Downhill Suspects (Cont.)

Big Mountain

    Photo: Dan Winters

When you dream of never-ending vertical, think Silverton Mountain, Jackson Hole, and that Pangaea of chair-assisted ripping, Whistler/Blackcomb—all 5,280 vertical feet of it. To persevere on skis here you need the quad-saving width of Alaskan guns with the precise edge-hold of East Coast carvers. Snowboards already offer ample girth, but with trees to avoid, big-mountain boards need to be light and snappy on the side-to-side. THE SKI: Atomic Sugar Daddy ($795). Until last season, when Atomic assembled its own freeride team, the Austrian ski maker was pigeonholed as a racing company. No more. The team's first freeride progeny, the Sugar Daddy, is built around the same Beta 4 construction used in Atomic's race skis (essentially two bisected tubes running tip to tail that add torsional rigidity and save weight). And it's wide enough—a generous 126 millimeters at the tip—to float on knee-deep wind pack, but stiff enough torsionally to let you stick to an icy chute like pigeon poop on hot paint. THE BINDING: Atomic R:6.14 Wide Ride ($340). Traditional bindings mounted directly to the top sheet create dead spots on the ski. The R:6.14's FullFlex system allows the heel piece to move freely on a track, resulting in fewer tip burials in powder and a more natural arc in high-speed turns.
THE BOARD: Option Vinson ($499). With Whistler/Blackcomb in their backyard, it's no wonder that Vancouver-based Option is the shaper of choice among BC riders. The Vinson stands out with a directional sidecut (as opposed to the symmetrical sidecuts of freestyle boards) that Option shapes into a hand-finished wood core before sandwiching it between layers of carbon and aramid fibers. Punchy enough edge-to-edge for fall-line turns between steep rocks, this board also offers ample rebound for dips into the halfpipe. Plus, hollow channels in the core help keep the board light when you're muscling through the timber. THE BINDING: Option Concept ($219). Break a strap in a cliff area and it's a Life Flight ride to town. Mindful of this reality, Option's Concept bindings are built for durability with fine Italian leather straps and aluminum, not plastic, buckles.

Where to Find It: Atomic Ski, 800-258-5020, www.atomicski.com; Option NFA Inc., 800-671-7669, www.optionsnowboards.com;

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