Last February, we headed to the high mountain resort of Tavascán, in the Alt Pireneu Natural Reserve, Pallars Sobirá, in order to test some splitboarding equipment. The gear had been sent to our editorial office by several brands who trust this magazine. Therefore, we invited three great riders from the Pyrenees: David Pujol, snowboard instructor and UIAGM guide at Compañía de Guías Valle de Benasque, Javi Barro from Gaiur Compañía de Snowboard, and our host, Pau Gómez, snowboard instructor and UIAGM guide at Dablam Esports and ski and snowboard school manager in Tavascán.
Javi Barro | VÖLKL Cashew
Pau and David riding the Cashew on the slope and in powder. Riders: Pau Gómez and David Pérez. Photo: Marc Sixto
“Many stance options that easily adapt to different types of riding, snow conditions and varied terrain”
We download the van and eat breakfast before starting to prepare all the test gear. We’ll start off by testing the splitboards’ behaviour down the hill, so we spend a good while at the warehouse, mounting kits, bindings, adjusting stances and screws. The riders have their first contact with the equipment we’ll be using during the following days.
First, we intend to establish some criteria based on the splitboard’s downhill performance, regarding edge hold, torsion, and pop, the assembling system at the transition, or the skins on the ascent. David, Javi and Pau, these three riders’ opinion and experience will answer many questions we ask ourselves: those of us who have already been splitboarding for a few years, those who are thinking about buying a new board, or the ones who haven’t had the occasion of trying splitboarding and are not sure about their performance.
We tested the following boards: Atomic Poacher Renu 164, with its own system, Jones The Solution 158, K2 Panoramic 158, Venture Zephyr 159, and Völkl Cashew 162, all of them assembled with the Voilé system, except for the Jones Solution, which includes Karakoram clips, new this season. For the bindings, we have picked the Blaze and the Burner models from Spark R&D, except on the Völkl Cashew, first mounted with the Fastec Choice Alu from Völkl Snowboards, following the instructions on their official website.
Pau Gómez | K2 Panoramic
Pau made the Panoramic fly in a great freeride session. Rider: Pau Gómez. Photo: Marc Sixto
“It’s the perfect powder board; it floats really well and it is easy to adapt to”
It seems like meteorology is on our side this time. It’s cloudy and it’s snowing lightly, but the visibility is good and it looks like it might stay so. The dump has been generous on the north faces of Pallars, and the forests at the foothill of Tuc de la Cima accumulate 30cm of freshies, making the mountain look delicious. On another side, conditions are good at the small corridors on the Torrent de Marcarida, and we see some interesting lines there. We set up to make the most of this jewel of the Catalan Pyrenees.
After a terrible start of the season, we are ready to shred it all up. The first runs between trees bring us back to the winter mood we had been jonesing for. The terrain is mellow, with short, fast and safe lines we really enjoy riding. This is where the Völkl Cashew and the K2 Panoramic feel like fish swimming in water, thanks to their generous rocker. While the Panoramic is a bit more reactive and light, due to the bamboo in its core, the Cashew feels a bit slow in transmission, most probably due to the Voilé base plate. We sort this out with a pair of Spark R&D bindings, which increase enormously the board’s reactivity. In fact, considering the new systems available in the market, the Voilé plate feels like a step back for our splitboarding -both up and down the hill. It adds extra weight, pressure transmission feels much slower and it alters the splitboard’s natural torsion. Both the Cashew and the Panoramic are versatile, and despite being quite mellow and manageable, they are very pleasant to ride and turn the whole mountain into a real playground. The Atomic Poacher shows good edge hold on soft snow, but its performance is quite far from the aforementioned boards’. It is a good option as a first splitboard, with a good price/quality ratio.
Pau Gómez | ATOMIC POACHER
“The set back inserts feel right, but it’s very slow in small turns. A good board for beginner splitboarders”
Javi Barro | VENTURE Zephyr
Javi finding his way through the woods. Riders: Pau Gómez and David Pérez. Photo: Marc Sixto
“An excellent splitboard, built for riders who search technical lines, as well as those who enjoy soul riding. A mellow but performant shape and a powerful flex”
We switched to a different playground, searching for more technical lines, traversing below Coll de l’Ós. After a few laps, the Jones Solution and the Venture Zephyr show a better performance on more demanding terrain. Jones Snowboards build very solid and compact boards, for high performance riding. The Solution is built for speed and explosive riding on steep terrain, and it adapts really well to any snow conditions, thanks to its fat nose rocker. It is not an easy board, but still it is versatile and well suited for the variable conditions in the Pyrenees. On the other hand, the Zephyr is quite impressive, with its flat and double rocker concept, aimed to perform well on powder. It is a solid and compact board, though a bit heavy. Obviously, the double rocker diminishes its grip on hard or icy snow, nevertheless it performs well on sketchy terrain.
David Pujol | Jones The Solution
David Pujol getting some good powder in the Mascarida stream. Tasvascán test field. Riders: David Pujol. Photo: Marc Sixto
“I’d say it’s the most solid splitboard of all. It gives you a stimulating edge hold and if you happen to manage it well, it means you have strong legs”
Back in the refuge, we organise and prepare the boards for the following morning. Of course, our pleasant conversation over dinner is around splitboarding, mountains, trips and endless lines.
The alarm clock wakes us up early at Pleta del Prat. After discussing a few possibilities over breakfast, we choose a short approach to Campirme to test the splitboards up the hill. Before hitting up, we do a few laps making the most of the good conditions on the north face, before the sun transforms the snow. Bluebird skies, the temperature is likely to raise quickly, so there’s no time to lose. The quick transition system of the Voilé pads, combined with the Spark R&D on the Jones, K2, Venture and Völkl splitboards, gives evidence of the inconveniences in the Atomic assembling system. A quick transition system is crucial, especially on days where conditions are not easy. In this sense, the Poacher can be a real hassle. The skin fixing system on the K2 and the Völkl proofs to be really efficient when the skins come loose around the tail, due to bad maintenance, humidity or wear. When it comes to sliding uphill, the K2 and the Völkl skins offer little friction, but this also implies less traction, mostly on the K2. On the contrary, the Voilé skins have a great traction, but also a greater friction while skinning up.
The long traverses confirm the supremacy of the Jones while skinning up the hill. The Magne-Traction system allows you to progress further without using crampons when the snow is hard. Venture’s Zephyr, Völkl’s Cashew, and mostly K2 Panoramic’s generous rocker make us sweat at points where we could use a longer effective edge.
We say goodbye to Tavascan until next season. From splitboard.cat, we wish to thank Compañía de Guías del Valle de Benasque, Gaiur and Dablam Esports for their valuable help, and Tavascán and Refugio de la Pleta del Prat for their hospitality and warmth. These two days are a good encouragement to keep going. It’s amazing how the small splitboarding scene has evolved in a couple of seasons. We think splitboarding is going through a sweet stage, and mostly, we wish it’d keep growing. Don’t forget: Splitboarding is the answer!