"How do I convince Morris that there should be a Powfinder Splitboard? By making the best Splitboard in the world." FJ (Aka Haas), head shaper at Powfinder, is speaking. "It was a long development journey but the result is a gem." Find Haas's story below.
From the very first sketches of the Morris 157 Signature, the Split 157 was in my mind. But Morris (Weatherman and fellow founder at wePowder) is a bit of a lazy and spoiled snowboarder. Don't get me wrong, he is an amazing snowboarder but he just doesn't want to make any concessions to his board pleasure once going down. With his knowledge of the weather and the Alps, he always scores the deepest powder in the most peaceful resorts. But once the powder has run out or spring is coming, he rather goes to the ocean for a nice surfing session.
I have been trying to keep him on a splitboard already for at least 10 years. Yes, you read it correctly: 'keep'. I regularly got him on a splitboard, but it never really caught jim. Morris has bought many sets in 10 years to sell them immediately after a few tours. Every time there wasn't the click. The boards were too heavy, felt dead or had a horrible torsion flex, were way too stiff and so on. Not only did it cost him a lot of money, it also made him very skeptical. Experiments with snowshoes and climbing skis followed in between, but in the end he thought that was too much of a hassle. Which of course is true.
On the other hand was I immediately 'on' for split boarding with the most beautiful adventures as a result. Monte Rosa, Ecrins, Mont Blanc, Gotthard, Hohe Tauern, you name it. From mellow to extremely steep, right next to the lift but also with overnight stays in huts and tents. All this time I was willing to make concessions when descending. But once I designed the very first solid Powfinder it was clear to me that there should be a Powfinder Split. Sketching and prototyping soon started, which led to a number of principles and challenges.
To convince Morris, the Split should ride at least as well as the Solid. And that is a challenge. Morris is a technical rider who likes a beautiful torsion flex. But by splitting a board and adding two extra steel edges through it, the torsion immediately becomes a lot stiffer. The second challenge is the swallowtail. The Powfinders have a deep swallowtail where the rear binding is not far away. This means there is not enough room for a tail clip. Thirdly, there is sustainability. Splitboards generally have more to endure than a solid. And last but not least, the Split should not be too heavy either.
The bamboo flex
What makes the Powfinders unique is not just the shape. It is also the use of Bamboo. We have been experimenting with bamboo for more than 10 years and the flex of the material is unprecedented. The material is incredibly lively and full of energy while still giving a damp feeling. By combining other wood types with Bamboo we are able to produce some of the finest handmade cores in the world. If I can make a board better with the help of extra but more expensive bamboo, I will. Even if that is at the expense of our profit margins.
The challenge was to create a core that has a flex pattern that is roughly the same as the Powfinder Limited and the Signature series. After several design rounds I designed the core I was looking for. By strategically placing the Bamboo liveliness is guaranteed.
Durability and sustainability
A split board has much more to endure than a normal board. There is a reason that a lot of splitboards nowadays have a textured topsheet and extra steel in the nose and tail nowadays. That I would also apply this to the Split was a no brainer for me.
But how about the sidewalls? In our Signature series we use Bamboo sidewalls, but in a Split this could be too fragile. Bamboo sidewalls give a wonderful edgehold and can withstand an impact, but if the impact is too big a crack will appear in your sidewall. This has no consequences on the slopes. Just allow to dry your board well afterwards, fill the crack with epoxy, let it cure and your board is good to go again. But what if you are on a multi-day tour and sleep in a cabin or tent? Then the thawing and freezing cycle of water in cracks can cause further cracking. ABS then? ABS is a great product for the less demanding snowboarder, but those who ride better can feel and will agree that ABS has consequences for the flex of a board. And since a splitboard has four sidewalls instead of two the magic will be out of your board. In addition, ABS tends to shatter. A sintered sidewall then? Well, ABS and Sintered do behave the same in a way and will kill the flex of a board.
A few years ago I came across some small board and ski shapers that were using PU, sidewalls made of Polyurethane. A labor-intensive and therefore costly solution. But PU sidewalls have a number of obvious advantages. They have properties that are similar to Bamboo. PU, just like bamboo, dampens the nasty shatter that you often have in the ultra-light (carbon) splitboards. PU does not have that which results in a more pleasant ride. In addition, PU doesn't kill the beautiful bamboo flex. PU is also around 30% stronger than ABS, which benefits durability. Finally, PU ensures a firm permanent connection to the core. With the launch of the Limited Edition I have gained a lot of experience with PU and during the development of the Split PU turned out to be the solution.
Hercules hooks by Phantom
By experimenting with materials (and not paying attention to the costs) I had found the ultimate core and sidewall. Now there was the challenge with the swallowtail and the tail clip sincethere is (too) little room to place a tail clip behind the binding. After many meetings with technicians and extensive calculations it turned out that there was nothing against to place the tail clip in front of the rear binding. Problem solved.
But even better was that during my search I came across the Hercules hooks by Phantom. Many splitboards tend to some space between the two split parts over time. But with Phantom that is a thing of the past.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
After extensive testing, experimenting, shaping and further fine-tuning, I finally was ready to have the board tested out in the field. Soon the first feedback followed. I believe I have rarely been so proud. Al lot of the testers immediately placed their orders.
And Morris? I can still remember the first turns of Morris. Last winter we decided to make a tour from a ski resort. It was quite busy at mid station and Morris suggested to o for a quick downhill run right next to the slopes. Before I knew it, he was gone. At the very bottom, a serious-looking Morris stepped out of his bindings. He looked me in the eye .....
"We have a winner," followed by his smile and a high five. That afternoon a small tour followed, we dropped some cliffs and rode powder. Last winter, Morris toured more than in the last 10 years and even used his Split for a week in a ski resort instead of his solid. The ease in which you put your skins under your board and walk to an undisturbed top in half an hour has been decisive for him. The fact that Morris took the Split to Spitsbergen in May to go on a serious backcountry tour with my Split 157 was the icing on the cake. Mission accomplished.