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Every spring we contact the very best boards from brands big and small, rally testers from all rides of life, wade through mediocre models, and hoist a few select winners high that beats all others. I’ve been running the twelve-monthly test going back five years, reviewing snowboard gear professionally going back seven years, and snowboarding for the better portion of the past 2 decades. Here, to assist you in your search for an ideal board, we’ve come up with an authoritative overview of the best boards recently.
HOW EXACTLY WE Test Snowboards
Every year, about 30 testers-most recently, nine women and 21 men-converge for the twelve-monthly Outside snowboard test. In the first spring of 2019, we setup shop at Crested Butte, Colorado. We evaluate from 50 to 100 boards from a lot more than 20 companies, which range from corporate behemoths to mom-and-pop functions (this past year it had been 56 boards from 24 companies). We generally test up to three boards from each brand, looking to add a men’s, a women’s, and a wildcard when possible.
Our testers represent a cross portion of the industry, including former professionals, up-and-coming competitors, shop techs, and instructors. Riders have a board out for a couple laps, complete an assessment form, swap out bindings, and repeat. That means up to eight boards and over 25,000 vertical feet of riding per tester each day.
We then put the scores from each test sheet right into a master spreadsheet, and after a few days, we have a fairly good notion about which boards are contenders and which are duds. On the last day, we box up the losers and inspire testers to take longer spins on 20 potential winners.
In the weeks following test, my bedroom floor becomes a mosaic of beer- and coffee-stained review forms, that i go through and catalog, contacting testers with questions. Finally, I choose our top picks.
Our Favorite Snowboard
(Photo: Courtesy Lib Tech)
Lib Tech Travis Rice Orca ($600)
Lib Tech tested the waters in 2019 by launching an individual size (153 centimeters) of the Travis Rice Orca. In response to resounding demand, the Pacific Northwest board-building powerhouse added more sizes for 2020 without changing the recipe. The Orca now will come in six sizes, which range from 144 to 159 centimeters. It emerged out of this year’s test with Gear of the entire year honors locked up.
As fat, fast, and feisty as its namesake whale, the genre-defying directional deck melds the reliability of a big-mountain gun with the deep-snow performance and maneuverability of the short, wide, experimental shapes that snowboarders crave today. Traction-enhancing serrated edges, a predictable moderately-stiff flex pattern, and a concise rocker zone between your feet that’s sandwiched by parts of camber supply the portly yet aggressive condition stability, pop, and “grip for days,” according to 1 tester. “I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea when I stomped landings,” another said.
But despite its capability to slay steep lines, command unruly hucks, and arc high-speed turns, the Orca is a delicacy in tight trees. While extremely fat boards tend to be slow edge to edge, making them hazardous in dense, technical tree areas and variable snow, the Orca is all muscle. Its above-average width also permits you to size right down to avoid compromising on agility. (Testers who normally ride boards in the 159-to-161-centimeter range were struck by the all-mountain versatility of the 153.) “Powerful and nimble tend to be mutually exclusive in snowboard reviews,” commented one tester after sampling a smaller size. “That’s the Orca’s brilliance-it’s agile enough to swerve through dense trees and strong enough to straight-line out of a sketchy cliff drop.” Between your wide, compact condition and a buoyant nose and snappy tail, the Orca is a shockingly versatile all-mountain board and a beast in powder.
Best All Mountain Snowboard
(Photo: Courtesy Jones)
Jones Mind Expander ($550)
At the crossroads of surf and snow sits the Jones Mind Expander. Crafted in collaboration with celebrated surf shaper Chris Christenson, your brain Expander’s front half includes a Surf Rocker profile that helps maintain the nose saturated in deep snow. Another notable surf-sparked design factor is a contour over the board’s horizontal axis, which brings a subtle condition to both nose and tail, encouraging a fluid, rocking ingress into turns. Testers subsequently loved the edge-to-edge action, and one noted that its short sidecut “snaked quick turns through trees as an agility show dog through weave poles.”
Another tester liked the feel of the medium-stiff deck, although one rider who prefers to ride the fall line at full gas noted that the flex was too soft and the long nose too chattery when straight-lining. YOUR BRAIN Expander can in fact ride switch with surprising ease, and overall it’s a far more versatile board than we expected. One tester figured he’d leave it in the home on any day with less than six inches or of fresh now but finished up loving it in variable snow. “I wouldn’t have called it a quiver killer-until I rode it,” he said.
Runner-Up: Never Summer Shaper Twin ($530)
We’ve tested a good amount of park boards and all-mountain boards through the entire years, and the wide-waisted Shaper Twin doesn’t fit neatly in either box. Rather, it plays its niche: it’s an all-mountain freestyle assassin, the one that testers were stoked to ride in and from the terrain park. A former freestyle competitor said that the Shaper Twin was suitable for all-mountain riders who would like one board, but warned that park riders might want more dampening or oomph.
Best Freeride Snowboard
(Photo: Courtesy Gnu)
Gnu Müllair ($600)
A big-mountain charger named after Nicolas Müller, the Swiss pioneer of backcountry freestyle riding, the Müllair is a stiff, directional board. With a C3 hybrid camber profile-aggressive camber at both feet, with a mild rocker bulge among the bindings-it is most effective for riding sketchy lines.
“Stiff enough to blast through chop, soft enough to butter,” said a heavier tester, who was simply also impressed by the Müllair’s capability to handle hang time. “So much pop,” he said. “You could boost to the moon with this thing.” A freeride competitor added that the wide 159 version offered a “very stable landing platform-it takes bumps just like a champ and absorbs all of them.” He continued to call the Müllair his “new favorite big-mountain board,” and hinted that people could be seeing it on his feet at his next big-mountain event.
A number of lightweight riders, however, found the Müllair tricky to go at lower speeds, noting that it had been perhaps too stiff. That stiffness, though, paired with serrated Magne-Traction edges and the camber-dominant profile, helped it lock into icy hardpack. The big-picture consensus was that board loves high speeds, thrives on air time, and isn’t suitable for beginners or intermediates.
Runner Up: Signal Tailgunner ($695)
The Tailgunner is locked and loaded for bottomless days. Freestyle-oriented testers deemed the broad-nosed board strictly a powder tool, however the freeride contingent considered it an adaptable condition they’d be stoked to use anytime, anywhere. A big-mountain rider with a penchant for stiff decks poetically summed up the design’s