Why you should add a board to your lineup this year, instead of replacing one.
Five seasons ago, Austin Smith returned from Japan, where he'd noticed a bunch of oddly shaped, surfy-looking boards. Fueled by envy of the different shapes, he built his own deck in a buddy's garage in Bend, Oregon. In 2012, he teamed up with Bryan Fox and the pair used Smith's homemade template to create a wide, 154-centimeter swallowtail, which would become the first deck in Nitro's Quiver line along with a twin rail board and a directional all-mountain board. The reason, Smith says, is that both he and Fox liked to ride a variety of terrain and didn't feel like one board could maximize all those different disciplines or conditions.
There's since been a swell of innovative shapes from larger brands and start-ups like Hightide out of Whistler, BC and Korua Shapes based in Switzerland. With more nuanced boards than ever, Smith suggests that "If you already have an all-mountain board that you rode 15 days last year, instead of looking for a replacement, maybe try something different. If you buy one of these powder/specialty boards, they last you a long time because you're not riding it every day. It could last you 10 years."
Many of the smaller, niche brands also feature minimal or no graphics, making the boards more timeless and challenging the idea that you need to buy a new deck each year, simply because the look is outdated but the technology often stays the same.
The starting point for any quiver is usually a powder board on top of your standard, do-it-all deck. Traditionally, that's meant something longer, but many designers are embracing width over length to give float or shrinking boards by setting stances way back, leaving a small tail and a massive nose. Each has its own, sometimes unexpected, ride.
"Pow boards are surprisingly diverse," says Alex Warburton, who's been designing YES boards for five years, including the stubby 420 and the strange new 20/20 with its scoop nose and tail. "That's what everyone found with the 420. It's like, 'Holy shit, this rails, it holds a turn really well.' All these elements were discovered by taking a powder board and riding it on hard pack, which most people were reluctant to even try, but because everyone is embracing it, the attitudes have really changed."
At the same time, the snow surfing and carving movements have ignited an interest in face-scraping turns followed by contortionist-inspired reverts out, suddenly making sidecut—a key factor in how tight a board turns—a bigger part of the conversation.
K2's offering in the space is the Cool Bean. The profile blends a belt-busting 287-millimeter waist width and a 143-centimeter length with a tighter-than-average sidecut that ends at the very tip of the swallowtail for a deck that holds an edge on groomers, is almost impossible to boot out, and floats and pivots in pow.
"Cracking open a board with an extremely wide waist width, a lot of purists would say 'No way'," says Hunter Waldron, K2 Snowboards' design engineer turned global marketing manager. "It just felt like we were curious enough to overcome that because it's time to try something new and take that risk. Our approach with these boards that look very powder-oriented is that we want them to perform other places and make a really legit hardpack turn."
The reward for shaking off the yoke of standard freestyle or all-mountain decks in favor of a quiver is a world of boards that can revitalize your on-hill experience.