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.
When I’m riding my home mountain, Crested Butte, I typically start my day off by heading to the High Lift and taking a run on Headwall. Then it’s off to the North Face Lift. If I’m lucky, Spellbound/Phoenix and Third Bowl are open and I head back there for some steep (and usually deep) riding. However, on powder days, control work usually keeps this area closed until noon or later. If that’s the case, I’ll do some laps off the North Face. The extreme terrain offered by Crested Butte provides ample opportunities for testing a board’s durability and performance in open bowls, bumps, powder, trees, cliffs and steeps.
I also brought my Infinity down to Taos to compete in the 2011 Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships. This let me test out the board in the steep and rocky terrain of West Basin and Kachina Peak. Overall the snow conditions were thin, and plenty of rocks were showing in between some pretty firm sections of snow. Luckily, the resort received about four inches of snow the night before the final day on Kachina Peak and I was able to ride a smooth and floaty line down K5.
As a whole, I have been very impressed with the performance of the Never Summer Infinity. The board has a soft, forgiving flex, giving me more control over the board. The board rides amazing in powder and floats with ease; If I hit something unexpected and firm under the snow, I have time to react and redirect the board instead of being launched.
It is also nimble enough to hit tight trees and bumps with ease, and it feels light in the air. It generally handles well on groomed trails and I feel comfortable riding it at high speeds in most conditions. Even though the board is directional, it is designed for freestyle use and doesn’t put up a fight when riding switch.
This board is also extremely durable. As a company, Never Summer has it dialed. Handmade in Denver, the Infinity packs a strong punch with P-tex sidewalls. In comparison to traditional ABS sidewalls, P-tex sidewalls give you the confidence you need when crushing over rocks.
There are two things I dislike about this board: The first is the play when skating. Even after riding the Infinity for two seasons now, I still don’t trust the board when I’m skating on firm or icy conditions. Although this doesn’t present a problem when riding the mountain, it does limit the speed at which I feel comfortable one-footing it. On traverses I often find myself strapping my back foot in more than I’d like to just to avoid unwanted movement.
The second thing I don’t like about this board is how it handles in firm conditions, whether on steep or mellow terrain. Even though the camber is designed to give better edge hold, I find that the rocker usually overrides its camber counterpart. When I am on steep terrain and throw jump turns, the board often bounces a few times before I can get the edge to grip. On mellower terrain like green and blue groomers, the board tends to unexpectedly wash out and I don’t trust it at high speeds.
Overall, this is a solid board for all you hard charging, all-mountain ladies out there. For 2011/2012, Never Summer plans to incorporate a lighter wood core, giving the board more snap and making it more playful. Perfect. Looks like a good board could be getting even better.