November 5, 2013

Local Companies Cold Smoke and Romp Partner to Produce Splitboard

Coldsmoke is excited about the Voodoo, the product of their partnership with Romp Skis.

Cold Smoke’s ‘Voodoo,’ built by Romp, hits the streets just in time for winter.

Words by Will Shoemaker

With the right tools, the job at hand can be a breeze. And when that job is slaying powder, crushing crud and carving effortless turns, what better tool than one crafted by a time-tested company? Cold Smoke Splitboards, of Gunnison, recently released its first factory splitboard, dubbed the “Voodoo ” — a partnership with renowned boutique ski manufacturer Romp Skis, of Crested Butte.  A directional, big-mountain slayer, the Voodoo has been deemed by testers an “everyday, go-to” and “do-it-all” deck — big on durability, while offering some key perks that are few and far between in the splitboard market.
Cold Smoke formed in a garage in Gunnison in 2010 — shortly after co-owner Kyle Jones graduated from Western State Colorado University. In an entrepreneurship class at Western, the idea for Cold Smoke was born. Jones partnered with longtime friend and fellow San Luis Valley native Lucas Martinez. Together, the two launched the company, which, until now, has focused exclusively on retail splitboard-product sales and converting existing, solid decks into backcountry touring set-ups.
Kyle hard at work.

Kyle hard at work.

Splitboarding — an approach to backcountry snowboarding that utilizes a deck that splits into two skis for the climb, and fastens back together for the descent — has been around since the ’90s, but its growth in the larger winter sports marketplace has been relatively slow. Only in the last five years has splitboarding grown to the point that numerous manufacturers are now selling products geared specifically toward the pursuit.

Since Cold Smoke’s inception, Jones says that he and Martinez have talked continuously about building their own, factory-manufactured splitboard. Those talks came to a head this past year, when Jones and Martinez approached Romp owners Morgan and Caleb Weinberg about helping set up a factory. Instead, the Weinbergs — who began making skis under the Romp name in 2010 — offered to build the decks themselves, taking a cue from other such partnerships. (In the wide world of ski and snowboard manufacturers, often companies will share a single factory.)
“We definitely saw splitboarding really taking off,” says Morgan Weinberg. “But we didn’t want to sell snowboards under our brand.” Romp has been expanding its production every year, and Weinberg sees the same potential for growth in the backcountry snowboard market. “There’s definitely a movement for people to want to buy something a little more personalized and talk to the person who makes it,” he says. “Splitboards really lend themselves to the small manufacturer, because it’s still a relatively small market.”
For Cold Smoke, having Romp build the decks was a no-brainer. “We live in a tight-knit community,” Jones admits. “Not that word on the street is everything, but they have a reputation.”
Unlike many splitboards on the market today, the Voodoo was designed not only for responsive riding — offering fast and agile descents. But also, its design lends itself to superior climbing and traversing. The Voodoo’s “camber bubble” — a section of camber placed behind the rider’s rear foot — provides traction while skinning and boosts ollie-power with a spring-like effect. This technology from Cold Smoke makes both the uphill and downhill more efficient by minimizing the effort required to climb and by maximizing the amount of “pop” a rider gets out of the board. “We wanted to differentiate ourself from other snowboard companies,” says Jones. “There’s a lot of cool stuff out there, but we wanted something that tours well. When you’re splitboarding, the vast majority of the time you’re in tour mode.”
Carbon stringers in the deck also add pop in the tail section, which boasts 12 cm of rise. Early rise on the nose — slightly wider than the tail — aids in flotation when slicing through powder and crud alike. The Voodoo — “Made in the Elk Mountains of Colorado,” as the top sheet indicates — is built of strong, lightweight, sustainably selected poplar, which withstands pressure and provides better rebound. A black, sintered base is a ticket to what Cold Smoke calls “one of the strongest, toughest and longest-lasting boards on the market today.”
Add polyethylene sidewalls and a stone-grind finish on each board. To top it off, Cold Smoke uses an environmentally friendly wax. And the board’s top-sheep graphics are unique and recognizable among locals — exhibiting a scene of popular peaks up the Slate River Valley.
The Voodoo — retailing for $850 — comes in two lengths: 158 cm and and 163 cm. The waist on both decks is 26 cm, and at 7 pounds, 12 ounces (163), the Voodoo finds itself in the middle of the pack among other factory decks in terms of weight. For more information and to find out how the board can be purchased, visit Cold Smoke also offers a “one-stop shop” for splitboarders — carrying a wide array of Spark R&D and Voile gear, among other manufacturers.
Author Bio: Will Shoemaker
bio_mugWill Shoemaker is a journalist who has called the Gunnison Valley home since 2002. He loathes being indoors, preferring instead to have his ass handed to him in wild places throughout the West. Whether mountain biking, backcountry snowboarding or hunting big game, Will is constantly on the quest for new adventure — and, when opportunity arises, portraying the culture of those pursuits to the masses.

About the Author

2. Will Dujardin
Will Dujardin is our content editor at West Elk Project. He competes in big mountain competitions and coaches the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team. Skiing is his life and he likes to mix it with other fun things like DH mountain biking and traveling.