Bring Efficiency to your Skinning Game: Spark LT Pin System

Introduction Spark R & D has made a name for themselves coming out with multiple innovative binding systems, so it came to no surprise that they invested time and energy on there own touring bracket and pin system. Attempting to make a lighter more efficient setup for skinning and changeovers.
Testing Grounds The  LT pin system was tested nonstop for a full month in a vast array of conditions and scenarios, from side-hilling on 30 degree slopes to skinning 4000 feet up a steep mountain on 4 inches of snow on top of ice. Here are my thoughts on the touring bracket and why I feel it is superior to the original Voile system. Initial Impressions From the get go, I could tell that it was incredibly light, smooth and stylish looking. I wondered how much of a difference they would make on the uphill. Ten minutes and six screws later the brackets were in place and I was ready to test them out. In The Field I immediately noticed how stable and sturdy the system felt compared to the wobble that is notorious with standard touring brackets. Both sliding the pin system in and out of touring mode was smooth and the board was easy converted while my hands stayed dry in my gloves. Multiple times throughout the day I would find myself traversing across steep icy slopes with ease, instead of focusing on absorbing the flex on my ankles the brackets held strong. On flats and small downhill stretches the strides felt both smooth and natural. What makes these brackets such a vast improvement. By shaving off excess material they were able to create a strong, lightweight and durable system, thick in contact zones but almost nonexistent in others. There is more then 3 times as much surface interaction between the pins and bracket/bindings compared to Voiles brackets/plates making the bindings feel solid and secure. There are bushings in the bracket (and the Blazes) which dramatically reduce wear and tear on the new aluminum pins (also included with the package). Why would I use the Brackets? For years we have waited for a product that would make skinning easier and more efficient, this product delivers. If you are planning on long distance tours, expeditions or just getting out a few days this season I highly recommend this product. Mt RuthPros
  • It gets rid of excessive material and only keeps what you need
  • Super light weight
  • Much more surface interaction compared to the slider plates
  • Much less lateral flex
  • Bright colored pin easy to spot in snowy conditions
  • aluminum pins
  • Self-lubricating plastic bushings within the touring bracket drastically reduce wear
WHO: Spark R& D WHAT: LT Pin System WHEN: Anytime you are skinning WHERE: Traverses, expeditions and everything in between WHY: Its lightweight, strong and sturdy Retail: 78.00 Is it worth it?: Well worth every penny and once you try them out you will understand why.

Killing it at Home, Splitboarders Across the World: Dan Mingori

Our next stop is to a place where the local ski hill has been known to stay open 9 months in a single season, this place happens to be in Southern California. Dan Mingori has explored these vast high alpine slopes for so many years that he decided to write a guide book filled with numerous gems in the Eastern Sierras. In this interview Dan takes about what its like solely riding a splitboard, long approaches and first turns of the season.
photo by Joe Stewart

photo by Joe Stewart

Name: Dan Mingori
Primary Location, Home Mountain, or Home Range: Eastern Sierra, CA
Age: 33
Primary Solid Board: Haven't been on a one-piece in almost 5 years.
Primary Split Board: Voile Mojo 166
Preferred Binding System: I alternate between Spark's and a pair of homemade bindings I crafted a few years ago. Both have their advantages/disadvantages, but I find myself using the Sparks more often now.
Boot: I'm still waiting on a manufacturer to produce a splitboard-specific boot, but in the meantime I've been scoring old Koflach Oxygen and Superpipe boots on eBay for the last few years. They are a soft-boot upper with a hard mountaineering sole, and are infinitely more durable than modern snowboard boots. But they were only produced for about 2 years back in the mid 90's, so finding them isn't too easy.
How Long Have You Been Snowboarding? My memory is starting to fade in my old age, but I think it's been about 25 years.
How Long Have You Been Splitboarding? 9 years
Photo by Chris Gallardo

