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 TheĀ  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.

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!