Essential gear for snowboarders who schralp the backcountry.
By Mike Horn | Photography by Clay Ellis
Splitboard: If you look at the base of the Venture Odin I started riding three winters ago, you’d swear it was a new board. Not only does the board split in two, morphing into touring skis for the hike up, it’s also built tough to survive a low snow apocalypse (2012), surf powder waves (bring on 2014), and provide powerfully precise edge hold in big mountain terrain; especially appropriate on my home hill of Crested Butte. Rocker outside the inserts (fore and aft of the bindings) keeps the Odin from diving in deep snow and loose in the tail, while just the right amount of torsional flex balances turnability with bomber grip. $895; venturesnowboards.com
Split Binding: Spark R&D’s bindings have been my go-to brand since their first-generation model revolutionized splitboarding. For 2014, they eliminated the removable touring pin and streamlined the whole system. The AfterBurner binding model is slightly stiffer than Spark’s similar Magneto model due to increased fiberglass in the highback and burlier straps. $415; sparkrandd.com
Boots: If I had to walk five miles to find snow wearing snowboard boots, the Burton Ion boots would be my choice. They fit perfectly for one. They’re also constantly improving the performance. Case in point: a Pirelli rubber outsole and the new, ultra comfy Infinite Ride liner. Since I tried on my first pair of Ions 10-plus years ago, they’ve become lighter weight and lower profile while maintaining the perfect upper mid-range flex. $430
Poles: For backcountry snowboarders, lightweight and low profile poles reign. Not only do the Black Diamond Carbon Compactor poles collapse (using similar tech to an avalanche probe) small enough to fit inside a pack, the carbon version is forget-about-it feathery and looks pretty stealth, too. $160
Goggle: After a couple seasons of wearing POC’s Iris 3P goggles, the only thing I’d improve is expanding the peripheral vision. The new frameless Lid goggle takes that notion to heart by offering what is arguably the widest field of vision out there. No frame eliminates crevices for snow and ice to build up in, and precip dissipates without a swipe. $200
Pants: My first pair of Burton AK Freebird bibs are a bit shredded around the cuffs from years of abuse, but overall they still offer bomber protection on early morning sled rides and backcountry laps. Lightweight, breathable, and comfy as a one-piece jumpsuit. $500
Jacket: I have yet to find a light jacket that provides the same amount of protection against the elements as the Patagonia Pow Slayer. Waterproof breathable Gore-Tex blocks wind, snow, and even rain. A helmet-compatible hood offers full-wrap coverage when the storm sets in. And for such a brawny shell, it’s remarkably packable, which comes in extra handy on the uptrack. $699; patagonia.com
Gloves: The Oakley Polartec Midweight gloves offer great dexterity for fiddling with skins and splitboard hardware, and the latest version features X-Static, a new material that lets you operate touch-screens with gloves on. The midweight is ideal for touring, spring days, and even the occasional mountain bike ride. $35; oakley.com
See more time tested gear here. From the Winter 2014 issue.