Photo by Chris Gallardo

What Compelled You to Begin Splitboarding? I flailed around on snowshoes for a few seasons, and quickly figured out that I needed to find a better way. The skin tracks always seemed to be going waaaaaay far out to the places where I wanted to be. At the same time I was growing tired of the resort. Mammoth Mountain is a lot of fun, but it doesn't have anything in the way of steep terrain. So I realized that the only way to get that was to either move to Europe or head into the backcountry. The latter seemed like the more reasonable of the two options. I've always enjoyed hiking and climbing, so combining that with snowboarding just came together naturally. I'd never even seen a splitboard, only heard about them from a skier friend. So I decided I would be a guinea pig and buy a split kit.
Gnarliest or most Extensive Approach for a Single Line: Mt Lyell. A few years ago I decided to extend the season one more day by heading out there at the end of May. It's about 13 miles to the base, which really isn't too bad, but I expected to find a lot more snow. That is, I figured I would have been able to skin (and ride) a lot more of it. Instead, I ended up carrying my board and boots for the round trip of 26 miles, and only skinned a little bit on the glacier. I made a few turns that day, but basically ended up taking my snowboard on a really long walk. Going in wasn't too bad, but coming out that afternoon (and into the evening) was kinda brutal, after only riding a short distance. The trail is pretty popular among backpackers, and I kept running into groups of people who would give me the funniest looks, and ask the obvious question: “Did you go snowboarding today?!?!?”. So the comedy of having to explain myself over and over is what kept me going for the long hike out. And of course I kept telling everyone that the day was awesome and totally worth the hike.
photo by Chris Gallardo

photo by Chris Gallardo

Ideal Backcountry Day: Glorious summits, steep narrow couloirs, and perfect powder followed by some nice trees back to the car. Basically, the stuff dreams are made of! Lately I've been going more for the mountaineering aspect of the sport. So an ideal day would be spent on a peak that I've never climbed before, with a little bit of rock scrambling and exposure mixed in. But I do also like riding steep trees on storm days. I grew up on the east coast, so I feel at home in the trees.
Lifetime Goal or Objective, a Line You've Been Eyeing for a While, or What Would Be your Dream Trip? Oh, geez. Too many to name. I always have this running “tick list” in my head of all the things I want to do. And every time I tick something off the list, I end up getting views of 5 more peaks that then get added to my list. It never ends! We have to contend with a lot of wind around here. So there are a lot of lines that rarely fill in, just because they get hit so hard from the winds at the end of each storm. So I have this “once in a lifetime” list going right now: Middle Palisade, Seven Gables, the NE Couloir on Split Mountain, Picture Peak, and so on...
Favorite Backcountry Meal: I've been known to carry fast food and slices of pizza in to a basecamp. Once I started lugging around a bunch of camera equipment, “light and fast” got thrown out the window, and got replaced by “heavy and comfortable”.
Favorite Piece of Gear (and Why): My rock board. I only use it one day a year, but that's usually my favorite day of the season. It gets taken out after the very first storm of the season, when there's just barely enough snow to slide on. And the first day of every season is always the most memorable. After a long summer of no snowboarding, those first few turns are always a treat.
Brian Outhwaite

Brian Outhwaite

Where has Split Boarding taken you? For starters, it got me away from the shitshow at the resort!
Being out in the mountains renewed my interest in photography, which is now what I've been focusing on more and more recently. It also led to writing a backcountry guidebook for the area, which was something I never imagined I would do. I guess you could say it turned my love of snowboarding into something more than a silly hobby.
Tell us about your book, what prompted you to write it: The main reason was that there was a need for updated information on the skiing of the Eastern Sierra. That's what kicked it off, but as we started working on it I found other sources of motivation. I remember reading a quote from a climbing guidebook author that said “putting together a guidebook is a labor of love”. And as I got more into it, I realized what that meant. It's a lot of work, for not a much money. But I love helping people out, and I really wanted to get new information out there, and get people excited and motivated to ski. Guidebooks do a lot more than just point people in the right direction. I always loved flipping through my climbing guidebooks, forming plans in anticipation of the upcoming weekends. So as the hundreds of hours of work started adding up, I just imagined all the people flipping through my book, getting excited to ski something new.
Other Stuff You Do (music, volunteerism, art, school, etc.): I do enjoy taking pictures of mountains. So I've been slowly working on findings ways to possibly do that professionally. Most recently I've been doing local art shows, and learning more about printing and framing.

