It was designed with deep pow days in mind, but moments after strapping into Hightide's prototype asymmetrical swallowtail for the first time I'm leaving deep trenches down Blackcomb's groomers, slicing through tight radius turns, and holding a heel-edge surprisingly well on a deck that's built with the completely opposite asymmetrical formula most modern snowboards follow. That's just one of many unexpected traits of this 151 centimeter long creation, still in the test phase.
When Hightide's head shaper and co-owner, Akasha Weisgarber, started dreaming up the outline for the wild looking board, tentatively titled the Asymetrip, he turned to surfing for inspiration.
"In surfboard asymmetrics, you have a longer rail going toward the nose on the heel rail," he tells me as we ride up the Wizard chair. "The theory behind that is, you drive the nose up the wave because a heelside wave is harder than a toeside wave. In powder you're going to drive the nose up the hill and with the longer toeside you're going to really lay into those carves."
Almost all asymmetrical snowboards today have a shorter heel-edge, with a deeper sidecut radius that makes heelside turns easier. It's sound design simply because of the way our bodies are built. Our knees and ankles can only flex toward the toe-edge, so when we're sliding sideways on a snowboard it's always harder to initiate a heel-edge turn.
"It's totally in the theoretical phase," Weisgarber continues. "But I'm pretty set that this is a regular board. This is the second prototype. Last year, in the spring, we tested one that was shorter and wider and even more setback. I thought it was a bit too extreme. So hopefully this one is the one."
Weisgarber says "theoretical," because he hasn't ridden this board himself yet. It's been built purely from his imagination and six years of experience designing boards for YES. But that doesn't mean building the prototypes was easy. "Even designing on the computer with AutoCad is a challenge," says Weisgarber. "It takes a lot longer than a regular board." With his template worked out, the core and the base were cut from a CNC-machine, but he then had to hand-bend the edges to match the tight curves of the tail at his workshop in Pemberton, BC, about 25 minutes north of Whistler. This is where he's built all of Hightide's line himself, since November 2013. "It was difficult," he says.
It isn't just the asymmetrics that set this deck apart. While working on the 2016 YES Pick Your Line, Weisgarber added stepped-in sidecut at the inserts, a first for a YES board. As he designed the Hightide Asymetrip, he played with the idea of stepped in sidecut again, adding a 2-millimeter drop about 20 centimeters in front of the rear inserts. The result is a deck with the first two thirds of the effect edge running a 6.2-meter radius sidecut, and the last third a tight 5.3. His hope was that it would be easier to finish turns, while giving more taper for float in pow. The board also has an extremely low camber profile to help hold an edge on groomers but keep speed on the deep days.
As we work our way toward Crystal chair in search of fresh lines, I find that with the longer heel-edge, and deeper sidecut radius near the tail, I can drop into a tight heelside turn and lean forward onto the nose, which supports me and actually generates speed as I finish the turn. On the toeside, the longer tail fin also provides support to get low and power through the end of turns. The prototype I was riding was a little on the softer side, however, so I did occasionally wash out at higher speeds.
From the top of Crystal chair we cut over into CBC trees looking for a pillow stash. Dipping into my first thigh-deep slashes, the board floats incredibly well for a 151. Thanks to the surface area under my front foot, it behaves much like a surfboard—I can punch the tail in to drop speed and make it pivot like a road-tripping snowboarder's budget, which is to say really tight, or even out my weight to quickly regain speed.
The longer toe-edge swallowtail is immediately noticeable for extra support but makes toe-edge turns in pow slightly more drawn out. The short tail on the heel-edge feels like it's on a hair-trigger for turn initiation, but because the nose is floating above the snow, I don't notice the longer heel-edge nearly as much as I did on the hardpack.
We find a little pillow to air off in the lower section of CBC and it only takes a second to realize that the trick for landing on this thing is to keep your weight even. There's almost no tail to lean back on and so much volume in the nose that it's easy to stay centered and still have the nose breach the surface when you land.
This isn't a board for everyone, but it is a solid contender for a rider looking to build a quiver of decks that give a unique and entertaining ride on both hardpack and pow. I hope the Asymtrip makes it into Hightide's line for the coming season, with a little more stiffness. Either way, it's great to see a startup like Hightide, driven by Weisgarber and his partners Gabe Langlois, and Tyeson Carmody, innovating and pushing the boundaries of snowboard design as much as the established brands.
Length: 151 cm
Waist Width: 262/266 mm
Volume: 4,022 sq cm
Contact Length: 910 mm
Effective Edge: 1,110 mm
Core Thickness: 7.7 mm (in prototype)
Carbon: None (in prototype)
Sidecut Radius: 6.2 m before step/5.3 m after step