboarding downhill.
  • Equipment: A standard splitboarding setup includes the splitboard, bindings, and climbing skins. The splitboard is what sets this sport apart: it’s a snowboard that splits in half to create skis for climbing. Special bindings are used that can switch between a locked position for downhill riding and a pivoting mode for uphill movement. Climbing skins, which are strips that you stick to the bottom of the skis, provide traction for ascending slopes.
  • Technique: Splitboarding technique involves “skinning” uphill using climbing skins attached to the bottoms of the skis. Once at the top, the skis are reconnected to form a snowboard for the descent. Transitioning between the two forms is a crucial skill in splitboarding.
  • Terrain: Splitboarding is specifically designed for backcountry and off-piste terrain. It allows riders to navigate steep and deep snow conditions that are typically inaccessible to traditional snowboarders.
  • Skills: In addition to snowboarding skills, splitboarding requires knowledge of mountain safety and avalanche awareness. It’s also physically demanding, requiring strength and stamina for the uphill climb.

In essence, splitboarding blends the uphill efficiency of skiing with the downhill excitement of snowboarding. It’s a unique sport that opens up vast, untouched landscapes for those willing to take on its challenges. By understanding the nuances of splitboarding, you can unlock a whole new world of winter adventure.

Advantages of Snowboarding

big air snowboarding. splitboard vs snowboard

Snowboarding, as an adrenaline-fueled winter sport, offers a myriad of benefits that contribute to a well-rounded and thrilling experience on the slopes. The advantages of snowboarding are not just confined to the thrill of the ride but also extend to personal development and social interaction. Here’s a closer look at what makes snowboarding so appealing:

  • Versatility: Snowboarding can be enjoyed in a variety of styles, including freestyle, freeriding, and alpine. This versatility allows individuals to choose a style that best suits their preferences and abilities.
  • Physical Fitness: The sport is a full-body workout that enhances physical strength, balance, and cardiovascular health. It also burns a significant amount of calories, offering a fun way to stay fit.
  • Mental Well-being: Like any outdoor activity, snowboarding can boost mood, reduce stress, and improve mental well-being. The adrenaline rush and the serene beauty of snowy landscapes make for a perfect mix of tranquility and thrill.
  • Social Interaction: Snowboarding provides a wonderful platform for social interaction. Whether you’re hitting the slopes with friends or joining a group lesson, the social aspect of the sport can enhance enjoyment and create lasting friendships.
  • Reconnection with Nature: Snowboarding in the mountains allows for an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s a chance to reconnect with nature, breathe the fresh alpine air, and appreciate the stunning winter scenery.

In a nutshell, snowboarding offers more than a way to navigate snowy slopes. It’s a ticket to fitness, camaraderie, and sublime natural beauty.

Disadvantages of Snowboarding

While snowboarding offers many benefits and thrilling experiences, it’s also important to acknowledge the challenges and potential disadvantages associated with the sport. Here are some of the main drawbacks to consider:

  • Risk of Injury: Snowboarding, particularly at high speeds or during complex maneuvers, carries a risk of injury. Falls can result in sprains, fractures, or even more severe injuries.
  • Cost: The sport can be costly when considering the price of equipment, lift tickets, and potential travel and accommodation costs for those not living near ski resorts.
  • Physical Demand: Snowboarding requires a considerable amount of physical fitness. It can be tiring, particularly for beginners, and demands good balance and control.
  • Time-Consuming: Mastering the art of snowboarding takes time. For many, this learning curve can be steep and somewhat frustrating.
  • Climate Dependent: As a winter sport, snowboarding is subject to seasonal restrictions and depends on suitable weather conditions. 

Despite these challenges, many enthusiasts believe that the thrill and joy of snowboarding outweigh the disadvantages. It’s crucial to approach the sport with awareness and proper preparation to mitigate potential drawbacks.

Advantages of Splitboarding

splitboard-skiing. Splitboard vs snowboard

Splitboarding opens up a whole new world of possibilities, providing access to backcountry areas and untracked snow that traditional snowboarding may not offer. Here are some key advantages of splitboarding:

  • Accessibility: Splitboards allow you to explore remote and untouched terrain far away from crowded resorts. With the ability to hike uphill using the splitboard’s unique design, you can access hidden powder stashes and enjoy pristine slopes.
  • Efficiency: Splitboards eliminate the need for additional gear like snowshoes during ascents. The bindings on a splitboard can be adjusted to provide a secure fit while climbing, ensuring efficient mountain traversal.
  • Glide and Traction: Splitboard skins enhance glide on flat or rolling terrain, making it easier to cover longer distances. Additionally, the traction provided by splitboard skins allows for better grip on steep and icy slopes.
  • Comfort and Mobility: Splitboard boots are designed to provide comfort and mobility during both climbing and descending. They offer the necessary support and flexibility required for splitboarding adventures.
  • Safety: Splitboarding offers an advantage over snowshoeing regarding safety during glacier excursions. With splitboard crampons and the ability to ride downhill, splitboarders have higher safety and efficiency on icy or challenging terrain.

