I'm new to backcountry, just looking for a bit of wisdom on the following...
I'm heading down to Wanaka NZ in August for a week, get myself avy trained, take a 5 day backcountry tour. I have a solid Hovercraft 156, Flux TT30 bindings, which I love. Lots. Rides like a charm! Can't wait to get back on it!
Looks like I've got 2 board-based options...
1. Get my current board chopped. Risky option? I live in Japan so shipping to US and back might cost the same as buying a split! Anyone know who can convert it in Japan? What are the best bindings for a split-kit?
2. Source a hovercraft split or similar. Expensive!
Thing is, I have reservations about splitboards, I have only had 1 splitboard experience - I spent an afternoon with my friends (a Prior spearhead 160+, can't remember the exact size but might have been as big as 164?!?) and wasnt impressed with the performance. Convering it was easy enough, skinning up the mountain was genius (I *was* impressed with this side of things!), but the ride was terrible. Very stiff and unresponsive. I didn't rate the Spark R&D bindings either. I'm pretty sure this wasnt just down to the step up from 156 to 164 ish, but down to the board itself.
If fact, I'd go as far as saying this set up was in no way worth what he paid for it, sadly! This is leaving me with the third option...
3. Snowshoe it with the trusted solid board!
If I can get my hovercraft cut in half and have it still ride well I'll do it!
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:08 am Posts: 128 Location: Melbourne, Australia
Unless it's epic (well, the canterbury range did just get 4 feet in 24 hours last week ) the hovercraft is totally the wrong board for NZ, you're better off with a non-powder board. Also, I think it would be a bad move to get your hover split in two.
You could snowshoe it, as you say, but you are gonna lag behind any skiers/splitboarders when touring, especially over a 5 day tour. Not sure why the japs keep snowshoeing when there are great splits these days, I guess they are too in love with their gentemsticks!
If you're gonna get into the backcountry, there can be no doubt that splitboarding is far more efficient than snowshoeing, then why not buy one? I'm sure there are some end-of-season boards on sale on-line stateside at the moment. Not sure about other brands, but Jones boards will ship overseas (I bought a solution split online and shipped it to Oz). I had it up in japan on 2 trips earlier this year and it ate the japanese fluffy stuff for breakfast, although I must admit my thoughts did turn to buying a hover split as well, but couldn't deal with 2 sets of skins, baseplates etc.
Not sure what you didn't like about the sparks, I haven't tried them, but I have fiddled with them and they seem good. . Sparks are coming out with a new binding system - it looks awesome , not sure if it'll be out in time for you, check it out http://vimeo.com/39905616 .
I have karakorams and I love them. Check out the "bindings" sub-forum for all the spark vs karakoram stuff.
Another option is to rent. You can rent a split at http://www.mtoutdoors.co.nz/ in Wanaka, it's a Voile Mojo 161 with Voile lightrail bindings from a coupla years ago. If you didn't like sparks then you're gonna hate lightrails, but I would much prefer this board to snowshoes and a solid on your back (particularly if it's windy). Depending on the terrain you're hitting ski crampons are pretty handy too (mt outdoors didn't have them), I struggled a bit traversing on icy faces last year in the Mt Cook backcountry without them.
You heading out with aspiring guides out of wanaka, by any chance?
Yeah, looks like my best option is to hire a decent one, see how I get on with it and take it from there! I'm sure I'll get my money's worth in the end, but $1500 is a big hit so I want to be uber happy with what I'm getting for my money!
Leaning towards Never Summer actually, from what I'm reading...
Thanks Method too, maybe I'll take my Bataleon Goliath instead... Where did you hit in Japan? Got a couple of weeks in Niseko in this year, Jan was epic!
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:08 am Posts: 128 Location: Melbourne, Australia
Don't get your hopes up about the board from mt outdoors, I think they (prolly the only place you'll get one) only have 2 boards total (from memory a 157 and 161). The skins weren't in great nick either, had grass stuck to 'em etc. As I said, I wasn't super impressed with the voile lightrails.
Also, don't get your hopes up about the snow. The south island basically had 2 decent storms last year, so if you're used to "hokkaido" snow, then you are, possibly, but hopefully not , going to be slightly disappointed. There's virtually no tree skiing either.
Don't let any of this put you off, south island NZ is epic - they got some alaskan shit goin on there, it's just totally different from what you might be used to in japan.
Here's what you can expect to see in the NZ backcountry (that's Mt Cook / Aoraki)
Don't get the impression I'm an expert on splitboarding (or NZ, for that matter) either, I've only been into it for about a year, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
I did 2 trips to japan earlier this year, one road trip 'round hokkaido (teine, niseko area backcountry and furano area backcountry) and one trip to Myoko (niigata prefecture).
My If you really like your solid board, don't cut it in half. If you're trying to get in on the cheap then cut an old one. Make sure you price out your options correctly, you shouldn't have to shell out $1,500 for a new board.
On board selection I'd say don't go powder specific. Once you decide you love splitting get one later for your quiver. I've got the Jones Solution and love it in all conditions and there are lots of other do it all boards out there.
I think the most important decision you have to make is the interface one. If you are going the DIY route then get the new Sparks Edison Interface, it will save you time, money and heartache. If you're going production split then you have to weigh the pros and cons of Sparks V. Karakorum. Personally I was going to go with the new sparks but that was until Karakorum came out with a heel lock in ski mode. In any event get split specific bindings-If you weren't impressed with your buddies sparks you're really going to hate the voile mountain plates.
_________________ It is diffucult to assess ones own fuckedupness Jones Solution 164, Fuse baseplates w/BM Bisquits, Salomon Malamutes
Also, thanks Method for the heads up on the NZ conditions... Looks... Rocky!!! Looks like I'm in for a change of scene compared to Hokkaido. There really is nothing like the powder here in Japan, I'm very lucky here!
The Hovercraft is just too good for the powder here to cut up... I couldn't bring myself to do it! So I've gone all-out, bit the financial bullet and gone for a Never Summer SL split 158, looks pretty perfect for what I'm after! Even if the ride doesnt prove to be as good as the 'craft (not going to know until August but can't wait to compare!) it will certainly make the ascent a million times more enjoyable, and I'll be spending the majority of the time ascending anyway so seems to make sense!
In terms of bindings I went for Spark Blaze in the end (Volie interface), as I mentioned earlier I wasnt thrilled when I tried the 2010 versions but this years seem to have different ratchets plus spark seem to have a fantastic ethos in terms of listening to the customers and innovating, from what I've read so I'd like to support this. Its my first set of split bindings too, so I'll go for something softer rather than harder. There is always the burner upgrade for the future!
Getting that little lot shipped from the US, not cheap but I'm sure its going to be worth it!
BTW if anyone is interested Voile and Spark will ship to Japan, Dogfunk (for the board) won't so I'm going throught the re-shippers Borderlinx. It arrived at Borderlinx today, *should* be with me within a week, all seems fine thus far but I'm not going to speak too soon until its in my apartment!