Before we get into the review, a couple things here.
Statement number one: Spark R&D is the Independent Trucks of splitboard bindings.
While there have been plenty of advents and improvements to the field of splitboard binding interfaces and performance, Spark has repeatedly distinguished itself as the go-to standard for the industry. Recognizing this, even the big B has collaborated with Spark in the production of the Burton Hitchhiker splitboard binding, a derivation of Spark’s in-house products (Spark remains independent, though, rumors of Burton part-ownership and investment mere smoke and mirrors- From their headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, the company continues to do the overwhelming majority of its manufacturing processes in-house, independent of industry trends and flavours of the month).
Statement number two: The Spark Arcs are a pirate’s favourite binding
Not just fun to say, the Spark Arcs are adept at looting and pillaging pillow lines, wreaking havoc in dawn patrol skin-tracks, and evading polite society’s lift-lines. Yarrr!
So — the review.
I’ve been punishing my Arcs like Noah builds a boat, swiftly, brutally, and two by two for just over a season. I’ve seen a lot more than forty days and forty nights on these, and am confident in my ability to not only speak to their nature, but to have Russell Crowe portray me in a major motion picture, too.
Like any mammalian carnivore, the Arcs perform best in pairs, and it’s the understated, underfoot features that float them to the top of the backcountry food-chain. We’ve seen incisor heavy saber tooth tigers morph into lithe, lightweight cheetah style hybrids in just a matter of years; I remember the steel pins from the old Blaze models, the aluminum upgrade to the pin system, the dependence on external, brittle climbing wires, then the Magnetos, and the first iteration of the Arcs.
These are something different, and decidedly more advanced. Beginners and intermediates alike won’t have to suffer the way us old guys used to, and that’s a good thing.
Call it refinement, or call it an evolution, the latest model of the Arc continues to advance proprietary improvements with the whammy bar (climbing wires), cored-out baseplates and much improved straps. In a conversation with Spark employee Zach, he explained that the new “Pillow Line” straps are not only 46% lighter than its fabric predecessors, but that they are “fully injection molded. The materials don’t suffer the kind of erosion and wear and tear that fabric components might. They’re waterproof, lightweight and durable, and feedback from riders and staff all agree there are no hotspots or pressure points.”
I can definitely attest to the comfort factor, and happy feet (arches, toes, bones, veins and all) make for a way better day in the backcountry.
On the climb and the down, these are hands down the most comfy bindings I have ridden in. The shaved ounces are great, too, especially when spending all the waking hours I do in the field, mixed groups of light-is-right skiers and strong splitboarders no longer the exception but the rule (while not exclusive to the Arcs, another big plus Spark has available are the canted pucks- who knew 3 degrees could make such a big difference? These guys).
For rapid changeovers, on the fly adjustment and ease of use, the Arcs are where it’s at. When your lone gripe is “I wish there were more colours available,” life is pretty stinking good.
In conclusion, pirates, dirt-bags, cheetah hybrids, Biblical boat-builders and independence-loving splitters dig these bindings, the over-arching message to the Arcs and their review being thus: Yes, tough, durable, comfy.
And more colours. Please