Above all the riding I’ve ever done in my life, spring-time corn slashing is probably the most memorable. The reliable weather. The early mornings and the climb – skinning 2,000 feet on hard snow after breakfast to be in position to ride smooth cream down to some mountain valley absolutely booming with color from winter’s end by noon. Big couloirs, made relatively safe by the freeze-thaw cycle, beers with friends and sending it off a homemade kicker, built on a ridgeline with a view. Damn, I even remember getting lucky once or twice up in the high alpine with the woman of my dreams, and the mother of my children.
Spring in the mountains is where it’s at. I’ve been rediscovering that lately – and loving the full-body purge as all the shitty food and beer I’ve consumed comes streaming out of my pores in the form of sweat. How the lungs are rejuvenated and how fun a snowboard is on good corn. I’ve also been lucky to try several splitboards over the last year or so as well and the technology is so freakin’ simple: comfortable (snowboard boots are like slippers, really), sturdy, and above all, lightweight. And there are so many good companies making splitboards right now. The smaller boutique brands are doing some incredible things.
I recently discovered a Salt Lake-based company with some really interesting shapes. Chimera is completely dedicated to splitboarding. They don’t carry solid boards. They have two new options this year, the Sceptre and the Unicorn Chaser. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the board with the best name but the Sceptre seemed to have the best all-around shape. As opposed to the UC’s “pintail” the Sceptre’s squared nose and tail were so floaty. I loved the thing in pow conditions for big drawn out turns – or even slashes in tight little pockets.
The Chimera gurus designed the board with medium flex, something that’s kind of nerdy to talk about, I suppose, but important during a spring tour, when you’re most likely to encounter ice (if a board’s too soft for your weight, things get interesting fast). You’ll inevitably cross ice if you reach a spot too early in the day or perhaps traverse a section that hasn’t seen the sun. On one test trip, I had to hold a heelside edge out of steep valley for nearly half a mile.
When I was in really firm snow (see ice), there was some movement of the board front to back and a bit of up and down in the cut section, which is natural when you really stress a splitboard. But that ice also gave me a chance to feel just how much pressure you can put on the Sceptre. Control on ice is so important, obviously.
In that vein, I like how Chimera uses the Karakoram Active Joining Technology to go along with the traditional latches you see on the ends of most splitboards. I feel this system really increases connectivity in these boards and just feels way more solid. The locking device takes it an extra step to create security and rigidity in the board when you switch it into downhill mode.
For bindings, I used Hitchhikers, which were made for Burton by Spark and standard Voile pucks. I have a pair of G3 skins. The setup was pretty bomber, although I did lose two screws from my front toe piece used in uphill mode. I didn’t really check to make sure everything was tight before I started hiking as I set the Sceptre up the day before going out. I’d almost recommend some Gorilla glue on the bolts before you screw them down – on any board – just to increase security. I’m six foot, 190 pounds and rode the 162 and was totally comfortable.
A quick note on materials, Chimera reduces weight by “minimizing the use of steel.” The toe-to-heel sections are built with something called “three-axis carbon” which translates to a lighter feel in uphill mode. Chimera says this adds contact for your skin underfoot and makes the thing tougher. Admittedly, I’m hard on stuff and have already beat the Sceptre down a bit. Other than a few pressure marks, it looks pretty good. Chalk the dings up to a spring well spent.
Editor’s Note: Look for more backcountry reviews with gear from Chimera and other companies this fall.