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  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

    We tested nearly 100 boards last winter in Crested Butte, Colorado. These were our four favorites.

    Mike Horn

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

    Arbor Steepwater

    BEST FOR: Big-mountain rippers.

    THE TEST: Arbor’s newest freeride board, the Steepwater ($580) is built in the same burly vein as its cocreator, big-mountain legend Steve Klassen. It features classic camber that enhances edge hold and stability on steep chutes and icy traverses, which we expected. What we didn’t: the paulownia and poplar core was both the stiffest in the test and the lightest underfoot. expert riders will love that combo.

    THE VERDICT: Push hard and it pushes back. Might be too much board for intermediates.

    RESPONSE: 5
    VERSATILITY: 3

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

    Burton Trick Pony

    BEST FOR: Those who want one board for all terrain and conditions.

    THE TEST: Pardon the pun, but this is no one-trick Pony ($500). Burton shaved ounces off the tip and tail, giving the board a feathery swing weight for easy spins and grabs in the park and quick, beboppy turns in trees. Medium flex soaked up vibrations in week-old chop, while a blend of rocker and camber gave it an easy-rider personality.

    THE VERDICT: A beginner-friendly, do-everything board with enough oomph for seasoned riders.

    RESPONSE: 4
    VERSATILITY: 5

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

    Ride Machete GT

    BEST FOR: Riders who treat the whole mountain like a terrain park.

    THE TEST: Freestyle boards don’t have to be noodles, and when ride redesigned the Machete ($550), it did so with an eye toward boarders who want to take their park skills into bigger, natural terrain. carbon stringers underfoot give it a stiffer ride than Burton’s Trick Pony, and carbon-urethane sidewalls added snap for ollies and absorbed vibrations on groomers.

    THE VERDICT: Easy to spin. Stable enough to hit the throttle.

    RESPONSE: 4
    VERSATILITY: 4

  • Photo: Inga Hendrickson

    Unity Whale

    BEST FOR: Maximum float.

    THE TEST: At first glance, you’d think the Whale ($550) should have stayed in the water. Its blunted tip and flat-back tail give it the look of a surfboard, which is how it felt in waist- deep powder. That’s because the Whale’s upturned nose has an immense amount of rocker, making it virtually unsinkable in the soft stuff. Of course, that tail also makes it twitchy on steeper, harder snow. Still, the Whale did better on hardpack than any other powder board we tested.

    THE VERDICT: “The best in the freshies,” said one tester.

    RESPONSE: 4
    VERSATILITY: 2

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