ey Equipment is born from the collaboration of two well known splitboarders from the European scene. Christophe “Tal” Etallaz, the man behind the Plum Splitboard bindings system, and Hampus Cederholm, Furberg Snowboards’ co-owner and manager. The Disruptive is the result of many years of development and product testing. A boot that offers the best of both worlds: the lightweight touring system of hardboots and the feel of a softboot.
–As an introduction, could you explain how did Key Equipment begin? How long has this project been going on and who is behind it?
The people behind Key Equipment are Christophe “Tal” Etallaz from Plum Splitboard and Hampus Cederholm from Furberg Snowboards. Both of us have been working with product development in the splitboard/snowboard industry for 10+ years.We started working together about 2 years ago when we realized we had the same bad experience with hardboots. Both of us had modified different AT boots (ski touring boots) for years with some success but it never felt 100% right. We therefore decided to give it a combined effort to see what we could come up with.In the beginning of the development process, we were mostly working separately on prototypes to keep an open mind about the design. We later on compared our prototypes and realized we were heading in the same direction. So the rest of the development was surprisingly smooth without much disagreement on how to design the boots.
–What are the highlights of your new boot?
Tal: Put a softboot, a binding and a hardboot in a blender and mix it!
– A soft tongue for a progressive flex on the frontside.
– A forward lean mechanism similar to what you find on softboots binding for adjustment of the forward lean.
– A unique highback/cuff developed to offer medial flex and comfort.
– A ski boot base for great control of your skis in tour mode and a powerful ride mode.
– A premium quality liner, which adds comfort and shock absorption.
Hampus: By stepping away from a traditional softboot design, we had the chance to totally reimagine the way a snowboard boot is designed. Besides the functional aspects described above, we decided to put a lot of focus on the product’s lifespan and how to keep the environmental impact as low as possible.
– All parts can be easily changed by the customer. It’s therefore possible to repair the boots in case of damage or wear, extending the products lifespan and minimizing its environmental impact.
– It’s possible to put in a new tongue after years of use, making the boots as stiff and supportive as on day one.
– All hard plastic parts can be recycled. Our plan is to launch a program in the future, where you can return your old boots to us and get a discount voucher for a new pair. We will thereafter take care of the recycling process.
–Any experienced splitboarder knows about the benefits of hardboots when skinning, but maybe not everybody is sure about the feeling on riding mode. What makes Key Equipment different from other hardboots in the market?
Tal: There are a lot of experienced splitboarders. If you talk about the splitboarders who are looking for a steep alpine style, they can find good boots in the market that work really well. We definitely want to ride this type of terrain but as well have the best feeling on mellow runs and high-speed freeriding. It’s probably the same difference between riders who love really stiff softboots and others who prefer a softer one.
Hampus: For me, the biggest issue with all hardboots and modifications I had tried prior to designing our own boot, was their lack of dampening, shock absorption, and progressive flex. A lot of the boots commonly used for splitboarding can be modified to be really soft, but they don’t offer the same dynamic feel of a softboot. It can feel a little bit like riding a full suspension bike without compression and rebound dampening. The whole setup pushes all the energy back into the rider instead of absorbing some of the impact.
–About riding performance, how is the boot in terms of longitudinal flex and torsion? You guys have already premiered that there will be different tongues with different stiffness to adapt to every kind of rider.
Tal: That’s one of the advantages of using plastic. You can obtain different stiffness depending on the type of plastic you use in your components. Cuff/ hiback for the torsion, and tongue for the longitudinal flex.
Hampus: The flex can also be tweaked depending on how much you tighten the upper buckle. This gives the rider the option to tweak the flex depending on conditions and type of terrain.
–We believe that one of the keys about hardboots is finding the balance on lateral torsion. Until now, every option in the market features a hard shell that isn’t the best for a fluid riding, but at the same time is the main benefit for an efficient stride, as it gives us great confidence when sidehilling on hard snow or sketchy places. How have you achieved that balance?
It’s important to realize why hardboots are efficient for touring mode and why softboots are efficient for riding. If you see a skier, most of the time, they don’t lock the upper buckle of their skiboots in tour mode. One way to compare it was to use softboots on one foot and hardboots on the other. The stiffness of the shell is 80% of the edge control of the ski in tour mode. That’s why we decided to work mainly on the upper part to guarantee a great riding feeling.
–Are the different tongues the only way of choosing between different flex levels, or will there also be shorter and longer flex travel depending on every rider’s style?
Top secret, hahaha! Right now we have a travel that should fit most riders. But we’re already working on ways to tweak the travel and progressiveness in the future. One big advantage with our boot is that it will be possible to upgrade it with new parts when we release a new version. No need to buy a new pair just because you want the latest upgrade!
–Is it possible to have the boot fully locked?
Not at the moment.
–Are you guys thinking about developing a specific binding for your boot?
No, there are already great binding brands in the market already. But we are looking into developing other products in the future that follows the bands goal of developing gear that makes splitboarding easier and more efficient.
–What would you tell to those softbooters that hate hearing about hardboots and split tech?
Tal: Personally I hate stiff softboots too. In fact, the main difference is how you lock your boots in your binding, with 2 straps or with a lever. If you keep in your mind that the goal is to have a great riding day and use the most efficient stuff to hit this! There is no perfect solution for every one of us, choose the one that is the best for you.
Hampus: I love the hate, it’s normally a sign that you’re onto something good! Jokes apart, I think the snowboard market has matured a lot. There are nowadays snowboarders who ride everything from rails in the park to big mountaineering lines in the backcountry. This has made a lot of people realize that there are different tools for different types of riding.
I do a lot of resort based freeriding when testing prototypes. I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised about the interest that people have shown in the gear I’m using. Even from riders who normally stay in the park and just do a few powder laps on a day with fresh snow. Sure there’s skepticism but people are in general stoked when you show the flex of the boot and explain the advantages of the whole setup.
–When are you guys planning the release of the boot? what will be the price, and will they be available only online or also at brick-and-mortar stores? and what about replacements?
The boot is right now available to pre-order over at www.key-equipment.com with a discount until October 31st.
Discounted price: 479€
Price after October 31st: 549€
At the moment we only sell them directly from our own website in order to keep the price as low as possible. This also makes any potential warranty issues or upgrades with the latest parts easy for us to handle. For us it’s important to be able to offer the best possible service since we’re a new small company in the world of splitboarding.
Thanks for your time, guys! Wishing you all the best with your project.
The first and only magazine dedicated entirely to the splitboarding world, featuring all the information related to mountains, splitboards, bindings, trip reports, interviews, equipment reviews and more.