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!
I unload at the top of lift 1 and head down toward lift 2, kicking a few times to gather some speed. I ride goofy, and the majority of the traverse is on my toe edge. Once I turned heel to speed check, I had trouble bringing it back to toe, and found that it was easy to overturn with one foot in on the heel side. This is usually due to a wide stance. I stopped, thought about it, and was able to correct the overturning issue by placing more weight on the back foot (balancing the weight distribution).
Riding my first “fully connected run” down Bambi from the top of chair 2, I start to get a little looseon the mellow-sloped packed powder. Making wide turns and pre-jumping small rollers, the board felt weightless. The edges dug deep and held tight control. No matter the type of turn – whether slow with big arcs or fast, bouncing from edge to edge, it maintained incredible grip.
Bambi is full of fun little hips and wind blown lips on the left side. Taking airs and cutting high-speed turns, the responsiveness of such a thin board is impressive. In a word: zippy.
Lorelei Trees: Traversing on a snowboard can be tricky. I entered Lorelei trees (a steep, east facing tree run often covered in moguls) on a long heel side traverse toward the most north facing aspect of the run. The first few steep and deep mogul troughs in the low spots of the traverse caught my attention as the board’s nose was digging in and bucking me forward. The relatively sharp sidecut (7.90) and short length (156cm) were tricky to balance at first as the board found the “inner” mogul a few times, jarring me forward and disrupting momentum. I found it best to maintain speed and pump / release my weight through the bumps. Once again, I was impressed by the board’s ability to hold a solid edge. While locked in full contact edge, turning feels effortless. And the ¾ set back binding hole pattern helped maintain speed and fluidness in powder and crud.
Kachina Peak: bottom line is this board is responsive and quick. I took to the peak in full sunshine, a few days after a storm. The conditions were consolidated set up powder. I noticed immediately going down K4 through the cookie-crumb rock face that I didn’t have to work to lean back and keep the nose up. All effort was spent turning and trying to figure out whether I was moving fast enough. There are padded cushions under the binding inserts called Harshmellow, which aid incredibly in dampening through high-speed chatters and crud. Landings are also quite nice with the little bit of cush under your feet.
PROS: the board is snappy and thin. I think with it being so thin it enhances the responsiveness because there is less material for the weight transfer and energy to move through. It is fast and snappy. If there were a mogul specific board it would share these design elements of the Slayblade. The flatline is a near perfect balance of control at high speed and quick function for any kind of turn in any kind of snow. I am firm believer in stiffer boots, and this board deserves to be driven by stiff boots. The board is stiff enough where rails and park jumps are still fun, but this thing was designed for moving. Steeps, trees, and quick fancy footwork related to fancy lunch tray riding. Sluggish turns are impossible.
CONS: Although the board’s thickness is great for a lot, it is very easily damaged on the base. The first hit was not a hard hit when I barely tapped a rock in Sauza chute (a steep, rocky chute in the west basin). What would have left a microscopic mark on a Never Summer board left the Slayblade with a nice core shot. All boards get beat up, but this is one of those boards that sacrifices strength for function. When you’re riding rocks anyway, the board will get messed up period.
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re into bouncing off bumps, feeling high-speed control down steep crud, or popping airs off ANYTHING. the K2 Slayblade is a good choice.