Reader’s Rides – Todd’s Burton Split Board Set-Up

Post by blogger | January 23, 2009      

Last year, Todd Nickoley realized he was sick of lift lines, watching out for the downhill skier, and tracked snow. So this summer and spring he began what can be the daunting task of assembling a full BC setup from scratch. Pack, beacon, shovel, probe…this stuff is the easiest to find on sale, and there are a lot of options you’ll be happy with. But Todd’s biggest need was not skis, but a split board. There isn’t the plethora of options we skiers enjoy for snowboarder seeking the backcountry, but there are options, and therefore decisions to be made.

Hip flexors ACTIVATE. Theres a first time for everything!

Hip flexors ACTIVATE. There's a first time for everything!

In the end Todd went with the Burton S Series with the Voilé Universal Splitboard Binding Interface. Needless to say, Lou’s shop was not necessary to mount the bindings. One of the biggest advantages snowboarding will always have over skiing is pre-drilled binding holes are the rule, not the ill-working, non-standardized exception that skiers seem to be constantly haunted with and sometimes requires something like a machine shop to reach a solution . The Voilé system allowed Todd to use bindings he already loves (the Bent Metal Restraints) by simply adding a plate to serves as liaison between skinning and snowboarding modes. Todd simply asked for a little advice on cutting his skins before heading out for a trial skin up Highlands.

Heading up Highlands back on December 11th yeilded empty slopes and blue skies. A great way to try out some new gear and get some early season fitness in. Since the lifts had yet to open, we were able to witness the effects of super cold and clear nights on groomed slopes untouched by anyone or anything for 3 or 4 days. I’d have to imagine that God’s snow farm looks something like this.

After reaching our summit – yes, Merry-Go-Round can count as a summit – we enjoyed a mix of fresh corduroy and foot deep surface hoar on the way down. Over all a great day to enjoy a new set up.

Todd smiling here the day before his hip flexors had their revenge on him!

Todd smiling here the day before his hip flexors had their revenge on him!

As you can see, these skins were cut with an actual razor blade, NOT a logoed letter opener. (Hint, the cut is clean and straight)

As you can see, these skins were cut with an actual razor blade, NOT a logoed letter opener. (Hint, the cut is clean and straight). Skins are Voile Split Decision Tractor Skins…and do NOT come with BD Cheat Sheets (which are sold separate for $15).

The binding set up. The Voilé plate serves to help hold the board together for descents.

The binding set up. The Voilé plate serves to help hold the board together for descents. Arrows indicate the "pivot" holes for skinning.

The holes in the front allow a pin to run through a pivot for skinning.

The holes in the front allow a pin to run through a "pivot" for skinning.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."

Powder turns are powder turns, even if you name starts with a "BC".

Powder turns are powder turns, even if you name starts with a "BC".

Just so you skiers dont feel without your gear fix, still testing the Pin Stripe Orage Benjamin Pant. Oh, and the Dynafit FT-12s as well.

Just so you skiers don't feel left without your gear fix, still testing the Pin Stripe Orage Benjamin Pant. Oh, and the Dynafit FT-12's as well.

(Guest blogger profile: Dave Downing is a freelance designer and owner of Ovid Nine Graphics Lab )


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27 Responses to “Reader’s Rides – Todd’s Burton Split Board Set-Up”

  1. Bill January 23rd, 2009 8:50 am

    I regularly tour with splities. Those tractor skins can climb up anything. The uphill to downhill transition can be an exercise in patience. Watch out of those pins backing out and bending. Carry spares!

  2. Alex January 23rd, 2009 9:54 am


    Good shots. The cordu-hoar is wild – I was up on Highlands that very day and noticed the same phenomenon.

    The turns to lookers right in your photo are the tracks of my dog, Kaya, and myself. Thanks for the memories.


  3. Brad January 23rd, 2009 11:06 am

    Todd’s missing the latest and greatest revolution in splitboarding……integrated bindings and slider plates. Check out Spark R&D’s sweet innovation.

    This set-up reduces ~1 lbs. per FOOT plus there are gains in performance as well.

    Todd’s stoked he went with the Bent Metal Restraint’s cause that’s the binding Spark build their baseplate around.

  4. samh January 23rd, 2009 11:08 am

    Thanks so much for featuring split boarding on Wild Snow. I know we’re the minority but the sport truly makes backcountry snowboarding practical and accessible. It’s unfortunate the rider didn’t get to use Spark R&D’s Ignition II baseplates with his Bent Metal bindings.

    ps – can you say surface hoar?