Disadvantages of Splitboarding

While splitboarding opens doors to new adventures, there are some drawbacks to consider:

  • Assembly and Transition Times: Splitboards require assembly and transition between touring and riding modes, which can be time-consuming compared to traditional snowboards.
  • Cost: Splitboarding equipment, including splitboards, bindings, and skins, tends to be more expensive than regular snowboarding gear or snowshoe setups.
  • Learning Curve: Splitboarding involves zigzagging and rapid turns during ascents, which requires some practice and adjustment compared to the straightforward snowshoeing ascent.
  • Control and Grip: Splitboard skis may not provide the same level of control and grip as regular skis, especially in icy or hard-packed conditions.
  • Weight: Traditional splitboard models tend to be heavier than lightweight ski-touring setups, impacting maneuverability and overall ride experience.
  • Flexibility: Splitboards may have limitations when it comes to performing certain tricks and maneuvers compared to traditional snowboards.
  • Compatibility: Splitboards must be compatible with established skin tracks, which can limit the width options available for riders.
  • Freezing Mechanisms: In extremely cold conditions, ice can accumulate and freeze the splitboard bindings or transition mechanism, making switching between touring and riding modes difficult.

Here is a additional resource from Rei on How to choose splitboard. Hop to this link

Design and Functionality Differences: Splitboard vs Snowboard

snowboard-

Snowboards and splitboards have distinct designs and functionalities that cater to different terrains and riding styles. A snowboard is a single board designed for downhill rides, featuring two bindings to secure your feet. 

On the other hand, a splitboard is a specialized snowboard that can be split into two separate skis for uphill climbs. The bindings on a splitboard can be adjusted to allow for efficient climbing and then locked into place for the descent.

Snowboarding vs Splitboarding: A Side-by-Side Comparison

When deciding between snowboarding and splitboarding, it’s essential to understand the key differences. Here’s a side-by-side comparison to help you make an informed decision:

  • Snowboarding:
  • Accessibility: Limited to resort boundaries and groomed areas.
  • Efficiency: Offers straightforward descent; no mode transition required.
  • Glide & Traction: Dependent on snow condition and board design.
  • Comfort & Mobility: Boots designed for maximum support during downhill runs; limited walking comfort.
  • Safety: Safety in challenging or icy terrain dependent on rider skill and snow conditions.
  • Cost: Less expensive; regular snowboarding equipment is usually cheaper.
  • Learning Curve: Easier learning curve for beginners.
  • Flexibility: Allows for a wide range of tricks and maneuvers.
  • Weight: Generally lighter, allowing for more maneuverability.
  • Splitboarding:
  • Accessibility: Offers access to backcountry areas and untracked snow.
  • Efficiency: Eliminates need for additional gear during ascents; efficient mountain traversal due to adjustable bindings.
  • Glide & Traction: Enhanced glide on flat or rolling terrain due to splitboard skins; better grip on steep, icy slopes.
  • Comfort & Mobility: Boots designed for both climbing and descending offer necessary support and flexibility.
  • Safety: Higher level of safety during glacier excursions with splitboard crampons and downhill ride capability.
  • Cost: Equipment tends to be more expensive due to the need for splitboards, bindings, and skins.
  • Learning Curve: Zigzagging and rapid turns during ascents require practice and adjustment.
  • Flexibility: It may have limitations when performing certain tricks and maneuvers.
  • Weight: Traditional models can be heavier than snowboards, impacting maneuverability.

Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between them ultimately depends on your preferences and the terrain you wish to explore. Whether you choose the traditional snowboarding route or opt for splitboarding, both options promise an exhilarating journey on the snow.

Conclusion: Splitboard vs Snowboard

Choosing between snowboarding and splitboarding ultimately comes down to personal needs, preferences, and the type of terrain you wish to explore. If you’re drawn to the backcountry, untouched snow, and the thrill of touring, splitboarding offers a whole new dimension to your snowboarding experience. 

However, if you prefer the simplicity and versatility of traditional snowboarding, it may be the best choice for you. Consider your goals, skill level, and the type of adventures you seek before deciding. Regardless of your choice, always prioritize safety, respect for the environment, and a passion for the mountains. Happy riding!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Splitboard vs Snowboard

Snowboarding involves a straightforward descent on a single board, typically within resort boundaries. Splitboarding, on the other hand, provides access to backcountry or off-piste terrain with a board that splits into two skis for uphill climbs.

Splitboarding involves a steeper learning curve due to the zigzagging and rapid turns during ascents and the transition between touring and riding modes. However, with practice, many riders find it to be an enjoyable challenge.

Splitboarding equipment is specialized and includes splitboards, bindings, and skins for climbing, which contributes to its higher cost. 

Splitboards may have limitations when it comes to performing certain tricks and maneuvers compared to traditional snowboards due to their design and weight.

Each has its own safety considerations. Snowboarding safety is dependent on rider skill and snow conditions, while splitboarding offers additional safety features for glacier excursions.

Yes, you need boots designed for both climbing and descending that offer the necessary support and flexibility for splitboarding. 

In extremely cold conditions, ice can accumulate and freeze the splitboard bindings or transition mechanism, making it difficult to switch between touring and riding modes.

Yes, a splitboard can be used in a resort just like a regular snowboard. However, its real advantage lies in its ability to access backcountry areas and untracked snow.