Snowboard-Review 2014 Gear Preview

Another year at ISPO and the snowboard industry has once again invented another million ways of calling a spade a spade; for this feature on the coming season’s gear we’ll toe the line.

Nose shaping is the new reverse camber. Blunted, pointy, asymmetric… whatever, as long as it’s not round its in-Vogue for next winter. It’s not all about aesthetics, a number of brands are increasing nose length and kick radius to increase surface area and improve floatation and following the lead of last year’s K2 Ultradream, which undoubtedly borrowed the concept from 5D ski shaping. The Nitro Uberspoon and Lib Tech Speedodeeps Travis Rice are good examples of snowboards where effective edge has been sacrificed for surface area. These boards make a lot of sense for those riders who want to get freestyle in the backcountry. Of course Slash continues to push the double mini swallow-tail introduced by the CAPiTA Unorthodox a good few years ago, the light-hearted graphics on the Happy Place are awesome. Head has also jumped on the double swallow-tail bandwagon with Alex Tank’s new pro-model.  We liked the nose shape on the Salomon Assassin a new all-mountain twin which replaces the long serving Grip.

Freeride shapes continue to get even more surf inspired. Flow Snowboards aren’t a regular on Snowboard-Review, but the new Maverick and Darwin really caught our eye as we left the show. The Burton Fish has taken surfboard shaping to its next logical place with its new winged swallow tail which looks fun to splay across windlips and should draw some attention in the lift queues of Niseko.

Joining the redesigned Fish in Burton’s family tree line is the Landlord which looks like a slightly more directional Juice Box, the deeply swallow-tailed Cloud Splitter a halfway-house between the Landlord and last year’s Cheetah and the Burton Fishcuit which has been designed to be ridden with or without bindings. It has a long deck pad and almost full-length ICS binding channel which can accommodate a rope for Noboarding. It certainly looks like JG and Terje are getting to live their board shaping fantasies on their Big B meal ticket. 

After years of poking fun at freeriding and its followers, Bataleon has decided that it’s probably best to start a-fresh and so it’s added White Gold to “Yeah For It” distribution; a Freeride specific brand with aesthetics and technologies designed to appeal to Freeriders. The news on the grape-vine is that White Gold is headed-up by ex-Option pro Kevin Sansalone who is also responsible for Sandbox helmets. Currently the boards look like they are pressed in Bataleon’s current all-mountain and freeride shapes like the Omni and Camel Toe but have less polarising aesthetics than the Bataleon line-up and essential ‘old bearded man technologies’ like wooden sidewalls.

Despite closing their factories in Tunisia and Switzerland, Nidecker is still in the game and next year will continue to produce the Megalight, Ultralight and the completely redesigned Legend. The legend with its huge pointy nose and classic wood veneer topsheet looks like the love child of Arbor and Dupraz.

Snowboard legends of the past are popping-up left, right and centre with freeride brands these days. Fawcett Boards is the brainchild of uber oldschool shredder Mark Fawcett who rode for Sims many moons ago. This winter to compliment his line of plywood binding-mountable snowsurfers Mark also released the Tribute and Tribute Split. These completely reverse sidecut boards which take a leaf out of Lib Tech’s Banana Hammock snowboard are designed to bring the control of the board between the feet in deep, deep pow.

Talking of strange shapes, Endeavor’s new Archetype snowboard takes weird to a new level. The first board designed and manufactured in Endeavor’s own Vancouver based Archetype Lab, the Archetype has a narrow swallow tail /slit in its narrow pin tail, loosening up the torsional flex of the tail and causing the tail to sink in powder, much like a standard swallow tail. We got to ride the Archetype at this year’s board test, but you’ll have to wait until September for the reviews.
Ice addicted mad man Xavier De Le Rue gets a pro model at last with Rossignol. The Rossignol XV has a very slightly tapered shape, Mag edges, Amptek camberline and a revised flex pattern. The XV’s nose also features a slight 3D bow shaped form to improve stability and make the board more flowing in deep snow. The XV will also be available as a splitboard.

