The old aphorism “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” doesn’t apply to Board Test Week—rather, it’s a marathon run at a sprint’s pace. And testers have been holding nothing back from the moment the starting gun for Backcountry’s annual splitboard test went off late last week in Crested Butte, Colo.“We rode dust on crust the first day but ratcheted it up to a 30-foot natural step-down by mid-afternoon,” veteran Tahoe-based tester Chris Cloyd said. “What started as a whimper ended with a road gap.” Euro carves on groomers, straight lines through sketchy rock gardens, misty 5s off hips—we’ve seen it all with the test already off to a high-octane start.
“When a sixth-grader laid out a barrel roll, I knew it was time to step up,” said Lawson Yow, a Crested Butte-based splitboarder who serves as a sort of test liaison, leading out-of-town testers to the best hits in the resort and the best stashes in the surrounding backcountry. “When riders from Crested Butte, the Front Range, Aspen, Telluride, Summit County and Squaw get together, the testing turns into shredding.”First-year tester John Lauer of Tahoe echoed Lawson’s sentiment. “Everybody is riding at an amazing pace—and it’s fun seeing everyone’s different strengths,” he said. “We have a ton of unique backgrounds, ranging from smooth and carvy big-mountain riders to fast and powerful freestylers.”
While every splitboarder dreams of shredding powder in the backcountry, gear testing is often most valuable in variable spring conditions. Over the past three days, testers ripped every aspect of Crested Butte in all conditions imaginable, from harsh, frozen, tracked-out moguls to hike-accessed icy steeps and slushy, sheltered powder glades. Testers have been pushing splits to their limits inbounds, and, over the next three days, they’ll do the same out of bounds.Starting on Monday, testers will take the knowledge they’ve gleaned from bell-to-bell days at Crested Butte Mountain Resort to surrounding backcountry zones to gauge uphill ability and touring performance. To do so, the crew will rack up serious vertical touring with Irwin Guides, while cat skiing at Monarch Mountain and over a couple days around the Lost Wonder Hut. There is, as they say, no rest for the weary—essentially, we’re cramming a season’s worth of splitboarding into a week in order to find the best gear of the future.
What’s hot so far? Previous Editors’ Choice winners seem tough to beat—namely, the short and fat K2 Split Bean and the powerful, pow-crushing Weston Backwoods on the board front, as well as Spark R&D’s Surge Bindings and the K2 Aspect boot. That said, new-for-2018 directional decks like the Never Summer Swift and the Amplid Millisurf are earning high praise from the team.While favorite boards may have jumped to the front of the pack, the winners of this year’s race remain to be named. Three days of intensive backcountry testing will determine who stands atop the 2018 Gear Guide podium. Until then, we must remind our testers that Board Test Week is, in fact, both a marathon and a sprint.