With the American Olympic-medal sweep in Salt Lake, last year was a good one for snowboarding—but this season, recreational riders are the real winners. If you're shopping for a new ride, you're psyched. As the days grow shorter, your local shop will begin filling up with all the tricky new gear you've been so patiently waiting for, and this year there's some exceptionally good stuff.
Function and simplicity are the features keeping snowboard gear improvements moving forward. From cushy-tight new bindings to low-key but ultra-technical outerwear, form is blending nicely with function this season. Whether you need a whole new setup or just a few key items, get the inside line before dropping in.
From the editors of the world's No. 1 snowboard magazine comes their annual rider's bible: The 2003 Snowboard Buyer's Guide. It's the definitive source for all that's new in snowboarding. Or check out TransWorld online at www.twsnow.com /> www.twsnow.com /. But we know you can't wait, so here's a new-gear teaser to get you hyped:
A lot of this year's best boards feature standard vertical-sidewall constructions and all the good wood, foams and fibers we've come to love and rely on. In general, trends are toward a slightly longer board lengths for stability—a trend made possible by decreases in total weight. This formula results in a slew of new boards that are tight and responsive on edge—thanks to rigid sidewalls, while remaining stable at greater speeds due to increased edge contact.
[250AD CENTER]The price range runs from reasonable to ridiculous, but now more than ever, consumers have quality choices at all performance levels. And this makes getting new gear fun for all of us.
It should be no surprise—Rossignol Snowboards has put a lot into its pro team, and just as much effort into this year's board offerings. Check out the sidecut on Rossi's Premier and the wicked graphic on the Todd Richards' pro model. For something a little more turny, check out the Myth. Good values from Rossi include the Dazer and Nomad models—softer, user-friendly rides that don't cost a fortune.
Rider-designed for anything from the terrain-park to the backcountry, check out the new LTD Snowboards, including the Andy Hetzel model. Mean is the word. And there's another great line out of the Ride Snowboards factory this season. Always technically advanced the Ride Timeless series are a sure bet for all-terrain madness. With And the Fuel series boards—in a variety of sizes—are unmatched pipe and park performers.
The ladies are in for a board-frenzy as well. Check the ultimate in women-specific performance from Palmer: The Liberty Carbon packs a composite-loaded punch. Burton is also making strides in its gender-specific designs. From mellow runs on the corduroy to hiking the pipe with the boys, the Troop series and Feelgood boards are top-notch sleds balanced for women in sizing, flex and rideability. For a multitude of custom stance options, check out Jeenyus Snowboards' Tara Dakides model: Strap in, and ride like an X-Games champ!
The kids have as much to cheer about as you—the demand for better kids gear has been heard, and this season, the manufacturers are definitely looking out for junior. From Vermont's Hayes Brothers Boards pint-size powerstick, the HB138 (perhaps the only handcrafted-in-America, performance snowboard of it's kind) to Ride's Menace, the kids boards are hot. Salomon is another brand that's got the kiddies covered, with its scaled-down Fierce and Team models. Remember to upsize boards for your growing tykes—a few extra centimeters in length will extend the life before the board is outgrown and handed down.
If you suffered sore, cramped or frozen feet last season, maybe you need bh boots and bindings this year. If you do, make sure to buy them together. From your foot in the boot to the boot in the binding, your set-up should be snug and solid. If you're only upgrading one of these components, shop with the other, and try everything on—the importance of boot/binding fit and feel can never be overstated. Loose straps and cold feet spoil everything.
Vans brought us their new "Boa" closure system last season, eliminating the tying of bootlaces. This year it delivers the Contra—with all the high-end features the company's team riders demand. DC Boots follows suit with its laceless Stratus boot, as well as the standard, yet high-performance Phantom 2.
Northwave's, new APX Project is a rider-driven line of ultra-performance boots with clean styling. For women, Vans' Omni boot is an all-around comfy, good-looking choice. And from Salomon, the Optima, a credible blend of comfort and fit features, is a lot of boot for the buck.
Overall feel and ease of use should be the main things to look for in a binding. This is the product to try before you buy. Easy slap-ratchets, foot-hugging anatomic straps and padded baseplates are setting the standard in current binding design. Always try them in the shop, and don't be shy about giving them a thorough test. How easy in and out? Does your boot squeeze into the baseplate as it should? A good shop will take you through all of these questions.
There's more to with bindings than sick colors and chrome trim. Ride's bindings are always ill, and this year, it's more of the same. Check out the SPi and Flight models. For the shredder on a tighter budget (or with fast-growing feet) the LX and LS are a step down in features, but they still rock. Burton is another safe bet for bindings. From its super-tech C-14 model—lightweight, carbon-fiber weaponry—to the old-school stand-by Freestyle model, they're all good.
Technine, Flux, and SP Bindings are all strictly in the business of making bindings. Look for these custom brands at your local shop, or check them out online at technine.com, flux-bindings.com, and sp-united.com.
Women's bindings are basically scaled down versions of the men's models, with just as many choices available from all the top brands. For the kids, there's a tad less choice, but a few well-aimed questions to the salesperson, and you should be all set.
Though many step-in bindings are still available, it seems the market has demanded the traditional strap-style, so do your research if you're looking for something different: K2, Burton, and O'Sin have their step-ins dialed.
Rounding out your hardgoods setup with some fresh outerwear is a sweet start to a new season. It's all available in greater quantity and quality this season. The amount of riding you'll do, weather, and your body-heat index are things to keep in mind when shopping for outerwear. Let fit, style and price be your guide. Burton's AK line, Helly-Hansen, Arc'Teryx and Salomon's Bonfire brand offer functional, good-looking clothing this season. Features such as real waterproof-breatheability and understated style are all there—along with well-placed pockets, storm flaps and detachable hoods. Multi-layer insulator/shell systems are a smart buy, with price ranges as variable as the color and style choices. In-store try-ons are key with this piece of the puzzle as well. For more style-wise choices check out shred clothes from Volcom, 686 Enterprises, and Nike ACG.
For tons more, and all the rest of this year's best—from goggles, backpacks, helmets, and those other accessories you know you need, get your mitts on the 2003 TransWorld Snowboard Buyer's Guide—the ultimate riders resource book. But remember the funnest way to check out the new goods is by visiting your local snowboard shop. Educate yourself before you head out to make that purchase, and when you get down to it—ask questions and try everything out. It's going to be a very good year for snowboarding. Go get it.
Joel Muzzey is a senior editor for Transworld Snowboarding Magazine.is by visiting your local snowboard shop. Educate yourself before you head out to make that purchase, and when you get down to it—ask questions and try everything out. It's going to be a very good year for snowboarding. Go get it.
Joel Muzzey is a senior editor for Transworld Snowboarding Magazine.