2011-2012 Venture Zephyr, 155cm

2011-2012 Venture Zephyr, 155cm: Blister Gear Review

Board: 2011-2012 Venture Zephyr, 155 cm

Justin Bobb, hiking up Kachina Peak, Taos Ski Valley.

Dimensions (mm): Length 1550, Waist 250, Effective edge 1210, Sidecut Depth 21.60, Stance -20, Taper 5.8, Equivelent Sidecut Radius 8.48

K2 Thraxis boots, K2 Auto Uprise bindings

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.

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Never Summer Infinity, 151cm

Never Summer Infinity, 151cm: Blister Gear Review

Board: Never Summer Infinity 151cm, Regular

Boots: Salomon F20 W boots

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.

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Lib Tech Lando 157 C2 BTX WIDE

Lib Tech Lando 157 C2 BTX WIDE, Blister Gear Review

Boots: K2 Thraxis

Bindings: K2 Auto Uprise

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?

Lib Tech Lando C2 BTX WIDE

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.

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2010-2011 K2 Slayblade

2010-2011 K2 Slayblade, Blister Gear Review

Board: K2 Slayblade 155cm, Goofy

Boots: K2 Thraxis (stiff)

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!

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