By Will Shoemaker
For skiers, the Dynafit binding has been a game changer in every sense of the term. Tech bindings shave significant weight — a pretty big deal in the backcountry — without, for the most part, sacrificing performance.
So why can’t splitboarders benefit from this technology as well? They can. The question is: Should they?
Hardboots on snowboards are nothing new, and it’s no surprise that over the last few years a couple splitboard setups have emerged that borrow from the Dynafit phenomenon. Like in the ski world, Dynafit toe pieces have revolutionized what’s possible in the backcountry — offering a relatively sturdy toe attachment at a fraction of the weight of splitboard-specific bindings.
So I set out to see what this system was all about. Mainly, the question I hoped to answer was: Is the “Dynasplit” — Dynafit toe pieces for the climb and a plate binding system for ride mode — getting less credit than it deserves?
Like anything in the wide world of gear, there are always tradeoffs. When it comes down to it, there are just three characteristics that define recreational equipment: inexpensive, strong and lightweight. Choose two.
Phantom Splitboard Bindings are the creme de la creme, and for a pretty penny take the Dynasplit setup to the lightweight extreme. I opted to try out the heavier, though less expensive, Spark R&D Dyno DH system.
Without a doubt, the biggest benefit of the Dynasplit system is its weight — or lack thereof. It’s pounds lighter than my Spark Afterburners. On longer tours, this makes a huge difference. I feel like I can tour for days on the Dynasplit.
I’ve also found it to be much more efficient on the climb than the alternative. Here too, this setup shines; I didn’t realize previously just how much movement there is in a softboot splitboard binding system, but the Dynasplit saves a noticeable amount of energy through the course of a climb. That’s energy that comes in handy late in the day or on a long tour.
Also, you may as well call it Dyna-“slick” — the step-in toe piece for climb mode and a single toe latch movement to lock the boots in ride mode take minutes off of transitions. My wife happens to be a skier, which has made my transitions fast even with a typical softboot splitboard setup. Dynasplit transitions are faster yet.
And then there’s the fact that a single pair of boots are compatible with multiple skis/snowboards. I bought a pair of Dynafit TLT6 boots to ski the 40-mile Grand Traverse with my wife this year. During the race, I plan to use those boots with a pair of lightweight rando skis, but it’s nice that the same boots also are the perfect fit for the Dynasplit. In effect, the only question for a given day in the backcountry is snowboard or rando skis? The boots remain the same.
Where I ski, a snowmobile is an extremely useful tool for gaining access to the biggest lines. And softboots are great for riding a snowmobile — offering ample flex for quick movements and lots of rubber to grip the machine. The same can’t exactly be said for a hardboot. They’re not terrible, but hard plastic does slide easily — perhaps too easily — on a snowmobile’s aluminum tunnel and tread.
Also, there are definitely some sacrifices to the Dynasplit in ride mode. From what I’ve found, the TLT6s can not be comfortably or effectively ridden downhill with both top and bottom buckles fastened. To get a downhill ride even close to that of a moderately stiff softboot, I only fasten the boot’s bottom buckle, leaving the top buckle loose under the cuff of my pant leg. Not ideal — and certainly something I would want to change if I used the Dynasplit setup more frequently — but it seems to work.
I’ve also had a really strange experience getting used to the torsional stiffness of the boots: softboots flex easily in a line parallel to the edges of the snowboard. Hardboots do not — creating odd stiffness that further “loads” the tail of the deck when initiating a turn. The first few times this happened, the boots’ lack of flex sent me rocketing forward coming out of a turn.
I’ve also found that canted pucks are pretty crucial to using the Dynasplit system — saving significant strain on the knees.
It’s been a little more than a month since I started riding the Dynasplit, and today was the best day yet for me on the setup. Turns are finally coming easy, and the added stiffness of hardboots is much more manageable — even beneficial when carving turns — than a few weeks ago.
To summarize, the Dynasplit definitely has its place in today’s world of rapidly advancing ski/snowboard technology. Super-long approaches? Willing to sacrifice a little downhill performance for gains on the up? Looking to gain a little time during transitions? The Dynasplit may be your answer.
That said, the setup isn’t cheap. While the Spark Dyno system I tested all together (plate bindings, toe pieces and adapters) retails for about $500 (canted pucks, heel risers, boots and board excluded), Phantom sells its complete system for $850.
So, to ride a Dynasplit, you’d better either be deep-pocketed if you’d like to own multiple setups, or be fully committed to the concept — including taking the financial plunge.