We’re fairly certain that trade shows have been around since the dawn of time. The snowboarding industry isn’t the first, nor the last, group to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to standing around in what is essentially a repurposed warehouse, talking about the thing we love to do most, without actually doing it. Instead of this tired program, the Rome Snowboards crew has decided to flip the script on the traditional trade show experience, instead opting to set up shop in an Austrian lodge nestled in the small village of Schoppernau, a five-minute walk down the road from the Ski Resort Diedamskopf.
What looks to be a simple lodge on the outside has been internally outfitted with all the essentials, transforming it into what might be the perfect snowboarding destination. A fully stocked and merchandised product showroom on the second floor contains all the latest Rome decks, boots, and bindings, as well as key pieces of the glove collection and newly revamped apparel line. Waiting in our rooms we found one of the latest additions to the line, a custom Rome Lodge branded Mt Hoodie, which boasts a Neverwet DWR coating and plenty of pockets, as well as a copy of the 2017 catalog. The central zone of the lodge is certainly the kitchen, where meals are prepared each morning and night by our hosts themselves, consisting of local cheeses, meats, and of course, plenty of schnapps. Rounding out the offerings is, of course, plenty of beers, and what could be defined as an industrial-grade boot dryer in the basement.
This is, by all accounts, the best way to test snowboard products and learn about them. Spending less time talking and more time riding just makes sense. The chance to get a personal feel for each board is huge, although swapping out decks after a few runs sometimes feels like abruptly ending a newly budding relationship. Instead of looking at binding or boot schematics, you try them on, learn the nuances, give feedback, and gain insight into design features you might not have normally understood had they not been strapped to your feet. By immersing you in the lifestyle and experience, the Rome crew successfully accomplishes what your average tradeshow simply cannot.
Days were spent ripping laps in many varieties of conditions, allowing us to properly test out all the gear offerings. Hot laps with a solid group of riders led to searching out new side hits and gullies, as well as blazingly fast groomer runs. The days were sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny, and we were even provided some fresh snow on the final day of riding. To understand how a board or binding responds in these different conditions meant truly knowing the product was up to snuff, instead of simply being told that it was.
A few notable standouts in the board line drew the attention of many in our crew. The new Blur, a riff on the old Anthem SS model, was a sleeper hit, combining a new flex pattern with a tried and true camber profile that seemed to have been a bit ahead of its time some years back. With a directional shape and superior carvability, it was hard to let go of this one.
The new RK1 series of boards were impossible to ignore, with each one of the group’s members claiming their own signature deck, all created as a direct result of the riders’ specific feedback and input. Stale Sandbech’s Mod is ultra powerful and stands apart with a new nose and tail shape, along with an ultra fast base material, the fastest on the market, in fact. The somewhat recent additions to Rome’s pro team, Alek Oestreng and Len Jorgensen, also put their spin on two Rome favorites: the Agent and the Gangplank, respectively. Alek’s Agent boasts a new, unique shape, as well as a slightly more forgiving flex compared to the standard Agent, allowing even quicker edge-to-edge initiation. Len’s Gangplank immediately stands out from the crowd due to its board graphic, a unique menagerie of images, sporting a turtle with rockets strapped to its shell, among other small details all chosen specifically by Len himself.
The all-new Powder Division shapes immediately command attention, coming in a 148cm Swallowtail, a 154cm Moontail, and a 160cm Pintail. Although suited for deep powder conditions, they carve like absolute dreams, even if the super elongated noses are a bit of a mindfuck while riding. Another brand new deck, the Mechanic, has also been added to the lineup and is described as one of the most durable park boards out there, along with having the most bang for its buck compared to other park decks currently on the market. It's worth noting that the tried-and-true shapes you’ve come to expect from Rome were crowd favorites. The ever-versatile Agent, the middle-of-the-road flexing yet hella-fun Reverb, the legendary Artifact, and of course the standard Mod along with its Mod Rocker variant.
The boot line is currently in its third year of being completely revamped. Familiar names like the Folsom and Libertine make their annual appearances, although they’ve been rebuilt from the ground up, along with being granted a nice aesthetic facelift. It’s worth noting that the Libertine now also comes in a BOA option, for just a touch stiffer ride when compared to it’s traditionally laced counterpart.
The bindings division has taken a leap forward as well. Think of the all-new DOD as the next big advancement in binding technology from Rome, upgraded with new toe and ankle straps, a brand new highback, and a cored out heel hoop for less weight. The Katana returns with its incredible adjustability now made much easier due to improved hardware that allows you to loosen and slide, instead of fully removing bolts. Finally, the Targa returns with a facelift of its own, shedding the older, bulkier highback for a new, sleeker model, as well as a new heel hoop design that allows the chassis to weigh in at 15 percent less than last year.
Of course, it’s not just about the product. The Rome crew has made a point to experience much of the Austrian culture that makes the location so unique. All the meats and cheeses are locally sourced from farmers a mere few blocks away from the lodge. Imagine getting to meet the cows and pigs you’ll eventually consume next year. Suffice to say, those guys are the ones who aren’t granted proper names. Even the schnapps is distilled locally, much to the enjoyment of our squad, as well as the local proprietor.
One of the standout days had to be the trek out to the Neuhornbachhaus Lodge. Owned and operated by Gebhart Rüf, who shares a namesake with a certain Austrian legend by the name of Gigi. At the completion of a quick traverse and a short hike out, we came upon the lodge nestled within the mountains, which is mainly accessible by foot, since snow covers the trails for the majority of the year. For those interested in snowboarding history, it was also the site of the first Nixon Jibfest, with the rail from the original contest leaning on its side, a relic of the glory days. Upon arrival, we were instructed to load our gear into a small gondola-like contraption, which whisked our boards and packs down the mountain, to the confusion of many. This small fact was quickly drowned in a tray of beers brought out by the bar maiden, and then followed up by a few more rounds of schnapps. Prost!
Our guide then instructed us it was time to head outside, where our chariots awaited. Rodeling is the act of riding a wooden sled down what appears to be the sketchiest run of all time. Ice, slush, rocks, and other rodelers are the obstacles that you’ll encounter, as you peer over the edge of the trail, which slopes off incredibly quickly. After a fifteen-minute battle, using your arms and legs to attempt to steer the death rocket, as well as to fight off the competition, we ended up back in town, exhausted, and still pretty buzzed. The final ride down the mountain capped off a glorious week filled with new friends and an overwhelming amount of good times. We’re not sure a better way to experience snowboarding actually exists, but until then, we’ll be out at the lodge enjoying the ride.

You Might Also Like