Backcountry snowboarders debate – splitboard or snowshoes?
by Steve Benesi
I’ve spent the past few winters here in Tahoe slogging alongside beautiful skin tracks cut by my friends in the backcountry on snowshoes. The easy glide of their splitboards seemed like flying compared to all the work I was putting in lifting one snowshoe in front of the other. For seasons now I’ve wanted to try it, but for an assortment of reasons (monetary mostly), I just haven’t gotten around to going for a split tour. That all changed this season when Tahoe Mountain Sports began to rent splitboards.
Don’t get me wrong, I love snowshoeing. It offers a more direct line to the top and still get you out into the beauty of the backcountry. However, I began to notice that my fatigue after a couple laps seemed exponentially more than that of my splitting comrades. Losing a lap because my legs were tired seemed ridiculous to me, so when I heard that TMS was renting boards, I jumped on the opportunity to take one out for a demo.
Being new to the game, TMS expert Christian guided me through the basics of putting the board together, taking it apart, dealing with bindings, and attaching skins. Just ten minutes in the store and I felt confident I could do this on my own, but I was glad I had a couple experienced buddies coming out with me.
Here’s a quick video showing you how the splitboard works –
TMS can provide all the equipment you need for your board set up, but I can’t stress enough for anyone reading this NOT TO FORGET YOUR BEACON, PROBE, and SHOVEL. Please be prepared with the gear and knowledge you’ll need in case conditions call for it.
Our destination was the Bronco Chutes, just past Relay Ridge and reachable from the Mt Rose parking area just off Highway 431. It was an ambitious trip for my first skin (it ended up being about 8 miles round trip), but I figured I was up for it.
I got the hang of using the poles to propel my glide, shaking off my instinct to step, and kick turning on steep slopes. My legs, though new to the motion, appreciated not having to lift pounds of snow into the air with each step as with snowshoes. Moreover, not having a board on my back was amazing!
The Bronco Chutes were everything I had hoped they would be. The entire face, save one slope, was untouched, and there was already a skin track in place for getting back to the top. The Voile board came together seamlessly for each lap, and although a bit heavy, performed admirably on the terrain. Towards the end of the day it got a little sticky, and once again I proved myself an amateur and didn’t have any rub on wax. Don’t forget to bring that!
There will always be a soft spot in my heart for snowshoes, but the splitboard saved so much energy and truly let me make the most of the day. If you’re on the fence about it, don’t be. Grab a rental from TMS and try it out for yourself.
This blog post is from Steven Benesi who is a Tahoe-Truckee area mountain athlete. His passions include running, peakbagging, hiking, and snowboarding. On this adventure he tries out one of the Voile splitboards available for rent at Tahoe Mountain Sports in Truckee.