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The Best Splitboards of 2019 For Backcountry Snowboarding

Looking out over Lake Tahoe.
Thursday November 21, 2019
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Looking for a top-notch splitboard? We researched 40 of the best splitboards on the market for 2019 and then purchased the top 10 to test side by side. From the summit of Mt. Shasta to the wilds of Patagonia, we skinned up and shredded down in every type of condition imaginable. We rated the splitboards on the metrics that impact for experience the most. Some provide endless float in powder, and some provide secure edge hold in firm couloirs. There is something for everyone, and this review will help you pick the best splitboard for you.

Related: The Best Splitboard Bindings


Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award   
Price $899.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$898.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$899 List$799 List$848.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Stable, stiff, lightweight, solid, predictable, reliable, supports diverse riding objectivesDurable topsheet, great powder floatation, excellent climbing, snappy turn experience, bolt-less baseFun, predictable, solid edge hold, confidence inspiring, great floatDurable topsheet, versatile, responsive, good offering of sizesLightweight, responsive, carbon layup, durable topsheet
Cons Expensive, narrow waist width, shallow nose riseExpensive, switch ridingSlightly soft nose and tail, heavy-ishProficient firm snow performanceExpensive to use standard hook clips
Bottom Line Provides versatile performance to support daily or ambitious backcountry objectives.Climbs like a bird in thermals, rides like your trusted solid board.An even mix of freestyle and free ride that doesn't neglect flotation.Freeride, freestyle, or powder specific; now you don't have to choose.User-friendly performance in a backcountry specific design.
Rating Categories Jones Solution Splitboard Backwoods Venture Storm United Shapes Covert G3 Axle
Powder (25%)
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Firm Snow (27.5%)
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8
Climbing (27.5%)
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8
Binding Adjustability (5%)
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Playfulness (15%)
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Specs Jones Solution... Backwoods Venture Storm United Shapes Covert G3 Axle
Weight 7.38 lbs 7.33 lbs 7.91 lbs 7.45 lbs 7.15 lbs
Tested Length 158 157 157 158 162
Flex Stiff Medium - stiff Medium Stiff Medium Stiff
Weight 3346 g 3325 g 3587 g 3382 g 3245 g
Weight Per Surface Area 0.74 0.74 0.8 0.75 0.7
Available Lengths 154, 158, 159W, 161, 162W, 164, 165W, 166, 169W 152, 157, 160, 163, 163 (w) 157,161, 162, 166, 171 149,152,158,161,166 154, 158, 162, 166
Construction Type Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich
Core Material Wood Wood/ bamboo Wood Blended wood Wood
Waist Width 24.7cm 25.6cm 25cm 25.7cm 25.7cm
Shape Directional Directional Directional Directional Directional
Radius 8.5m 7.3/6.5/7.5m 8.48m 7.5m 9.8m
Camber/Rocker Directional rocker Rock camber rocker Straightline rocker Rocker/ Camber/ Rocker Rocker/ Camber/ Rocker

Best Overall Model


Jones Solution Splitboard


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder - 25% 8
  • Firm Snow - 27.5% 9
  • Climbing - 27.5% 8
  • Binding Adjustability - 5% 5
  • Playfulness - 15% 7
Stable
Predictable
Lightweight
Supports diverse objectives
Traction tech
Narrow waist width
Shallow nose rise
Expensive

The Jones Solution excels in most metrics and can perform in a variety of contexts. As such, its diversity allows it to take home our Editors' Choice Award. The stiff flex pattern gears the Solution toward a bigger mountain styled rider, while the narrow waist width makes the board easy to turn. Intermediate riders should not shy away from this model. It has a very predictable character, which makes it an excellent choice for big objectives and fun for everyday riding.

The primary drawback to the Jones Solution is specific to the medium-large footed riders (US 10+), and that is the narrow waist width. We would get some heel drag on the standard model, but boosting up to the wide is a sizable jump in waist width. Riders on the cusp of riding wide boards should especially consider the wide for the Solution.