Putting the Bite into Firm Conditions: Mr. Chomps Splitboard Crampons

The Breakdown The Mr. Chomps bindings were used in a array of conditions from early morning frozen corn snow to wind firm ridges. They took 4 months of being walked on, being smashed in my backpack and used as a platform for my stove. This is a breakdown of how they preformed and if they are worth your hard earned dollars. Initial Impression Damn these things are bright! Arriving at my doorstep I noticed the bright blue color scheme as I took them out of the padded box in which they arrived in. They seem simple yet sturdy with thick metal teeth and a single riser mounted at the front. A quick drag of my finger along the teeth provides the conformation of my thoughts "These babies are sharp" but would they grip in the firmest of conditions?. In the field Early morning approaches in corn season mean undesired firm surfaces that will not only test your edge holding ability, they will also test your patients. My first true interaction with the Mr. Chomps came when I was out doing a Traverse of a remote Range in the Cascades called the Chiwaukums. With a 2 A.M. start time I found myself skinning on less then ideal conditions with my good friend Scott McAlister. Once arriving on a steep firm slope we found that we could no longer efficiently skin and that we would have to resort to other measures to keep heading for our destination. With a quick heel rise I was able to slip the Mr. Chomps under my feet which I found to be both fast and convenient. Before long I was climbing an almost vertical skin track with no hesitation and unwarranted kick stepping, this was of course while Scott boot-packed up to his knees in rotten snow. It literally took two minutes to make a believer in me  and later on I would joke that "this product was like a insurance policy" and would grip in the firmest of conditions. 100_2105 Well, is it worth it? Without a doubt in my mind this small piece of gear has saved me from countless sketchy situations. While somewhat bulky and heavy I was more then willing to take them with me when my backpack was filled to the brim with gear and I was trying to get rid of excess weight. They are easy to insert under your Spark bindings and even easier to adjust when you need extra heel rise for steep climbs. When it comes to step traverses, firm snow and exposed skin tracks the Mr. Chomps are simply indispensable and well worth the price. Who: Spark R & D. What: Mr Chomp Splitboard crampons. When: Anytime you are dealing with firm or Icy snow. Where:In steep, exposed or simply slippery conditions Why: To save both stress and energy so you can go the distance MSRP: 100.00 Mr Chomps

The Petzl MYO XP: Leading the Way in a World of Darkness

This headlamp was tested in a vast array of conditions and scenarios, from riding down a slope in the pitch black to finding the topographical map in the darkness of my tent. I skinned, boarded, climbed, ran and even fell asleep with the headlamp on. So here are my thoughts on the Petzl MYO XP: Initial Impressions From the get go, I liked the sleek design of the MYO with the battery placement behind the lamp instead of in a separate battery pack. The controls seemed simple, too, with two separate buttons for light levels and a wide angle lens for optimal light efficiency. Best of all it was compact and lightweight . In The Field I immediately noticed how comfortable the MYO XP is and how strongly the light illuminated the path in front of me as I skinned up my local resort in the dark. It was New Year's Eve and I wanted to watch the annual fireworks show from atop the mountain, but I was concerned about the ride back down. After a spectacular firework show, it was time to ride back down so I set the brightness to the highest level and went on my way. I found that the headlamp was stable and bright as I rode down the freshly groomed slopes and illuminated the path more than 30 feet ahead of me, while my companions' headlamps didn't cut the bill. MYO XP Is NOT your Standard Headlamp! After months of use, I still stand behind this headlamp and I found a lot of things to like. I dropped it, stomped on it and inadvertently smashed it many times, and it never had a single issue. A great feature about this headlamp is the option to have either a wide angle view, or a spotlight, just by flipping the toggle located above the bulb. The controls are simple-- 3 separate levels of brightness (maximum, optimum, economic) all within the click of a button. Its power source is 3 AA batteries, which can burn for up to 180 hrs (in economy mode) and has a warning light that indicates the need for a new energy source.  There are so many factors that make this a great headlamp, so whether it's a predawn tour or a week long expedition, you can depend on the MYO XP to help you  lead the way. Jetboil

