Stance: Goofy, Width 26”, Front 9 degrees, Back -6 degrees
Days tested: 10
Venture Snowboards has been on my radar ever since they moved to Silverton. I was living in Durango at the time and was very impressed with a start-up company moving to the remote San Juans.
I got to demo some of the original Venture decks, and I have to say that I was less than impressed. There was a funky stepped-back stance and a strange floppy characteristic that made the board unpredictable in turns and bumps of any sort. The only advantage to these early boards (though it certainly aligns well with riding in Silverton) was in DEEP POWDER.
Even though they were great boards in terms of powder specific components, what about the other days that are crunchy, sun-baked, slushy, icy, and worst of all, rocky?
Fast forward a few years and meet The Zephyr: a true testament to a company with unrelenting focus on figuring out the details on possibly the best board I have ever ridden. Let’s just say that next year I’m getting one of these.
Relative to the number of men’s boards that are produced, there aren’t too many women’s specific boards out there. And of the options we do have, most seem to be oriented toward entry level or park riders. So what’s a girl supposed to do when she’s more interested in slashing powder and riding steeps than cruising groomers? Enter the Never Summer Infinity, friend of the female, all-mountain rider.
Before I talk more about the Infinity, let’s briefly discuss the whole issue of “women’s specific” gear. What does that really mean? Is it mostly a marketing gimmick, or does it signify the implementation of important design characteristics? While I don’t claim to be an expert on board construction and design, I have formulated some thoughts through years of riding, selling, and testing out gear.
Women’s boards are generally marketed as lighter, softer, and narrower. Personally, I like all of these things, and yes, I still like to charge hard. Having a lighter women’s board relative to a men’s board works because women are generally lighter than men. I like to look at it as a ratio, and lightening up a board just keeps things even. As far as flex, I like my board to be a bit softer because it helps me feel what’s going on under my feet. Instead of being tossed all over the place, I can bend my knees and absorb the board’s movement. I started out on a men’s park board because I thought it was soft enough for me to flex, and frankly, at the time, I thought women’s boards were lame. I was wrong. I couldn’t flex the board with nearly as much ease as I thought, and it took much more effort to turn the board from edge to edge. This leads me to my next point: women’s boards tend to be narrower because women’s feet are generally smaller. This translates into faster edge turnover and quicker turns.
All this being said, if you have a larger boot size (generally 9 or above) or a bigger build, you may not want to go the women’s specific route. One of the worst things you could do to your riding is to get onto a board that’s too narrow and have boot drag. Before you buy, evaluate your weight, height, and boot size and figure out what is going to work best for you. I know plenty of good female riders who still rock on men’s boards.
Ok, on that note, let’s get on to this review.
The Never Summer Infinity is a directional, all-mountain freestyle board with both rocker and camber (which NS calls R.C. Technology). The rocker between your feet gives the board some play and forgiveness, while the camber under your feet provides stability and better edge control.
One of the first things I noticed about this board is its skating ability. Even though the camber is supposed to help the board track, it didn’t feel that way and I found that the board had quite a bit of play in it. If you are accustomed to a traditional camber board, it is going to feel out of control until you get used to riding rocker. The Infinity was the first rocker-camber board I had ever ridden and for the first week or so, I hated it. I had no control over the board and felt powerless. After adjusting my riding style a bit and putting more focus in centering my weight, things came together.
I have been on this board for the last two years and have ridden it at Taos, Silverton, Telluride, Crested Butte, and Snowbird, and in all sorts of conditions and terrain.
Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 181.5cm
Boots/Bindings: Salomon Falcon Pro CS / Marker Jester, DIN at 9
Mount Location: manufacturer’s mark, -3cm from true center
Days skied: 4
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 10/11 Jeronimo, which was not changed for 11/12, except for the graphics.]
Having read Mark Connell’s initial review of the Jeronimo, I was eager to take them for a spin. I’d used the K2 Kung Fujas as my everyday ski last season, but found myself growing increasingly tired of their very soft flex. With dimensions and a camber profile nearly identical to the Kung Fujas, the Jeronimos are different primarily in their much burlier flex. Given this, and as I was looking down at them on the lift (and loving the top-sheet graphics for reasons I can’t fully explain), I had some pretty high expectations for how the skis would perform.
Conditions in Summit County on Monday, March 21st were in full spring-mode. A day at Breckenridge brought everything from firm groomers in the morning to big, super slushy bumps and a park laps in the afternoon.
If you’ve ever complained about the fit of your ski boots (which is to say: if you’ve ever WORN ski boots) listen up: FISCHER has created the first fully customizable, heat moldable shell. Time to party like it’s 1999?