Read review: Jones Solution Splitboard

Best Bang for the Buck


Jones Explorer Splitboard


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder - 25% 8
  • Firm Snow - 27.5% 6
  • Climbing - 27.5% 6
  • Binding Adjustability - 5% 5
  • Playfulness - 15% 8
Good value
Freestyle feel
Good powder performance
Edging on firm snow

Clocking in with middle of the road pricing, the Jones Explorer is a more affordable option in the Jones lineup. Even better, it rides very well. It has a playful feel that moves away from the stiff, ultra-responsive splitboards on the market. The price and playful feel make this an excellent choice for those looking for a user-friendly and performance splitboard.

The Explorer has traction tech (similar to a mellow Magne traction) to bolster its firm snow performance. The Traction Tech helps the board in variable conditions. However, if we rode a lot of ice, we would look elsewhere.

Read review: Jones Explorer Splitboard

Best Buy on a Tight Budget


Voile Spartan Ascent


Best Buy Award

$649.95
at Backcountry
See It

70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder - 25% 6
  • Firm Snow - 27.5% 7
  • Climbing - 27.5% 7
  • Binding Adjustability - 5% 9
  • Playfulness - 15% 8
Affordable
Durable
Versatile
Lightweight
Easy to adjust the stance
Soft for aggressive riding
Generalist
Are you looking to get into the backcountry? Do you wanna save a few hundred dollars? Do you want a board that will handle everything? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the Voile Spartan Ascent could be right for you. The goal of this board is to get you in the backcountry. It's one of the lightest in the review, which gives it a climbing advantage, especially for weight-conscious users. The Ascent is designed to provide you with everything you need in the backcountry and nothing you don't.

The Spartan Ascent has one drawback for advanced riders; it's a little softer for harder riding where stability is critical. Examples include strong and powerful turns or steep higher speed riding.

Read review: Voile Spartan Ascent

Top Pick for Versatile Powder Performance


Venture Storm


Venture Storm
Top Pick Award

$899 List
List Price
See It

74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder - 25% 9
  • Firm Snow - 27.5% 6
  • Climbing - 27.5% 7
  • Binding Adjustability - 5% 5
  • Playfulness - 15% 9
Fun
Predictable
Solid edge hold
Surprisingly stable
Great float
Heavy-ish
Slightly soft nose and tail

The Venture Storm blew us away with its powder performance and all-around skills. With its large nose and taper, it floats exceptionally well in soft snow. On firmer conditions, it is fun, predictable, and a great overall ride. We anticipated that the Storm would be a great powder choice, and it is, but we were pleasantly surprised by how well it handles firm snow conditions.

On corn, packed trails, and thigh-burning exit gullies, the Storm is surprisingly stable, given its playful nature. However, we found the nose to be a little soft for making strong arcing turns on firm snow. It can also buckle toward the end of the turn. If you love to make powerful, driven turns in corn snow, then better options exist for your needs.

Read review: Venture Storm

Top Pick for Well Rounded Performance


Weston Backcountry Backwoods Splitboard


Top Pick Award

$898.95
at Backcountry
See It

80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder - 25% 9
  • Firm Snow - 27.5% 7
  • Climbing - 27.5% 9
  • Binding Adjustability - 5% 5
  • Playfulness - 15% 7
Powder flotation
Snappy turning experience
Climbing efficiency
Durable topsheet
Expensive
Switch riding

The Weston Backwoods is an exceptional model for both the up and the down. Its an excellent choice for a one board quiver for those who enjoy uphill efficiency but don't want to sacrifice downhill performance. It's not the lightest on the scale but felt the lightest underfoot, earning it a Top Pick for its climbing efficiency, snappy secure performance on hardpack, and maneuverability in powder.

While the board is versatile, its stiff flex limits its playfulness. It's hard to flex, and its short tail limits the board's switch ability. If you need to briefly do a switch shuffle, there is an adequate rise in the tail. The Backwoods has numerous applications but won't necessarily be your freestyle stead.

Read review: Weston Backwoods


The Prior Slasher fits right into the scenic Tahoe vista!
The Prior Slasher fits right into the scenic Tahoe vista!

Why You Should Trust Us


Our tester Isaac Laredo has structured his life around outdoor education and recreation. He is working toward becoming an AMGA Splitboard Guide in which gear must perform in all contexts. Snowboards and splitboards have become critical tools to optimize both work as an educator, and pleasure as a snowboarder. Isaac received a Bachelor's Degree from Sierra Nevada College in 2019 in Interdisciplinary Studies, Environmental Science, and Outdoor Adventure Leadership. Since moving to Lake Tahoe in 2014, he has been able to maintain 100+ days per season in some of the most diverse terrain in the US.