  5. Dave January 23rd, 2009 12:02 pm

    splitties are definitely an exercise in patients for the skiers waiting for them… 🙂

    Alex, that was definitely a pleasant slope to ski (our tracks) and a great way to end a funky ride down the lower mtn 🙂

    Thanks for the extra split board binding info everyone, we’ll check that stuff out…

  6. Shane January 23rd, 2009 12:05 pm

    I second the big “Hurray” for blogging about splitboarding. We love the wild snow too.

    Too bad Lou is a skier. I think he’d enjoy all the modding of gear, mixing and matching parts, etc that splitboarders get to deal with.

  7. ScottP January 23rd, 2009 1:58 pm

    While I still think that splitboards are a solution in search of a problem, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of the easy, standardized binding attachment system. I was so sad to see K2 abandon the Tele line because I was hoping they’d expand that system to other skis and maybe introduce an industry standard.

    And I don’t mean to judge too much. If there were a universally perfect way to get up and down the mountain then I’m sure we’d all be using it (shut up, Dynafit people). Yay for earning turns in all ways possible.

  8. Todd January 23rd, 2009 2:21 pm

    Thanks Lou and Dave for blogging this new adventure of mine!!

    Few little follow-ups to the blog, comments, and my experiences thus far…

    There is only one binding interface made for the Burton splitboards (made by Voile) and though it seems far better than the original design by Burton it is not without it’s flaws. The whole system is easy to install and holds the board together well in ride mode. My only complaints come from set up and design in touring mode. The set up only has one level of climbing risers and have to be put up or down by hand. They cannot be put up or down with your poles and thus I’ve spent a lot of time on my knees (shut up Dave) adjusting them based on terrain. Hopefully in time there will be innovations to have multiple levels for the climbing risers that can be adjusted by poles, for now I will continue to use my time and energy squatting down and changing by hand. But hey…what should I expect for $150?

    I did read great reviews on the Spark R&D bindings and plates and would love to save a pound per foot (my hip flexors agree). But having started from scratch needing all the safety equipment with the new set up I decided to forgo the $365 binding as I’ve spent around $1500 to date. I do plan on getting these bindings or at least plates long term now that I have done a few routes and can see the benefits of a better design.

    Looking forward to some more tours soon, but for now some Florida golf is in order!!

  9. split.therapy January 23rd, 2009 2:22 pm

    Great to see split coverage on the Wild Snow blog! Second the Sparks R&D binding beta. If you’re gonna run soft boots Sparks are the way to go.
    If you really want lighten the load and truly get a surfy turn going get yourself some AT boots and Voile Mtn. Plates.
    Nice remember it really is all about the ride down! Can’t surf on ski’s!

  10. split.therapy January 23rd, 2009 2:27 pm

    Todd, actually you can raise and lower the wires with your pole handles. Takes practice is all. there are 2 different wire heights available through Voile. Until you get your set up dialed it’s a good idea to try and go out with more experienced splitters. Hang in there, it gets a lot easier .

  11. LBR January 23rd, 2009 2:27 pm

    Nice report Dave. Todd will have an easier time skinning if he switches the board halves when in climb mode, so the sidecut is the inside edge.
    In my experience, the gift of patience is returned to the free-heelers I’ve toured with when I wait at the bottom of the run as they wallow and endo down the slope;o)
    And yes, the Sparks R&D Ignition bindings are fantastic. SO, who’s gonna be the first to submit a comprehensive review of them to wildsnow?

  12. LBR January 23rd, 2009 2:32 pm

    Todd, I can use my poles to pop up/out down my heel lifters. Itis a little acrobatic, but so is kneeling to me.

  13. Shane January 23rd, 2009 2:39 pm

    Todd, ditto about raising/lowering climbing wires with your poles. It can be done with practice. Also, because the pivot point on a split is slightly behind your toes, you can ascend a fair amount of terrain with a raised heel even without raising your wires.

    ScottP, I see splitboards as a solution to a very big problem. A lot of folks, myself included, are capable of riding most any terrain on a board and almost none on skis. For me to attempt a ski descent would prove very hazardous on terrain that I can easily board.

    The lack of binding releasability is another safety issue altogether.

  14. Jan Wellford January 23rd, 2009 4:49 pm

    Just want to say that I never have to wait for my friend on a splitboard–he has it dialed. The only time that I’ve seen a disadvantage in his setup is skiing/riding very firm snow, but that could be his old, soft, never-tuned board!

