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Category: News.

At Spark R&D we’re always working on ways to improve our products, and your time in the backcountry. We’ve gone through a number of versions of crampons and touring brackets since first introducing our Tesla bindings for the 2013/14 season. Our latest versions are a significant improvement over the initial versions we’ve released, so we are replacing the older ones for free. Click below for more details!

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Category: Products.

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HURRY — Sale ends Sunday, May 31…

The Spark R&D Spring Sale is happening now!

 Magneto and AfterBurner bindings are 30% off.  Shop early — quantities are limited!

https://www.sparkrandd.com/gear/bindings/

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Category: Products, Spark in the Field.

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Spring is one of the best times to get out and do some splitboarding.  We still have plenty of snow high in the mountains around Bozeman, MT.

Anyone interested in doing some splitboarding in the Bozeman area, we have some demo binders and Venture splitboards available for your use!   We also have a few select splitboards from Amplid, Never Summer, and Burton.

Call 866-725-2085 or email sales@sparkrandd.com for all the details and to schedule an appointment.

Local pickup only.

 

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Category: Cool Stuff, Products.

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Friends and fans of Spark: It is time, once again, for our (semi) annual Spark R&D T-Shirt Design Contest!

The trade show season is upon us and we are giving you a chance to design the graphics for next year’s T-Shirts and Hoodies. If you happen to come up with something that blows us away, you could score a new pair of Tesla bindings for your trouble!

So, get those creative juices flowing. If you think you have something for us, read the guidelines below:
— Design a shirt that contains the Spark R&D logo. (Download Logos here)
— Do not change or alter our logo in any fashion!
— Keep it to two colors maximum.
— Designs size should be within 12”x12” (30cm x 30cm) and created using 1 or 2 ink colors for screen printing (T-Shirt fabric does not count as a color). Artwork is best submitted in vector format – .pdf, .eps, .ai, or other supported file. Thumbnail .jpgs will be accepted for preview only. If your design is chosen, a full size 300dpi resolution file will be requested (dpi does not apply to vector art).
— Submit entries to todd@sparkrandd.com and be sure to include your full contact – mailing address, phone number, and email!

-–Submit your entries by December 31.  Extended to January 9!

Once we choose the winner, we will make you famous by shipping your shirt design all over the planet. This will be our limited edition shirt graphic for the 2015/16 season. We will hook the winning designer up with his or her own shirts and hoodies, as well as a pair of binders.

Good luck to everyone and start designing!

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Category: Spark in the Field.

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By Robin Hill

Photos by Emma Light

Nov. 15, 2014

Late fall in Bozeman, Montana, fires the stoke, but also tests our patience. Every fall, I tell myself I am going to wait a little later to avoid the shark-fin infested slopes of the early season. I was doing well fighting the itch this season, until the cold snap hit last week, and the mountains turned white! Boom, just like that, I was in my car on the bumpy road to Fairy Lake in the Northern Bridgers.

I love that feeling mid-way through the season, when your legs are strong, and all of your gear works without a hitch. This was not one of those days. My skins just about blew out my shoulder as I tried to yank them apart. When I finally did, there was a nice layer of potato chip crumbles on the skin glue. These would make a nice addition to my un-waxed snowboard. Nice! After floundering around for a good ten minutes, we finally set off and skinned up and out of the parking lot towards Frazier Basin.

Robin Hill 2I’m not going to lie: I was feeling a little rusty out of the gates. On my first kick turn, I took a backward slide into my friend Emma, shooting photos for the day. She was super impressed!

As we crested the lower bench, we got our first glimpse at the cirque. This view always gets me; it’s like something out of Lord of the Rings with the big overhanging rock walls, and steep narrow couloirs. The rocks were covered in a beautiful white layer of frost. The shoots are definitely still a little sparse, but starting to see some coverage.

We dropped in on the south side of the cirque in a narrow, left-trending shot. It caught me off guard: It was narrow, with about two inches of light fluff on top of crust. Steep jump turns right off the bat — alright! Down in the basin, we tried to boot up a south facing chute, to no avail. The nearly bullet proof layer underneath the new snow limited out kick stepping abilities and sent me for another backwards slide into Emma. I bet she got some rad shots!

