Early October. It’s usually a time for wiping the dust off your snowboard, applying some tender off-season care and watching the movie premiers in anticipation of the season. This year, however, it’s a little different. Wolf Creek, Colorado and Ski Las Vegas started spinning their lifts by the 8th and usual suspects like Loveland and A-Basin followed suit shortly thereafter.
In other words, if you plan to buy a new rig, you’d better do it in a hurry. Because Old Man Winter isn’t waiting around for you. We cut through all the rocker/camber, directional/twin-tip, freestyle/freeride/park/pipe hype to provide a short-and-dirty list of best boards for your style.
Jeremy Jones–the preeminent big mountain rider in the world–has split the past several seasons between shooting footage in all corners of the world for his groundbreaking trilogy Deeper, Further, Higher and getting his snowboard brand off the ground. Given that and Jones’ unparalleled experience as a big mountain rider, there’s no other board you want strapped to your feet when you’re staring down a 12-foot-wide, 50-degree chute that ends in mandatory air.
When I asked Jeremy what his favorite board was, he played coy CEO and started pointing to every board in the line, saying he relies on each one for different scenarios. Fair enough, when you’re a pro rider and company founder, you get a never-ending quiver. But when you’re an average Joe with a limited budget, you have to choose. And you can’t go wrong with The Flagship, a powerful bomber with rocker-camber construction, mellowed-out Magne Traction and directional shape. The board ranges from 154 cm for lighter riders and ladies to 168W for the big boys.
The Technine Icon earned a Transworld Good Wood award in the “men’s all mountain under $399″. You don’t have to be holding a stash to appreciate the Bob Marley/marijuana-inspired graphics (Biggie and Tupac also available), and you don’t have to be riding anything in particular to put the twin cambered shape, carbon-kevlar stringers and poplar core with honeycomb air insert to work. From park hits to the woods to groomed straightaways, the Icon will serve it cold.
The Gnu Park Pickle earned itself a Transworld Good Wood award in the “men’s park boards over $400″ category. The magazine found that the board’s asymmetrical shape and heelside/toeside specific sidecuts help to deliver fast, reactive turning. As the name “Park Pickle” indicates, the board is a full rocker, bringing all the float and playfulness thereof. Magne Traction helps deliver stability and edge hold.
The Rome Whiteroom won a Backcountry 2012 Editor’s Choice award. But, then again, so did five other splitboards. What sets the Whiteroom apart from a pack that includes the Venture Odin Split and Prior Brandywine Split is its price. While the other boards on the list are all over $800, and some tickle the $1,000 mark, the Rome Whiteroom prices in at a mere $600. Unless you plan to do a full season of earning turns, chances are that a splitboard will be but a single arrow in a large quiver, so saving a few hundred dollars while getting an award-winning splittie is money in the bank. Literally. Backcountry liked the Whiteroom’s flex and turning response.
Just a few years ago, powder boards stuck out like sore thumbs. They were the retro-styled, pointy, split-tailed freaks in a somewhat homogenous pack of snowboards. Nowadays though, more and more companies are offering powder boards. And it’s no wonder, since powder riding is the purest, most butterfly-inducing discipline in the sport.
None of the powder Johnnie-come-latelies have the history of the Winterstick Swallowtail. Companies like Burton and Sims may have solidified bigger names and empires, but Utah-based Winterstick was also one of the OGs of snowboarding. And the Swallowtail was one of its two original models dating back to the 1970s. It was designed to tackle the world-renowned, bottomless powder of the Wasatch Range and was refined and improved over some epic-deep winters. While others waited around until the late-2000′s to catch onto the fad, the Swallowtail invented it and got after it for more than 30 years. Winterstick boards are now built just outside Telluride, CO by Pete Wagner, one of the industry’s true mad scientists who also designs fully custom skis. The Swallowtail comes in both regular and splitboard varieties, so it’s perfect whether you enjoy your pow lift- or leg-served.
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