Maybe we should just call them all-around boards.
The freeride category used to be cut and dry: If you freeride, then you buy a directional board and steer clear of the park. But now, with freestyle snowboarding moving out of the park and into the backcountry again, riders are sometimes choosing to run the very same directional freeride boards that they slay the peaks with in the park-a switch-up that wouldn’t go as smoothly if a rider was trying to take a dedicated freestyle twin out into the deep pow at high speeds.
Nicolas Mueller says, “Basically, when I have a board that I like, I ride it for everything. I ride fakie a lot in all types of terrain, but the Burton T6 is so aggressive and has a lot of sidecut-its directional shape just feels natural everywhere including the park.”
Annie Boulanger has a similar approach: “I ride the same board but different sizes for park and powder. The Salomon Ivy is a slightly directional board with the perfect width and stiffness for a girl. I ride a 157 in the pow and a 151 in the park.” While the Ivy is marketed as a freestyle board, it has all the characteristics of a good freeride board making the situation even more confusing. Man, the lines are really blurring on this one.
The basic qualities that make a board “freeride” are a directional shape (as opposed to twin-tip), a set-back stance (as opposed to centered), longer lengths, and often more stiffness or rigidity for going fast and dealing with ungroomed conditions. When you think about it, skateboards and surfboards are always directional, too, for similar reasons.
Don’t sell yourself short-unless you plan on strictly doing hot laps through the park and pipe, you should consider an all-around board (is that catching on yet?). The freeride group is also where you can start amassing your quiver as it keeps diversifying from the ginormous lengths of the Lib Tech Doughboy 193 and the tapered Burton Fish, Malolo, and Triumph to the Option Sansalone, the Arbor Abacus, and finally the powder-friendly Winterstick Swallowtail. Freeride boards are simultaneously becoming rigidly specialized and completely versatile. How’s that for confusing?-Annie Fast