To Snowboard or Ski? Do Both With Splitboarding.

Key Points

  • Splitboarding combines the uphill climbing ability of skis with the downhill shredding fun of snowboards.

  • There are pros and cons to consider when you choose a splitboard.

  • Follow general guidelines to choose a splitboard that’s perfect for you.

Nothing beats shredding the slopes. Add a hefty dose of fresh powder, and you're in for a wonderful wintry day on the ski mountain. Some of you may be skiers of the alpine, backcountry, telemark, or cross-country varieties. You may prefer snowboarding, which has its own variations. If you want something that combines the best of both, it may be time for you to choose a splitboard.

Splitboarding combines the backcountry experience of snowboarding downhill with uphill ski hiking that only skiing can achieve. It's perfect if you want to shred the gnar on a snowboard and still reach those off-the-groomed trails that skiers can access. Nothing beats going off-trail – especially when you have a top-notch cooler. However, there are a few things you need to know when you choose a splitboard.

Splitboarding requires a particular type of snowboard that splits in half. You attach bindings and skins to the base of each half. You climb uphill using the skins, store them away, and reassemble the board for the descent. Finally, you shred back down the mountain, thus experiencing the thrill of untracked powder and the beauty of the backcountry.

Sounds fun, right? It is!

But wait: There are a few things to know before hitting the slopes.

Splitboarding Versus Snowboarding

The splitboard is a game-changer for snowboarders because it eliminates the need for extra gear, such as snowshoes. In the past, snowboarders carried their snowboards uphill and snowshoes down, making the journey inconvenient and physically demanding. A splitboard makes untended slopes and the backcountry easier to access. 

Splitboarding is not limited to the backcountry. In this sport, the whole ski hill is your oyster. This nifty, innovative piece of equipment broadens snowboarders' horizons.

The sport requires a high fitness level and backcountry safety knowledge, including avalanche awareness and rescue techniques. For those up for the challenge, splitboarding offers an unparalleled experience that is physically and mentally demanding but incredibly rewarding.

Splitboarding gear is different from snowboarding, so you’re going to need the right equipment.

Splitboarding Gear

The board is the most important gear for your splitboard adventure.

Another essential piece of gear is the bindings. Splitboard-specific bindings integrate directly with a puck system, allowing an easy transition between touring and downhill mode. Additionally, you need a pair of boots compatible with the bindings. Make sure they're comfortable, too.

Another vital item are skins, which are attached to the board for climbing uphill. They are typically made of synthetic materials, such as nylon, and have a sticky adhesive on one side that allows them to grip the snow.

With touring, poles are also a necessity. They provide support and balance during the uphill climb. Many poles feature collapsible sections for easy packing during transitions. 

Other gear commonly used when splitboarding includes a backpack, a beacon, a shovel, and other equipment you think is necessary.

Splitboarding Benefits and Drawbacks

Splitboarding, like skiing and snowboarding, comes with many pluses and minuses. Everybody has different preferences. If the good of splitboarding outweighs the not-so-good, give it a try. If you want to stick with old-school winter sports, avoid this sport altogether.

If You Can Snowboard, You Can Splitboard

Getting into splitboarding doesn't require the pizza-french fry lessons of learning how to ski. There's no need to go back to level zero.

If you snowboard, the transition is seamless. The only difference is you won't need a ski lift to get back up the hill.

Equipment Doesn't Hold You Back

The bane of every snowboarder is those darn skiers and their ability to hike in the backcountry. Back in the day, boarders needed to bring snowshoes.

Not so for splitboarders.

Splitboards lighten the load of equipment you need to bring, allowing you to ride alongside your skiing comrades and go wherever you please.

Splitboard Technology Continually Improves

The bindings used on splitboards have undergone significant advancements, making the climbing experience easier and more efficient. One of the most notable improvements is the incorporation of free-hinging heels, allowing greater mobility and flexibility while climbing challenging slopes.

The use of risers beneath the bindings has become increasingly popular, providing added support and control on steeper parts of the ascent.

These advancements make splitboards more versatile and allow you to easily handle various snow conditions.

The adhesive back-skins on the bottom of your board create traction to allow you to ascend. The technology behind these seemingly simple strips of stickiness continues to improve and make it easier to walk uphill in the snow — which is the hardest part of splitboarding.

Modern skins make this tedious task more manageable. This means you conserve your energy for the descent, shredding downhill with power and precision.

Splitboard Boots Are Comfortable

Ski boots are notoriously uncomfortable. They are composed of hard plastic with tight, insulated interior lining, leaving little breathing room for your feet.

Splitboard boots act like snowboard boots, providing the structure you need to secure your feet into the board but with the comfort of wearing regular snow boots. 

Splitboards Are Safer Than Snowshoes

Many potential dangers lurk within the backcountry. For snowboarders who venture out there, splitboards provide a much safer alternative than snowshoes.