Taking Teko's Snowboard Socks for a Little Stroll

Without a doubt your feet are one of the most important parts of your body when you're out touring. Screw up your feet and you've screwed up your tour, usually. Your feet are your mode of travel, so you had better treat them well. This includes not only the appropriate footwear (boots), but also, well, the appropriate sockwear. I tend to bring a change of socks or two even when I'm otherwise packing "fast and light," so socks are one of my favorite backcountry "luxury" items. A lot of high-end snowboard and ski socks are essentially the same, following in the steps of the famed manufacturer, smartwool, whose socks can be found everywhere from your neighborhood kitchy gear shop to the closest big-box REI. Now, brands like Teko and Point 6 produce high-end, supposedly soft and supple socks which are, frankly, tough to tell apart from the smartwool brand socks at first glance. So, as you might guess, when I picked up a pair of Teko's Merino Snowboard Socks at the beggining of this last season, I thought I was in for the same old-same old. Nonetheless, I needed a pair of socks, so I was happy to give 'em a spin. Initial Impressions What drew me at first to the socks was the way they looked and felt. Clearly, these socks were soft. Otherwise, Teko's Merino Snowboard Socks appear to be your standard midweight wool, padded sock. Fast forward to five moths later and my sock drawer now holds 8 pairs of the same sock (this also comes in handy, because it's easier to make matching pairs when all the ones that come out of the dryer look the same.)  When most high-end socks are created essentially equal, you might wonder what it was that set these socks appart. Honestly, for me, it wasn't one main thing, instead it was a bunch of little details. I received my first pair a few days after the opening of Crystal Mountain and I already had a few blisters from some early season tours, so I started out by slipping them on the night before I planned to wear them. The fit was promising: they seemed comfortable, and had extra padding in all the spots that I usually get hotspots. That thoughtful padding placement seemed like it could come in handy, so the next morning I put them on and headed out the door. Checking out performance inbounds Everyone was jumpy as we parked our car in the Crystal Mountain parking lot celebrating the foot of fresh snow that had fallen overnight. We were all in a rush to get first chair, so I put the socks on in the car beforehand, carefully guiding them over my blistered feet. Once in my snowboard boots I found the cushioning to be both thick and snug in the shins, heels, and toes but I worried about what 8 hours of riding might do to them. That day we rode hard, slashing every object we could and taking no prisoners and no breaks, conditions were far too epic for that.  By the end of the day I was suprised to find that I hadn't aggravated my hotspots, my socks were dry and my feet were still snuggly fit. It withstood a day of hard riding but I wondered how it would hold up in the backcountry. The True Test: Multiday Tours While the socks did well in the resort I didn't want to get overly stoked before putting them through the true test, a full day of hiking in the elements, followed by a multiday tour. Anyone who tours will happily let you know, that if you don't get your boots dialed, you'll pay for your negligence in blisters. Anyone who has their boots dialed will tell you that over time you still end up with continuous microdamage and some hot spots. Like my feet, my socks usually wear out rather quickly in the heels and toes. To start out, I went for a scenic hike up to Camp Muir in Mt. Rainier national park, skinning up 4,500 feet to test for hotspots. From car to car they preformed great being both comfortable and breathable and not causing my feet to sweat throughout the entire tour. Later on, I began wearing these socks on longer tours, including some remote multiday trips, such as the Bailey and Alpine Lakes Traverses. I literally used these socks daily switching back and forth between resort and backcountry riding for well over a hundred days and while there are a few worn-down spots, you're gonna find that with any wool or wool blend high end snowboard sock. When packing for week long expeditions I choose the Teko socks for multiple reasons. They are comfortable, warm, breathable and on the occasion that I submerged my foot in a few creek crossing, they dried fast in the sun. The perfect blend of merino and synthetic (nearly all "100% wool" socks and garmets have some small measure of synthetic to keep them from falling to pieces) keeps them soft, comfy, and durable. While they were about the average price for high end socks (though you'll often find them marketed at exactly a dollar less than the competition...a clever marketing ploy on behalf of Tek0), I find their performance to be the main factor I return to these socks trip after trip. Kyle Miller

