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Review: Venture Splitboard

March 09, 2010


For skiers and snowboarders who crave powder, it’s only a matter of time until they look away from the resort and toward the backcountry where pow is abundant — especially if you’re willing to pay to get to it (helicopter trips, snowcat tours or snowmobiles) or work for it. Snowboarders who want to get these turns under their own power have two choices: snowshoes or a splitboard. The former is the least expensive route, but snowshoeing is slow. A splitboard — a board cut down the middle that splits into two halves so it can be used like skis when ascending — is usually about twice as expensive as a traditional board. But splitboards, which have become more popular as of late, are quicker for most ascents because the rider can glide just like with skis.

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Uphill on a splitboard

After well over a decade of snowboarding, I took the plunge this season and completed a challenging avalanche training course to get me prepared for the backcountry. My board? A Storm by Venture Snowboards.

Designed for big-mountain freeriding, this board has significant rocker, which doesn’t always translate well to blazing fast speeds or edge-hold on hard pack and groomers. Just to get a feel for it, I took it out to make inbounds turns at Mammoth Mountain. First impression? Soft. Much softer than I expected. Second impression? I want to put a ring on this thing. An absolute blast on the groomers, it has incredible edge-hold. And contrary to what many critics of reverse camber claim, it had plenty of pop. In the powder it had great float, and on a medium storm day — when a foot or so had fallen — I had one of the best days of my season, even though it wasn’t the deepest.


Venture Storm Splitboard

It makes sense that the bible of out-of-bounds skiing and riding, Backcountry magazine awarded this deck “Editors’ Choice” for 2010 and said, it “weathers turbulent and placid conditions equally well. . . very fun to ride.” The review continued, “This board moves like a disc jockey’s hands: super quick.” Snowboarder magazine also gushed. “Great control and precision. This thing charged all over the mountain.”

Me? I’m crying in my fresh pow a little bit because I had to send my demo back a few weeks ago. But I’m also counting my pennies to see if I have enough for the $895 deck. Because here in California (it’s early March now) the backcountry is hitting prime and there’s at least three months of riding left.

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Skins off after an ascent

Not only does the board ride extremely well, but the company has a cool pedigree: the small company is based in Silverton, Colo., and it is the “official board” of Silverton Mountain, a unique ski area that may have the steepest inbounds riding anywhere. Venture’s politics are also decidedly green: the boards are handmade in Colorado from scratch from sustainably harvested woods. The factory is powered by wind, and the company is a member of 1% for the Planet as well as Protect Our Winters, a non-profit whose goal is to unite the snowsports industry to help curb global warming.

So if you’re looking for a splitboard, you’d be foolish not to consider one of the rippers from Venture, who also make a big mountain twin and an all-mountain deck. All three decks are available as splits or traditional boards. www.venturesnowboards.com

Skiing and Snowboarding Gear 2009

December 15, 2008

The Gear Junkie: Ski and Snowboard Gear 2009

Winter is upon us, and with it ski areas across the country are cranking on the lifts. Here are eight trends and a handful of corresponding new products — from high-tech skis to a snowboarding boot with a built-in heater — that you’ll see on the slopes this season.

Cold No Longer — Battery-powered heat radiating from embedded conductors is a theme this year from boot, jacket and glove manufacturers. The women’s Burton Sapphire snowboarding boot ($219.95, www.burton.com) has a liner laced with heating elements powered by a clip-on power pack. Rossignol’s Hit Jacket, also for women, goes for a hefty $700 but comes with four warming panels stitched into its lining and a rechargeable battery pack that seats in a pocket. Outdoor Research’s PrimoVolta Gloves ($259, www.outdoorresearch.com) have an on/off switch to initiate warmth that spreads from the back of the hand to fingertips.

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Burton Sapphire snowboarding boot

The Do-All Ski — Serious skiers of yore often kept a quiver of different skis ready to use as per the conditions of the day. But companies like Salomon now offer planks that tout complete versatility in any type of snow, including the Lord ($850, www.salomonsports.com), an all-mountain ski with an hourglass shape and a reverse camber in the forebody to accommodate powder, crud or groomed trail. Volkl ups the ante with its do-all Tigershark 12 ft Power Switch, a $1,525 pair that employs embedded carbon-fiber rods running the length of the ski. An on/off switch compresses or decompresses the rods with springs, changing the skis’ grip and power on snow.

