Are Splitboards Worth it? Understanding the Costs of Splitboarding

Skiers riding off piste have a simple method for ski touring off-piste or in backcountry terrain: strap on a pair of climbing skins.

For a long time, there was no easy parallel for snowboarders to ride in the backcountry.

In recent years, a new type of riding called splitboarding changed the game. The invention of the splitboard made it possible for snowboarders to use a modified snowboard variant to both climb uphill and snowboard downhill.

Many snowboarders might be wondering if they should commit to getting into splitboarding. The costs of investing in new gear and unfamiliarity with backcountry trails and skills may seem intimidating.

However, splitboards are absolutely worth it for many snowboarders looking to access backcountry terrain. In this article, we’ll cover how to get started with splitboarding, including the required gear and skills, and costs.

How to get started splitboarding

Prototypes of the first splitboards were first invented during the early 1990s. The basic concept was a type of snowboard that could separate or “split” into two different ski-like sections, attached with climbing skins, and then used to traverse uphill.

Once a suitable elevation point or trail destination is reached, the splitboarder then reattaches the separated “skis” back into a splitboard, and rides down like a snowboarder.

Below we’ll cover some of the basic equipment required for splitboarding.

Are Splitboards Worth It? Pair of splitboards in backcountry snow

Gear needed for splitboarding

The major equipment needs for splitboarding include the splitboard itself, bindings, climbing skins, and other backcountry gear such as a pack and avalanche gear.

Splitboard

The splitboard itself is the most important part of splitboarding.  

As with regular snowboards, splitboards can vary greatly in terms of function, shape and size, and price. For example, splitboards meant for deep powder are shorter and wider. Splitboards for longer backcountry tours tend to be more narrow and longer.

Most splitboards are constructed with either a fiberglass or carbon topsheet.

Many companies make splitboards, ranging from big-name ski and snowboard brands such as Rossignol, Burton, and K2 to smaller manufacturers such as Arbor, Jones, and United Shapes.

Splitboard Bindings

Splitboards require a specialized type of binding, and regular snowboard bindings will not work on a splitboard.

There are two types of splitboard bindings: soft boot and hard boot, although most splitboarders will use a soft boot.

Popular brands that specialize in splitboard bindings include Union, Karakoram, Spark, Nitro, and K2.

Splitboard Climbing Skins

Most splitboard climbing skins are made out of natural (mohair) or synthetic (nylon) materials, or a combination of the two. The length of a skin should match the length of the splitboard.

Climbing skins are then attached to the splitboard using clips and a sticky adhesive for uphill ascents, and removed and stored in a pack while riding down.

Other Gear Required for Splitboarding

In addition to the equipment mentioned above, a backpack is essential to carry gear for backcountry trips including avalanche gear, food and water, and extra layers.

How much do splitboards cost?

There is no denying that the initial investment costs of a splitboard setup is steep.

Splitboarding can be expensive to get started, but in the long run costs are similar if not cheaper to to other winter sports such as downhill skiing and snowboarding.

The price of an entry level splitboards can range from $600-$1000, while higher end models can cost as much as $1500-$1800 for the splitboard alone.

Splitboard bindings will be an additional $200-$300 on average, and climbing skins can tack on an additional $200 or more of expenses.

While expensive, a complete splitboard package used as a primary setup will save money in the long run for a snowboarder making the switch from resorts to the backcountry.

Once you own a splitboard setup, you’ll never have to worry about paying for lift tickets or season snowboard passes again. The only ongoing costs are gear maintenance and repairs and the price of gas for for getting to trails.

Daily lift tickets are over $100 at many ski resorts and the starting price of season passes is $600 and up easily into $1000 and beyond. Therefore, it would only take two to three seasons to break even.

Is splitboarding dangerous?

Splitboarding can be dangerous due to the nature of backcountry conditions and terrain. All splitboarders should be experienced snowboarders who are comfortable on all types of terrain.

Snowboarders should consider the following safety precautions: being familiar with how to use their gear, seek terrain suitable for their experience, and knowledge of backcountry navigation and avalanche safety.

Achieve Familiarity with Splitboarding gear

While the basic concept of riding a splitboard may feel similar to a snowboard, backcountry riding is an entirely different beast.

If it’s your first time splitboarding, make sure you’re familiar with all aspects of riding and packing your gear, and know how to properly use and adjust bindings, skins, etc.

Have a Appropriate Level of Snowboarding Experience

If you’ve only ventured within in-bounds territory at ski resorts, you should be able to comfortably snowboard all trails including ungroomed terrain.

This includes being able to easily and comfortably ride through the steepest trails of in-bounds territories at ski resorts, along with moguls and glades.

Understand how to navigate in the backcountry

Anyone who ventures into the backcountry should have prior navigation skills and local knowledge to find their way around. There are even mobile applications that can help with planning and act as navigation aids.

It’s also helpful to have an emergency method of communication in case you get lost or separated from your group.

Respect Avalanche Safety 

In areas and terrain that is avalanche prone, splitboarders need to have avalanche equipment and safety training without question. If you aren’t sure if an area is an avalanche risk, don’t take any risks.

Seek outside resources for knowledge of local area and how to properly use all avalanche gear.

Conclusion

Investing in a splitboard can be a great choice for an experienced snowboarder that plans to spend a significant amount of time in the backcountry.

There are other tools that snowboarders can use to access the backcountry besides a splitboard, such as snowshoes or approach skis. These methods come with their own advantages and disadvantages, so research whether they can meet your needs.