Finding the Best Snowboard, For the East Coast.
Updated: Feb 26, 2020
The weather personality's voice hits that pitch. The one with, trepidation. Catching my attention. Causing me to leave my standing desk. And listen to what Mother Nature is sending our way.
Snow. And lots of it.
I make my way back into my storage. Rummaging through all of my winter gear. Pants. Boots. Jackets. Mittens. Layers. It was all here. And ready for Mother Nature's white blessing from above. A bit musty smelling. Nothing a deep wash won't fix. I toss it outside. The sky is blue, the wind non existent. It is the epitome of the cliche, calm before the storm.
My next adventure is finding the most essential piece of equipment. My board. As I drag it out of my shed. The bindings were in shambles. Screws missing. Straps broken. And the board had so many character marks, it looked like it had been sitting in someones front yard for the past decade. I knew I needed to make a move and find my winter ride.
I rolled north to the Green Mountain State. To visit one of my favorite winter playgrounds. Killington.
My search for the perfect board would bring me to Darkside Snowboards.
Walking into the shop, an aroma caught my attention. One that brought me back to my days standing behind the counter of Ski World Orlando. Fresh wax. And not the type that goes on top of the surfboard. But rather that made to slide down the mountain. Snowboard and ski wax.
As I walked towards the snowboard display, a bright green sticker caught my attention.
I meandered through the rows of boards on display. Lib Tech, Gnu, Arbor, Capita, Burton. I had no idea where to begin.
I remembered when I punched in my google search, best east coast snowboards, barely any information came up. There were plenty of reviews for the West, Canada and even Japan. I was pissed. Knowing first hand that the conditions in the Rockies, Sierras and rest of the world are way different than what we deal with here on the right coast. Or as I like to refer to it as, the Ice Coast. And for those of you that ski here know and understand that name sake.
My confusion must have been written across my face. As one of the guys working made his way over asking me if I had any questions.
Poor guy walked right into my Ted Talk on my life story. Back in the day I did x. And today y. And then. And then.
My man, Chris, listened intently. Boiled down all my stories and walked me over to the rack. Told me about the technology used by Lib Tech and Gnu called Magna Traction. Showed me the new types of camber and rocker being used in their boards as well.
He asked me about colors. Riding style. And I said I had no preference. He laughed and said "you need to help me narrow this search down." We figured out riding switch, meaning opposite of my dominant foot was not a bit draw for me. And I was looking for something that supported carving, or surfing on the snow. We were making progress.
The words "Yes" were written across the nose of a board. Then he dove into the store of the brand. In a nut shell it was a few former pro riders that were cut just after the 2008 Great Recession hit. They bucked the system and created a brand, even though everyone said they'd fail. 11 years later, I was standing in Vermont with one of their models in my hand. Proving they did what others said was impossible. It resonated with me on a few levels, one from the athlete side. The other, the timing of the journey. As that was the year, 2008, my life went through monumental changes. Ironically, spending the winter in Colorado being a ski bum.
We discussed the demo program, one I love about the snow industry. Pay for the demo and the money goes to the purchase. Capped at $150, it gave me three days of demoing. But I had day 1 board dialed.
For it being the first week in December, anything could have been possible weather wise. But Mother Nature hooked it up. Fresh snow. Letting me test the boards in every condition I could dream of.
The first day I stayed with my boots and the traditional binding set up. And the Yes, Pick Your Line or as they call it PYL, delivered an epic introduction back to surfing on the snow. Groomers. Powder, ice, bumps and a few tree runs. This board excited me.
During my research I came across another board, a pro model by Lib Tech for Travis Rice called the Orca. That brought me to day 2. But I added another variable to the mix.
Burton released a new binding system called the Step On. And as Chris informed me took multiple years to release the design. With substantial research and development and testing, from pro riders to shop staff. I was very interested. I also knew my boots need to be replaced.
The board was fun, handled all the conditions again. Thrived in the tight bumps, trees and catwalks. But was not matching my newly found style. It was quick with snappy turns. A vast difference from the day before and the carving, surf style I was loving. What made me laugh is that years earlier this would have been my board, but now I wanted long slow carves where I was in control of the speed. Call it age or the new experience to riding on the water. Either way, I knew this was a no.
Day 3 I had another board picked out. But in my ride to the top of the mountain a local woman rider was smitten on her Burton Home Town Hero. And with headquarters only a quick trip away and the passing of Jack Burton I felt compelled to test this board with the Step On bindings.
Another non ice coast day ensued. Powder conditions, deeper than the days before. And for the east coast, some of the best conditions we could ask for. But I found all the conditions I knew I'd be taking this thing in. Tree runs. Ice. Groomers and the bumps.
I was torn. This board was a blast. It rocked everything I threw at it.
As I went back to the shop that evening I saw Chris again. Met the owner and the whole crew from the shop. We talked surfing. Snow. Industry trends. But they all knew I was avoiding making the decision.
Finally I said. "Yes."
The reason was not just about the feel on the snow. As the Hometown Hero and the PYL were so similar. But the messaging. The story. And the companies follow through on their vision.
HANGOVERS. POST PARTY BLUR, THE-BOOK-OF-THINGS-THAT-NEVER-HAPPENED AND EVERY-THING FOUL SMELLING. TIME TO LAUGH IT OFF AND RE-MOTIVATE. NOTHING FEELS SO ALIVE AND FULL OF PROMISE THAN THE MORNING AFTER THE MORNING AFTER."
I walked out of the story giddy. And ready to ride with my friends on my new board the next day. And the board delivered. On the deepest powder day I've had in a long time and this year. Beyond the board it was an awesome experience working with a local shop. I was truly torn as many of my friends sell snowboards and gear. And I want to support you all as well. But after talking about shopping local. I wanted to do just that. And with Killington being my home mountain. I am glad I supported Darkside.
For those that are looking to get into any sport. And making that tough purchase. This process of demoing solidified what I preach. Try before you buy. And purchase what resonates with you. It is worth the time, money and effort.