Splitboarders, compared with skiers, have a different way of approaching the mountain when progressing uphill. On the one hand, the size and width of splitboard skis and skins allow us to take a more vertical line, but then traversing on a steeper slope can sometimes be a problem, specially on spring conditions. On the other hand, our past as freeriders -hiking by foot or with snowshoes- leads us to go up as vertical as possible. The uphill kick-turn is a move that non skiing splitboarders are not familiar with, and although not the only one, it is a crucial technique to change direction while ascending on a splitboard.
The (in)famous uphill kick turn is usually easy with a splitboard, the skis are short and it is easy to lift their tip towards your knee while changing direction.
One of the main inconveniences, though, is their width; if the snow is icy, you’ll need to create a good base and place yourself perpendicular to the fall line, wherever you choose to change direction.
You’ll use the poles as fixing points, creating a cross with your arms. You have to be in a comfortable position to lift the first ski and turn it 180º ; this is a critical point where you have chances of losing your balance, that’s why relying on your poles is crucial. You change your weight to lift the second ski ; while you turn it, and in order to avoid getting stuck on the slope, you kick on your heel slightly to lift the tip of the ski and turn easier. The downill pole has the function of adding to your balance, in case your ski loses grip.
If you’re on a steep slope, turning downhill is a better option. Although it seems more exposed, it feels more comfortable as you’ll be turning towards the valley. In this case, you lift the first ski and turn it 180º, toplace it perpendicular to the slope, then you lower the corresponding pole to balance your weight and avoid skidding on the edge of the ski.
For safety reasons, we advise you not to do this move when you’re placed above one of your mates. There should be a reasonable distance between you and the next rider.
Picture sequence for a kick turn
As we mentioned before, turning progressively is the easiest way to change direction on a splitboard. The skins are 12 cm wide and have a great grip, North Americans name them “tractor skins”. They allow you to face the fall line on slopes up to 40º or more, without losing traction (of course, depending on snow conditions) this will make it easier to open or close ski tips to do this kind of turn.
– Divergent Turn (separate tips):
It’s the most common turn, more appropiate for less steep terrain.
Picture sequence for a divergent turn
– Convergent Turn (separate tails):
You’ll use this turn on steeper terrain, or in cases when the terrain (rock, snow wall etc) doesn’t allow you to lift the tips before you.
Picture sequence for a convergent turn