It opens that white world to descents that you can never just do from the lifts. Where you can draw first tracks. It brings you to peaks where you can see the rest of the busy world below you, the crowds and the noise softened by the distance and altitude you have gained. That descent that you have earned with your own legs, your own effort tastes even sweeter with the salt of your sweat. There are no superlatives enough as far as I am concerned when it comes to the magic of splitboarding (or the ski counterpart, ski touring). I have much more experience with regular snowboards, on and off-piste, and less with split boards. I like to bomb down piste’s and hit off-piste sections that you can reach with a few good hikes through deep snow. But splitboarding just adds a magical extra dimension to it all.
There are actually two things that in my experience are the most annoying things about splitboarding. On the one hand, it’s converting the snowboard to splitboard (and back again) and on the other hand the hardness and unresponsiveness of the splitboards on which I have ridden so far. The K2 Joy Driver Split was a so much better than what I have experienced so far.
The first time on the board was when it snowed a but in the Netherlands when it snowed a bit this year. Through the woods at Austerlitz and also around and over the frozen lakes of the Leersumse Veld. Flat terrain ideal to rack up some kilometers. In addition, I rode the K2 Joy Driver for three days during the Bergans Freeride Experience in Kleinwalsertal, Austria. On piste, we did a few runs, but 90% between trees, virgin powder fields, and slightly spilled pieces. From real crystal powder to heavier stuff. On the last day, we skinned with the splitboard, about 200 height meters (not very much) but quite steep. Many thanks to Edgar van Kooten from Frosty Snowboarding who lent me the board.
Splitboarding Leersumse Veld, Netherlands
What is a splitboard?
For those who do not know, a splitboard is actually a snowboard that has been cut lengthways in the middle so that you can use it as a snowboard, but also as two “skis” with which you can walk up the mountain. This adds some complication to the board. Starting with the way the board is constructed and the tension in the material. When you snowboard you stand sideways on the board, with the weight divided over both of your legs which are placed roughly 1/3 and 2/3 of your board. But if once you convert the board into the splitboard, each of your feet is placed in the middle of the corresponding “ski”. While walking/skinning up, you do not want the weight to bend the “ski” too far, so that means something for the construction of the board. In addition to that you need, a steel edge on both sides of your “skis” for grip. That means that if you use it again as a snowboard, you have two steel sides running through the middle along the complete length of your board. Finally, you also have extra bindings and material on your board for the two different placements of your bindings. All of this generally results in a much heavier and often a harder board that does not react quickly or smoothly.
Snowboarding on the K2 Joy Driver Split
And that was and is actually my issue with previous splitboards, because after having skinned all the way up to that top, you drop into that virgin north face powder run initiate your first turn and the board does nothing; you press harder, and harder and there it finally goes, like an oil tanker that has to change direction. Frontside done, then back side, pushing, forcing it to go .. not a smiley face…None of this with the K2 Joy Driver.
The first runs of the weekend were on-piste, and although you do feel the difference with a regular board (they are really lighter and generally respond faster) I was very happy when I went into my first front side turn, and into a backside again. The board reacted, gave grip and was nice and stiff but not too hard. The board has a camber profile (very good for the aforementioned pre-tension) and therefore gives grip and control, even at higher speeds.
Our guide Stephan rode the 159cm version of the Joy Driver and was very happy with it. Also an extra endorsement for this board.
The board that I used was 165 cm long, which is great for my height and weight (188 and 92 kg). I did notice (and that is also due to my technique) that once off-piste, especially in tree runs and steep parts, that I really needed to throw down power on shorter turns at lower speeds. Often I preferred to just jump into the turn. On the other hand, I really tried to be patience and let the turn develop. Especially on the longer free powder runs that was great. The board gave enough float, the tip and tail rocker up nicely (not overly so) so that the board really slices through the snow nicely.
Splitboarding on the K2 Joy Driver
I had already seen the Voile binding system at ISPO 2018 (tradeshow) and it is really a super system. Where in my past experiences I was used to fidgety clips, latches and losing parts in the snow and trying to get stuff in other stuff which you could only managed without gloves on (aka cold hands)… the conversion was a steam-out-of-your-ears, procedure of frustration. Not with this system. The system is really made very smart, so that the bindings are well secured and fixed when it is a snowboard, but slide off in the blink of an eye after loosening a heel clip. Attaching the bindings in “ski” mode is also super easy. There are two hooks on the front of the binding to hook on an axle on the “ski”, and which then remains fixed and tight with an ingenious pressured little ball that holds the binding in place when you do your skinning. And everything while wearing gloves.
Within 6 minutes (with time for a selfie) I had the board converted from snowboard to splitboard with the skins on (getting the skins on perfectly took the most time). And all that with thick gloves on. Reverting back to snowboard once we reached the top we were heading for was just as easy, if not easier. Really nice.
In short, the K2 Joy Driver Split has really super solutions to two issues that always gave me headaches. The whole binding system is made of well machined, strong and robust materials, and is surprisingly easy to use. The riding characteristics are very good for a splitboard. Really a very good snowboard / splitboard as far as I am concerned. It did drive a lot of joy my way.