Another brand creating an interesting shape and ticking all the trend tick-boxes for next winter is Amplid. The Amplid Morning Glory developed by Amplid’s owner Peter Bauer as his go-to deck for deep days in the Bavarian Alps features a mini swallow tail (tick), Honeycomb in the nose to improve agility (tick), an S-Rocker camber line with camber under the back foot for slashes and edge hold and tons of rocker in the nose for glide in deep snow (tick) and new shaping which puts plenty of reverse sidecut in the nose just in-case you need any more float (ding, ding, ding, ding). Amplid will also be producing the MG in a split version and they claim it will be one of the lightest on the market… but it won’t be the lightest.

Nope the lightest splitboard of the year award goes to the Jones Ultracraft which thanks to its new experimental Balsa core is one of the lightest snowboards we’ve ever picked-up let alone splitboards. At a cool $1200 it’s a pricy option but for those on a tighter budget the Hovercraft is now available split. Other additions to the Jones line include the Aviator which is a very stiff almost twin shaped all-mountain freestyle board with traditional camber and raised contact points designed to loosen it up a little… but damn is it stiff. That said the simple graphics are bound to appeal to Jones’ core customer.

Salomon has also decided to split every board in its growing freeride line. Joining the battle proven Sick Stick and Powder Snake is the Derby, a mini 151 powder missile designed by Josh Dirksen to make the most of tight tree runs and snaking banked slaloms. Although it’s not as wide as the YES 420 it’s a very similar shaping concept.

There’s not just a boom in Splitboard board development going on, Splitboard bindings are also enjoying a lot of R&D time right now. K2 is resuscitating it’s long dead line of step-in bindings once upon a time known as Clicker and now rebranded as Kwicker (see what they did there). The Kwicker system has a Clicker style mechanism attached to an adapted Volie puck slider. The boots are kept light and responsive by using K2’s urethane Endo construction. According to early reports, the advantages of this system are that it’s very lightweight and quick to change modes. Another advantage of the system is that if you’re touring out in the backcountry nobody will be there to see you riding them. If you’re not ready to go back to the future with the Kwicker system, Spark R&D’s Magneto binding looks exciting. The Magneto’s USP is that you no longer require a pin through the toe of the baseplate during ride or tour mode. The binding is lightweight, low profile and in matt black anodized Aluminium it looks stealth.

A trend we’re seeing in freestyle snowboards is a move back to more conventional but not quite traditional camber. Salomon’s Flat-Out camber and Lib Tech’s C3 camber from 2013 must have raised some eyebrows as this year Endeavor and K2 joins the fold with the Clout and revised Slayblade. With its sky-high price tag the Endeavor Clout won’t be for everybody but the team at Endeavor claim that with its pre-cured fibreglass topsheet, new camberline and lightweight construction it’s worth the investment… hold tight for the review!

Capita’s board shapes are verging on the ridiculous and their graphics are on point as usual, we particularly liked the Terminator style topsheet on the 13/14 Defenders of Awesome. If you’re after news on new technology, you’ll have to wait or find another source for your news as the Capita stand was far too busy and we have little patience.

Of course, never people to leave a trend un-mocked Eiki and Haldor Helgason have cottoned-on to this tip shape trend and created their own DIY nose shape board. You can choose to ride your new Lobster deck with a big square shovel on the end or alternatively you can cut it down using the templates provided into a single or double breast shape. I’m sure there’s a joke about a pair of tits in this but we’ll leave it for a rainy day. Oh, Eiki’s new pro-model binding with Switch Back looks really cool… which is nice.

