This is pure SplitHate, designed by a Coloradan clearly teetering on the brink of insanity. Yes, sir, we understand. Splitboards take longer to transition to uphill travel mode than touring skis- an obvious, unfortunate byproduct of their very nature. More steps in the process. But does this actually constitute a danger to my partners? It got me thinking…
He implies that a splitboarder wastes unnecessary time in a specific companion-rescue situation in which your partner is buried uphill from you. To be fair, this is a plausible scenario. Imagine this: you ride a slope, continue well out of the avalanche runout zone at the bottom, and find a safe spot in the flats to watch your pal descend. But he triggers a slide and gets caught and buried in it- and the slide only runs halfway down the slope, leaving you with 500’ vertical between you and your pal. You’re stuck in snowboard mode. Technically speaking, you’re at a disadvantage. Where the skier needs only to remove skis, put skins on, and step back in to start climbing, the splitboarder will spend at least an extra minute or two to complete his transition. This is definitely something to consider.
But we’re talking about avalanches, not some lab situation. Each situation is extremely complex. No two will ever be the same. Read old copies of the Snowy Torrents or check this out if you need convincing. There’s a tremendous myriad of factors that come into play in each rescue scenario, any one of which is vastly more important and time-saving than the extra 1 to 2 minutes a splitter will spend transitioning. For example:
- Consider than many splitters can transition more quickly than skiers. Generally I’m ready to rock on top and at the bottom faster than many of my skier pals (I won’t go as far as saying most!). I’m also equally as fast or faster in the skintrack than most of my partners. I’ve worked hard over the years to get my transitions dialed and efficient, as well as to get fit and fast. I’m not saying this to boast. I’m average. And with some practice any splitboarder can be just as fast as most skiers.
- Even more importantly, consider the rescuer’s skills with a probe, beacon and shovel. Each of these takes hours of practice to master. Regular practice, not just one big binge session in an Avy I course. The most rescue-skilled partners I have are pro ski patrollers and they drill weekly at a minimum (many of them more often). We all know plenty of backcountry skiers and snowboarders who don’t put the effort in. Fumbling around with any one of these steps would easily waste more time than transitioning the splitboard.
- Most importantly, proper terrain management and travel habits are absolutely essential in keeping everyone in your group out of an avalanche in the first place. Do this and the splitboard transition lag isn’t even an issue. Avalanche guru Bruce Tremper outspokenly advocates good terrain management & travel practices as the most important factors for staying alive. I absolutely agree.
This list could go on and on. Basically, Mr. Coloradan Splithater is missing the forest for the trees with this one. As a splitter, will you spend more time transitioning to uphill travel mode than a skier of equal competence would? Yes, obviously. Will this make a difference in the outcome of your buried partner? Possibly, but hard to impossible to determine as each situation is different. Is the extra minute or two spent putting your board in uphill travel mode as important a consideration as getting fit/efficient, becoming a skilled rescuer, or learning and practicing good terrain management skills? Absolutely not.
If you’re really worried about it, you could always offer to go last down the run, rendering this issue meaningless once and for all. I’m sure all your skier friends would love the opportunity for first tracks.