Despite the aches and pains, couple of dings to the board, and challenging snow conditions, it was great to get out on the snow with some friends. Stoked to get again soon — pray for snow!

Robin Hill 3Emma Light (@e.light.photography)

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Category: News.

Spark_Shop_Crew

Spark_Shop_Plates_raw_vertManufacturing Day, this year on October 3, is a national effort to spotlight manufacturing and manufacturing job opportunities in the United States. The mission of MFG DAY is to “address common misconceptions about manufacturing by giving manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a coordinated effort, what manufacturing is — and what it isn’t.”

The idea is, by working together during and after MFG DAY, manufacturers can address common issues they may face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of manufacturing in the United States.

Spark_Shop_Pad_printingAt Spark R&D, we are proud of the fact that all of our products are manufactured and/or assembled in our shop in Bozeman, Montana, USA.  From machining to anodizing, laser engraving to assembly– everything is done by a skilled team of workers who are also passionate splitboarders.  Building and riding the best splitboard bindings in the world in our own backyard is also an advantage: In-house design and manufacturing capabilities allow our products to quickly evolve, and provides us the flexibility to cater to niche customers within the splitboarding market.

Spark_Shop_Assemble_back“There is simply no way we could offer products at our level of quality and price if we weren’t manufacturing them ourselves,” said Spark R&D founder Will Ritter.  “It also can be just as fun to figure out the manufacturing of a product as it is to design it.”

As it turns out, the benefits of manufacturing locally are many.  “I never thought of it when Spark R&D was in its infancy, but it’s been very rewarding to create a cool place for people to work,” Will continued.  “If we had an external factory, we’d have about a quarter of the employees. I’m very happy to be paying snowboarders in Montana to make as much of our stuff as possible, rather than strangers that have never been on snow in another country.”

Happy Manufacturing Day!

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Category: News, Products.

An open letter from your friends at Spark R&D

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I don’t know about you – but the past year FLEW by for us at Spark R&D! The introduction of our new Tesla System bindings last season left our phone ringing off the hook and our email inboxes flooded with email subject lines like this: “I want the AfterBurner more than I want my mustache to connect to my beard.”

Seriously. We wouldn’t make this stuff up.

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New green Magnetos on the assembly line.

Last year was indeed crazy for us at Spark and now we have a lot happening around the shop. For the 2014/15 season, we have doubled our factory space and added new machines and team members to continue developing and manufacturing the best splitboard bindings and accessories in the world.

Despite the busy year, we charged ahead with midnight design sessions and dawn patrol product testing missions. Our goal has always been to make splitboarding more accessible and simple with solid gear and breakthrough products that fill in the gaps for the split community … while giving our customers and dealers a voice in what we tackle next.

With that in mind, NEW for this season:

  • Our first-ever hardboot splitboard specific binding, the Dyno DH, along with a Dynafit Toe Piece compatible hardboot touring crampon, the D Rex.  See our entire Hardboot lineup here.
  • Tesla Heel Locker. Riders now have the ability to lock down their heel in tour mode to better adapt to diversified terrain types where quick descents, side-stepping, traversing, and skate splitting become more effective means of backcountry travel.  Find more info here.
  • Low Rider Heel Loop Kit. This XS heel loop positions highbacks lower on the leg for a better calf fit for the not-so-tall, and allows for better heel-toe centering for smaller boot sizes.  Specs and info here.
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New for this season: The Dyno DH hardboot bindings.

Meanwhile, we continue to collaborate with champion companies in the industry – utilizing their already established tech (why re-invent the wheel?) and integrating it into the splitboard binding world. Throughout our product line, we are proud to partner with: Burton, Voile, G3, Dynafit, Verts, and new for this season, Black Diamond, Bomber Industries, and One Binding System.

We have also produced a custom, limited edition splitboard specific binding for Burton called the Hitchhiker, which is available exclusively through their distribution channels.

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The new Tesla Heel Lockers.

Yes, it’s been a crazy ride for us at Spark and this year will no doubt be the same. Our success for the season does not go without many thanks to our loyal Dealers, Ambassadors, Customers, and Friends. Thanks for taking the ride with us and for all of your support over the years.

