When Paulina Dao, the founder of Bay Area Outdoor Women and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in outdoor media, asked us if she could learn how to splitboard on our Sojouner Splitboard, we couldn't say no. Here's her take on what gear you need for backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
Looking to get into backcountry snowboarding this season? The bad news is it’s a lot of gear. The good news is you can use a lot of gear you may already have and slowly start to invest in new gear. And remember, there's nothing wrong with used outdoor gear as long as there aren't any safety issues with it.
Helmet and Googles
If you don’t have a helmet for skiing or snowboarding, you should get one. Save your noggin’ from impact on trees, rocks, ice, or other people. You also will need sunglasses and/or goggles are a must to protect your eyes. Goggles get too heated on the uphill, so I prefer sunglasses, and then switching to goggles, because I need eye protection that won’t fall off my face. Outdoor Divas has a great selection of women's ski helmets and googles.
The best part about splitboarding is that you can reuse your resort boots until you decide to get stiffer boots that are better for uphill travel. The House has a solid selection of women's snowboarding boots.
Ski Pants and Jacket
While you don't need anything fancy underneath your ski pants and jacket, you don't want to be wearing cotton. Cotton traps moisture, and this can actually make you colder, particularly when you are transitioning at the top of the summit and backcountry skiing and snowboarding down the mountain. Instead, opt for wool or polyester. Kari Traa merino wool base layer tops and bottoms are warm, super-soft, and naturally odor resistant. Title Nine also has a good selection of women's base layers that you can also use for yoga leggings or hiking pants.
Keeping your fingers warm while backcountry skiing so you can easily transition at the top of the summit and enjoy the ride down is really important! Give'r leather ski gloves and leather mittens will keep your fingers dry, warm, and nimble.
Your adjustable ski poles with snow baskets will be lifesavers for the skin track. You can collapse them to shred, or keep them out to propel yourself forward on flat sections or get unstuck when you fall. The Pivot Trek from G3 is one of the best poles for splitboarding because they are foldable and easily fit in your pack on the way down. If you're looking for something a little more affordable, check out these adjustable ski poles from Outdoor Divas.
You can’t go splitboarding without a splitboard. Some folks have tried to rig their own splitboards out of solid boards. However, splitboarding, and splitboards for women, in particular, have gained popularity, so there are more boards on the market now, including the Coalition Snow Sojourner Splitboard, which is what I ride.
Skins are a necessity because in order to go down, you have to go up. And you can’t go uphill without skins. These prevent you from sliding downhill.
Splitboard bindings are how you attach to your board, and how your board stays together for the downhill. Splitboard bindings slide over the pucks to create a solid board. Your pucks are an integral part to how your board stays in one piece for the downhill. Without pucks, you have skis.
You’re heading out in the backcountry. You’ll need a pack for your snacks and avalanche safety equipment. Backcountry packs should have an easy accessible, separate compartment for you to store your probe and shovel in. Black Diamond has a great selection.
Probe & Shovel
Your probe and your shovel are critical parts of your backcountry kit. These two tools, coupled with an avalanche beacon, are how you find people in an avalanche. You should always have these on your person while touring. There's a great selection of backcountry gear here including Black Diamond and Mammut.
Last and certainly not least, an avalanche beacon is an absolute necessity. If you get caught in a slide, this is the easiest way to be found and dug out. If someone gets caught in a slide, you will use your beacon to pinpoint their location. There's a great selection of beacons here including Black Diamond and Mammut.
This isn’t gear, but an AIARE I course is an essential tool to stay alive in the backcountry. Reading the snow and understanding avalanche triggers is crucial in backcountry splitboarding.
Unfortunately there’s a lot of gear involved when it comes to human-powered winter adventures. Everything above is designed to keep you comfortable and safe.