Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Splitboards For Backcountry Snowboarding of 2021

The G3 Axle has a versatile shape that is ready to ride anything in si...
Photo: Isaac Laredo
Monday December 28, 2020
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To find the best splitboard, we've reviewed over 25 boards in the last three years. For this update, we purchased 11 most regarded splitboards, which we put to the test from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the summit of Mount Shasta. We skinned up icy slopes, dropped cliffs, turned in every possible condition, and even did some math to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each model. Looking at a webpage full of splitboards can be mindboggling; that's where we come in. Whether you're looking for the all-around performer, best powder board, or an excellent value, our comparative review can help you find the board for you.

Related: Best Splitboard Bindings of 2021

Top 11 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 11
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Awards   Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award 
Price $751 List$629.99 at Amazon$919 List$799 List$899 List
Overall Score
73
72
75
74
81
Star Rating
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Pros Customization, powder floatation, driven strong turnsPowder flotation, corn snow performance, maneuverabilityFun, predictable, solid edge hold, confidence inspiring, great floatDurable topsheet, versatile, responsive, good offering of sizesDurable topsheet, great powder floatation, excellent climbing, snappy turn experience, bolt-less base
Cons Hard to smear turns, not for firm complex terrainClimbing (sidehilling/steep slopes), expensiveSlightly soft nose and tail, heavy-ishChallenging to smear turns in firm snow at slow speedsExpensive, switch riding
Bottom Line Powder specific? NopeA splitboard that is geared for the downAn even mix of freestyle and free ride that doesn't neglect flotationFreeride, freestyle, or powder specific; now you don't have to chooseClimbs like a bird in thermals, rides like your trusted solid board
Rating Categories Prior Slasher Never Summer Swift... Venture Storm United Shapes Covert Weston Backcountry...
Powder (26%) Sort Icon
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Firm Snow (26%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Climbing (28%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Binding Adjustability (5%)
5.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
Playfulness (15%)
6.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
Specs Prior Slasher Never Summer Swift... Venture Storm United Shapes Covert Weston Backcountry...
Weight 7.75 lbs 7.32 lbs 7.91 lbs 7.45 lbs 7.33 lbs
Tested Length 156 157 157 158 157
Flex Medium Medium Medium Stiff Medium Medium - stiff
Weight in grams 3532 g 3322 g 3587 g 3382 g 3325 g
Weight Per Surface Area 0.8 0.72 0.8 0.75 0.74
Available Lengths 156, 161, 167 157, 162, 167 157,161, 162, 166, 171 149,152,158,161,166 152, 157, 160, 163, 163 (w)
Construction Type Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich
Core Material Wood Wood Wood Blended wood Wood/ bamboo
Waist Width 25cm 25.9cm 25cm 25.7cm 25.6cm
Shape Directional Directional Directional Directional Directional
Radius 6.5m 8m 8.48m 7.5m 7.3/6.5/7.5m
Camber/Rocker Camber Camber/ rocker / camber Straightline rocker Rocker/ Camber/ Rocker Rock camber rocker


Best Overall Splitboard


Weston Backcountry Backwoods Splitboard


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder 8
  • Firm Snow 8
  • Climbing 9
  • Binding Adjustability 5
  • Playfulness 8
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. It's 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 an award 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 capability. If you need to briefly do a switch shuffle, there is an adequate rise in the tail. The Backwoods has numerous applications, but it won't necessarily be your freestyle stead.

Read review: Weston Backwoods

Best Bang for the Buck


United Shapes Covert


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder 8
  • Firm Snow 8
  • Climbing 7
  • Binding Adjustability 5
  • Playfulness 7
Durable topsheet
Versatile
Responsive
Size offerings
Challenging to smear turns

Splitting the difference between value and performance pricing, the United Shapes Covert was a shoo-in for a performance-based value award. It utilizes performance-based features like the Karakorum Ultra Clips, a durable nylon-based top sheet, and polyurethane sidewalls. Even better, it provides an incredible ride. It is responsive edge to edge and provides a fluid and enjoyable feel tip to tail. The feeling exists and prevails in all conditions based on the shaping strategies from the freestyle, freeride, and powder snowboards.

The Covert loves to be on edge in corn snow. However, we found the board to be harder for the rider to smear turns; this is something to note for those individuals who like to smear or wash their turns around and or ride in tight spaces. The model simply requires more effort to achieve that style of riding.

