I am an avid snowboarder looking to get started in the backcountry. I'm starting to put my setup together. I am 5’9”, 185 pounds ungeared, 10.5 street shoes (currently using K2 T1's in a 9.5) and I ride primarily in western Montana. I currently ride a Never Summer Raptor in a 164 and a Proto in a 157 and I love them both. I ride the Raptor when conditions are good enough to charge or when I want a damper board for spring conditions. I don’t particularly enjoy taking it into tight trees, but it’s doable. I love the Proto for playing around and flying through the trees, but I would never use it in more than six inches of snow.
I am looking for a splitboard primarily to access sidecountry terrain, for days when my local mountain gets less snow than nearby backcountry terrain, and to extend my season further into the spring. I need something that is going to handle variable conditions well. I really enjoy burning through the trees and playing with natural features, so I don’t want anything TOO big or stiff, but I want something that I’ll be able to really open up on when conditions are good and stick 10-15 foot drops on. Overall, stability and dampness are more important to me than agility. I rarely ride switch. I won’t be doing any true big mountain terrain on a splitboard until I have a lot more backcountry experience and training. I expect that I'll want to buy a dedicated board for that sort of riding when I get there.
I think I want to go with rocker/camber over continuous rocker or rocker/flat, because of the added pop, edge control, and ability to handle variable conditions. I certainly prefer rocker/camber over rocker in-bounds, but I could be persuaded that I should think differently about the backcountry. I am reading mostly great things about Venture on this forum (especially regarding their construction), but I'm not sold on the versatility and fun of rocker/flat. I also worry that they're too stiff, though the rocker certainly offsets that concern. Their size options are great (I was thinking maybe the 165/25 Storm, though the softer flex of the Zephyr is attractive). The guys at the local shop spoke very highly of the Arbor Abacus. I have ridden the Wasteland and the Coda and I didn’t love either (no camber, too stiff torsionally, “clangy” feeling due to materials used), but their Grip Tech is the best edge technology I’ve tried. I don’t think the Never Summer splits are right for me, unfortunately. The Summit is too powder-specific and the SL doesn’t come in a suitable size (the 163 is too wide). The T-Rice Split and the Jones Solution are appealing. I worry that the Jones is too stiff and I question the durability of the T-Rice. I find full-on magnetraction to be too hooky, so the mellower version on the Jones appeals to me. The Burton Freebird sounds like a great option, but I wish it came in a bigger size than 162. Also, I've ridden a Burton Barracuda (which looks like a pretty similar board) and it was super fun in the trees but softer than I'd prefer if I were only going to have one board.
At the moment I'm mostly thinking about the Burton in a 162, the Jones in a 164, or the T-Rice in a 164.5, with the Arbor and the Venture in the back of my mind. I could get the Burton for a great price, but I'm more than willing to spend more money for a board I'd enjoy more. For those of you with experience of the Burton and the Jones or the T-Rice, where would you say the balance of trade-offs lands? How do the boards compare in dampness? For those who ride a Solution, is it soft enough to be a little playful and to be fun in tight trees? For those who ride a Freebird, is it stable and floaty enough for someone my size? What's going to be the easiest to learn the touring aspect on? Are there other boards I should be seriously considering? Thanks for any advice!
I bought my first split this year and was looking for the same type of deck. I went with the never summer sl 163. I'm very excited to try it out and I'm really impressed with the look and feel of the board. Definitely a mid stiff all mountain flex. I know you didn't think the 163 would work for you because of width but the 161 seems like it would be a good size for you. Bigger and stiffer than your 157 but more nimble for riding trees than your bigger board.
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:41 am Posts: 278 Location: Altadena SoCal
As you are piecing things together over the next year, don't forget a shovel, probe, and beacon. They go on sale too. Most importantly, take a class or two so you know how to use them. Some classes offer an early-bird discount for those who register now.
Thanks, avalanche gear was the first thing I bought. I would love to add another Never Summer to my life, but I am worried that 161 is too small, especially given that I'll be wearing a pack. The only reason I was considering the burton at 162 is that it has a floatier shape. Any thoughts from others about whether I'd be okay on a 161 sl?
Joined: Tue Jan 29, 2008 12:37 pm Posts: 139 Location: East of the Cascades, Wa
The best advice I can offer ya is to go to a splitfest. Demo all the boards you are interested in and find exactly what you want. Keep in mind though, the idea is to always split to find powder, but you will end up riding EVERYTHING on the way at some point, so picking a board and length you can ride in any conditions will really help your first few experiences. I've known a few people who bought huge pow decks for their first split, only to ride nasty conditions for the first few times and get totally frustrated.
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:07 pm Posts: 349 Location: Green Mountains
I like the looks of the arbor for something that's not so uber-aggressive. It's also really light. Another option that looks nice in this category is the icelantic gemini. It comes in a 163 but it comes with a 999. price tag.
not sure about the setback, but the waist is 26.8 on the Gemini 163, which is pretty wide (I think just as wide as the SL 163). I am seriously thinking about the 161 sl/icelantic. And also about the Arbor... I hand-flexed one at the local shop and it does seem to be very close to what I'm looking for in that respect. It's indeed very light and well-constructed. I'm just not sure I'd ever be totally happy with a board that has no camber. Has anyone ridden one?
Go get something and get after it. The more you split the more you will be able to decide what you do and dont want.
Don't waste your time looking for the perfect board. Get something and get splitboarding right away. Throw an old board on the table saw and go. In my opinion; bindings are more important the the deck. Buy some Sparks or Rughtys and DIY a board.
_________________ Talking about snowboarding is like dancing about architecture...
Funny that you say that, because I just pulled the trigger on the SL 161. I talked to Vince Sanders at never summer, who is my weight but a little taller, and it's the split he uses. That was all I needed to hear. I already know I love never summer boards, so this feels like a safe buy (and I got a 2012 on clearance). Thanks for the help everyone. Stoked
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 8:11 am Posts: 8 Location: UK
I was in your position this time last season. In the end I went with a Burton Freebird 62 and Spark R&D Burner bindings. I'm 6'1" and around 185 lbs ungearded. I couldn't be happier with the set-up.
I am genuinely amazed at how well it rides on piste when using lifts to get high before hiking out of bounds, or using pistes to get back home. (I have rented a Prior AMF with Voile mounts and ride bindings and it was awful on piste.)
When using it for what it's intended it's great. It's stable at speed, will turn very quickly if needs be, holds an edge well, and just feels predictable. I haven't dropped anything of any note, but I'm confident it will cope just fine.
Skinning on them is good too. I've only had one issue in for days of hiking, when traversing deep, fresh snow on a steep(ish) pitch, but that could be my lack of experience skinning combined with a bad route choice. (The guy who took me up there spent the next half hour apologising!)
I was anxious that it might be too short, but I'm very pleased with the set up.
It's also worth noting the Spark R&D Burners are great. Very comfortable, and feel very responsive. Last season they had Burton straps/ratchets.