Testing Out the Fuse Bindings-- A Little Bit o' Innovation, Courtesy of Spark R&D

Like many a splitboarder, I had spent years riding the standard Voilie slider plate setup. This was all fine and dandy until I got my hands on a pair of Spark R&D's Fuse Bindings. Since which bindings you choose for your splitboard setup is an important choice, and there really are a myriad of options out there these days, I wanted to really put the Fuses through the paces before delivering a solid review. From the waist-deep powder days to the bulletproof morning ice, I can say without a doubt that the Fuses performed above and beyond my expectations. I tested them on all types of snow and in all types of conditions, with well over 100 days and 300,000 vertical feet of riding. Initial Impressions At first glance, I noted the clean layout of the design. The smooth base integrates directly onto the board during downhill mode, and is attached with a single pin at the toe while skinning. I was really excited about being so close to the board while riding, before I even got on the binding, and this turned out to be an obvious improvement over the old Voilie design. Moreover, the graphics and overall look of the binding is sleek and sophisticated, something that never hurts. How Does Riding Feel? From the moment I put my boots into the bindings, I noticed a dramatic difference in the feel of the board. No longer separated from the board by pesky risers and their delayed reaction time, I felt an obvious increase in the measure of control I'd have over the board. Riding yielded this result as well. Typically, I wasn't overly stoked about the idea of having to ride resort to access a few backcountry lines, but suddenly things changed-- I became inspired to take my split on resort laps, huck cornices, and air over crevasses. Previously pesky terrain features suddenly morphed into beguiling opportunities, and the playfulness that should characterize snowboarding returned to my splitboard. How About Skinning? Spark's ads often quip, "You gotta get up, to get down." So true when you're backcountry, and as anyone who's done a few days in the bc will tell you, you're probably gonna spend about 90% of your time just accessing the goods. Enter Spark's sleek pin design which puts the pivot point for your toe right next to the board (err...skis) just like, well, a telemark binding. Moreover, the simplicity of the layout allows for quick transitions with your gloves still on (great for those blower days when you find a bowl so nice you just gotta lap it up again and again). I found that a huge advantage of this binding is the efficiency it provides when side-hilling. Steep slopes are suddenly easier to navigate because having the pivot point on the outside of the touring bracket (as opposed to on the inside, as on the Voilie system), allows for better edge control. It kind of became quickly apparent that these had been designed by a dedicated splitboarder...who was also an engineer. Kyle with SparksPotential Con's I'd like to just preface this section by saying straight up: I'm really hard on gear. I think I've broken nearly every backpack I've owned, and even the burliest pants fall apart after 500 days of use. Nonetheless, wear and tear has worn these babies down over time and despite the fact that the Spark warranty department is stellar, I'll just let you know how my pair of Sparks has worn down and what you can do to preempt any potential problems you could have with your own pair of these bindings.
  • The bent metal buckle (that's the strap-maker spark uses) can freeze up, so they take a little maintenance to get them to catch correctly on the strap ladders sometimes.
  • After a lot of use, bolts connecting the highbacks can come undone. I recommend lock-tight to make sure those babies stay put; it's done wonders for me.
  • Sometimes a long day of skinning will leave a little bit of snow and ice buildup between the components at the base, forcing you to brush them clean before sliding the bindings onto the board in solid mode.
Miscellaneous Tidbits A final thing I really love: gone are the days of searching all over my apartment for extra bolts and T-nuts that come loose and get lost in the snow with the slider plates. Those suckers are no longer needed with the spark design. Although having a power drill in my resort locker for binding switchovers along with extra goggles, gloves, gu, and gatorade was always humorous, it's not a piece of equipment I'll miss. In summary.... Who: Spark R&D What: The Fuse Bindings When: Use whenever there is snow to slide on! Where: On your splitboard, of course... Why: Because these babies make it feel like you're riding a solid board! ...and the price tag: $299 MSRP, and worth every penny!

