High Gear: Testing the 2016-17 Unity Snowboards splitboard line | SummitDaily.com

High Gear: Testing the 2016-17 Unity Snowboards splitboard line

Ask Pete Wurster why he's still building snowboards after 22 seasons in Summit County and the owner of Unity Snowboards has a simple answer: love.

"For me it's just a labor-of-love thing," Wurster told the Summit Daily in 2014 at the start of his company's 20th anniversary season. "I love working with my hands."

Wurster's love of craftsmanship and the wide world of snowboarding shows. Unity presses 2,000-some-odd boards per season and they’re all still built by hand in Summit County, where Wurster is aided by a crew of five employees who cut, press and finish boards all summer, then skin, hike and slay deep powder stashes all winter. For the owner, Unity isn't about making cash in the modern cookie-cutter snowboard industry — it's still about riding, just as it always was.

Unity's dedication to snowboarding, plain and simple, comes in slashable form with the company's two splitboard models: the Whale split and Dominion split. Both are ready-made touring versions of popular solid decks, and while they're made with the same thing in mind — long days deep in the backcountry — they're far from the same thing with different names. Meet the Unity split family.

Dominion split

Like its solid brother, the Dominion split is made for charging hard anywhere and everywhere. It comes in a slew of sizes, from 159 cm to 170 cm wide, and features the same combination aspen-maple core as all Unity boards. The directional shape is made for powder — the inserts sit slightly back from center, which makes uphill touring and downhill riding easier on your legs — but it's hardly dramatic. Unlike trendy swallowtail boards (see the Whale), the nose and tail are nearly identical, meaning you can easily ride this one regular or switch. If you've never been cliff-dropping on a split, this is where to begin.

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The Dominion's true claim to fame is all-around versatility. Wurster and crew have been perfecting the art of splitboard cores since the first model debuted about five years ago, and each season they get closer to something that's just as poppy, responsive and playful as the solid versions. The Dominion is stiffer than most freeride boards, but that only means it's ready to pull you up and out of a 30-foot cliff drop. You know you want to.

Whale split

Before swallowtails and chopped-off noses were en vogue, Wurster was testing the market's limits with the Whale.

"It's a cool time in the industry," Wurster said in the 20th anniversary article. "You can do some funky-looking things and nobody's going to laugh."

And the Whale split is definitely a funky-looking thing. It's flat on the tail and mellow between the inserts — normal enough, if it were an early '90s snowboard — and then things get weird with a big, fat, overblown nose. The solid and split version both feature the same shape, and it's fast become the Whale's claim to fame. Wurster's experiment paid off and it's still one of his most popular models.

But what's the point, exactly? Simple: more float in the neck-deep stuff. The Whale split is made for remote touring trips in the heart of winter and spring, when storms can dump upwards of 2 feet at a time and even a long traditional board just won't float. This isn't the best option for a late-spring or early summer trek into the corn snow, but chances are you won't find a better deck for deep days. This is what flying must feel like.

The Whale's fat nose is inspired by surfboards, and with just two size options (160 cm and 165 cm), it sometimes feels as hefty as one. But thanks to a medium flex rating, you won't be forced to throw your body weight into big turns. It's more responsive than you'd expect.

Whale splitboard | $825

Sizes: 160 cm, 165 cm

Shape: Directional, medium “power float” rocker (camber between inserts, mellow rocker tail, early-rise rocker nose, flat zone at front insert)

Core: Aspen, maple

Base: Durasurf sintered 4001

Sidewall: Sintered P-tex

Effective edge: 113 cm, 115.3 cm

Features: Voile inserts and tip clips, Karakoram lever hooks

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Dominion splitboard | $800

Sizes: 159 cm, 160 cm wide, 164 cm, 168 cm, 165 cm wide, 170 cm wide

Shape: Directional, stiff float rocker (camber between inserts, mellow rocker tail, early-rise rocker nose)

Core: Aspen, maple

Base: Durasurf sintered 4001

Sidewall: Sintered P-tex

Effective edge: 123.1-134.1 cm

Features: Voile inserts and tip clips, Karakoram lever hooks

Both of the 2016-17 Whale and Dominion models are sold out on the Unity website. To find other dealers in Colorado and online, see unitysnowboards.com.

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Earn Your Turns week

It’s finally March, and that means the meat of backcountry touring season is nearly here. To get prepared, local AT skiers and splitboarders are taking over the Summit Daily sports section in print and online this week with reviews, guides, videos and more.

Wednesday, March 1

Take 5 — Q&A with Zach Husted, a Japan splitboard guide-in-training

Thursday, March 2

High Gear — Weston Big Chief splitboard review, plus video

High Gear — Scarpa F1 AT ski boot review, plus video

Friday, March 3

High Gear — Unity Whale and Dominion splitboard comparison

Retrofitted — History of splitboarding

Saturday, March 4

Splitboard 101 — All you need to know about splitboarding in Summit

Sunday, March 5

Retrofitted — History of alpine touring, Part One

Monday, March 6

Retrofitted — History of alpine touring, Part Two

Thursday, March 9 or 16

High Gear — Voile kit DIY splitboard construction, plus video

 

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