Split the Difference | Winter Outdoor Rec Guide | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Split the Difference 

Splitboards let you ski to the backcountry and board down the powder—all in one piece.

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Many dedicated snowboarders eventually tire of the resorts, the lines and the lifts and yearn for the runs less ridden. The vastness of wide-open, untouched fields of powder call their names, and dreams of watching the sun rise from the peak of a snow-covered mountain rouse them from sleep.

Sure, snowboarders could strap on skis and get to the same area. But anyone who comes to that solution probably hasn’t experienced snowboarding in its most natural state: powder, with its surf-like turns, barreled slashes and bottomless floating. Splitboarding provides limitless options and fresh turns. It isn’t about trying to ski; it’s about getting somewhere better to snowboard.

A splitboard is basically a snowboard cut in half lengthwise and held together with hardware and latches. When traveling uphill, the snowboard is taken apart and the splitboarder faces forward like they would on skis. This allows the use of climbing skins similar to alpine ski touring. For the fun part—the downhill—the board is reconnected, the bindings change position and the rider snowboards down the mountain.


“I don’t like to share my powder with others,” says Zach Clanton, a 24-year-old splitboarder. With splitboarding, he says, “You can go out and ride a new line every day of your life if you want to, because your only limit is the number of mountain peaks in the world.”

Clanton learned to snowboard in the third grade, but it wasn’t until he moved to Utah for freshman year at the University of Utah that it really became his passion. He rode the Big Cottonwood resorts, Brighton and Solitude, for a couple of years before splitboarding for the first time in 2007-08. He hasn’t bought a lift ticket since.

Splitboarding popularity has been on the rise in the past few years, and many snowboard companies like K2, Rome and Gnu have jumped on the wagon, crafting split-specific boards within their lines. But this hasn’t always been the case. Just 10 years ago, there were only four manufacturers that produced splitboards—one being Salt Lake City-based Voile.

According to the Splitboard Education Company, the first splitboard was invented in the late ’80s by local Wasatch legend Brett “The Cowboy” Kobernick, who put a hacksawed board back together with door hinges. Kobernick met and was encouraged by Voile to use its presses and mills to create some splitboard prototypes, which Voile later manufactured with his help.

Many splitboarders still make their first boards the Kobernick do-it-yourself way to save money. Old snowboards can be split using a circular saw and a steady hand, then sealed with polyurethane to keep water out. Kits can be purchased (Voile makes a Split Decision DIY kit) that include all the hardware needed to connect the board and mount the bindings. Local board shops, like Salty Peaks, also offer custom splitting of any old board.

Regardless of what board they’re riding, splitboarders know that a board far outweighs other alternatives to getting into the backcountry. Many snowboarders have used skis and snowshoes in their powder pursuits, but the general consensus has moved to the splitboard as the most efficient backcountry travel.

“I did snowshoe to some of my first Wasatch peaks before I had figured out that splitboarding is indeed the answer,” Clanton says. “You just can’t beat the efficiency of uphill travel with heel risers and a smooth glide, but most of all, you don’t have to carry anything on your back for the way up or down.”

And that makes all the difference when 6,000 feet of vertical lies ahead. The sun still sits below the horizon and no other tracks are in sight. The lifts, wherever they may be, are still frozen at a stop.

“You only go where your instincts tell you … leaving only a sparkling rooster tail and your signature tracks behind,” Clanton says. %u25C6

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