So you want a new snowboard. Ideally, you’d have a board for every condition: a powder board, a park board, a freeride board, etc. But if you’re like the majority of people out there, you find it hard to justify the purchase of more than one new snowboard a season. So you want a solid board that will shine all over the mountain, and grow with you as you progress in the glades, the park, the powder stashes, and the groomers.
The widespread desire for a truly versatile tool on the mountain is evident in the proliferation of marketing language that seems to claim almost every board is kickass, everywhere. It can be hard to figure out which boards really won’t hold you back when you’re charging hard all over the mountain. “I want a new snowboard and I want it to do everything. What board should I get?” This article is my best answer to that question.
I picked two boards each for men and women, most of them falling in the “all-mountain freestyle” category. I’ve selected one board in each pair that is truly jib-friendly and one that really leans more towards its all-mountain heritage. Why? For the most part, boards that are perfect for jibbing tend to be soft and rockered and don’t really play nice anywhere else but in powder or under a newbie’s feet…that’s just how it is. Those who truly have no interest in sliding on metal need not pick a board that sacrifices stability or responsiveness to play to that; those who intend to spend time on rails and boxes in addition to natural terrain will want a board that can tear up the mountain but doesn’t hold them back in the park either. Thus, two picks. Other priorities? Intermediate to advanced skill level, stable at high speeds and off jumps, and big-air friendly.
If all that sounds good to you, here are my picks for the best 2012 all-around “super boards” that will take you as far as you’re willing to go in any situation…as best as one board can.
NeverSummer Proto CT: Not to jump on the bandwagon of hype surrounding the Proto CT, which is NeverSummer’s newest addition to their lineup this year, but there’s a reason everyone is talking about this all-mountain freestyle board. All of NeverSummer’s boards have their patented Rocker-Camber technology providing the edge hold and stability of a camber board with a rocker’s ability to float through powder. According to NS’ engineers, their unique RC technology results in 3x the amount of edge hold as a regular camber board due to the placement of the camber along the board. The Proto CT is meant to be a combination of NeverSummer’s Evo park board and its SL all-mountain board in a true twin shape. Blunted tips reduce swing weight in the air for getting spinny, but maximizes effective edge on the snow for stability. A sintered base absorbs more wax and makes this board super quick. A superlight wood core, heaps of pop, and stability at high speeds were all characteristics noted in online reviews. The twin shape and slightly softer flex (reviewers noted it to be “medium flex”) allow you to take this board in the park without feeling like it is holding you back on the jib line. Best of all? This board is made right next door in Denver. To read my related article on NeverSummer’s 2012 line, click here.
Cons? That $539.99 price tag might give you a sadface. But, if you’re going to shell out that much for a board, NeverSummer is a great bet as they’re well-known for the durability of their boards. In particular, the Carbonium laminate on the Proto (newly branded this year) is chip and scratch resistant, and the P-tex sidewalls have been described as “bulletproof” by users. They’re also not the easiest brand to find (though I do know Satellite Board Shop in Boulder carries NeverSummer).
Ok actually one more gripe. I wish they made a version of this board for women.
Rome Agent: Rome is known to make quality boards that rip hard, and the company enjoys a loyal following from its fans. The Agent has been around for a while, but it got some new bells and whistles this year. For one, new this year Rome offers the Agent in both a traditional camber as well as a “rocker” shape which is actually a hybrid rocker-camber profile. The Agent Rocker features Rome’s QuickRip Sidecut technology, meaning there are four points of contact along the side of the board which will increase its edge hold in an attempt to compensate for the edge hold sacrificed by the rocker profile. Reviewers on agnarchy.com reported being confident “maching down a Michigan steep” on hardpack on the Agent Rocker. The Agent has an “almost twin” directional shape for better float in powder, and like most Rome boards it has plenty of pop thanks to Rome’s Basalt Reverse B PressurePop Tech. This is a stiffer board (rated a 6.5-7 on a scale of 10 by this agnarchy.com review), showing the board’s all-mountain leanings despite its characterization as an “all-mountain freestyle board”. You can jib on the Agent, but it will take a more effort to get into your presses and butters. The Rocker version will definitely be better than the camber, but if sliding rails is as important to you as tearing up the rest of the mountain, the NeverSummer Proto will be a better bet.
Rome Blue: Good ol’ Blue. I’ve ridden the Blue through deep Colorado powder days, skidded over scary iced over groomers in California, and taken it off kickers and drops, and this board has been my best friend through it all. The first thing I noticed about the board was its incredible pop – I was easily getting an extra 3-6 inches from the same amount of effort as I used to put into my previous board. Technically, the board profile is hybrid rocker-camber, but Rome’s adaptation of this for the Blue means a mostly cambered profile with tips that turn up just a bit earlier than a traditional cambered board. For all intents and purposes, this board rides like a cambered board. This is a stiff and responsive board intended for the advanced to expert female rider who likes to charge hard and go fast. It’s great for popping off jumps in the park but this is just not your ideal tool for boxes and rails due to its flex (or rather, lack thereof). I went ahead and still picked it in my top two for women’s boards because I just love it just that much – it’s killed it for me everywhere else on the mountain and helped me greatly progress my all-mountain riding. It’s not cheap though, at $470.
Forum Spinster: Technically, the Forum Spinster is classified as a Freestyle/Park board, but while reviewers from sbcwomen.com said this board “might just be the perfect women’s park board” they were still thrilled with its performance on natural terrain. A review by thegoodride.com says, “The hybrid rocker shape has proven to be a good ride for many other boards out there and this is true with the Spinster. Even though Forum is owned by Burton…they didn’t follow Burton’s hybrid rocker design. It seems to feel/be more like the hybrid rocker boards from Never Summer, Mervin and Rome.” This is a good thing – Burton’s hybrid rockers have in the past been reported to feel squirrelly at high speeds and on hardpack, compared to generally favorable reviews of NeverSummer’s and Mervin’s hybrid technologies in that aspect (I have however read that Burton improved its hybrid technology this year). The Spinster is cambered and stiffer underfoot to deliver pop, and rockered and softer between bindings and under the tips so you can really get into that press in the park. The twin tip shape and blunted edges reduce weight to make it easier to spin and ride switch. Being a freestyle board, the Spinster is on the soft side (a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being stiffest, by Forum’s own rating system). Forum’s “Booter Boosters” system is featured on this board, meaning carbon strands are inlaid between from feet to the tips of the nose and the tail, helping you launch when you want to get air. Finally, how can you resist the graphic of an adorable kitten holding a switchblade or Forum’s tag line for the board: “I’m not your ****ing sweetheart.” The $399.95 price tag is reasonable too.