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Getting into Splitboarding? These Beautiful Boards Will Double Your Fun

The category has come a long way in the past few years, and these three well-designed shred sticks are proof.

splitboarding bluebird backcountry
Steve Mazzucchi

Like a wonderful variety of skiers and snowboarders, I've found myself hiking farther and farther into the backcountry, more and more often, over the past few years. This past season was the most ambitious, with various adventures taking me to such far-flung, lift-free destinations as Colorado's Bluebird Backcountry (R.I.P.) and Canada's Chic Chocs.

While these trips gave me the chance to boost my backcountry skills while earning turns with friends, they also provided ample opportunities to field-test some pretty impressive splitboards — and see just how far the design and functionality of this category has come.

As someone who spent his first few touring seasons wrestling with a Rossignol Sushi Split (a hella fun downhill board that is hellish on the uphill for a noob like yours truly), I can attest that when you are doing it all yourself, what's underfoot can mean the difference between backbreaking frustration and powder-slashing bliss. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on three sweet splitboards I heartily recommend, plus a couple additional items I dig.

Best Uphiller: K2 Freeloader

K2 Snow

K2 Freeloader Unisex Split Package 2023

$809.97 (40% off)

This board made its debut in the Chic Chocs north of Quebec, and wow was I stoked to have it after the first half of a nearly 2,000-mile road trip. While the uphill paths were pretty well laid out on the mountains around Murdochville, that's not to say they were not technical — festooned with narrow passes, steep climbs and tricky switchbacks. While I did not exactly ace those all of those challenges, I would have been lost without the Freeloader, which has a number of features to make uphilling easier. I found the squared-off shape made getting into the rhythmic slide-step smoother, while the ultra-light core eased the effort and the Pomoca skins made every plant more stable.

Just because this board is an uphill champ doesn't mean it isn't a blast on the way down too. Tip-to-tail carbon fiber strings keep the deck lively and nimble underfoot, while a carbon-infused 5500 sintered base retains wax and reduces drag for swift and satisfying descents.

It's worth noting that right now, the Freeloader is an incredible deal for someone just getting into splitboarding. Not only is it on sale for a whopping 542 bucks off, but of the three options here, it's the only one that comes with climbing skins. These essential tools can easily cost over $200, so the fact that they are included removes one more barrier to entry from the jump.

Most Versatile: Weston Backwoods


Weston Backwoods Splitboard


This board has kind of a fun backstory as, after landing in Denver, we actually picked up the tester right from the house of Weston marketing manager Sean Eno on the way to Bluebird Backcountry, an amazing backcountry-only area near Steamboat that unfortunately pulled up stakes after the 2022-2023 season. Thankfully, we got to spend a day hiking up and sliding down this one-of-a-kind oasis before that happened.

A staple of Weston's line, the Backwoods has three times been named an editor's choice by Backcountry Magazine, including this season. It was pretty easy for me to see why, because going up and down on this thing is equally smooth. The skins mount up without the use of holes (aka "holeless base technology"), while a mid-stiff flex, a combo of poplar, bamboo and carbon stringers, a wide nose and a tapered tail enable agility in trees and plenty of glorious glide on powder.

Additionally, I took the Backwoods out for a lift-accessed day at Steamboat and it shredded machine-cut black diamonds pretty solidly too. It did start to feel a bit heavy for me after many laps, which is the perfect excuse to mention that Weston also offers a $1,149 carbon version that's well over a pound lighter in every size.

Best Downhiller: Jones Storm Chaser

Jones Snowboards

Jones Storm Chaser Splitboard


Unfortunately, I was not able to procure a Storm Chaser until the end of the season, at which point there was just one trip left on the books, a cross-country mission to Bend, Oregon — mostly to sample the insane local beer scene but also to hit Mt. Bachelor's slopes. For that reason I did not really get a chance to test out its uphill capabilities, but was there ever any doubt it would top the downhill category? Just look at the thing.

Seriously though, with a swallowtail silhouette designed by surf shaper Chris Christenson, this board is destined to float on powder with ease, and in the small patches of pow we hunted down at Bachelor in April, the Storm Chaser rose to the occasion. Elsewhere on the mountain, I found that the Tech 2.0 edges supplied much-needed traction, while a short sidecut and 3D contour base made turning and slashing easy and fun.

As with the Backwoods, you do have to shell out for skins, and I'll have more to report on their performance when I update this story after my next trip. In the meantime, I also want to mention that all three of these boards employ some version of sturdy Karakoram Ultra Clips, which help hold things together so tightly, you might forget you're on a split.

Bonus Gear: 2 Other Clutch Items

Obviously you need loads of other gear for legit backcountry boarding, including splitboard bindings, collapsible poles, an avalanche beacon/probe/shovel, a touring-friendly pack and potentially more alpine-ready items like an ice axe and crampons. We're not going to get into all of that here, but here are two items I tried this past season that impressed.

TSL Outdoor

TSL Carbon 5 Trekking Poles


These four-season poles have a lot of great features, including magnetic straps that make it easy to remove your hands without wiggling them out of the straps, grippable foam handles and collapsibility into three sections for compact stashing in or on your pack. (Yes, I am riding with them full length at the top of this page — forgive me, it was a wide-open descent.)

One other unintended feature that's handy for splitboarding: The hole left when you remove the strap is great for reaching down with your pole and adjusting the heel height of your bindings.

Backcountry Access

Backcountry Access Tracker S Package


Splitboarding gets expensive fast, and you can easily spend $400 on a beacon alone. You can also get your wallet drained renting a beacon, shovel and probe every time you head out. Better bet is to score a deal on an entry-level package, and upgrade down the road when you get more serious.

I used this little kit all last season and it served me well. The beacon has loads of battery life (50 hours in search mode, 250 hours in transmit), the probe packs to 17.7 inches and extends to 106, and the collapsible shovel weighs just a bit over a pound (20.8 ounces). Use the money you save to hire a good guide so you (hopefully) don't have to use this stuff (beyond training) in the first place.

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