See you on the skin track!

Spark R&D

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Category: Spark in the Field.

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The awesome beauty of Norway, where ocean and mountains collide.

By Justin Lamoureux

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Justin Lamoureux and crew in the Lyngen Alps, Norway.

Through a haze of jetlag I hear Miikka Haast say, “…it starts with a 20 meter rappel into a 50 degree, 3-meter-wide couloir…yes, let’s do that…” Sounds like a great first run in Norway!

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Justin rapping into Øksehogget, or the “axe cleave” — his first run in Norway.

This past May, I was lucky enough to join friends Miikka Haast and Jonas Hagstrom in their adopted playground of Tamokdallen and Lyngen in Northern Norway. I didn’t know what to expect, but as I soon found out, the area is mind blowing.

Rising right out of the ocean and up to about 1,800 meters in elevation, the area is primarily alpine terrain. ‘Steep’ would be the best single word to describe the riding.

Nearly every mountain has epic, steep faces and couloirs splitting the rocks. Access is easy — straight up — and if you need to cross a farm to get somewhere, just be sure to close the gate behind you.

My trip had 11 days of possible splitboarding and we rode every single day. From powder to slush (mostly powder) we got the best conditions of the year and rode some area classics.

Highlights included two possible first descents; a second descent; camping out; hunting for first descents; and overall had an epic time.

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Jonas Hagstrom in the Lyngen Alps.

I never thought it would be that good in Norway, but it is an amazing place and truly worth a trip.

There are not a lot of places to stay in the Tamok area, so if you go, hit up Aadne Olsrud at Olsrud Adventures (olsrud.adventure@gmail.com). He has places to stay and, as the local avalanche forecaster, has tons of area info.

Takk Ullr!!

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Miikka Haast scouting the lines.

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Category: Spark in the Field.

 

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The author approaching Stanley Glacier in the Canadian Rockies. Photo by Evan Ross

By Clark Corey

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The beautiful Narao Peak.

In the spring, the travel bug can become quite strong. Which got me thinking: A cold and wet spring in Montana surely means it’s looking good up in the Canadian Rockies. With that in mind, we found ourselves cruising down the Trans-Canadian highway towards Lake Louise. I didn’t take long to realize that a week wasn’t nearly enough time to explore the expansive terrain.

Geographically, the Canadian Rockies are not far from Montana (a day’s drive), but they are a whole different animal: huge vertical, scary steep terrain in every direction, and glaciers clinging to craggy summits. In other words, the sheer amount of seriously impressive peaks one can see from the road is 100 percent overwhelming!

While mid-winter snow in the Rockies can be a little thin, the conditions for steep riding become ideal in the spring. On our trip, fresh snow was sticking to the steepest chutes and faces, while the winds remained light. Some lines that were likely not ridable three weeks prior were suddenly “in”. The Y couloir on Stanley Peak (Kootenay National Park) was an example of how quickly conditions can change. With a foot of new snow just four days prior, we found 1.5 feet of snow perfectly bonded to ice as the angle reached 50 degrees. Without that last storm, I’m not sure it would have been ridable!

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About to drop in, Narao Peak.

Although we did battle our fair share of challenging weather, we did get to sneak in a few stellar lines, which made the quick foray up to the great north well worth it. Now armed with recon pictures, a good sense for the area, and a taste for some Canadian mountains, we will surely be back!

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Category: Avalanche Education.

Tips on how to stay safe in the late season conditions

Topping out in the Spanish Peaks, MT

Topping out in the Spanish Peaks, MT

 

By Clark Corey
Splitboard Guide/Avalanche Educator

How can people hang up the boards just when it’s getting good? It seems that every year, the season starts early and riders are itching to make those first turns when the snow flies in November and December. But when March or April roll around, for some reason, motivation seems to dwindle, as biking, rivers and climbing are just on the horizon.

Here in Montana (and many other areas), the months of March, April and May are when it can all come together. Early and mid-winter, the snow can be shallow and variable, plus the days are shorter and colder. But come spring, warmer storms help the snow stick better, and coverage in the alpine seems to shape up overnight. The days get longer, and temperatures become less-arctic. The avalanche hazard often becomes more manageable, and we can finally get out and explore some of those lines we’ve been eyeing all winter. These are the days to get out!

