What: Spark R&D Women’s Arc Splitboard Bindings
Where to buy: amazon.com
Perfect for: frequent backcountry skinning and riding
*Note: No gear or financial compensation was received for this review. The tester was asked to record her findings, positive and negative, when testing the bindings.
At OWA, the aim is to only publish reviews on gear that, after testing, is found to be beneficial for women outdoors. If gear is received from a company but does not pass testing standards, OWA submits the tester’s feedback directly to the company to assist with improvements. It is OWA’s hope that this process will help improve women’s gear across the industry as well as assist women in finding gear that stands strong in its purpose.
As a splitboarder, it’s much easier to keep time with the skiers in your group if your gear has minimal reconstructive and breakdown steps. The Spark R&D Arc bindings were created with the intention of filling this role.
The first time I used the Arc bindings, I skinned up to The Eiseman 10th Mountain Division hut in the rugged Gore Range north of Vail Valley, Colorado. Our group took the steepest, most technical route to the hut, gaining 3,000 feet in elevation over seven miles (1,100 of those were gained in a single mile) with 70-liter packs full of the weekend’s supplies. While at the hut, we skinned and skied the terrain around the hut, which has some of the best backcountry skiing in the area.
- 1.45lbs each
- Snap ramps requires no pin systems to cables to lock bindings into place
- A single full-width heel riser and heel rest catches riser at three degree options: 0, 12, 18
- Highback features a tool-free, 0-22º forward-lean adjuster that can be customized while touring
While prepping my gear for my weekend outing, I noticed that I did not have Spark pucks to match the bindings (I mounted the bindings on Voile pucks). While it wasn’t a big deal, it did mean I put in a bit of work to make sure I could use these bindings.
In order to fit the Spark bindings to non-Spark pucks, I needed to do some light sanding on the sides and back of my pucks. The bindings come with a small bit of sandpaper, which is a handy bonus. To prep for this, I put duct tape on the board’s surface in order to avoid sanding the coating and damaging the board. I then cycled through sanding and testing for about an hour before it was the right fit.
The entire approach to the hut required skins. As I skinned over the route’s different slope angles, I used all the degrees available in the heel rest. Being able to use my pole baskets to easily switch between the three heel riser options was key for quick changes. The full-width heel risers felt incredibly supportive beneath my boots.
The bindings stayed fixed the whole way up and I had minimal snow buildup underneath them. While there was snow buildup, as I’ve always found to be the case while touring, it was minimal compared to other bindings I’ve tested before. I felt secure and trusted the equipment to do its job.
My work sanding and adjusting the pucks really paid off. It was easy to slide the bindings off and on, and the toe-lock snap ramp worked well. I was able to hold each plank up by the binding in walk mode and the ramp stayed completely secure. It’s easy to tell when the binding is locked to the board with the snap ramp, making it one less thing to worry about in the backcountry. All you have to do is push down on the ramp beneath your toes and hear it securely snap into place.
Riding in the Arc bindings was solid. The bindings were stiff enough for backcountry conditions, yet reactive to keep my riding fluid and natural. Additionally, they’re incredibly easy to use whether you’re switching between touring and riding modes or adjusting angles to make your experience just right.
- Without the proper snow baskets on your poles, the heel risers can be a pain to use; however, Spark’s new Whammy Bars may fix this.
- First-time assembly with non-Spark pucks is time-consuming and requires significant preparation. I’d suggest purchasing the Spark pucks if you’re building your setup from scratch.
- lightweight material makes for easy mobility, even with weight on your back
- twelve- and 18-degree heel rest settings add to stability and comfort while climbing
- sleek, minimalist design; attractive without being too “girly”
- buckles and plastics are secure, lightweight and low profile
- snap ramps avoid the need for pins and cables
- side-lock touring brackets don’t clog with snow
- slide bindings streamline the ride mode assembly/disassembly process
- toe strap and a wider ankle strap allow for more reactive riding
- highbacks are flexible and adjustable; great for personalized backcountry riding