Drift began with three friends trying to create an affordable, efficient way to snowboard and powsurf in the backcountry. We weren't satisfied with splitboards and saw an opportunity for a product that combined elements of touring skis and snowshoes into something entirely new. The idea was basically this: Can we make a low-profile snowshoe with the added ability to glide, that still provides great float in a small enough footprint to comfortably ride on our backs while descending?

We made our first prototype out of some old plastic that quickly warped but proved some feasibility. My next thought was, "Why not use an old snowboard? That would be strong enough for sure, right?" We quickly got to work and started to rip, much like the splits so many of my friends had made. We added inserts, rummaged some Black Diamond climbing skins, and took them out for a run with some Voile split bindings. They worked! They weren't perfect, but they felt like just what we needed to to get our solid boards into the backcountry.

The prototype approach skis with splitboard binding and snowboard boot

That prototype was a catalyst to the eventual refined Drift boards we sell today, but the initial DIY solution had some readily-apparent issues. Our shape was off. We had too little surface area and lacked float. The tips on the snowboard didn't have enough rise and would get caught in the snow. Lastly, typical snowboard construction was total overkill. I knew if these were going to work, they needed to be purpose built from the ground up and much lighter. I was not going to convince anyone, including myself, that carrying the weight of two snowboards was a good idea. And we still had a binding issue; split bindings worked fine but still left us with many of the downsides of the splitboard system.

With those issues in mind, we embarked on the journey to make a featherlight, low-profile platform with the perfect shape to keep you on top of the snow.  We took out all the unnecessary stuff. No need for p-tex base material with permanent climbing skins. No need for camber, sidecut, or metal edges because we're not making downhill turns. What about flex? We're not making turns or moving over variable terrain at high speeds. In college, I was a welder for a snowcat company and learned that the key to float is to spread the weight across the snow. Stiff and light, that's all we needed. Carbon fiber was the obvious choice, having spent three years engineering carbon fiber components in the mountain bike industry.

At the same time, we developed a binding with the simple goals of being light, fast, and low profile. You might think our bindings don't look like much. We take that as a compliment! They provide everything you need and nothing you don't. They've been refined year after year to be light, strong, comfortable, and unobtrusive. They have the highest heel-riser options in the industry and work with a very slick crampon for those who can't be contained solely to powder. You can use a spitboard binding if you want, but we prefer not to.

The refined, modern Drift boards

Over time, these subtle insights and alterations came together together to create a purpose-built product that functions as more than the sum of its parts. Can someone whip up some "approach skis" with a trip to the pawn shop and a stop at Home Depot? Sure. Can a snowboard company cut a new mold and make some similarly shaped mini skis? Of course. But they're not Drift boards. Multiple companies have tried to make approach skis work over the years, but it wasn't until we ditched traditional ski and snowboard construction and built something from scratch, designed solely for uphill travel, that the secret sauce was revealed.

October 29, 2022 — Dave Rupp