Snowboarding: Nitro Tour

Outside magazine, January 1996

Snowboarding: Nitro Tour
By Eric Blehm

If there's one thing guaranteed to blow a snowboarder's good time, it's a stretch of flat terrain. Snowboards can handle any steeps that skis can, but once gravity stops pulling, even the most advanced rider has to hike with the rest of them. So Nitro Snowboards has come up with the two-in-one Nitro Tour, a backcountry board that doesn't leave riders behind on long traverses as telemarkers glide by.

The Nitro Tour actually splits down the middle to behave like a board when you're headed downhill and like telly skis on more level ground. And all you have to do to change its behavior is unclick a few buckles and move the bindings around--the transformation took me about 20 minutes the first time, ten with practice. I tried the Tour in snow ranging from powder to hardpack and found it to be impressively stable. Its stiff tail and softer-flexing nose let me plow through slush and float above powder just as I would on a traditional solid stick. I was skeptical at first of the possibility of an accidental split, so I took it upon myself to pound jump-turn after jump-turn on steep terrain, trying to make the Tour separate. I was happy to find it torsionally rigid and holding tight.

Split into ski form, the Nitro Tour let me catch up with and maintain my stride with two telly-skiing friends. Special bindings, which require hard boots, are adjustable for both snowboarding and free-heel skiing and can be transformed without tools--though they bring the board's weight up to almost 14 pounds. The occasional backcountry boarder won't appreciate the Tour's steep $1,175 price, but it includes bindings, climbing skins, collapsible poles, crampon-like hiking aids--and the promise of no more postholing the traverse to a favorite descent.

From Nitro Snowboards, 408 Columbia Ave., Hood River, OR 97031; 503-386-4006.

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