Snowboarding makes its encore Olympic appearance this season, and manufacturers have been working overtime to bring us the goods. The big deal for 2002 is choice. The consumer has more options than ever for finding the snowboard setup that's right in fit, performance and price.
Each year a slew of new gear floods the shops, and we're here to break it down for you and highlight some quality products. And all these cool new toys aren't just for the kids. Check 'em out.
Remember, there are about 100 legitimate snowboard companies out there—some big-name, some you've never heard of. And that doesn't even take into account the toy-store junk (beware!). All told, there are perhaps a thousand different models to be found. Naturally, we can't cover them all, so you might not see the board you've got your eye on here.
For the most complete review we know of—covering hundreds of new products for the upcoming season, and offering a mountain of snowboard-related information—check out the TransWorld SNOWboarding Magazine Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now. And look for it online shortly after Labor Day at www.twsnow.com.
The old argument between cap versus standard sidewall construction is still smoldering, but advancements in design and performance keep coming. Composite materials and bona fide research-and-development are bringing us boards that are lighter, faster and more responsive than ever. There's a simple formula to follow when choosing your new ride; consider these three variables: fit, look and price.
Fit is most important. Any good shop should be able to profile your fit needs based on height, weight, ability and boot size. As for how your new board looks? One could argue there are factors that are far more significant, but you'll have to stare at the thing all season, so get a board that looks sweet to you. Of course price is key. Are you a beginner? How often do you plan to ride? Do you need the very best? Consider these things and you'll be ready for action when you go shopping.
A few eye-catchers for this year: the Lib Technologies Jamie Lynn Pro, a handmade in America shredder that will make a great all-mountain ride. Two new pro models from the Rossignol factory—the Todd Richards and the Andrew Crawford—are both solid, and come in enough different sizes to accommodate different body types. The more reasonably priced Rossignol Dazers look like good bang for the buck as well. And for folks with feet size 11 or great, the Burton Canyons and the K2 classic Fatbobs are a safe bet. Choices for women riders are on the rise, too. Burton's Troop series are excellent freestlye/freeride boards available in a bunch of different lengths. Salomon offers up the Ivy and the Seek, both lookers with light cores and fast base materials; and K2 delivers the women-specific Luna series; again this year, they are a good ride for a bit less green.
For the kids there's just as much variety: Burton, Völkl, Sims and Ride are all looking out for the groms. When shopping for Junior, consider growth between now and next season, as well as price. The coolest board in the shop will be no fun if it's too small or too big. As far as graphics go, kids have the best choices: cartoon robots and alien mutants are the call this year.
Boots and bindings should go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you're shopping for one of these essentials, be sure to bring the other piece of the fit-puzzle out shopping. Boot/binding fit is key for fun on the slopes. If you need to buy both boots and bindings this year, buy them together, and make sure they're right-on.
For snug comfort, DC Boots brings the air-bladder fit back again; available in its Revolution 2 and Phantom models. Burton's techy Ion boot is another nice one for performance and support. The Moto is a good all-around boot that's a good value as well. Super light and stiff, Salomon's Malamute and Rossi's Ultimate model both look good, too.
Again, pllenty of choices for women: Thirty-Two's Yota and Griffon models feature a unique fit and lightweight comfort. The Salomon Kiana and Rossignol Diva boots are some more excellent choices. Lighter on the wallet are the K2 Luna and Thirty-Two Minon.
For kids, Airwalk, Elan and Vans are all making good-quality, warm boots.
When shopping, be sure to put the boot on and stomp around the shop for awhile to ensure proper fit and comfort. Trust your instincts on this one; cold, scrunched-up feet means more lodge time, and no one wants that.
They've come a long way baby. Most manufacturers are sticking with standard strap-in bindings, and they continue to make improvements. Many step-in models are available, too. Overall feel and ease-of-use should be considered as you consider your options. And this is definitely the product to try before you buy. Quick slap-ratchets, comfortable straps and cushy baseplates are features to look for in a new binding. Try them in the shop, and remember you'll be out in the cold when you're putting them to the test. Try strapping and un-strapping with a mitten on, and see how easy they are. Drake bindings have all the trick features. The Matrix and F-60, in particular, have good looks, fast in/out and are fully adjustable. Burton's C-14 is the probably the lightest, techiest thing out there; the Mission and Custom models have similar features and have stood the test of time. Good stuff is also coming out from: Technine (check out their pro models) and K2 (the K2 V-10 binding looks as good as it feels). Rossignol's Unit100 and Ride's LS are solid values.
For riders into the step-in bindings, check out K2's Clicker system, the no sit-down original. Burton's Si is another good one. The step-ins are a specific boot and binding system, which makes shopping a little easier. Try rental step-ins if you've never ridden them before. The feel is a bit different than the old standard, and something that takes getting used to.
Outerwear, goggles, backpacks, helmets and everything else you could imagine is available in greater quantity and quality this season. Again, consider fit, looks and price when you're putting the finishing touches on your set-up. Helly-Hansen, Arc' Teryx and Salomon's Bonfire brand are pumping out some sweet, technically advanced outerwear. Features such as breathe-ability, water resistance and style are all there—along with handy pockets, storm flaps and cozy hoods. Layering is the common theme and the price range runs from mild to wild.
Goggles are getting better, too. Well-sculpted frames, comfy foam and a rainbow of lens tint choices are all out there. Oakley's A-frame is an excellent choice at the top of the features food-chain. Both Scott and Smith continue to refine their high-tech eyewear for the slopes: Check out Scott's slick High-voltage model, and Smith's Triad styles.
In helmets, Boeri, K2, and Pro-Tec are keeping our heads together this winter with snowboard-specific skull protection. The K2 Ultramatic model and the line of Pro model helmets from Pro-tec look safe, stylish, and warm.
Nifty doodads from backpacks (K2), to boardbags (Burton), to pocket tools (Bakoda) and waxing irons (Swix) are available as well, and there's so much more. If you still haven't run out of money, check this stuff out, too.
When you get out there to shop—ask questions, try everything on and don't be afraid to get a second opinion. Demo any products you can, before buying, and study up. Until then, save your cash, and pray for snow.