No problems floating on the Jones Explorer.
No problems floating on the Jones Explorer.

We researched the 40 top-rated splitboards before purchasing the top 10 to test side by side. Yes, we've purchased all of the models in this review. We do so to avoid bias and bring you honest data, alongside an accurate and objective review. Testing took place in Lake Tahoe, which is a premier destination for snow sports. The final data was used to compare and contrast each model, allowing us to bring our findings to you.

The Explorer finding speed and fun turn in spring corn snow

Related: How We Tested Splitboards

Analysis and Test Results


We assessed and reviewed 10 different all-around styled splitboards by climbing and descending in every condition. In this review, we judged each one based on their performance in the following metrics: firm snow, powder, climbing, binding adjustability, and playfulness. As we all ride in different snow conditions and styles, you may place the appropriate weight for each category as it relates to your usage pattern. If a model excels in a metric of value to you, be sure to take this into consideration, and move forward accordingly.

Related: Buying Advice for Splitboards


Value


It is not cheap to get into backcountry skiing; therefore, it's our hope that we ensure you get the most bang for your buck. Most of the models are worth their price, but there are a few standout competitors that maximize their value based on performance. The Editors' Choice Jones Solution Splitboard has a little more upfront cost but is justified in its performance and construction.

The Voile Spartan Ascent is one of the most affordable splitboards on the market. It provides everything you need to get out and enjoy the backcountry, alongside reliable performance. In this instance, light weight doesn't come at the highest price tag, and this model is one of the lightest in the review category.

Another excellent value and winner of a Best Buy Award is the Jones Explorer. It's a touch spendier than the Voile but is a fantastic performance choice that is a bit more stable and featured than the Voile Ascent, yet it doesn't sacrifice character.

Powder


If there's one thing that the majority of snow sliders have in common, it's our love for powder. We wake up before the sun to get in line early and get in some turns before work. We brave storms which otherwise would keep us at home. Heck, we even call in "sick" from work. All to enjoy the sweet, sweet powder. We are willing to go through a lot to enjoy what powder has to offer, and we should be willing to select a board that maximizes our performance in the fresh. A board that floats well conserves our energy. If we use less energy, we can take another lap. If we take another lap, we get that much more of the goods. Ultimately, good performance in powder increases our quality of experience.

Powder testing the Flight Attendant.
Powder testing the Flight Attendant.

To evaluate the differences in powder performance of each competitor, we rode a lot of powder, the goal of which was to collect anecdotal data to help sort out the distinctions. We rode each board in similar snow conditions; sometimes this meant taking a lap and switching boards to have another. Other times this meant cycling through boards in a specific storm cycle. Conditions in the backcountry are always changing, so this becomes a challenge. We made sure to ride each model in a variety of different conditions and terrain types to understand the characters.

Powder day tree runs on Flagpole Peak after an impressive wet loose avalanche cycle.
Powder day tree runs on Flagpole Peak after an impressive wet loose avalanche cycle.

A large part of floatation is based on surface area. We busted out the calculators to find the surface area of each model. Our equation was as follows: ((Tip Width + Waist width / 2) x length to waist = surface area of the board from nose to waist in cm^2).

Some boards in this review have not been tested extensively in powder, as conditions have not yet allowed us to do so. Further testing is currently in progress for the Spartan Ascent, Prior Slasher, Venture Storm, G3 Axle, Weston Backwoods, Never Summer Swift, and United Shapes Covert.


Every board here was fun to ride in powder. A few stand out in particular. The Venture Storm floats very quickly, is stable, and turns quickly through the soft stuff. Riding powder on the Venture Storm was a joy from start to finish. The board floats without requiring extra rear leg pressure and is eager to carve or slash pow turns depending on your mood.

We also enjoyed the Jones Explorer, which was a bit softer in overall flex than some of the other boards in the test; while this can be an issue in firm or cruddy conditions, it rated high in powder performance. It features relatively similar nose and rocker dimensions but forgoes the taper in favor of equal tip and tail widths. Essentially, the Explorer is trading a smidge of powder performance for switch riding chops.

