*All tips mentioned below are applicable to both splitboards and alpine ski touring. Splitboarding is the fastest growing aspect of snowboarding. It’s opening doors to bigger lines and allowing quick and efficient access to backcountry zones which in past years necessitated helicopters or overnight pack trips. With this new sport growing fast there are many tricks and techniques that will make life a whole lot easier for both beginners and seasoned vets. As with any backcountry travel, it is strongly advised that you have extensive backcountry and avalanche training. Always go with a partner, and at minimum have an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel.
Now, a couple of tips:
1. Leave the parking lot cold
I don’t mean freezing – but a bit colder than you’d generally enjoy. While skinning, you will heat up fast and be glad when everyone else in the group has to stop to shed layers you will blow by without breaking stride.
2. Put on skins and transition to “tour mode” in doors
In a perfect world we would drive to the top of a 4,000ft Alaska spine and drop-in, shred to the bottom and jump on the back of a white Pegasus and be flown back to the summit. Unfortunately that’s not the case. 99.99 times out of 100 you will be skinning right from the car, hence there is no reason to be freezing with cold hands trying to get your skins on straight or lining up your binding. Let your friends who forgot to transition last night be cold while you finish your coffee in the truck.
3. Practice your kick turns
As a season ritual after the first snowfall, I generally find myself touring around the front yard or some low angle park/field. I slog around on my splitboard like cross-country skis, making sure to practice kick turns every so often. Kick turns: when touring you’ll find that the pitch of your slope will be too steep to walk straight up (also very tiring) and you will have to make an uphill zig-zag motion, between zigs and zags you will kick turn. A quick how-to below:
i. Place your skis parallel. Swing your uphill ski in the opposite direction than your traveling, making a very awkward “V” shape (the more obtuse the “V” the better).
ii. Put all your weight on your uphill ski, not “some” but ALL your weight. You’ll find that climbing skins are like friction knots – the more weight and pressure you apply on one ski, the better it will stick to the snow.
iii. Now for the hard part, in one smooth motion slightly pickup your downhill ski while kicking your heel down and back, away from your body (this will pop the nose of your ski up and allow it to swing over the snow rather than dig-in). Swing this ski over to be parallel with your uphill ski.
4. Bring a buff or neck gator
Wear this as a headband, it will keep your ears and forehead warm while allowing heat to escape from the top of your head. It can also be worn different ways to protect your face, neck and cheeks from the elements.
5. Practice transitions in doors
While watching TV or just messing around in your living room, practice going from “tour-mode” to “ride-mode” and back again. This will help to identify problems or potential hazards that may need addressing before being stranding on top of a mountain. Plus, it’ll make you quicker and more efficient during transitions, which is always a plus when touring with grumpy tele skiers.
6. Buy the right touring poles
Adjustable touring poles are mostly made for skiers who need them shorter on the climb up and longer for skiing on the way down. Because we need to fit these inside our backpacks or strap them on the outside, we need to make sure they’re as lightweight and small as possible.
Flic-Locks: Be sure that whatever brand touring poles you decided on, they have flic-locks and not twist-locks. This is a locking mechanism that is placed where the poles telescope and it “flics” into place. Many times “twist-locks” will ice-up or break, leaving you stranded to tour back home with one or no poles.
TRI-Telescoping Poles: These poles telescope on two planes with three moving parts, making them shrink down very small. If you cannot afford or don’t have tri-telescoping poles you can very easily make the proper adjustments with some measuring and a hacksaw. Many touring poles only telescope on one plane. Measure what your desired touring height is and mark it.
Now remove bottom section by pulling it from the top. Measure 10-12 cm past your desired touring height and lope off the additional aluminum (not recommended for carbon-fiber touring poles). You’ll find these now shrink down much smaller when collapsed. Use the top of your pole to pull up risers: It’s worth looking for this feature when picking out the right poles. On any full-day tour you’ll pull up and push down your risers a dozen times, this feature prevents you from having to bend over and flip them up by hand.
I find that the best touring poles are Black Diamond’s Carbon Compactor.
7. Use the Knee Method to Separate Sticky Skins
Sometimes when you were too excited to use skin savers (screen sheets placed between skins used for storing) you’ll pull out of your bag two skins that are cemented together. Tired and exhausted the last thing you want to do is spend the next 15 minutes straining your arms and back trying to pull your skins apart. This easy method takes the frustration and work out of it. Pull your skins apart 6-8 inches so you can get a good solid grip on them. Next, place them between your legs pinching them together with your inner thighs. Now pin the separated tails to your quads and open your legs. Continue this until your skins are freed.
8. Buy Merino Wool
For years I used to tour the backcountry in my under armor long johns and sweat whisking workout shirts, and freeze! Many people don’t realize that one of the main components of these products is plastic. Small plastic thread is woven into the fabric of these garments to make them look shiny and feel breathable. Merino Wool is the highest quality insulating base-layer on the market. It uniquely has finer thread than normal sheep’s wool so it won’t feel scratchy against your skin. For warmth and durability I highly recommend the brand Icebreaker – whose Merino Sheep are sheered once every five years to ensure happy sheep and the best quality yarn.
Contributed by Peace Team member Rob Sourek