Our backcountry expert Andy Malton from thegemsstock is back with another article, this time running through the essentials and more when it comes to backcountry equipment. First up are his recommendations for backcountry snowboards - with All Mountain, Big Mountain, Powder and Splitboards to choose from.
If you’re looking to buy a regular solid board specifically for backcountry riding then the first thing to do is probably ask yourself what kind of rider you are and what kind of terrain you’re most likely to find yourself in.
Someone who likes to ride big faces in the Alps is probably going to want to look at a different board to someone who predominantly rides the trees of Japan, for example. We’ll break it down into 4 groups – All Mountain, Big Mountain, Powder and Splitboards. As is always the case, there is plenty of cross over between the categories.
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All Mountain Snowboards
An All Mountain backcountry board will be designed to ride everything well – ice, powder, trees, and open faces. It might not excel at any one particular type of snow or terrain type, but it should work well across the variety of conditions often experienced throughout a day in the backcountry. Unless you are prepared to build up a quiver of boards, this will be the category of snowboard that most riders should look at.
Jones Flagship - All Mountain
This is the board that started it all for Jones. The Flagship is the quintessential go anywhere do anything board. The Flagship’s hybrid rocker gives float in deep snow combined with the ability to turn on a dime in tight couloirs, whilst the mellow Magne-traction gives the board dependable edge hold in big terrain.
Burton Family Tree Flight Attendant - All Mountain
This is Nicolas Muller’s board which is pretty much all that needs to be said. One of the world’s great snowboarders likes to bring his unique style and freestyle flair to the backcountry and the Flight Attendant helps him to do just that. 10mm of taper, a directional flex and S Rocker means the Flight Attendant floats all day whilst the twin shape and clever sidecut makes it feel like a freestyle deck – great for the rider who likes to launch off pillows and get their freestyle on whilst in the backcountry.
YES Pick Your Line - All Mountain
YES make some rad freestyle boards but with rippers like DCP being a part of their company, it’s no surprise they produce good freeride decks too. The Pick Your Line is DCP’s all mountain slayer. It’s great on the big lines in big terrain but also versatile enough for riders looking to bring a freestyle element onto the backcountry, just like the man himself does.
Venture Storm - All Mountain
Venture Snowboards are designed and made in the town of Silverton, Colorado. Silverton has a unique snowboarding mountain with some incredible backcountry terrain and is where Venture draw a lot of their inspiration from. The Storm is their premier backcountry board that will ride any terrain with ease. Venture have a long held reputation for producing hand-made bombproof snowboards that that will hold their own against any other brand out there.
Big Mountain boards
These are the big guns for hard charging riders looking to get into meaty terrain in the big mountains. These boards tend to be longer than your average board and stiffer too. They’ll hold an edge super well and are great for opening up in big open terrain. They might be a little unwieldy in the trees though and anyone looking to bring a little freestyle to the backcountry might want to look elsewhere.
Arbor A-Frame - Big Mountain
The A-Frame is a beast of a snowboard that will suit strong riders looking for a stiff, solid ride in all conditions. Perfect for big mountains lines in places like Alaska and Kamchatka, the A-Frame will also hold an amazing edge on piste. This thing looks good enough to hang on your wall too.
Prior Pow Stick - Big Mountain
If you’re lucky enough to have ridden a swallowtail in deep snow before you’ll know that the feeling takes some beating! The Prior Pow Stick is a full on proper swallowtail snowboard that excels in deep snow and big, open terrain, plus due to the long effective edge is stable on hard snow too. Get one and don’t look back....
Powder specific boards come in all shapes and sizes. This is the category of board to look for if you’re aiming to spend a lot of time riding deep snow in places like Japan or Interior BC. It goes without saying that they’ll float well and give you great control in deep snow. Some powder boards might be found wanting in harder snow conditions or more serious terrain when you need the security of decent edge hold though.
Burton Fish - Powder
The Burton Fish is the definitive all-time powder board. This winter the Fish is looking better than ever with 30mm of taper (that’s a lot!), S-Rocker and that oh so cool double mini swallow tail that will sink in pow and give you ultimate control and float, however deep it gets.
Jones Hovercraft - Powder
The Hovercraft shares many similarities with the Fish, although it has been designed to be a little more versatile on hard snow as seldom does anyone ride pow all the time. It packs a massive amount of board into a short length which means it floats well (this is helped by the mini swallowtail??) but also has a great edge hold due to the mellow Magne-traction used on the edges.
YES 420 - Powder
The 420 has caused a real stir since its release a couple of years ago. Part of the new breed of short, wide powder boards, the 420 re-defines how it feels to ride in deep snow. YES make the 420 so floaty by adding rocker and width as opposed to taper so it’ll still hold an edge on hardpack too. This is the board to check out for that Japan trip you’ve always dreamed about!
Splitboards come in a variety of shapes and sizes, just like solids, although quite rightly most are geared towards performing across the wide variety of conditions found in the backcountry. That means they should all float well in powder, hold a decent edge on the steeps and crucially have good edge hold and glide when in skinning mode too.
Jones Solution - Splitboards
The Solution is basically the split version of the Flagship. It’s designed to offer solid -like performance and is comfortable being ridden on any terrain or snow type. It was the Solution that really kick started the splitboard revolution and is one of the most influential backcountry snowboards ever made.
Arbor Abacus - Splitboards
The Abacus features the same system rocker as most of the Arbor line up – full reverse camber for playful float with extra contact points that provide the edge hold that a full rocker board can sometimes need. The Abacus comes complete with the excellent Karakorum clips (the best clips on the market by far) and has that classic Arbor surf look about it too.
Amplid Carbon Split - Splitboards
Amplid’s claim that the Carbon Split is the world’s lightest splitboard hasn’t gone un-noticed. Board weight is a pretty important issue where splitboarding is concerned for obvious reasons. The low weight has been achieved through the use of carbon along with some pretty advanced construction techniques. The Carbon Split has hybrid rocker for edge hold and float and is held together by Karakoram Clips which, along with the liberal use of Carbon Fibre, give it a lot of torsional rigidity for a splitboard.
Burton Family Tree Landlord - Splitboards
The Family Tree Landlord Split combines a freestyle feel with deep snow performance. Burton’s channel system is well known for offering a crazy amount of stance options and with the Split Channel Mounting System you get that same adjustability, but on a splitboard. Very cool.