The Weston Backwoods was a standout performer due to its quality of float and maneuverability in tight trees. The board's shape is designed to float, and takes less effort than most to keep the nose up. Thanks to its shorter tail, the board can pivot quickly due to the lack of surface area. If you ride lots of trees or appreciate agility like your favorite NFL running back, then look into the Backwoods.

We just want to mention a potential show-stealer for this metric, the Prior Slasher. We have not had the opportunity to extensively test this board in powder, but its shape has all the ingredients for incredible float.

Dream days on the Jones Explorer.
Dream days on the Jones Explorer.

Firm Snow


Firm snow conditions are inevitable in backcountry travel. They can be expected or unexpected, and sometimes they show up in the no-fall zone. Firm snow performance is critical for your security and safety, especially during more committing objectives. No one wants to fall due to poor edge hold; it can change your run, and you can potentially get injured.

Another component of firm snow performance is its turning experience of corn snow. Corn snow is one of the sweet joys of the backcountry. The board's turning character should match our desired experience and match the terrain we ride most.

The Solution handled the firm snow and the soft stuff on this tour above Lake Tahoe.
The Solution handled the firm snow and the soft stuff on this tour above Lake Tahoe.

From corn to ice, we tested this metric by riding every condition we could find. We traversed on both edges and made turns on steep icy slopes; we also collected anecdotal evidence regarding our firm snow experience to make distinctions between the models.


The Flight Attendant  showing off its carving capabilities.
The Flight Attendant, showing off its carving capabilities.

Every board got the job done on firm snow. The distinction came from the speed threshold found on icy snow. On icy days, the stiffer and mostly cambered profiles were the most stable. The Jones Solution provides a higher speed threshold and secure edge hold, while the G3 Axle, with its stiff torsional flex, was incredibly responsive and stable. The Axle provided impressive edge purchase even on firm spring melt-freeze crusts. Both of these have a strong feeling during a turn and offer a fun corn ride.

It's all stoke when gear functions without a thought. Shown here is the Jones Solution.
It's all stoke when gear functions without a thought. Shown here is the Jones Solution.

The standout model for quality of experience when turning is the United Shapes Covert. The model feels likes a surfy snowboard and has a lively and plush flex that creates a user-friendly and snappy turn experience.

The in turn feel of the United Shapes Covert was one of our favorites.
The in turn feel of the United Shapes Covert was one of our favorites.

Climbing


Splitboards spend most of their life ascending; the ratio of skinning to descending is not even close. Yet, very few splitboards are designed with this in mind. Let's be honest; they are probably not purchased with this in mind either. Climbing performance should be a driver in the selection decision, as a board that climbs efficiently allows the rider to enjoy the downhill as much as possible.

Apprentice Ski Guide Will Sperry testing out the Backwoods.
Apprentice Ski Guide Will Sperry testing out the Backwoods.

Our primary method to test the climbing ability of each model was touring. We toured to see how they felt and handled on the skin track. Weight is the single biggest factor in climbing mountains with a splitboard, though some technical features are significant. If you can save one pound on your feet, its the equivalent of saving roughly five pounds out of your backpack.

Testing the Jones Solution on Carson Pass.
Testing the Jones Solution on Carson Pass.

We weighed all the boards (without pucks, but with the standard clips and hooks and slider screws on the channel boards) on the same scale and factored this into the climbing score. We created a rough weight per surface area calculation for all of the boards to understand how they measured up, literally. Since some of the boards are slightly longer or shorter than others, comparing only the weight would not entirely be fair. While the weight per surface area measurement is not perfect either, it does complement the weight measurement. Overall, the weight range is relatively narrow, but it is interesting to note the outliers.


The Weston Backwoods was the best climbing model. It wasn't the lightest in the review but had technical features that increase its climbing efficiency. The board actually has tail-heavy split skis, which makes kick turns easier and makes it incredibly nimble. The Weston Backwood is mostly cambered and relatively stiff, which is appreciated when skinning on steep sidehills; this helps maintain both edge and skin grip in these situations.

The Voile Spartan Ascent is one of the lightest boards in the review category. Its light weight is supported by a mostly cambered profile that provides stable climbing. The Jones Solution and G3 Axle also stood out for their stable and secure side-hilling performance.