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 10/11 Jeronimo, which was not changed for 11/12, except for the graphics.]
First of all, let’s get it straight: ON3P is pronounced, “Oh-Ehn-Three-Pea,” and it is the name of a small, independent ski company out of Portland, Oregon. I’ve spent a good amount of time on these skis the last three weeks, and a number of people have said things like, “Sweet ONEPs” (“Oh-Neps”). At first I was confused. Then they were confused when I said the name properly, and looked at me like I was a snowlerblader. Fortunately, while the name ON3P is strange, the Jeronimo is a burly, well constructed ski for advanced skiers who know how to handle themselves in all kinds of terrain.
Do NOT buy these skis, however, if you don’t want to field questions from strangers all day. The Jeronimos definitely draw a lot of attention and a lot of comments.
The bindings were mounted at factory recommended, just three centimeters back from a true center mount. I had to get used to keeping my weight a little more centered rather than forward, and when I did, the skis started coming around better and I wasn’t working as hard to turn them. The Jeronimos don’t have a ton of sidecut, do have regular camber underfoot, and rocker out at the tip and tail. I know what you’re thinking: They sound awesome.
The ski is advertised to be for someone who charges the mountain all morning, then laps the park in the afternoon. Since the snow conditions were variable for the first few days I had on the Jeronimos, I started out with them in the park. I found the Jeronimos to work well there, and the only thing missing was that I didn’t feel like I could pop off the tails very well. Thanks to the forward mount, skiing backward to switch take offs are a breeze, and the skis felt very comfortable and balanced in the air. However, I can’t say that I would recommend the Jeronimo if you spend the bulk of your time in the park. These are a pretty beefy ski with fairly stiff tails, so they are really meant to be used in a different way (I’ll get back to this at the end). And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take them into a half pipe, which is generally my favorite feature. But based on how the Jeronimos perform on icy snow, I can’t say that I’d be super excited to ride 22 foot walls of ice on them.
After the next snowfall, I finally got to see what the Jeronimos could do around the mountain. The first time I got these in some soft snow they came alive. These things crave soft snow, and they plow through tracked up, skied out soft stuff. My best day on them came Three days after a storm in Taos. I was skiing with a couple of Squaw Valley rippers who were out visiting. Eager to show them what Taos has to offer, we headed straight for the West Basin ridge, finding pockets of untouched snow, and fun straight lines all over the place.
The Scarpa Mobe boot was lust-worthy when it arrived. It is quite well made, and a lot of attention has gone into designing a boot with a fair amount of lateral stiffness and a nice, progressive forward flex. It also felt light in my hand out of the box. I was excited to test this boot and I quickly developed high hopes for it – to the point that I was dreaming of getting rid of my alpine boots and just skiing the Mobe every day. For me, that is saying something, since I’ve never been impressed enough by any touring boot to consider skiing in one all the time.
Touring around my living room in the Mobe, the walk mode certainly seemed adequate. The boot has significantly more articulation than the Black Diamond Factor or the Salomon Quest, but it offers slightly less range of motion than the Dyanfit Titan. I found myself walking at only a slightly diminished stride in this boot compared to a true backcountry boot.
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Experience 98, which is unchanged for 12/13 & 13/14, except for the graphics.]
I first got on this ski at the SIA on snow demo at Taos Ski Valley, and it was one of the more impressive skis I tried during those three days. The Rossignol Experience 98 comes from a racing pedigree with an all mountain target audience. It has a wood core, metal sandwich construction, a side cut that extends all the way through the tip, and what Rossi is calling their “all mountain rocker.” Rossignol describes the Experience 98 this way:
“With the heart of a high-performance carving machine and a freeride touch and feel, it is one of the strongest do-it-all skis on the market. Traditional camber underfoot delivers power, energy and edge grip with rockered tip and tail that dramatically improves the turn initiation and flotation in any condition.”
Nice description, except for the fact that the Experience 98 has ZERO tail rocker, which is something that potential buyers ought to know before pulling the trigger. (See the photograph below.) However, while “rocker” is all the rage – so much so that many manufacturers are slapping some form of reverse camber on just about everything they make – the absence of tail rocker on this ski is a good thing, given that it is intended to be an exceptional carver.