Black Diamond Revelation Pack

Black Diamond The Black Diamond Revelation Pack is a great all-around ski mountaineering pack, especially if you want to have one pack that will do everything. The design is very clean and seamless, but the construction is burly. No major competitor exists for a similar pack. Osprey and Arcteryx both make packs for ski mountaineering, but the set up and construction is comparatively awkward. In some ways, Black Diamond can be considered to have cornered the market in terms of ski mountaineering packs with a similar pricepoint. Given that this is the case, I was eager to get my hands on the Revelation and test it out in its intended environment. I like the pack because it’s sleek and sturdy but doesn’t sacrifice comfort. The 35 liters of space is perfect for either a day trip or a multiday trek (I used it, for example, on the Mt. Buckner summit and snowboard descent, and my recent trip to the Eldorado area, as far as overnight trips go.) It’s tough to fit all of your gear into it for glacier travel and avalanche considerations, but it’s definitely doable. I usually fill mine with extra clothing, sleeping bag and pad, shelter, food, avalanche safety equipment, skins, crampons, and ice axe, among other items. I especially like the external zip pouch, which easily holds skins and/or crampons for easy access, as well as the ice axe carrier—it’s snug, secure, and easily accessed. The ice axe holder is the most sophisticated system for holding an axe that I’ve used, ever. Also, the simple buckle layout makes it so that it literally takes seconds to transfer your skis (in my case, when my splitboard is in ski mode) from your feet to an a-frame layout when conditions warrant cramponing. Moreover, the external fabric is—as you’d expect from BD—both durable and weather resistant. Finally, the pack’s single most impressive feature is Black Diamond’s proprietary product that can literally save your life—the avalung. This is an ingenious snorkel-like device that can be used in the case of a burial to divert your carbon dioxide away from your body and allows you to breathe air directly from the snowpack around you, ultimately allowing you to survive longer beneath the snowpack in the event that you are buried. Like an avalanche transceiver, this device is an indespensible one, as well as one that you hope you’ll never have to use. The nitty gritty:
  • average weight: 3 lbs, 2 oz (in 35 L model; it also comes in a 33 L model)
  • colors: comes in red and black
  • materials: aluminum frame with 420D & 840D Ballistics nylon (water resistant but not waterproof-- use a thin garbage sack to line the interior in the case of finicky, need-to-stay-dry items or stash them in a lightweight drysack, I like this one)

Nothing Like Wrapping Yourself in Gore Tex from Head to Toe: OR Advanced Bivy

The Breakdown I tested the Outdoor Research Advanced bivy in situations where I wanted to minimize gear and worried about having a camping spot wide enough to fit a tent. In total I used this bivy 3 months for camping on anything from trailheads to boulders sticking out at the base of glaciers, from cold clear nights to warm consistent drizzles. Initial impression When I first got this bivy I noticed it was lightweight, compact and literally covered with Gore Tex from head to toe. With a quick inspection it seemed to be both long and wide enough for me to sleep in and covered with the occasional vent for breathability purposes. Packed up and condensed it was no bigger then a rolled up sleeping pad  almost as light and the fabric seemed strong with seem-less construction and the occasional vent. With a quick inspection I was finally ready to give one a try. In the Field I was able to cram the bivy at the base of my backpack utilizing nearly half the space that my tent would normally take up leaving more space for essentials like food and clothing. After 8 hours of skinning my energy was drained and upon scoping terrain for a camping spot I found a flat boulder the size of a car. This space wasn't big enough to put up a tent but with a little bit of organizing it was perfect for two bivys. That night brought on a constant cold drizzle as we hunkered down fearing the possibility of getting our Down sleeping bags drenched. By morning we awoke to clear skies and were happy to find that our gear inside the bag was dry and that the first rays of sunshine dried out the bivys. Not only were we warm throughout the night we had survived a full night of rain which could have been potentially disastrous. So what is it Bivy or Tent? A bivy is small enough to stash in your bag for emergency situations on day long tours with a total weight of around 1.5 pounds.When I want to pack my bag as small as possible and utilze every inch of space I would go with a bivy. If you want luxury and headspace with room to turn, roll and situp I would go with a tent and if there happens to be the possibility of large quanities of snow go with a tent. Not only is a bivy a worthwhile investment  it is also a great addition to your gear stash Long story short in certain situations I would go with a bivy but for everything else I would stick with a tent. Who: Outdoor Research. What: Advanced Bivy. When: Whenever space is a issue or you want to go lightweight. What: Anything from trailheads to the deepest of expeditions. Why: The more weight you save the more energy you have in the long run. MSRP: 299.00 bivy

