Gear trends: 2015/16: Backcountry snowboards and splitboards

Backcountry snowboarding needs to get lighter, faster and more accessible to catch up to AT ski boom. A look ahead to the 2015-16 season in gear.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Snowboarding looks like it’s hitting its midlife crisis.

The youthful star of a decade ago, now sees skiing making a comeback with everything from backcountry AT adventures and races to quick urban Nordic escapes.

Meanwhile, the off-piste snowboard market is inching along with a couple of brands leading the way and developing features to make the backcountry easier to access and more enjoyable on a snowboard.

Jason Broz at G3 said snowboarders are looking for a new challenge. “With riders such as myself getting older — we’ve been riding at resorts for 20-25 years — we’re looking to get out into the backcountry to find pow and to get away from $100 lift tickets and long lift lines.” To do this, he thinks there needs to be “a revolution in new product innovation to enhance the backcountry experience. Lighter and stronger boards, better splitboard equipment — including bindings and interfaces — and better backcountry access equipment with better splitboard skins.”

G3 took inspiration from its ski skins to customize the technology for its splitboards with the Alpinist Splitboard Climbing Skins (MSRPs $185-195) featuring a low-profile asymmetrical tip-and- tail connector and 16cm of length adjustment. Pair the skins with the G3 Scapegoat Carbon (MSRP $930) for a solid backcountry setup. The new release is light (5 pounds, 13 ounces) and responsive with a full carbon construction making it ready for big days. It comes with a powder-specific rocker profile and camber underfoot, plus a rockered nose. The 40mm of taper in the tail offers superior floatation on those powder days.

Day4_GT_BackcountrySnowboards_G3_AlpinistSplitboardClimbingSkins
Day4_GT_BackcountrySnowboards_G3_ScapegoatCarbon

In terms of new-board shapes, K2’s Cool Bean (MSRP $600) was inspired by surfing. “The way people surf snow is evolving and the idea of showing more individuality is ever present,” said Doug Sanders, global product director of snowboards at K2 Snowboarding. “For 2015, K2 is embracing this movement in design and the attitude of riding for the fun of it and not getting caught up in a blur of the hottest tricks.” Much like surfboard shapers look at the volume in boards as they shape, K2 shifted the volume around a rider’s feet, allowing the board to glide and interact with snow in new ways. The end result? A wider, shorter board that is more stable and easier to maneuver.

Day4_GT_BackcountrySnowboards_K2_CoolBean

Let’s not forget about the ladies. Voile proclaims “steep lines and long days in the backcountry are not just for the boys.” It’s got the stats to back it up, too. From SIA’s 2014 Snowsport Fact Sheet, while snowboard sales have flat-lined overall, more girls bought snowboard gear last year. Banking on those girls growing up to be women riders, Voile acted on the industry trends and released a women’s specific Revelator Splitboard (MSRP $625). It features a channel puck system, which eases the stress of setting stance width and angles. The lightweight and stellar trail-breaking prowess makes this board a solid ride. For a lighter weight option, women can also combine the board with Voile’s new women’s specific Light Rail Splitboard bindings (MSRP $275). The bindings feature a new, lower high-back, which provides better support and comfort.

Day4_GT_BackcountrySnowboards_Voile_WomensRevelatorSplitboard

--Jessica Hamel

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