TW test riders compare deep-snow designs.
By Kurt Hoy
Longboards in the over-180-centimeter range enjoy a sort of cult following. Designed for stability-both at high speed and when landing big drops-longboards are the least specialized of the three designs ridden during the Powder Tools review.
It’s length (and a setback stance) more than powder-specific design that enables longboards to ride well in deep snow. An XXL board underfoot is confidence inspiring to say the least, but massive effective-edge lengths and zero taper (same nose width as tail width) makes this category of boards more of a chore to ride than either tapered boards or swallowtails.
Advantages to the traditional longboard shape are that its upturned nose and tail enable riders to go both forward and fakie, and it rides more like a regular board in variable conditions, including hardpack.
Pluses: Stable, ability to ride both forward and fakie
Minuses: Heavy, hard to maneuver
“Longboards are solid at high speeds-they allow you to ride with confidence.”-Bryan Iguchi
Float, planing, a balanced stance, and the familiar feeling of a traditional freestyle or freeride setup make tapered boards the go-to design for everyday powder shredding. Step onto and board like Burton’s Fish-with 2.5 centimeters of taper-and snowboarding is redefined. We started looking at terrain with a totally different perspective, going as far as to say things like, “That’s a Fish line.” The short- and narrow-tail maneuverability of tapered boards turns otherworldly lines into child’s play. Add to the mix a nose with so much surface area (relative to the tail) that it practically can’t sink, and landing cliff drops is almost too easy. Recoveries are automatic-it’s almost impossible to fall on one of these boards.
Powerful, full-rail riders may miss the tail length at first, but a new center will come quickly. Because of the lack of tail surface area (length and width), tapered boards aren’t the most stable choice for high-speed I-lining and AK-style big-mountain riding.
Tapered boards are the most versatile of the powder-specific designs. Every quiver should have at least a moderate taper, whether for East Coast trees, billy-goating a technical line at Blackcomb, or-at the very least-to shred powder without the sensation that your back leg is actually on fire.
Pluses: Easy on the legs, great short- and medium-length turning in powder, fits in a standard board bag
Minuses: Lack of stability at high speeds, radical tapers can create back-foot boot-drag issues on firm or variable snow
(tapered board )
“The thing I like most about tapered boards is the added floatation without compromising the feeling of a freestyle board.”
“Two centimeters of taper and the unmakeable is easy-once you get used to riding with no tail.”-Kurt Hoy
“Tapered boards are super quick and maneuverable. The amount of float in pow always surprises me.”-Seth Wescott
The swallowtail is an almost mystical design-the board of powder purists. Built with a singular purpose, swallowtails are the most specialized of all the powder-board variations. Massive surface area at the nose and a narrow, split tail means that swallowtails can’t help but plane in deep snow, even at low speeds.
Swallows require surprising little effort to ride-stand up and pressure the nose for the most stable, high-speed board imaginable. Weight the tail and the board will loosen up enough to make tight turns through trees.
Guch summed swallowtails like this: “The most unique ride I’ve ever experienced. Worked amazingly well in deep snow and turned tightly when you needed it to.”
At home in big terrain and bottomless, untracked pow, traditional swallows are generally reserved for backcountry riding. Even the best in-bounds powder days don’t justtify a full-length traditional swallow. Better to go for a version like Rossignol’s Half Gun or even a tapered board.
Pluses: Unmatched float, planing, and stability in deep snow; reduced back-leg burn
Minuses: Hard to ride in variable/hardpack snow conditions, nearly impossible to ride/traverse backward (fakie)
“On a swallow, you can ride through anything and land anything.” -Seth Wescott
“Swallowtails give you the most relaxed stance, almost eliminating “pow-leg” fatigue.”-Bryan Iguchi
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To learn more about powder-board designs and how they compare to each other, check out the interviews with Bryan and Seth on twsnow.com.
CMH-Home Of TransWorld’s Powder Tools Board Test
Boards were being shipped to TransWorld. Guch and Wescott were confirmed. The search for a location was on. We had only two criteria: helicopters and powder.
Canadian Mountain Heli-skiing delivered. CMH invented heli-skiing in 1965, and it now operates nine different lodges in eastern British Columbia. The Powder Tools board test was held at Galena Lodge, near Revelstoke, B.C.
Galena is known for its terrain and its tree riding-“Some of the most amazing features I’ve ever seen,” said Guch. Runs flowed from open bowls and faces to gullies to glades and cascading pillow lines.
To plan a trip with Canadian Mountain Holidays, visit canadianmountainholidays.com.