Avalanche centers typically wrap up their daily advisories in April (some stick with a weekly summary), so keep these things in mind as you head out:

Mind the Heat

When the snowpack has entered a full corn cycle (melts during the day and freezes at night), heat is the main thing you want to pay attention to. Be careful when temperatures start climbing and when strong solar radiation is present. In order to work around this problem, we can start early in the day (sometimes in the dark) and time it so that the descent is right when the snow surface is thawing. In the morning, the sun generally hits a northeast slope first and works clockwise, ending the day warming the west and northwest aspects. The harder the freeze and the more melt-freeze cycles the snow has been through, the more room you have to work with on timing.

Early sun on SE facing line - get it early!

Morning sun on SE facing line – get it early!

In corn snow, if the slush starts to become boot-top height; you’re punching through the supportable layer into mank; or wet sluffs/roller balls are starting to happen, it’s best to call it a day. If there is little or no freeze (snowpack is wet), than you might consider not even going out. Also be mindful of cornices: This time of year, they are quite large and serious heat can take them down. Rock fall can be a concern as well, so heads up while climbing couloirs when it’s getting warm.

Problems with New Snow

Up here in the northern regions, we don’t always enter a full corn cycle. Even if we do, they can be short lived. Continual, unsettled weather can certainly persist in the spring, which means that powdery conditions can often be found. Because spring storms are warmer, they often bond to underlying layers, but that isn’t always the case and the new snow can create its own instabilities. In fact, because the snow has more cohesion to it, this new snow can act more slab-like.

Cold snow on a spring day in the Tetons, WY

Cold snow on a spring day in the Tetons, WY

There are many reasons why storm snow might not bond (upside-down layering, graupel, firm bed surface), so unless you’re sure it’s sticking, it’s never a bad idea to let things settle out for a day or two after any significant storm before diving into steep, committing terrain. Hand pits and skin track cuts are really fast ways to see how well the new snow is bonding and how “slabby” it might be. Expect on the first warm and sunny day preceding a spring storm that you’ll experience some avalanche activity.

Don’t forget the wind

Wind slabs can also be a concern as spring powder can be accompanied by that lovely spring wind. These tend to be shorter lived, and warm weather can begin to glue them down within a few days. Keep an eye out for wind slabs at the tops or sides of couloirs, around ribs or side-walls of gullies, and on alpine faces. If you are climbing your line, constantly be on the eye for any suspicious looking pillows or drifts, and pay attention to the surface snow. Also, wind slabs resting on firm melt-freeze crusts probably aren’t going to bond well initially.

Deeper in the pack

Sometimes spring comes late. Abnormal years can make for abnormal avalanche problems. If winter is holding its grip and there’s a prominent layer of depth hoar in the pack, be very careful of big storms, drastic warm up, and intense sun. It’s natural to think that by April, the nasty layer of basal facets must be healed, but this isn’t always the case. Even after the couple big warm ups, if water has the chance to percolate down to the weak layer, it can wake it up, resulting in a massive climax avalanche.

Stack the cards and watch the weather

Slab avalanche casued by the first big warm after a heavy April storm

Slab avalanche caused by the first big warmup after a heavy April storm

The good news is springtime conditions can be easier to manage.

• Keep an eye on the weather forecast and remote weather stations. If it is forecast to snow, think about if it’s coming in warm and finishing cold (good bond) or if the storm is starting cold and finishing warm (upside-down storm, poor bonding).
• While in the mountains, test to see if the snow is bonded, and give it a day to settle out, if need be.
• If you’re worried about rising temps, than plan your day so that you’re not in serious avalanche terrain during the heat of the day (easterly and south in the morning; west facing later). If temps become too hot, than pull the plug and retreat.
• When there’s little or no freeze (again check weather forecast and remote stations), maybe it’s not worth even trying.
• During depth hoar years, be real careful when the snowpack is transitioning and when you don’t get a freeze.

Stay safe, have fun, and milk the rest of the season for what it’s worth!