When the sun arcs low across the horizon, and snow covers the land, cross-country skiers have long had the extensive Vermont backcountry all to themselves. No more. The woods are now open to a fast growing segment of snowboarders–splitboarders. Since the October Country Inn is conveniently surrounded by Vermont’s Green Mountains, and I don’t ski, but really enjoy snowboarding, I couldn’t resist it when I discovered a Burton Fish splitboard on sale at the nearby First Stop Ski Shop and Board Barn. I was soon fully equipped with a splitboard, Spark RD Magneto bindings, and Sabertooth crampons, Voile climbing skins, Black Diamond collapsible poles, and a Burton splitboard specific backpack.
As things go, splitboards are pretty new. It all started in Utah in the early 1990s when Brett “Cowboy” Kobernick’s buddy cut an old snowboard in half down the middle with a hand-held hacksaw and said “wouldn’t it be cool if we could somehow put these back together.” It wasn’t long after that Cowboy, laid up from his ski resort job with an injury, took the two snowboard halves down to his basement, and used whatever he could find to put them back together. Although crude in the extreme, Cowboy kept thinking about how to make it better. He got Mark Wariakois, owner of Voile, a backcountry ski equipment company, to let him use the shop’s equipment. The splitboard was born. It took a while to catch on, but new lightweight bindings and hardware have made the modern splitboard mandatory for any powder loving snowboarder.
I now count myself among the splitboard converts. My first splitboard adventure was somewhat clumsy. I stuffed my backpack with climbing skins, poles, Powerbars, and Gatorade, strapped on my Burton Fish, and took Killington’s Ramshead quad up the point short of peak where the chair ends. I split the Fish into its halves, changed the bindings into touring position, put on the climbing skins, assembled the poles, and began the half mile ascent to the top of Ramshead peak. Although walking thorough the deep powder with the split skis was relatively easy, I soon discovered that when the grade got steep, I started sliding backwards. It took a bit of experimenting, and not a little floundering, but I was able to get up the grade. Note to self: investigate climbing technique. It was a beautiful February day and I was really enjoying being alone on Killington’s Ramshead Peak during the middle of the day. Once on top, a quick conversion, remove the climbing skins, put the halves back together, switch the bindings to snowboard mode, and enjoy the trip down in untracked powder. It was a short trip but I’m hooked.