The Best Snowboards of 2014

Venture Skylar Snowboard

Best For: Riders looking for a big-­mountain twin tip.

The Test: Venture is based in Silverton, Colorado, and if you've been to Silverton Mountain Resort, with its 13,000-foot peaks and endless couloirs, you'll understand why the Skylar is designed the way it is. Supple torsional flex allows for nimble edge-to-edge transfers and quick turn initiation, but the flex pattern and sidecut make it smooth and stable in all types of terrain. Despite its symmetrical shape, it's too stiff in the mid-to-upper range of flex to be a true star in the park. Even so, you can throw it switch as easily as the softest freestyle decks on the market.

The Verdict: A tougher twin than most, the Skylar performs best at speed.

Response: 4

Versatility: 4

Capita Black Snowboard of Death

venture skylar capita black snowboard of death arbor coda best snowboards 2014 winter outside buyers guide
(Inga Hendrickson)

Best For: Easy riding.

The Test: Don't let the name scare you off. The Death is the most rider-friendly board here and was barely edged out by the Landlord for this year's Gear of the Year honors. The flat tail and camber ­between the bindings created colossal pop for easy ollies, while slight taper (five millimeters) from tip to tail made for quick but forgiving turns. One veteran tester listed its strengths: "All-mountain sicky stick—drop rocks, jump fat kickers, butter boxes, carve corduroy!" Translation: the Death delivers in the park, the trees, and the powder. And you'll like it. A lot.

The Verdict: Embrace Death!

Response: 4.5

Versatility: 4.5

Arbor Coda Snowboard

venture skylar capita black snowboard of death arbor coda best snowboards 2014 winter outside buyers guide
(Inga Hendrickson)

Best For: All abilities.

The Test: Arbor's designers shortened the effective edge of this year's Coda, making it incredibly easy to turn and spin through trees. The niftier trick is that they somehow did it without sacrificing stability at speed or in steep terrain. This new version also features an elongated nose with a bit of rocker, so it's that much easier to float over froth and chunder. And the extra bit of lift gives the board a playful feel when you ride it switch. "Best Arbor I've ever ridden," said one longtime tester.

The Verdict: Great for everything, but best for natural terrain.

Response: 4

Versatility: 4.5

Jones Snowboards Aviator

jones aviator snow snowboards professional rossignol xv magtek snow snowboards gnu beast dc3 btx
(Inga Hendrickson)

Best For: Those who want the­ responsiveness of a traditionally cambered board without the catchiness.

The Test: The same thing that gives cambered boards superior control on hardpack—pronounced contact points near the tip and tail—also makes beginners more liable to catch their downhill edge and slam into the slope. Jones's new freestyle board, the Aviator, defies the stereotype. Where the camber comes in contact with the snow, the edges are beveled, making the board more forgiving without sacrificing performance.

The Verdict: The new camber does take some getting used to, but once ­testers dialed it in, they were in love with it.

Response: 4

Versatility: 4

Rossignol XV Magtek Snowboard

jones aviator snow snowboards professional rossignol xv magtek snow snowboards gnu beast dc3 btx
(Inga Hendrickson)

Best For: Aggressive freeriders.

The Test: Rossignol designed the XV Magtek for Frenchman Xavier de Le Rue, one of the world's top big-mountain riders. The board matches the man. The ultrastiff nose, which keeps it rock steady at high speeds and in wide-open terrain, is offset with moderate rocker at the tip and the (relatively) soft, playful tail. The result is a powerful yet malleable feel. Most testers appreciated the way the ­Magtek's serrated edges—look closely and you'll see they have a wavy shape—gave them toothy edge hold at speed and on icy traverses. Others found it too grabby and would have preferred more-forgiving edge-to-edge transitions.

The Verdict: If you're not riding it aggressively, it'll ride you.

Response: 4.5

Versatility: 3

Gnu Beast DC3 BTX Snowboard

jones aviator snow snowboards professional rossignol xv magtek snow snowboards gnu beast dc3 btx
(Inga Hendrickson)

Best For: Powder hounds and veteran shredders.

The Test: With rocker underfoot and ample camber at the tip and tail, Gnu's new Beast does best floating in powder and popping off pillows. It's not as stiff as Rossignol's Magtek, but with the same wavy edges and directional freeride shape, the Beast is plenty aggressive on the steeps and in hardpack. It also has just enough tail to ride switch, although if that's a selling point for you, Venture's true-twin Skylar might be a better option.

The Verdict: Precision and power in a surfy package.

Response: 4

Versatility: 3.5

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