Disrupting SplitTech with the Disruptive Splitboard Boot
Aaron Rose of Engearment interviews Hampus Cederholm and Christophe “Tal” Etallaz on the Disruptive Splitboard Boot and how they are changing the hardboot game.
ENGEARMENT: In Fall of 2021, newly formed Key Equipment out of France announced the arrival of their new splitboard boot, the Disruptive. Created by Hampus Cederholm (of Furberg Snowboards) and Christophe “Tal” Etallaz (of Plum Splitboard Bindings), the Disruptive comes at a time when hardbooting has exploded in popularity and marketing. Aaron Rose reached out to Hampus and Tal to discover how they ended up developing their own hardboot.
Aaron: I remember the first time I toured with someone in hardboots. He made it look so easy climbing on loose scree in his Dynafits compared to my slippery softboots. That experience prompted my first foray into the rabbit hole of hardboots. When did you get into the idea of wearing AT boots for splitboarding? Who were your influences in going down this route?
Hampus: My first experience with AT boots was back in 2015. Over the years working for Furberg Snowboards, I had a lot of questions about AT boots coming in from customers, which finally made me give it a try. I had already considered to give it for a couple of years because of their obvious advantages but was quite honestly skeptical about how they would ride.
Tal: I’m a curious person and I like to try things to form my own opinion. At first I was like, “Ok, this is not for me.” But during the development of the Plum SoK hardboot binding and month after month of riding and customization to the boots, I started to see the real potential of this tool for both tour mode and ride mode.
Aaron: The early days of hardbooting involved a lot of mods to different boot platforms and most sharing them on Splitboard.com. At that time, it seemed like a big gamble to dive into hardbooting with the most hardcore willing to void the warranty with their custom mods for more lateral flex and forward progression. How did you go about approaching boot mods and what were the key points that drove you to the Disruptive concept?
Hampus: My first try was with a pair of Dynafit TLT6. I modified them using the most commonly found recommendations online and a couple of other ideas to also increase heel hold. They turned out ridable, but far from the feel of my favorite pairs or softboots. The most common modifications made the the flex go from soft to really hard without any progression in stiffness. So from the start it was pretty clear to me that getting a progressive forward flex and adding more dampening would be crucial to have them ride as well as softboots.
Tal: The solution was to put a softboot, a binding and a hardboot in a blender and mix it!!!
- A soft tongue for a progressive flex on the frontside.
- A forward lean mechanism similar to what you find on softboot binding for adjustment of the forward lean.
- A unique hiback/cuff developed to offer medial flex and comfort.
- A ski boot base for great control of your skis in tour mode and a powerful ride mode.
- A premium quality liner, which adds comfort and shock absorption.
Aaron: Looking at Facebook group conversations in the past few years, it seems that there’s still quite a few warranties being voided and a bit of variability in preferences with boot mods. What common themes have you seen in hardbooters’ preferences and how has that influenced your approach to designing the Disruptive?
Hampus: One of the main issues we’ve seen with AT boots is their lack of heel hold. One solution is to add an ankle strap but that alone is not always enough. Therefore, a lot of people upgrade to higher quality liners, which are a bit thicker out of the box but can be heat molded to your feet.
Knowing this, we decided to go for the best possible liner we could find. After a lot of tests we ended up working with Palau, a French manufacturer located in the Pyrenees. Not only has the Palau liner increased heel hold and comfort but also the flex characteristics of the boots.
Aaron: Catastrophic failures do exist with AT boots as I’ve experienced myself with an upper cuff blowout. What are the key ingredients to a durable “hardboot” that lasts a long time and keeps you from spending money season after season?
Hampus: A lot of AT boots have a mix of materials in the cuffs. The transition between the two materials is definitely one of the weak points in that kind of design.
We have taken a different approach with a cuff made from 100% PU. The PU allows for a cuff that can be flexed a lot without breaking, but it also gives the boots better shock absorption.
Repairability is another important part of the design to make them last as long as possible. By designing the boots so that the customers can easily replace any part on the boots, there’s no need to buy a new pair just because of a broken part.
Aaron: If you had any advice for anyone considering an investment in a hardboot setup, what would you say to them?
Hampus: It’s a big investment, but it’s worth it in our opinion. Not only is the uphill going to be more enjoyable but you also get a setup that lasts longer than softboots.
ENGEARMENT: Much thanks to Hampus and Tal for sharing their insights with us! The Disruptive is available for pre-order. Check it out here!