Words: Tyler Macleod
Photos: Owen Ringwall
Despite a well-documented existence to the point of overexposure, it's still difficult to pin down the true ambiance that surrounds Jackson, Wyoming. It's a geographical oddity that somehow synthesizes cowboy culture and LA-fueled overindulgence within the same vein–a place where generations-old ranches still reach for the horizon while celebrities simultaneously seek refuge within their multi-million-dollar retreats.
In Teton Village, the direct hub of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, it's not uncommon for the local moose to engage in awkward confrontations with the fur-clad, high-earning members of our society. There's a constant clash between the wild and the domesticated. Between the bygone and the present. But somewhere in the midst of all of this–between that true Wyoming grit and the fabricated world beyond–lies the palpable heartbeat of our own snowboard community. Much like Jackson, we've been torn between the push toward mega-resorts and industry trends, while still clinging to our DIY roots and simple affinity for the turn.
Luckily that gritty, rough-around-the-edges work ethic proves very much alive in Wyoming and beyond. Each year at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the entities that comprise one end of our community's spectrum meet up for one truly authentic snowboarding experience: the JH Shaper Summit. Now in its seventh year of existence, the JH Shaper Summit–spearheaded by longtime local and snowboarding purist Rob Kingwill–brought together brands both big and small for three days of board testing, shared visions, ShredTalks, and a celebration of snowboarding's past, present, and future.
In a large tent just steps away from the iconic tram, well-known brands like Nitro, Never Summer, and Arbor brushed shoulders with niche shapers like Franco Snowshapes, Elevated SurfCraft, and Grassroots Powdersurfing. Among them were other companies on the rise–the likes of Weston Backcountry, Cardiff Snowcraft, and Telos Snowboards. It was a broad spectrum of shapers, some with wide appeal and others with cult followings, pushing snowboarding forward while conserving the purity of its past. For them, the art of the turn and the search for untracked lines are still paramount. They always will be.
Neary 150 testers from all corners of the snowboard community rifled through nearly 500 different boards–some powder specific, others quiver killers, and a few sheer novels–while Mother Nature blessed the Teton Mountain Range with over six feet of snow over the course of just five days. It was the recipe for a truly organic snowboard testing experience, where the turns were deep, the terrain was bountiful, and the vibes were at an all-time high. For three days, testers experienced the thrill of strapping into new and dynamic shapes, while the companies who constructed them benefited from the extensive feedback provided. All of the results will be compiled as part of the event's Rated Radical Test, which will be available in the very near future on RatedRadical.com. If you’re looking to upgrade your quiver with some truly progressive powder designs, you now know where to look.
But the overwhelming highlight of this year's Shaper Summit was the chance for everyone in attendance to experience one of the most historic months of February in all of Jackson's history–a month where 23 of the 28 days saw reported snowfall, where each of the three days of the Shaper Summit started and ended with bottomless turns, and where every powder board was thoroughly tested in its most ideal environment. Like many times in the past, Jackson delivered the goods. There's an energy here that can never be replicated, at least not until the Tetons' next historic snowfall.
The point being, snowboarding is alive and well. Both in Jackson, Wyoming and beyond. While there will always be that push and pull between past and future, between authenticity and artificial, the core of our community–and certainly the town of Jackson–will always remain true to itself. We’d like to thank people like Kingwill and events like his JH Shaper Summit for making damn sure of that.
Continue below for words from three of this year’s distinguished brands about boards that stood out to us as truly awesome designs.
Cardiff Snowcraft – The Crane
“All of our boards come in splits as well as regulars, so this is the split version of the normal build. As you can see in our core, we have carbon fiber as well as a combination of strong, lightweight woods. It has a vertical core, transitions into dampening plates under the foot, and then it returns to a vertical core. What is unique about this board is what we call FLOATilla™, the nose is a bit wider, and you combine that with the HALFcamber™—which is camber underfoot and early rise starting just outside the binding in the nose. This one is 65% HALFcamber™, and also has as a regular sidecut underfoot that then transitions into a reverse sidecut camber outside of the bindings. That combination allows for a really cool float, and also gives you a perfect pivot point for riding in tighter areas. All in all, The Crane is designed to be more of a directional camber all-mountain board, but it does have a few super cool additional features, like these 1mm SPEEDbumps™—reverse side cut bumps aligned with the bindings that add grip and a tighter sidecut radius—and 2.5mm of taper in the tail. This thing is your everyday driver and will come in four sizes next year: a 148 for women and kids, a 152, a 158, and a 162.” – Bjorn Leines
World Boards x Never Summer – Powder Slayer
“The Powder Slayer is an extension of the Mountain Slayer—the first board I had a lot of success with that I designed with Never Summer, and a slightly directional all-mountain charger. The Powder Slayer has the same guts, but this board has one centimeter of taper in the tail. It's set back just a little bit, so it is mostly camber underfoot and then transitions just in the nose for early rise. This gives it a pretty standard, almost twin feeling when you ride on a firmer day, and makes it totally possible for someone who really loves to rip around the mountain to make this their daily driver. When powder is there, the elongated nose makes all of the difference in the world when it comes to float. However, the secret to both the Mountain Slayer and Powder Slayer for me, is that these boards were built by Never Summer—whose factory capabilities are incredible—but they are lighter and more poppy because they are fully cambered and they have one strip of carbon in the nose that isn't found in the tail. This makes the tail just a tiny bit softer and more playful. Furthermore, this board was designed with a bi-axial lay up, which makes it foot steerable. If you are ripping through chunder you wont get bounced, but when you want to go a little slower and play in the trees you can bend your feet to foot steer and have a lot of fun with it. The Powder Slayer has a really fast, hard base—built with the hardest plastics that Crown Plastics makes. Typically, because of the bi-axial lay up, you would think this board might be a little softer, but because of its extra structure in key places it becomes a charger that can handle both powder and hard pack. Never Summer's board builds are top of the line and last forever, so when they invited me to come design my own board, I made a few modifications, added camber, and ended up with this. I love it.” – Jay Moore
Franco Snowshapes – The Ness
“The Ness was originally designed for a man named Ness Birmingham, and ultimately it was made to be a board that you can just wake up and grab—something you can take out any day of the week. It performs at its best on a clear sunny day when you are just doing some aggressive carving, however, I have also really loved this board on days where you maybe get six or so inches of new snow—even up to maybe ten, however, that might be pushing it. Unlike a lot of my more specific board designs, The Ness can be ridden switch if you have to; but it's really just a slightly set back neutral directional board. You can take this to Steamboat, you can take this to Jackson, you can really take this board anywhere you want to ride, and you will be ok. Typically, I design boards that are extremely customized for a very particular rider. The Ness is the most standardized stock board that I make, designed so that everyone can ride it and really enjoy their day. Every so often, there is a customer that I cannot communicate with enough as much as I typically would like, and when that happens, I tend to steer them toward a board similar to this. It may not be as pinpointed as some of the boards that I make, but this one will always get the job done.” – Mikey Franco