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?
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 gate I went through led into Shireen and Last Choice. I was able to find a few rock airs and patchy stashes of powder. I launched an 8 foot boulder into chop, landed with ease, and rode on. The landing felt great and I didn’t have to pay too much attention to weight transfer front to back. “This board is a plank.”
The rest of the way down to the tram involved lots of traversing on my heel edge under the bottom of Wilbere area toward Harper’s Ferry East. This was when I really noticed the board’s ability to traverse so well. The fact that this board is wide for its length (25.9 cm on 157cm length) helped keep toes and heels out of the way on the traverse. (I’m sure there’s a physics answer to this: a longer lever increases the strength of and pressure in one spot, requiring less initial force? Mechanical advantage maybe?)
The Take Home Point of the increased width: it was excellent for holding an edge on steeps and traversing without losing too much vertical. Nice to keep toes from catching rocks and snow. Not noticeably more advantageous in the powder, just the same classic float of a board.
The Take Home Point of the C2 BTX Banana design: This board is very slightly rockered in the middle (Lib Tech’s C2 “Power Banana” design) with camber underfoot. But I only need one banana between my legs, and it’s not a snowboard. Plus, I don’t quite understand the power behind bananas, but I guess it’s clever marketing for reverse camber decks. I can’t honestly say that I noticed any advantages to this type of camber configuration. If anything, I found it harder to keep the heel edge in dig mode and resulted in chattering out.
Next run: On The Edge. After returning to the tram, we rode up and got talking to Patrol, who advised us to head east toward Baldy. I hopped on the traverse and cruised across, pumping and doubling the roller coaster-y way over. I rounded the corner by “Thanks For the Memories,” and started down the fall line. Moving quickly, the conditions warranted edging on the fall line rather than carving ripper turns – it was just too slick and fast to open up. This was a long run, with super fun cliffs and little technical chokes. I ended up in a chute near the bottom, where I clipped a branch sticking out of the snow, tumbled down through some rocks, and clocked the tail of my board on a boulder that (thankfully) stopped my fall. The Lib Tech Lando is not fully edged, which in this case was nice, because the edge would have been shot. But if I had hit more on the side rather than the tail of the board, the edge would have likely blown out….And while I feel that there is more integrity to a fully wrapped edge, the bottom line is that the board took a large dent, and I came out unscathed. (Lucky me).
I seemed to find all of the exposed rocks on this run, and caught a lot of them under foot. This board is strong! No core shots after multiple hits. On The Edge must have been one of the longest, most intense, big mountain lines I’ve ever ridden, inbounds or out. Snowbird kicks ass.
Next runs: secret stashes around and under the Baby Thunder chair: I decided to go the complete opposite direction and headed toward the Gad 2 lift. I followed the western boundary and ended up traversing toe side (nice workout) to the area between Exit Gully and Pearly Gates. Fun powder was had most of the way down, and a few cliffs that were tattered up with small trees forced me to traverse out, out of fear of my life ending. (Did I mention that this mountain is for real?) I exited near the top of the Baby Thunder lift where I noticed something good: untouched powder, through small, shrubby Aspens, with creek drainages and boulders. I spent the rest of the afternoon riding the Baby Thunder lift. I think this was the true test for the board, and the board shined in these conditions over the next three days of riding. The conditions couldn’t have been more fun, bouncing off rocks and cutting quick turns through trees that would fold over if landed upon.
By the way, I’m not sure about Lib Tech’s grasp of geology when marketing their different levels of “pop,” but the Lando categorized by them as, “Basalt” pop, “strong like volcano.” I happen to know a bit about volcanoes, and basalt is the least poppy type of lava and tends to ooze and flow, where as something like trachyte has a greater tendency to explode – you know, actually POP. So although Lib Tech’s idea of strong pop being associated with basalt is simply wrong, it is fitting for the board to be likened to basalt, because in actuality, the Lando is a sluggish jumper and tends to flow rather than explode. It’s heavy, stiff, and reverse cambered in the middle, and these elements do not add up to explosive pop.
After having ridden all over the mountain and playing fast and loose in Wilbere Bowl then chattering out on aprons; or freaking out on top of rocks in The Doors; or chasing moguls and pine needles at Gad 2, this board should have been destroyed. Instead, it was untouched. The Lando is strong and resilient. And while I enjoyed the different feel of the Magne-Traction’s deep, solid cuts, it felt unnecessary for everything but traversing. The width of the board served to keep toes and heel from catching, yet didn’t seem to be so wide that responsiveness was lost. Nice moves! The Lando had elevated binder platforms that seemed to enhance slightly its ability to carve, but this didn’t really feel like a necessary addition. The Lando is packed full of functions, and it definitely charges as well as any stiff charger, but is it just too much tech?
This is a pro model board, wide and stiff, not a super forgiving board intended for intermediate riders. You need to stay on your game on this thing and pay attention to make it do what you want it to.
And I continue to wonder whether the Lando’s fully loaded feature set creates less of a natural feeling of riding. On other boards, I like to feel the board flex and twist and transfer the ground to my legs, and I didn’t get that feeling from the Lando. This board is great, and I’m now back home at Taos still riding it and trying to get everything I can out of it. But beware the board’s nature: it’s kind of like off roading in a 15 passenger van with slick tires in the rear and a sick paint job. It’s strange for sure and takes some figuring out, but it’s definitely a fun ride.