The best new boards for all kinds of riders.
Ride Alter Ego
Gear of the Year
This spring, more than 30 snowboard testers stormed Crested Butte, Colorado, to evaluate some 85 new board models. Over a week, we rode everything from powdery steeps and playful jump lines to early-morning ice and last-chair slush. In the end, we picked the following eight boards as our favorites. The biggest surprise: falling in love with the Alter Ego. Initially we were skeptical. The locking split-tail design, which allows you to ride it as either a pliable powder board or a hard-carving all-mountain deck, is unlike anything else on the market. But doubt disappeared quickly. Unlocked, the tail sinks low, offering surfboard-style control and float in deep snow. Latch it together and the board stiffens up to carve hardpack like an ice sculptor’s saw. Riders raved about its ability to pop, spin, and even ride switch. With camber in the middle and rocker at the tip, it’s “surprisingly stompable, and it handles speed really well,” reported one tester. We gave the Alter Ego top marks on everything except extremely technical terrain, where that curious tail felt squirrelly under pressure.
Gnu Eco Choice
Best For: Freestyling with panache.
The Test: This asymmetrical twin had testers grinning and spinning—often at the same time. “It’s fast, fun, and makes me want to try new tricks off of every feature I can find,” said one tester. With spring-loaded pop thanks to a moderately stiff flex pattern that loosens up at the tip and tail, it’s a buttery park deck. But the serrated edges had us railing turns across the fall line, flexing in and out of moguls, and popping 180s at speed into switch Euro carves. It earns the Eco in the name from a core of sustainably harvested wood, recycled plastic sidewalls, and nontoxic resins.
The Verdict: An everyday ripper that inspires creativity.
Burton FT Branch Manager
Best For: Soul surfing through the forest.
The Test: This nimble yet floaty mid-stiff Burton is, in the words of one tester, “the most agile pow board—ever.” The running length of the 155-centimeter Branch Manager is comparable to that of a board 15 centimeters shorter. The upshot: executing a quick turn to avoid an aspen has never been easier. (Burton designed the Branch Manager to shred Japan’s mythically deep and tight tree runs.) With a translucent cobalt topsheet that offers a glimpse of the 45-degree carbon stringers in the fiberglass below, and a portrait of the forest from legendary snowboard photographer Blotto blessing the base, this is a piece of art that demands to be ridden.
The Verdict: A versatile and astonishingly nimble deck best for deep powder and narrow glades.
Lib-Tech T.Rice Climax
Best For: Big turns on big mountains.
The Test: Travis Rice’s highly anticipated new pro model doesn’t disappoint. Edge-to-edge transitions on this stiff, lightweight carbon deck are insanely quick, yet it clobbers the fall line when asked. A three-quarter-inch set-back stance combines with Lib-Tech’s renowned camber-rocker-camber profile to provide float in powder and snap off lips. Ultimately, though, this is more machete than multitool. “There are more-playful pow boards, but this one is a powerhouse,” was how one tester put it. Said another: “If you’re used to riding ponies, stay out of the stable. This aristocratic stallion ain’t for you.”
The Verdict: An experts-only deck for powerful freeriders.