Read review: United Shapes Covert Splitboard

Excellent Performance On A Budget


Voile Spartan Ascent


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder 6
  • Firm Snow 7
  • Climbing 8
  • Binding Adjustability 9
  • Playfulness 9
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

Best for Versatile Performance


Jones Solution Splitboard


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder 7
  • Firm Snow 9
  • Climbing 8
  • Binding Adjustability 5
  • Playfulness 7
Stable
Predictable
Lightweight
Supports diverse objectives
Traction tech
Challenging to size between narrow and wide models
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 an award for its versatile performance. 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, making 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

Offers User-Friendly Performance


Venture Storm


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Powder 8
  • Firm Snow 7
  • Climbing 7
  • Binding Adjustability 5
  • Playfulness 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 and is very easy to turn. 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, better options exist for your needs.

Read review: Venture Storm

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
81
$899
Editors' Choice Award
Solid board performance paired with exceptional climbing ability
77
$900
Top Pick Award
Offering exceptional performance in powder and firm snow, the Solution in up for whatever you're looking to do
75
$919
Top Pick Award
A fun and stable all-mountain offering that handles well in powder
74
$650
Best Buy Award
Where minimalism meets performance
74
$799
Best Buy Award
A well-crafted splitboard that provides a fun and versatile ride
73
$956
A user-friendly and performance oriented design
73
$751
More than it seems
72
$1,000
Powder or corn, this board is fun and maneuverable on the downhill
72
$750
Given its versatility, it's an appropriate choice for most riders
66
$650
Offering high performance in all metrics, it's an excellent option if you're on a budget
64
$800
A decent and solid offering from Burton

The Prior Slasher fits right into the scenic Tahoe vista!
The Prior Slasher fits right into the scenic Tahoe vista!
Photo: Laredo

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 Frontier.
No problems floating on the Jones Frontier.
Photo: Laredo

We researched over 40 top-rated splitboards before purchasing the top models 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.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Related: How We Tested Splitboards

Analysis and Test Results


We assessed and reviewed 11 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 and features. The top-scoring Weston Backwoods 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, lightweight doesn't come at the highest price tag, and this model is one of the lightest in the review category.

Another excellent value is the United Shapes Covert. 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 a fun and unique 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 a predawn lap before work. We brave storms that 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 to conserve 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 when riding in these conditions.

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.

A large part of floatation is based on the 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).


Every board here was fun to ride in powder. A few models stand out in particular. The Prior Slasher was a top contender in the category based on its effortless floatation and maneuverability. On deep or powder days, this model would be our go-to as its swallow tail naturally facilitates floatation. This allows the rider to lean forward in powder to generate speed and create powerful turns.

The short swallow tail found on the Prior Slasher allows for...
The short swallow tail found on the Prior Slasher allows for effortless flotation and tight turn finishes.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

The Venture Storm floats very easily, is stable, and turns effortlessly through the powder snow. Powder riding 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.

The easy turning nature of the Venture Storm makes it user-friendly...
The easy turning nature of the Venture Storm makes it user-friendly and nimble for all levels of riders.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

We also enjoyed the United Shapes Covert; it has a long drawn out early rise nose that naturally stays afloat due to its increased surface area. The board's shape supports multiple powder riding styles, whether it be nimble quick tree movements or ripping big open turns.

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.

Boards with optimal float facilitate deep turns rather then tomahawks.
Boards with optimal float facilitate deep turns rather then tomahawks.
Photo: laredo

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 the terrain we ride most.

It&#039;s all stoke when gear functions without a thought. Shown here is...
It's all stoke when gear functions without a thought. Shown here is the Solution.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

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 distinguish between the models.


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.

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.
Photo: Laredo

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.
Photo: Laredo

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 most significant factor in climbing mountains with a splitboard, though some technical features are significant. If you can save one pound on your feet, it's 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.
Photo: Canyon Florey

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 give more perspective to 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 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 lightweight 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.

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, which we often ride.


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.
Photo: Laredo

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 the features found on our exits and spinning off side hits. The softer flex and tight turning radius of the Storm allowed the board to be user-friendly and ride like a freestyle inspired board.

The Never Summer Swift is a distinguished competitor not for its freestyle merit, but it's easy to ride and fun turning character. This model is softer in terms of flex when compared to the market's offerings. This was the primary quality that generated the higher scores in this metric.

Buttery and playful turns are often benefits of softer flexing...
Buttery and playful turns are often benefits of softer flexing boards with tight sidecuts.
Photo: Laredo

Binding Adjustability


If you have ever set up a splitboard, you know it's a pain if your stance is slightly off. You might deal with it and 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 than the inserts. In our review, Only 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.

The Slider channel makes stances adjustments easy and quick.
The Slider channel makes stances adjustments easy and quick.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

We were pleasantly surprised by the ease of setup and adjustment that channel systems provide; 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 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 relatively 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 by 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.
Photo: David Reichel

Once you've got 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 safety 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 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