MFG: Spark R&D – The Splitboard Binding Company
Consistently ranked one of the top ski towns in North America by high profile
publications such as this, Bozeman has it all — snow, sun, a progressive community and
natural expanse that only Montana can afford. Now they have something else — Spark R&D, a
small brand best known for designing a splitboard specific binding.
Now entering its seventh season, the Bozeman based company is enjoying great success far beyond the Bridger Range in its backyard. With riders like Travis Rice and Xavier de le Rue backing them, these bindings have been proven in mountain ranges across the world, something that must have been a dream in the mind of founder, owner and occasional janitor, Will Ritter not that long ago. “Years ago a friend took me splitboarding for the first time and despite the rudimentary equipment, I was hooked,” he begins, “however, I thought that for these boards to really work well, they needed a specific binding. The weight, height and flex of the original binding/plate set up just wasn’t cutting it.” Working at a local product design company at the time, Ritter was able to apply some of that experience to his own idea. “It didn’t take long for me to draw up my first prototype, in which I saw improvements immediately.” Within 6 months Ritter had quit his day job, rented a shop and started buying equipment.
Not only was Ritter’s design lighter weight than the other interface available at the time, but it also enhanced the overall performance of the splitboard by creating a lower profile and rigid feel. His original designs were dirt simple to use in touring mode and gave boards a much quicker response –something that was missing from the designs of his predecessor(s).
There is (arguably) neither a better scene for on-site R&D, nor a better market for this product than Bozeman. “At our local ski hill, Bridger Bowl, they have an open boundary with multiple zones for hiking and skinning,” he explains, “most of the prime freeride terrain at Bridger is accessed this way, so the place has a way of turning most resort riders in to backcountry riders as they get used to working for their turns.”
Spark’s binding is actually helping the growth of splitboarding. “In the span of a few years we’ve gone from just explaining what the heck a splitboard is, to really getting in to the details of our gear with people we bump in to.” The explosion of splitboarding has created an infectious enthusiasm that, in Ritter’s estimation, reaches over half of the “over 25” population in Bozeman. “It’s very satisfying when we hear that our bindings got people into splitboarding or to hear how much better people enjoy touring or the ride with our components.”
Though the brand is the talk of the town these days, Spark R&D hasn’t forgotten the original platform for their success — searching out new areas in the quest for powder. “The most important thing I hope we can do is to encourage snowboarders to get after it that much more… in Bozeman and beyond.”
For more on Spark R&D visit their website at sparkrandd.com