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Salomon Lord ski

Fashion Forward — Surfing, skateboarding and lifestyle footwear and clothing brands including Roxy, DC Shoes and Quicksilver are making inroads to the ski and snowboarding scenes. The men’s Quiksilver Last Mission Jacket ($200, www.quiksilver.com), one example, is a fashion-forward waterproof and breathable shell with touches like a multi-media controller and an inside pocket with a headphone port.

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Quiksilver Last Mission Jacket

Freestyle Resurgence — File this under “irony”: Some teenagers now rebel against their snowboarding parents by becoming skiers. Freestyle skiers, that is. Indeed, the rail-sliding, halfpipe-riding discipline of freestyle skiing has taken off like no other trend in the sport. Skis like the Volkl Wall ($650, www.volklusa.com) — a twin-tip model with a symmetrical sidecut for switch (backwards) riding — are representative of the planks now employed by the baggy-pants-wearing set.

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Volkl Wall ski

Custom-Fit Footwear — Boots molded to mimic the anatomical idiosyncrasies of human feet are now a common upgrade offered at ski shops, including customizable footbeds and boot liners that form to fit from calves to toes. But Salomon takes it up a step with the Falcon Custom Shell Pro Boot, a $925 top-end boot that has a moldable outer shell, allowing a shop to create a personalized fit by shaping the boots’ hard outer plastic to best fit your foot.

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Salomon Falcon Custom Shell Pro Boot

Clear Vision — Good goggles have long enhanced performance on the slopes by letting skiers see better. But the upgrades continue and Zeal Optics, which released its Detonator goggles ($200, www.zealoptics.com), is one example of an innovator: These goggles’ polarized lens changes tint automatically as per available light, going dark when the sun is bright to almost clear at night. Smith’s I/O goggle ($160, www.smithoptics.com) have an interchangeable lens and a rimless design, letting you click and switch out lens style and type in an instant.

Smith\'s IO   goggle (small).jpg

Smith I/O goggle

Tech-Wear — Electronics embedded in outerwear is a trend seen from jackets to the headphone-equipped helmets now ubiquitous in terrain parks around the country. Rossignol adds a high-tech altimeter watch into the cuff of its Chrona Meteo Jacket, an $800 shell with a watertight insert made to fit the watch face. Users can click and adjust the watch, which has an oversized display for easy reading, to track altitude and vertical drop skied on the slopes over the course of a day.

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Rossignol Chrona Meteo Jacket

Alpinist Influence — Backcountry terrain is a big trend at mountain resorts in the West, where dozens of areas have opened gates to give lift access to unpatrolled acres. Gear has evolved to cater to this new set of adventurers, from jackets with built-in avalanche beacons to bindings that convert for uphill travel. Rossignol’s $295 Harness Pant, a breathable and waterproof bottom shell, adds an alpinist touch by incorporating a climbing harness stitched around the belt area in case a skier needs to rope up while accessing steep and secluded outback terrain. Black Diamond’s Factor boot ($729.99, www.bdel.com) has a switchable sole so skiers can click into downhill bindings or their alpine-touring setup before heading off into the wild.

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Black Diamond Factor boot

Stephen Regenold writes a daily blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.


Avalanche Airbag Backpack

October 08, 2009

Pull the rip-cord on this backpack and a single–chamber, 150–liter airbag inflates instantly to help keep you safer in an avalanche. According to the company, the Float 30 pack can help prevent burial in a snow slide as well as protect the head, neck and upper body with its instantly-inflated cushioned mass.

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The airbag system, which is reusable, is integrated into a ski-specific pack that weighs about 7.5 pounds when empty. In the worst case scenario, a braided steel cable with a plastic trigger handle serves as an emergency rip-cord to inflate the bag — and potentially save your life. $499, www.backcountryaccess.com

—Stephen Regenold


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