My first impressions of the Experience 98 were good. The ski turned easily on groomers – quick edge-to-edge and silky smooth. That impression soon disappeared, however, when I took it into more difficult terrain. The ski became hooky and unpredictable, and was unstable at speed. I took the skis back to the Rossignol rep, Tyler, and told him what I thought. Tyler said, “come back and try it again tomorrow and I’ll set the binding back a little bit.” I did just that, and sure enough the ski performed much better: everything became smooth and stable, and speed and bumps were no longer an issue.
First things first: any board named after a ridiculous rider is going to get some attention. This is Mark Landvik’s pro model, a board for a guy who started heli-boarding at 16 and now spends his time cruising the world (Alaska and Patagonia anyone?) while trying to avoid avalanches (he was swept off a fifty-foot cliff by one this season).
The Lando is billed as an “All Mountain” plank, and it is packed full of the features that have driven snowboard innovation across the industry. This board has many features that are similar to those offered by competing manufacturers, but Lib Tech has themed their technology with consistency and artistry, not to mention pushing the development of the “strange.”
It’s easy to get confused by the Lib Tech terminology. For the purposes of this review, we are going to travel into the realm of, “What Can This Lunch Tray Do For You?” The Lando is certainly a board
that handles it all. But what does it handle best, and why?
Riding up the lift with a stranger at Snowbird, I was told the boards was “Easy on the eyes.” This really is a gorgeous board with graphics that look like DNA on acid, or love making snakes. Classic Lib Tech, at its best.
I was lucky to go to Snowbird to test this board and see how it handled the 3,000 ft per tram ride, with diverse terrain options available in every direction.
Day One: Up The Tram
This was my first time at the Bird, end of January, 2011. It hadn’t snowed in a while and some rain layers were lurking. Of course, when it’s blower powder, pretty much any snowboard will suffice, so the test conditions were perfect. We weren’t just riding deep powder, but a mix of pretty much everything: steep, sun affected faces; dry, packed chutes; icy, skied-off groomers; chattery, choppy run-outs; and yes, even stashes of untouched powder.
We used the first run to get our bearings and get used to the mountain. The plan was to board down the west side of the hill back to the tram. We headed toward Regulator Johnson, eager to open it up on a steep, open run. First turns on the Lando from the tram down the ridge were quick, responsive, and damp. This board is pretty dang stiff and very solid feeling underfoot. The sidecut of the board could be compared to a serrated knife cutting ice: there’s a little grind to it, and it is apparent that these serrations (Lib Tech calls it, “Magne-Traction”) enhances speed control – you don’t have to make as many checks or turns as you might on a board with traditional edges.
So what’s the Take Home Point with Magne-Traction? The serrated edge encourages tight radius turns and works to check speed – the rider definitely feels the grind. In my opinion, the Magne-Traction was too much. I’d rather have a smooth edge that allows me to go mach when I want to and check speed only when I have to. My style tends to be geared toward fast, big mountain tree and mogul charging, and the Magne-Traction seems a bit at odds with this type of riding. (Ok, now back to Regulator Johnson….)
Regulator Johnson was a slick slider slope and a wee bit sun affected already. I opened up some wide, huge carves on a very steep open run. I’m impressed by the Lando’s edge hold! I notice off to the left some moguls and a gate with two diamonds on it. I didn’t know where I was going, but those diamonds usually point to areas where you can get loose! I chop through some crud, trying to dig and ride fall line edge at speed to gage the chatter. I did notice some heel edge chatter issues, as if the board was so stiff it wasn’t dampening the bumps. This seemed somewhat contradictory because stiffer usually means more stable. However, snowboards have to be torsionally dynamic to accommodate heel-toe flexing changes. But I wasn’t reading too much into this since I’d only been on the board for a few minutes and there are always stance issues to work out before getting it right.
The MFD ALLTIME: Trekker Slaughterer, Duke Killer?
A dilemma exists for alpine skiers who want to access the untouched expanses of backcountry terrain but don’t want to sacrifice the performance of a high-DIN alpine binding. Yes, the release of Marker’s Duke and Baron bindings several seasons ago presented an attractive option. Yet for those of us who either can’t drop the cash on a pair; have issues with their notoriously low elasticity; are concerned with weight; or are looking to adapt an existing resort setup for touring, the options are very slim.
Backcountry Access makes the Alpine Trekker, which are adaptors that click into regular alpine bindings, creating a free-heeled platform designed to fit any alpine boot. Granted, depending on your boot size, using them with bindings with a tall heelpiece (most new Marker and Look/Rossignol bindings) may not work so nicely. The heel of your boot will rest on the binding, not on the bottom trekker platform. Regardless of these minor compatibility issues, Trekkers (or “Day-rekkers” as they’ve sometimes been called), can get the job done. I have been on a number of tours using them with only the slightest inconvenience. And yet, given the Trekkers’ heavy weight, bulky construction, lack of torsional rigidity, awkward 3″ stand height, and a build-quality that doesn’t seem to justify the $180 price tag, they make for a less than ideal AT setup. Soon, however, there might be a better way.
