Brand Test - Volkl Squad, Coal & Cashew Snowboards Reviewed

Volkl is one of those brands that we’d always heard good things about and although they’re a highly regarded and popular ski brand their snowboard division has never really benefited from the same exposure and popularity. Nevertheless they’ve always supported a very core squad of European and Canadian riders and by all reports have made some quality decks over the years. Anyway, with this in mind, SB-R thought it about time our readers found-out whether the hype was justified and contacted snowboarding legend and Swiss distributor of Volkl Harry Gunz in the hope he’d send Tom a few boards…needless to say Tom wasn’t disappointed!

Putting the Volkl Coal, Cashew and Squad through their paces

Volkl Squad 155

The squad is Volkl’s park rocker; designed with the versatility to ride big kickers, pipe and rails with the same amount of prowess. In all honesty as soon as I stood on this board I felt comfortable; it felt stable, poppy and felt grippy despite the rockered profile. To begin with I was expecting the Squad to be too soft but I was surprisingly impressed by the boards lateral (torsional) strength and longitudinal rigidity; probably a 6 out of 10 for both. This doesn’t mean to say the board feels cumbersome; it’s still poppy and lively at both low and high speeds, and deals very well with big transitions and kinky rails…..obviously depending who’s riding it.

Although the graphics may not be to everybody’s taste they reminded me of 1980’s skateboard graphics; and although the grip tape is a useful addition when you’re riding one footed, the board does seem to collect a lot of snow! If I have a couple of small criticisms of this board it’s that I felt more vibrations than usual when straight-lining into kickers at high speeds and it was a little heavier than some other decks on the market in the Squad’s genre.

Despite those two small criticisms there’s no denying that the Squad is a great park snowboard that can do everything in the park very well and is a ton of fun when jibbing around the mountain. You’d be very lucky to find a quicker base on any board and the build quality is exceptional. I felt so comfortable on this board that after 4 or 5 runs through the park I was trying new tricks over the 14m kicker in icy conditions.

Volkl Coal 162

Snowboardcross riders, big mountain chargers and speed freaks take note; if you thought you’d been fast on a snowboard you haven’t ridden the Volkl Coal! Probably one of the most stable, lightening quick, and edge sure boards on the market; take this thing through a Snowboardcross track and you’ll lay all the competition to waste……trust me. Until I took this board for a spin I didn’t really see the point in going fast, unless I was running into a big jump. The Coal managed to change my opinion for an entire day; I found myself straight-lining everything and carving so aggressively that at times my chin was no more than 10cm from the snow.

Everything about this board screams premium materials and quality. From the Volkl Race Lab PTEX 4000 splitbase, which is the fastest base I’ve ridden by a long way, to the; Carbon, Aramid and Fibreglass weave’s that layer this board. There is also ridiculous dampening under foot helped by the Cellcore inlays and AVS system; this board was so solid and damp that I found myself straight-lining crud and mogul fields.

Despite being unbelievable on the piste and on the Snowboardcross track the Coal is great fun in the backcountry. If Matt Goodwill was still riding in competitions then this would be his board of choice… can literally charge steep faces like Johan Olofsson in TB5 (if you don’t know what I’m talking about then have a look on Youtube). The Coal has a surprisingly floaty freeride shape and has no problem ploughing through variable snow conditions and sticking big drops.

Now to who’s going to get the most out of the Volkl Coal. In all honesty this board would only really suit a rider that is very experienced, powerful and likes charging everywhere. If you’re a chilled out easy rider then you may want something that is a little more forgiving and requires less energy to ollie and pop out of turns, especially in the deep stuff. This board is very rigid both torsionally and longitudinally, the result of a ridiculous amount of reinforcements. My only criticism is that as a consequence of all the materials used to make it perform so well the Coal isn’t the lightest of boards; but if you’re riding snowboardcross and charging steep faces that won’t really matter. Just remember never to take it on the rails because you’re more likely to snap that rail/box than you are the board!!!!!!!

Volkl Cashew 157

Volkl say that if you’re a big footed rider and you’re looking for a deck that excels in the off-piste but is also competent on the groomers and comfortable off jumps then the Cashew could be the board for you. Alternatively, if you’re a heavier rider and you want a board for riding powder but would like to ride something a little shorter and environmentally friendly then Volkl have the answer.

The Cashew is a freestyle/freeride deck designed to float easily in the deep stuff but remain playful, poppy and manageable in those tight tree lines. This float is not only aided by the sheer width of the board but also by the rockered profile and convex powder base. The Cashew is also the most environmentally friendly board that Volkl have ever made, with; a linen/hemp topsheet, wooden sidewalls, recycled steel edges and a sintered base of which 80% constitutes of recycled plastics.

So, what does it ride like? Well, in the powder it’s a great deal of fun and floats effortlessly. Not only is it a joy to ride in the deep stuff but it feels very stable when landing big drops and the longitudinal flex although relatively firm doesn’t tire you out when ollieing and bouncing around.

This is all well and good but I would say that when you take this board onto the piste and into the park it doesn’t perform half as well and although Volkl market it as an all-mountain/park/backcountry board in fairness it only really excels in the backcountry. On the piste the Cashew feels a little unforgiving underfoot and will definitely get your teeth chattering when you start powering through icy variables and crud. Also, unless you have big feet you’ll loose a lot of response from edge to edge; having size 8 UK feet (US 9) I found initiating turns really slow and I felt that a lot of jibbing and spin tricks off of kickers were really compromised. Had my feet been a couple of sizes larger the width would have been ideal. Nevertheless, the Cashew doesn’t really lend itself to park riding as the flex is a little too firm for both rails and off-centre landings, and the sidecut is a little long for spinning and controlling the board at low speeds, specifically for jib setups.

In conclusion; if you’re a big footed rider looking for a deck to shred on powder days or deep into the backcountry then this board is a belter. But, if you spend most of your time in the park or on the piste then Volkl have developed other boards that will do the job much better; the Squad, Squad Prime and Coal are three such examples. At least if you get bored of Cashew and its eco hemp construction, you can smoke it.

Posted by Tom Ewbank in Features.

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What colour is powder?

Steve Medeiros on March 22, 2010  at  03:04 AM

Grip tape on a snowboard?  Wow, that just gave me a fantastic idea! :)