Backcountry boarding requires hiking in unregulated terrain, meaning all sorts of nasty surprises lie hidden. A particularly nasty one is the snow crevasse — a deep crack in the ice that is often hidden by snow. Falling into a crevasse is a major problem requiring a rope team to extract you.

A snow crevasse is deep but narrow. Walking with something that has a broader surface area means you are less likely to fall into one. Splitboards provide that extra surface area and more evenly distribute your weight, making it far less likely for you to slip into a crevasse. 

Not every rider thinks splitboarding is the greatest invention since sliced bread. Real, justified critiques of the sport are out there and deserve consideration.

Setup Time Is Sometimes Slow

Getting ready for your splitboarding adventure takes some time, especially when you’re first learning the ropes. It's a slow transition from touring to downhill mode.

There are multiple parts of a splitboard, so it takes time to figure out the exact transition process and even more time to master it. 

They're Expensive

It's not a cheap hobby, but none of the winter sports are. A splitboard setup costs between $1,000 to $2,000, including the board, bindings, and skins.

It's a hefty investment but worth it for any snowboarder who wants to go uphill without extra hassle. 

The Asymmetrical Shape May Throw Some People Off

Splitboard skis, in contrast to traditional skis, possess unique asymmetrical shapes that can limit control for the rider. The free-heel design of splitboard skis may also impede the rider's ability to quickly move away from potential hazards compared to skis used for touring.

The Setup Is Heavier Than Skis or Regular Snowboards

Splitboards tend to be heavier than lightweight ski-touring equipment, which is noticeable if you're not experienced. High-end splitboard setups are lighter than all-purpose ski-touring setups.

If that sounds like a stellar sport, then splitboarding might be just right for you. Before making a decision, understand how to get fitted for a splitboard.

The Best Way to Choose a Splitboard

To find the best splitboard, first look to Socrates. He did not have splitboarding in mind when he summed up life in two words: "Know Yourself." It's still good advice for those considering the activity.

Figure out what kind of shredding you want to do. Specific conditions and terrains demand different types of splitboards. There are three categories of splitboards: All-mountain, deep powder, and long backcountry tours/mountaineering. 

Options vary for the all-mountain splitboards. There are directional, twin-tip, cambered, and rockered splitboards. When choosing your board, a good starting point is the type of snowboard you currently ride. If you feel comfortable riding your current board, look for a splitboard with similar specifications.

If you love to float through blankets of fresh powder, your splitboard must be shorter and a bit wider. This creates a lot of surface area, so you flow through the snow.

Some boards made for powder are wide up front and tapered toward the tail. Their directional shapes and rockered noses provide good flotation in powder. It's up to you to decide which variety fits you.

When planning long backcountry tours or mountaineering excursions, weight becomes a crucial factor. The more elevation you gain and miles you travel, the more critical it is to have a lightweight splitboard.

Carbon fiber boards are the lightest option but are costly. If that's outside your budget, a fiberglass board is a good alternative.

Pay attention to the board shape and profile. A board with a directional shape and camber or camber/rocker profile performs better in edge grip and efficient uphill travel than boards with a twin-tip shape and excessive rocker.

Once you choose your adventure, consider the board's length.

Figuring Out How Tall Your Splitboard Must Be

The height of your board depends on your weight, just as it is for your snowboard.

The following size chart is an excellent guide to use:

  • 110 to 120 lbs = 128 to 136 cm

  • 115 to 130 lbs = 133 to 141 cm

  • 125 to 135 lbs = 139 to 147 cm

  • 135 to 145 lbs = 144 to 152 cm

  • 140 to 155 lbs = 149 to 157 cm

  • 150 to 165 lbs = 154 to 162 cm

  • 160 to 175 lbs = 159 to 167 cm

  • 170+ lbs = 160+ cm

If you fall between the groups, it's up to you to get a longer or shorter board, but stay close to your weight class.

Once you know the height, it's time to consider the board's profile.

Splitboard Profiles

Splitboards fall into three categories: camber, rocker, or camber/rocker. Your profile depends on your riding style and the terrain.

Camber in a splitboard refers to the shape of the board when it is not being ridden or loaded with weight. When a board is "cambered," it is slightly curved upwards in the middle and only makes contact with the snow on the tip and tail.

This shape provides more edge control and stability, making it easier to initiate turns and hold a decisive edge. It's ideal for aggressive riding and carving on hard snow.

Cambered boards don't usually float well in powder so you might sink like the Titanic after a fresh snowfall. The only way to offset this is with good riding technique. 

When a board is "rockered," it’s curved upwards at the tip and tail, and the middle of the board lifts off the snow. This shape makes the board easier to turn, float in powder, and prevents edge catches. It also improves maneuverability and makes initiating turns easier for the rider.

There are two problems with a rockered board. You have less control and grip on harder snow. This means it might be hard to ascend when the skins are attached because there is less contact with the snow, and you slip more.

Most splitboards combine rocker and camber profiles to provide benefits of both styles. A camber/rocker splitboard provides good edge control, solid powder flotation, and reliable grip when using skins.