Trew's Cosmic Jacket and Trewth Bibs

DSC_0697 This year, I've had the pleasure of rocking outerwear from Trew gear, a new, up and coming, rider-owned company based out of Hood River, Oregon. The company's design idea is simple: to provide trewly versatile pieces that are bomber enough for the thickest, deepest resort day, light enough for backcountry travel, and good looking enough to wear to an apres event. Though a lot of outerwear that seeks to accomplish one of these aims may sacrifice on one count or another, TREW has done an excellent job of exceling in all three categories. Personally, I like the Cosmic Jacket and Trewth Bibs, for all these reasons and more. Making bomber, relatively lightweight and all the while super-stylin' gear isn't an easy task, and the dudes at Trew have accomplished it only by painstaikingly masterminding their outwear detail by detail.  "God is in the details..." said Thoreau or Walden or some dude a long time ago, and I think he must have been talking about shells, because that saying definitely applies to the Trew outerlayers I've come across.  One detail that really adds to the durability of the bibs, for example, that I particularly like, is what the guyss at Trew call "superfabric," this crazy-durable material that graces the cuffs of the bibs (which have survived more than a few could-be-catastrophic crampon incidents). Likewise, to keep things both stylin' and performance-based, the cosmic jacket applies not only bright, poppy colors, but also a cool fabric that's a little stretchy like a softshell but performs like a hardshell. That extra bit of stretch allows you to not only have maximum manuverability while you're slaying the pow (or slush, cement, ice or whatever), but also accentuates your bulid in all the right spots. The genius fabric is named "Gelanots," and is hihgly durable and tear-resistant (good for concealing one two many brushes with trees, rocks, ice or what have you). Both the Cosmic Jacket and the Trewth Bibs quickly became a favorite of mine and it's safe to say that after about 100 days of use, they still look and perform like they did when they were new. As someone who's notoriously tough on gear, that factor alone has impressed the pants (err.. bibs) off me.  Of course, all the seams are tapered with Auaguard and, the pockets are well-placed and appropriately sized (sleek yet big enough for my skins or goggles, but not my kitchen sink).  All in all, I give those pieces one big, brightly-colored thumbs up! -Kyle

Prior Backcountry Split

Kyle Psyched after One Too Many Faceshots Thanks to the Prior Backcountry SplitIf you're looking for a state-of-the-art, all-around splitboard, look no further, because Prior has perfected the trade. Prior handcrafts snowboards and skis in Whistler, Canada, specifically to buyer specifications based on designs inspired by the Pac NW's cascade concrete and sierra cement. Who better, then, to create an all-around board that handles well in variable conditions? Though they've got an impressive lineup of splitboards in general, Prior's Backcountry Split is one of the most versatile boards on the market. With a somewhat shorter effective edge and a smidge of traditional camber, this semi-stiff board is manuverable and can hold an edge when you need it to, and you can trust it to respond quickly in gnarly situations (example: Kyle used it descending Mt. Rainier's iced up Gib Chute). At the same time, however, the subtle sidecut and significant width allow the board to float through powder and carve huge, arcing turns when you want to rip at mach 10. Overall, this is a torsionally rigid, versatile split that's responsive and great for spring touring. The crappier the conditions, the more you'll love this board, as it powers through crud and won't get tossed around, whether your riding ice, corn, cookies, or sun cups. Because the majority of the friction generated by your climbing skins occurs directly under your bindings where you apply weight, this substantial-width, shorter board is also surprisingly efficient on the skin track.
  • Best for: Spring touring; especially recommended for variable terrain and technical descents.
  • Specs: Lengths: in 4 to 5 cm increments 149 to 176; Effective Edge: 113 cm- 135 cm; Stance: 17"-25" for all lengths; Weight: 7.2 - 10.14;  Click for Full Specs from Prior.