Snow is in: propaganda chokehold proves ineffective.

Snowboard marketers would just as soon have riders chasing their tails like dizzy dogs-following trends dictated by The Man and spending money according to the formula-but there’s no masking what is most riders’ reality.

The snow element of snowboarding is lurching back into shred consciousness. But freeriding isn’t a catchall: just because you’re not killing it beyond the orange pill (the new sign that denotes freestyle terrain at resorts), doesn’t mean you default to being a freerider. To wear that label, you have to light up any and all terrain with skill, speed, power, and most of all fluidity; it’s how, not what someone rides, that makes a good freerider.

Mike Dunn of Glissade Snowboards advises, “Those who truly freeride need a board that’s at least a few centimeters longer than their freestyle board, with a stiffer flex for steeps and speed, and a radial sidecut for better edge hold.”First-year board brand Steepwater is dedicated to the far end of the cause and takes the freeride sidecut one step further; its boards have a taper-meaning the tail is narrower than the nose-for sheer stability. The Steep model is offered in longer lengths (170 and 178) with sidecut radii that rival that of the equator.

Burton’s Fish picks up at the other end of the spectrum: Terje wanted a board he could “surf” on. After filing through old models in Jake Burton’s closet and gleaning ideas from fun shapes of the past, the Fish was born-producing the most undiluted injection of no-bullshit smiles to hit snowboarding in a decade.

Making up the middle ground, there’s nothing a good general-purpose freeride board won’t do well-from holding it down at Mach dos to spinning tricks mid-face. When Burton rider Johan Olofsson looks into the crystal ball, he sees the direction of freeriding continuing toward “bigger, faster, smoother, and more technical.” So, if you’re into hard-charging and you don’t expect to hike a rail in the park when there’s two feet of fresh, investigate the boards called freeride-the category that defies categorization.-Kurt Hoy