Now that Rome’s legal scrap with Bataleon over three dimensional base shaping has proven fruitless for the lawyers, everybody wants to give it a go. Rome’s new board the Brigade features trickle-down features from last year’s Cross-Rocket including Rome’s diamond shaped No-Hangups 3D Camber Profiling… if you like to buy a board going on the number of fancy features and marketing drivel on the spec sheet, the Brigade is going to be a winner for the price. Rossignol is also introducing 3D base profiling to its new Rock n’ Rolla snowboard, much like Omatic’s BS tech and Volkl’s Convex Slide Base this board is designed for catch free cruising and jibbing.

The Burton Hate’s new padded binding risers which are integrated into the topsheet graphic caught our attention as did the new Burton Nug Restricted which takes the Nug’s tiny shape and trades V-Rocker for Flying V in an attempt to put some extra pop into the board. It turns-out that riding very short boards wasn’t a one season fad and now Amplid is joining the party with the Pocketknife. With its super short kicks we’re told that the Pocketknife, unlike the Nug, isn’t meant to be a ‘one board fits all’ ride but is designed for transitions, jibs and rails. The short kicks enable Amplid to squeeze in an extra 8cm of effective edge allowing riders to size down to a 145 or 150 without losing edge hold.

So, to summarise:

• Camber is coming back very gradually to freestyle and all-mountain snowboards, be sure to try-out some of the new varieties.
• Rounded nose shapes are soooo 2005. Some manufacturers are changing their board nose shapes just for visual differentiation but there is some cool shaping being developed by others that is creating extra surface area in the tips for better powder riding performance.
• Snowboard brands are going mad for surf inspired freeride shapes. If you want to add one of these unique boards to your quiver remember the following buzzwords “S-Rocker”, “Reverse sidecut”, “Taper” and “Swallow tail” and you can’t go wrong… providing you have no intention of riding switch that is.
• 3D base profiling is another buzz word. Each of the different varieties rides differently so make sure you try before you buy!
• If the industry is right, every man and his dog will be splitboarding next winter. Weight is now the standard that separates the top manufacturers from the rest. There are some big steps forward being made to improve binding hardware.
• The uber short snowboard trend isn’t over yet. From micro powder boards to pocket-sized park weapons if you like short snowboards or you want something more agile, there’s has never been a better time to find your perfect match.

1. Endeavor Archetype
2. Endeavor Board of Directors
3. Endeavor Clout
4. Rossignol XV
5. Arbor Coda
6. Arbor Whiskey
7. Jones Aviator
8. Jones Mountain Twin
9. Jones Ultracraft
10. K2 Ultra Dream Splitboard and Kwicker binding system
11. YES Asym
12. YES Pick Your Line
13. YES 420
14. Slash Happy Place
15. Nidecker Legend
16. Capita Ultrafear
17. Capita Birds of a Feather
18. Capita Defenders of Awesome
19. Amplid Pocketknife
20. Amplid Morning Glory
21. Bataleon Park/Jib line-up
22. Lobster
23. Whitegold Line-up
24. Switch-back Eiki Pro
25. Salomon Assassin
26. Salomon Derby, Salomon Powder Snake, Salomon Sick Stick
27. Burton Cloud Splitter, Burton Fishcuit, Burton Landlord
28. Burton Fish
29. Burton Barracuda
30. Burton Custom
31. Spark Magneto Binding
33. Burton Genesis
34. Fawcett Snowboards
35. Lib Tech Speedodeeps Travis Rice
36. Burton Speakeasy
37. Burton Hate
38. Rossignol Rock n’ Rolla
39. Apo Empire, Apo Spray
40. Head Alex Tank
41. Rome Memphis boot
42. Nitro Uberspoon
43. Flow Maverick
44. Flow Darwin

Posted by Rich Ewbank in Features.

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What colour is powder?

Milo on June 13, 2014  at  11:05 PM

What would be the a better board, either Salomon Derby or Powder Snake?  I am more interested in riding all mountain, powder, trees and powder moguls.  I don’t venture into the terrain park at all.