Next, consider the shape of your splitboard.

The Shape of Your Splitboard

Choosing the right shape for your riding style is one of the most important decisions. Splitboards come in three shapes: directional, directional twin, or true twin.

If you want your snowboard to go in one direction and one direction only, a directional splitboard might be the way to go. These boards typically have a longer nose and shorter tail, making them great for high-speed carving and riding in powder.

The asymmetrical flex, with a stiffer tail for good carving and a softer nose for flotation, makes them perfect for those who like to go fast and carve hard. 

If you're the type of rider who is comfortable with a regular and goofy stance, then a directional twin splitboard might be the right fit. These boards are similar to true twin snowboards, with a completely symmetrical shape and flex. They usually have a stance set slightly back, and the flex and shape profiles may vary from nose to tail. This makes them versatile boards for riding all over the mountain and in different conditions. 

True twin splitboards, with a completely symmetrical shape, centered stance, and identical flex in the nose and tail, are not common in the splitboard world.

Ultimately, the key is to look at the shape of your conventional snowboard and choose a similar splitboard.

Finally, don't forget about the width of your splitboard – a factor based on the size of your feet.

Splitboard Width

Just like traditional snowboards, the board's width is an essential factor to consider. Many models come in regular and wide versions, and selecting the correct width depends on the fit of your snowboard boots.

To ensure the proper fit, your toes and heels should hang slightly over the board's edge, about one or two centimeters on each side. This provides you with the necessary leverage for turning.

If the board is too wide, prepare to struggle with maneuvering from one edge to the other. If it's too narrow, your toes and heels overhang excessively. This increases the risk of dragging them in the snow while turning, which leads to losing control.

It's possible to use snowboard boots with most splitboards, but ensure your boots provide enough support when climbing. Ascending on a splitboard almost guarantees chafing and blisters if you're not careful. Your boots need to protect your feet. Wear an extra layer of socks, just in case.

The selling point of a splitboard is its ability to convert to ski-type equipment, enabling you to climb uphill. Climbing skins ensure you have the necessary traction.

All Things Climbing Skins

Skins are typically made of synthetic materials, such as nylon, and have a sticky adhesive on one side that allows them to grip the snow. 

Companies sell various splitboard skins, such as the G3 Alpinist Splitboard Skins, Black Diamond PIEPS Splitboard Skins, and Jones Splitboard Skins. Choose the one that best fits your needs and budget.

Out there on the hill, your board is your best buddy. Through snowstorms, hail, powder, and slush, your splitboard is the one companion with you every step of the way. Many brands sell splitboards. Choose one that's right for you to ensure an epic and safe experience.

Splitboard Brands

With a complete understanding of how to pick your perfect board, check out these two reputable brands.


The Burton splitboard is popular among backcountry snowboarders due to its high-quality construction and reliable performance. It is explicitly designed for splitboarding and features several features to make touring and riding more efficient and enjoyable.

One of the key features of the Burton splitboard is its directional shape for riding downhill in powdery conditions. It also has a medium flex rating, which provides a good balance of stability and maneuverability.

Burton splitboards make the climb more efficient when touring. The boards come with a touring bracket system, creating an easy transition from riding to touring mode. The Burton splitboard is lightweight and durable, reducing fatigue during extended tours.

Another great feature is the boards' compatibility with Burton's Channel system, allowing easy and customizable stance adjustments. This is particularly useful for riders who want to fine-tune their stance for optimal performance.

All in all, the Burton splitboards are a high-performing and versatile option for backcountry snowboarding. Its quality construction, efficient touring design, and compatibility with the Burton Channel system make it an excellent choice for experienced splitboarders looking for a reliable and high-performing board.


The Jones splitboard is an excellent option if you are looking for a board that handles a variety of different conditions and terrain. One of the standout features of this board is its directional shape which allows for a more efficient ascent and descent when touring. The medium flex of the board also makes it well-suited for riders who like to ride in different snow conditions – from fresh powder to hardpack. 

It's built with durability in mind and features a strong edge hold that provides a solid and stable ride. The board also has many other features designed to enhance the touring experience. For example, the skin clips make it easy to attach your skins to the board without hassle, and the tapered tail reduces drag when climbing uphill. 

On the other hand, the Jones Splitboard may not be the best option for riders looking for a board specifically designed for freeriding. The board is more focused on touring and backcountry riding and may not have the same level of responsiveness and playfulness as a freeride-specific board.

However, if you're looking for a solid and versatile splitboard that handles well in various conditions and terrain, the Jones Splitboard is worth checking out.

The Next-Level Sport for Snowboarders

It's a wild sport, far from ordinary, but if you want to combine the best of skiing with the best of snowboarding, then a splitboard may be just the ticket.

Snowboarders worldwide know how frustrating it is to lack the gear necessary to climb. Ascending the slopes before riding them makes the experience much more fun.

If you're a pro who wants to take your game to the next level, then have no fear; the splitboard is here!

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