  15. BC BOB January 23rd, 2009 8:06 pm

    First it was tele versus randonee -One of Aspens best tele dudes went to AK to heliski. Spent most of the trip falling down the fabled peaks covered with challenging snow while the real skiers tore the place to pieces. The real skiers anteed up for more runs/vert. Tele dude decided to enjoy drinking and chilling instead. NO CONTEST !
    Then it was ALL the randonee world versus dynafit- Just saw another dynafitter skiing in the backcountry on Wednesday. He experienced a dynaFIT (double pre-release) on his second turn of a run down a chute with a tender/no-fall snowpack. NO CONTEST !
    The skier versus snowboarder battle was settled long ago. They get to kick it in the park and hit the pipe. We gave them Ajax and Taos. We even shared the slackcountry with them. Skiers get the backcountry. Take these yahoos out in the BC and all they do is hold us up, complain about how heavy their set-ups are, how their sawed up boards don’t perform and then spend forever trying to put their sawed up boards back together. NO CONTEST !
    I am all for snowboarders sawing their boards in half. Trying to put them back togther is a step in the wrong direction.

  16. Jesse January 23rd, 2009 9:08 pm

    Sounds like you have been out with some snowboarders who are a real bummer. People come in all kinds, little (in my experience), has to do with the method in which they head down hill. The biggest factor, in relation to speed of movement, I have seen with people in the backcountry is their fitness level.

    I grew up ski racing and then found myself actually enjoying the snow again on a snowboard. Now that I have a splitboard I have been venturing out into the deeper backcountry. I can make a full change over (skins on or off, board split or put back together and bindings on/off) in four minutes. I spend a lot of time running ridges, with my heavy gear, at the local resort in every snow condition so that I am in the best possible shape for the backcountry. This has many benefits including digging out a partner who has been buried by an avalanche.

    I get very tired of hearing people say that snowboarders are nothing but a bunch of jibbing pot smoking whiners who cannot hack it in the mountains. There may be a lot of those out there but there are many who don’t fit that generalization. I have done one day (24 hour) ascents (car to car) of Whitney with a board and snow shoes. (Before I had a split board.)

    True proficiency lies with the operator not with the gear.

    I ran into trouble the first time i tried to use my split to head up hill on hard pack-ski crampons fixed that.

    A little note about AK, never in any of my time up there did anyone ever bring up anything about the ski/tele/board divide. Everyone I rode with, including folks who have skied off of the summit of Denali, was so stoked on the mountains that they didn’t even think to bring up the fact that I was on a board. One extremely well respected owner/lead guide said to me that in the right hands a snowboard is the best tool for big mountain powder descents.

    Oh yeah, without snowboarding and the associated technology you guys on skis would still be on boards over 200cm long, with no side cut and 65 under foot. Those were the days uhh?
    What really matters is enjoying the mountains in whatever way you derive the most enjoyment. I actually saucer from time to time when the conditions are just right 😉

  17. dave downing January 23rd, 2009 10:21 pm

    LBR — yeah, we figured that out after that picture was taken, but thanks for the tip (and meticulous attention to photographic detail:)

  18. dave downing January 23rd, 2009 10:28 pm

    BC BOB — really?
    There is no contest anymore. Just go out and have fun with you buddies in the snow. I can’t imagine how many amazing people I wouldn’t get to hang out and ski/tele/board with if there was some prerequisite that they had to keep up on the downhill, or if i had to keep up on the uphill.

  19. Lou January 24th, 2009 4:47 am

    BC, too much emphasis on gear. Key is how much enjoyment, safety etc a person gets from their chosen kit. I’ve seen plenty of telemarkers out ski rando skiers, and I’ve seen plenty of Dynafittters out ski folks on other bindings. In my view it’s run what you brung but do it well.

    As for Dynafit in particular, people need to realize that unless the binding is properly adjusted, and properly de-iced before skiing downhill, they may have problems. Most incidents of not staying in the binding correctly can easily be traced to the above, and once the user learns the tricks of the trade, the problems end. Proof is the literally thousands of people who do major descents on Dynafit bindings and get performance that’s just as good as Fritschi or others. If those people didn’t exist I’d rest my case, but I see them out there all the time ripping it up.

    At the OR Show yesterday I was talking to a guy who “chattered out of my Dynafits.” Just to test his knowledge, I asked if he’d adjust the space between boot heel and binding using the feeler gauge provided with the binding. “Nope,” he said, “I just set it so the heel of the boot doesn’t hit the binding while touring.”

    Sloppy use of any equipment is always a recipe for non performance, if not disaster.

