Ride the Plank: The 6 Best Snowboards

Like transistor radios and pocket watches that you wind, skis have their place, and that place is deep in the annals of history where things go to die. Today’s slopes are all about snowboarders and their carving, careening, out-of-control, off-the-chain lifestyle. The sport of snowboarding has grown every year of the new millennium with more and more options for various kinds of boarders when it comes to choosing how to take on the hill. All-Mountain, Freestyle, Park, and every other kind of rider has more options today – including some of the wildest hybrids ever thought up in one of Terje Haakenson’s fever dreams – than ever before, making the market deep, but also confusing.

We’ve tried to find the absolute cream of the crop, the must-have desert island (or maybe that’s alpine hideout) snowboard choices that you can pick up if you could only take to the hills on one board for the rest of your life. Naturally each arena is going to have many more choices depending on your style because a free market is just that good. On that note, here’s the 6 best snowboards for your downhill dollar.

Arbor Westmark

Arbor Westmark

Pro: Room to grow
Con: Not ideal for high speed

Beginner’s Board: A beginner’s snowboard is always a difficult thing to choose since what you start on could decide what kind of boarder you become. Are you looking to become the next backcountry maven, whipping through the trees, or is your destiny to seek glory in terrain parks and half pipes? Whatever you choose, the Westmark is an outstanding buy that will let you sample from the snowboarding buffet and give you room to grow whichever direction calls to you. The soft rocker shape gives you more curve at the ends and a softer, more flexible feel that lets you adjust to using the board without too much aggression or too steep a learning curve. The body is more stable than most and gives you good girth beneath your feet. You’ll get a little chatter when you hit high speeds, but going that fast just tells you that you’re ready to get a more aggressive board in your quiver. Can use the whole hill, from powder to hard pack to grinding rails. [Purchase: $395]

Burton Name Dropper

Burton Name Dropper

Pro: Equally good when riding regular or switch
Con: Feels built for jib runs

Park and Pipe Dream: Made specifically with a freestyler state of mind the Name Dropper is a beautiful creation that will help you land difficult tricks with ease. It has very deep flexibility that offers superior pop, allowing it to work in any kind of park, from street specific landscapes to those with unusual terrain. The make is flat camber for both stability and a lively ride that doesn’t shun speed on groomed runs and straightaways. A true twin body gives you equally good control whether running regular or switch so you can catch every grind and jump no matter which way you’re facing. The claim to fame of the name dropper is their off-axis, asymmetrical Filet-O-Flex technology which gives you a paper thin core profile from front to back that doesn’t reduce performance or endurance. The binding area has pads which aid the channel system and the edges are sharp for fast carving even when going balls to the wall. It does tend to feel made for jibs, though you can get some small and medium kickers off of it as well. [Purchase: $420]

Capita Black Snowboard of Death

Capita Black Snowboard of Death

Pro: Extremely aggressive
Con: Unforgiving turning and carving

Terror on the Slopes: Capita does everything they can to make this badass board earn its name and if they haven’t made something that the most famous of the four horsemen would be happy to ride, it isn’t because they didn’t try. The most recent model employs a huge nose with a hybrid camber profile to give it deadly carving and downhill abilities. Capita has chosen not to include a reverse camber in the back seat instead going with a flat tail section which forces it to go rocker in the nose and camber betwixt the bindings. It pushes heavily for single direction riding which means it has lost some of the light and airy feel and gone toward heavy running for more intense action. Make sure you’ve got some good goggles before you head out or your eyes will be watering. The stiff body is built for speed and power, driving down the mountain like a battering ram. It’s a demon on powder and floats like a speedboat. The BSOD now sports a wax infused base that is rotation sintered that gives it a waxed and scrapped feel. Certainly not kind to children or anyone but experienced riders. [Purchase: $590]

Nitro Blacklight Gullwing

Nitro Blacklight Gullwing

Pro: Very versatile
Con: Jack of all trades, master of none

One Board to Rule Them All: This might be the board you buy if you’re trying to reduce your snowboard quiver and opting for a single rider that handle everything the mountain can throw at you. It naturally isn’t going to give you as much specialization, but never again will you be the hombre on the lift whining about how there’s too much powder for your freestyle or it’s too hot for your floater. The rocker camber combo is a good one-two punch against riding high on powder or picking up speed with a dropped rear end on icy runs. Nitro redesigned these from their older, softer Gullwings with a pair of bumps called “power pods” that sit just outside of your feet. These are meant to give your edges extreme carving power for quick turns like a stiff board without losing too much flex for taking on a few terrain tricks. This could very well be one of the few tried-and-true all mountain boards that can make nearly everyone happy. The price is even good, especially if you’re trying to avoid purchasing multiple options. [Purchase: $650]

Volkl Coal BX Race

Volkl Coal BX Race

Pro: Fast
Con: Only works on groomed runs

Speed Freak: Not too many snowboard manufacturers still make alpine race boards these days. Burton used to be one of the big dogs in the alpine stick kennel and their 1999 Factory Prime is still one of the sleekest boards on the planet, if you can find one. Völkl is still producing the racing style boards to this day and as such have become king of the heap. The BX Race is intended for one purpose: Go Fast. That’s capital “G” capital “F.” This heart-stopper and head-turner has a long effective edge to give you a smooth, fast ride while the split base helps keep you in control. Don’t even think about trying to ride this switch-footed. The core is wood with cellcore inlays that gives you the rigidity you expect from a racing board. The body is slim but stable with tons of vibration reduction. All-mountain riders and even freecarvers might not love it since it is built like a Ferrari, meant to be pure hell on straightaways and groomed slopes. Make sure you’ve picked up a good snowboard helmet before you take this out since you’re going to be going at literal breakneck speeds. Did we mention you’ll also need to import it? [Purchase: $958]

Never Summer Prospector

Never Summer Prospector

Pro: Lightweight and built for ascending
Con: High Stiffness

On the Range: A good splitboard for backcountry snowboarding is an investment in peace of mind. The Prospector is a gorgeous ride that handles powder more like a solid board so it’s easy to stay balanced and float down the most rural runs off the beaten path. It is nice and long with an extended rocker camber design for scaling when you put it into touring mode, working almost like a pair of snowshoes to keep you high on the snowpack and give you better grip on steep climbs. When you go tearing down the mountain, the rubber damping system keeps vibrations low while the spaded shape helps sink the tail to dig into intense pow. The stiff body is great for climbing and picking up speed but won’t work if you’re hoping for something to take to the park. The edges catch well for extreme turns and do a good job of not biting when they aren’t meant to. [Purchase: $999]

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