MFD Inc., a Salt Lake City based company, has announced their plan to release a new AT binding system to retailers in fall, 2011. The MFD ALLTIME, the company’s flagship product, aims to satisfy alpine skiers looking toward the backcountry while minimizing the drawbacks of an adapter system. A machined aluminum channel with releasable heel is mounted to the ski. From here, almost any high-performance binding from Salomon, Rossignol, Look, Atomic, Marker, 4FRNT, Tyrolia, or Head can be used. The ALLTIME comes in four different models to accommodate different binding mount patterns.
I was a little skeptical of the Black Diamond Justice, despite the good things I’d heard about it. I had previously owned a pair of Black Diamond Verdicts that I’d never grown to love, and I was worried that I might find the Justice to be a stiff, unplayful ski that was hard to turn. I’m a smaller girl and a telemarker, so I like a ski that turns easily, floats well, and pops….
Day 1: It was chilly and partly-cloudy day at Alta. Six inches of snow had fallen a few days ago, and conditions were soft but pretty tracked out. Given Black diamond’s burly reputation, I thought I’d start with a gentle groomer to feel out the ski. The first run was smooth and my first turn was near perfect. After just three turns, I nodded and gave my friend a thumbs up of approval. The Justice skied fast and beautifully carved turns. They didn’t feel like a fat powder ski forced to negotiate a groomed run, nor were they as burly and stiff as I had feared.
I then ventured out to Devil’s Castle to explore, sidestepping only a little way. There looked to be some soft, nearly untracked snow below us. I watched a friend ski before me. It looked soft but a little grabby, and I watched him take deliberate, careful turns. Then I dropped in. The snow was smooth in places, but there were buried ice chunks and random patches of wind effect. The skis preformed well, but turning wasn’t effortless. The Justice need to be driven with confidence. When they are, they impress with how well they plowed through chop. Once a turn was initiated I could trust them. The only place I felt caught off guard was making a little playful alpine turn at the bottom of the run. My edge grabbed me by surprise. While I could make a quick but intentioned tele-turn, a mindless, playful maneuver didn’t seem possible, which can probably be attributed to the stiff, non-rockered tail.
I’ve been on a bunch of boards over the years, and I am always looking to check out the best boards out there. I’d been hearing some buzz for a while now about the K2 Slayblade, and I decided that it was time to try one.
The first K2 I ever rode was an early 90’s super thick and super stiff directional board, appropriately named the “Gyrator.” K2 has made some updated versions of this board in the last few years, incorporating what they call, “powder rocker,” which is just their term to signify that a particular board has the greatest amount of tip and tail rocker in the K2 line up.
The Slayblade, however, caught my attention for exactly opposite reasons: SETBACK TWIN: it has no tip or tail rocker, ¾ stance shift, and no camber underfoot. They call it their “flatline” design. When I got my hands on one, I also noticed that the Slayblade was thin and near weightless. (Flatline. Get it?)
Admittedly, K2’s Powder Rocker shape had me dreaming of endless powder days spent bumping down super fluffy pillow lines. Then I remembered that I live and ride in Taos, where I need a board that is versatile enough for pretty much every snow condition and terrain type. TAOS has been called a four-letter word for steep. Sometimes, it can be described as icy and rocky. It offers world class riding and numerous technical lines off the ridge in two directions. The Slayblade sounded like it could be a good fit for the place.
First Run: On any snowboard, the first thing you notice is how well it skates: One foot in, pushing towards the lift line, or running it out towards another lift. The two lifts are connected by a run called the 5 to 2, which is essentially a narrow blue catwalk traversing the mountain. It is a great chance to move with one foot in and saves time on the important days!
One of the best things about Blister is that we have a lot of very smart readers who are out there getting after it. So we are starting a “Reader Review” feature. Here’s how it works: We will only publish reviews that are thorough, well written, … Read more
First Impressions: Salomon BBR, 186cm Ski dimensions (mm): 147-88-102 (176 cm) Radius: 11.5(166cm)/12.5(176cm)/13.5(186cm) Available length of skis: 166cm, 176cm, 186cm Boots / Bindings: Lange RX 130 / Salomon demo bindings Mount Location: began on the line, but read the review…. Test Location: Taos Ski Valley I … Read more