Our resident backcountry traveler Gary was able to take the Spark R & D Afterburner out into the wilds of Colorado and test this binding. He put it through the paces of seeing how it reacts to skinning, shredding, and all around non resort riding. As a reminder be safe when you head into the backcountry.
Board Used: Never Summer Prospector Split 167X and SL 163X
Location: Eisman Hut, Berthoud Pass
Conditions: Ultra icy skin track to full on powder.
Boots Used: Ride Insano
Binding Compatibility: Works with Voile interface for Splitboards. Instead of the pin method of securing the bindings to the pucks, the toe ramp is hinged with a stopper under the front of the toe ramp. Lift up, slide off. Slide on, push down and you are locked onto the interface. Simple and very effective. No more pins!
Binding Adjustability: All of the adjustments you come to expect from Spark. All you need is an allen wrench and a phillips screwdriver. Fortunately Spark includes their pocket tool with the bindings. It has everything you need.
Straps: Spark is now using Burton straps. The Straps are wide and just the right amount of plushness to them. So far they have been a comfortable secure fit.
Highbacks: Stiff enough for the Freerider. The forward lean is easy to adjust, and I can’t say I have any complaints. It is pretty basic and I like it that way.
Binding Flex: Nice and stiff. Not a lot of lateral flex.
Ratchets: The Burton ratchets are buttery smooth. So far so good as I haven’t had any issues.
Touring: As great as the connection the Voile interface is, the touring mode is a serious step up in the game. What you spend a majority of your time in the backcountry doing. The binding has two pins pointed to the right that slide into the touring bracket holes from right to left. Snap down the toe ramp and you are locked in. Easy and quick. It is the touring brackets that make this shine. Instead of risers on the board, the risers are under and full width of the binding. There are two heights to choose from. You can engage them by lifting your heel up and pushing down on the brackets with your ski pole basket. For the shorter climbing bar, you will need to engage both and just bring the taller bar back up. It is easy to do. There is a plate that cradles the climbing wires in the Voile riser spot. I did find that the smaller bars could be slightly problematic to bring up with pole baskets at times. Crossing my ski pole behind the bars and levering them up works quite well for me when I have this problem. A stiffer basket on your ski poles would probably solve this issue. The wider bars are much more stiff torsionally than Voile brackets. Making icy traverse much more comfortable and stable.
Rider in Mind: The splitboarder who wants to get after serious lines and serious tours.
Personal Thoughts: While I won’t say this is a perfect splitboard binding, it leverages the most widely used interface to a very high level. Spark has elevated their design with simplicity. Closing in on a solid month of use on these and they just work. Self cleaning, quick change overs, solid performance. Quite simply Spark R&D has raised the bar once again.
Support your local snowboard shop buy locally. Find a shop here.