  20. Sean January 24th, 2009 8:57 am

    Just wanted to echo the comments responding to BC Bob. I ski with alpine and AT gear (Dynafit), and my ski buddies are on telemark, alpine, and snowbowrd stuff. When we’re in the backcountry it’s mainly me as the token AT guy and the rest are on tele gear. We’ve all moved past the obvious-target divisiveness where the most foolish person on Gear X is used as a straw-man effigy for all Gear X users (i.e. all snowboarders are talent-less dolts). We all enjoy the cardio of uphill and the fun of turns downhill, and none of us cares what gear is used.

    I know a few jerks on tele gear, holier-than-thou proselytizers on the “free the heel, free the mind” tip. That only tells me that these particular people are folks I don’t want to ski with. I don’t blame tele gear. I blame the people and their strange form of elitism.

    BC Bob, if your ski partners don’t fit your view of skiing, then find new ski partners. It’s simple!

  21. Randonnee January 24th, 2009 10:10 am

    I must remind the Dynafit-guru of another aspect = mass and force. “As for Dynafit in particular, people need to realize that unless the binding is properly adjusted, and properly de-iced before skiing downhill, they may have problems. Most incidents of not staying in the binding correctly can easily be traced to the above, and once the user learns the tricks of the trade, the problems end.”

    Even with proper adjustment. on several models of boots and bindings, my mass and strength can cause the Dynafit toe to open. I can do it with new gear on the carpet by pushing down with the ball of my foot in the boot. Thus, I would modify the above for someone large and powerful. I would say properly adjust Dynafits, be sure there is no ice interfering with function, and lock the front lever. Yesterday I was sidehilling while climbing on steep icy crust, highest heel post setting, with the front lever locked. The toe released, and I had to sidestep down on one boot and one ski to a flatter spot to get the ski on. But then, a Guide would correct me and say I should not climb so steeply. It does add a lot of force, that is how I broke my FR 10 ski.

    Anyway, lock those toes as appropriate.

  22. Lou January 24th, 2009 8:24 pm

    Randonnee, yeah, like I always say, no one item of gear is for everyone or is perfect. Also, regarding locking the “touring latch” on the Dynafit or “DIN Booster” as it’s called on the G3, remember that only increases the lateral release tension, it doesn’t change the vertical DIN.

  23. Tony January 26th, 2009 9:18 pm

    Great article, I recently started to board in the back country! It is an incredible feeling, I don’t know if I could or even want to go back to a resort. I have been trekking up Mores Creek Summit north of Boise, ID. I still use my snow shoes and board on the back, but I am getting close to picking up a split board. Thanks for the review!!

  24. Pierce January 28th, 2009 8:34 am

    Congratulations, you’ve made your first step towards becoming a skier! I’ve never tried splitboarding, but almost all my splittie friends and my boarder wife of 15 years have all switched to AT. Coincidence?

  25. nOrm July 18th, 2009 3:25 pm

    Indeed, after snowboarding for 22 years, I spent most of my time on AT gear last winter. I used to carry my board using snowshoes, then began using a splitboard. But I like touring… and the dynafit system is so clean and quick to transition (and light, and sexy, etc.) that I converted.

    The biggest issue for me was short flat spots in deep powder. When you ski into the bottom of a bowl and must cross 100m of flat before continuing downhill, you can switch your bindings to walk mode and be across immediately without skins. Being on a splitboard could require 20+ minutes and a lot of effort to continue downhill.

    I love snowboarding. The feeling of surfing in steep, deep pow is a sensation I have not found in skiing or anywhere else yet. There are tradeoffs.

    Ideally for backcountry snowboarding, I’d like to see a new mountain/splitboard boot that is a hybrid hardshell (dynafit compatible) bottom with a softer top and integral highback. Something that is crampon and plate binding compatible, climbs and flexes well, and is super lightweight. I think a splitboard specific boot/binding is the next step in the progression of the sport.

    But it still won’t get you across flat deep snow very easily.

  26. greg March 13th, 2011 12:02 pm

    I just mounted dynafit toe pieces to my splitboard and am using dynafit mountain boots. The boots are 1.5 lbs lighter each and placing the mtn plate in my pack shaves another 3/4 lbs of lifted weight from each foot. The dynafit tour much better than the voile mtn plates, better edging and perfect kick turns on the way up.

  27. greg March 13th, 2011 12:10 pm

    The dynafit boots can be very soft. Perfect for snowboarding. The have 60 deg of articulation at the cuff. It feals like wearing a comfortable hiking boot on the way up. I do not engage the ski mode for the ride down, just latch the top buckle. I removed the power strap and optional tounge. 1 minor modification to stop the boot from locking into ski mode and they ride like a soft boot with excellent function for the skin up. Because of the extra articulation at the cuff I can comfortably gain several inches in mh stride.

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