A lighter weight is be appreciated no matter if the board is on your back or feet.
A lighter weight is be appreciated no matter if the board is on your back or feet.

Playfulness


Once we are at the top and ready to drop, weight is no longer a big concern. Now we just want to have fun. A few years ago, a common complaint about splitboards was that they were too stiff. The stiff boards excel in steep technical terrain but lose the fun feel that we enjoy on simpler terrain.


Playfulness was assessed through evaluating the board's flex, freestyle ability, ease of edging, and overall user-friendliness. Every tour, we tried to butter, jump, slash, and quickly turn the board, gathering data the entire time.

The Swift provides a lively in turn experience.
The Swift provides a lively in turn experience.

The boards that scored highest were the ones with the most freestyle DNA in their design. Some boards were incredibly fun and invited us to play and jump off terrain features. The Venture Storm was one of our favorites for enjoying funky exits and spinning off side hits. The Jones Explorer was also a standout. The Explorer, with its softer flex and turning radius, rode like the freestyle inspired board that it is. Several reviewers found the Explorer's freestyle inclinations more fun than they expected.

The Storm dealing with heavy Sierra Cement.
The Storm dealing with heavy Sierra Cement.

The Never Summer Swift is a distinguished competitor not for its freestyle merit, but its easy to ride and fun turning character. These models are softer in terms of flex (when compared to the rest of the review quiver), and this was the primary quality that generated the higher scores in this metric.

Buttery and playful turns on the Jones Explorer.
Buttery and playful turns on the Jones Explorer.

Binding Adjustability


If you have ever set up a splitboard, you know its a pain if your stance is slightly off. You might deal with it; you might take the time to adjust your bindings. There are two options here; either a channel or an insert system. The channel system is easier to change then the inserts. In our review, Voile and Burton used channel systems.


The channel systems varied a bit between manufacturers, but they all function similarly. Flex patterns felt normal, and no reviewers singled out the channels as influencing the ride quality of the board.

Imagine any stance. You can have it in a second.
Imagine any stance. You can have it in a second.

We were pleasantly surprised by the ease of setup and adjustment that channel systems provide; and dialing in the exact stance you want is much simpler than using the old standard insert pattern. If the heavens part and dump multiple feet of champagne pow on your local mountains, this system makes it easy to slide your bindings back, which will increase nose floatation.

In testing the Burton Flight Attendant on a powder day, we realized our initial stance location was not far enough back to optimally float the nose. Since this board had the channel system, it was only a few minute adjustments to increase the setback and significantly improve our powder day. If you find yourself regularly fine-tuning your stance, a board featuring the channel system will simplify this process.

While the new Spark pucks to increase adjustability, this adjustability is still much less than a channel system allows, especially when moving towards the tip and tail of the board. Within the range allowed by the inserts, adjustability is simple with the Spark pucks.

Know Before You Go


Splitboards are fantastic tools to explore the backcountry with - when used correctly. To use them properly, you need to know more about the winter mountain environment than can be learned busting out laps at the resort. The best-untracked terrain lies outside the ropes, but venturing out can be incredibly dangerous. Although it may be close, the nature of the snowpack beyond the ropes could be completely different than it is inbounds. In addition to purchasing a board, you'll need to invest in an avalanche beacon. It is also a must to invest in an avalanche probe; something like the Backcountry Access Stealth Avalanche Probe, as well as an avalanche shovel. An affordable option is the Backcountry Access B-1 Shovel.

Knowing how to read avalanche terrain can make the difference.
Knowing how to read avalanche terrain can make the difference.

Once you've gotten all the gear together, make sure you receive training for such conditions. Seek out a Level 1 avalanche course and start learning about terrain from the avalanche's perspective. Follow that up by becoming a daily reader of your local avalanche center's avalanche advisory, paying particular attention to the specific avalanche problems of the day. With practice, you can get the picture of what is happening in the backcountry and learn how to get out of harm's way - while also knowing how to search out the goods.

Conclusion


Most manufacturers make a good backcountry product, and every product in this review excels in one metric or another. Look at how your riding will actually be on a day to day basis. Be realistic with your usage patterns and near-future goals. The bread and butter is selecting the board that fits your style of riding and your usage patterns. Use the metric scorings to identify which model will fit your needs and ride on.


Isaac Laredo & David Reichel