Exposure

Behind the Scenes at Outside's 2019 Snowboard Test

We just wrapped up reviewing a batch of the best upcoming models at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado. Here's how it went down.

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Photo: Jason Ross

Over the course of three days, 32 testers flocked to Crested Butte Mountain Resort, putting a total of 50 boards for winter 2020 through the wringer. One tester, local Lawson Yow, finds fresh powder and some sunshine the morning after a storm.

Photo: Drew Zieff

The board selection ranges from powder guns to park sticks. The testing crew is similarly diverse: aspiring big-mountain competitors, sponsored splitboarders, Crested Butte snowboard instructors, freestyle specialists, shop techs, and park rats make up the mix.

Photo: Drew Zieff

After taking a board out for a few laps, each tester comes back to our tent setup at Crested Butte’s frontside base, steps away from the Red Lady Express and Silver Queen Express chairlifts, to fill out an in-depth review form. They grade each board on its flex pattern, shape, camber profile, turning capabilities, aerial abilities, and reliability at speed. Given the number of testers, it can be tricky just to find a place to sit down. Kaily Blackburn improvises by using a review board as a makeshift desk.

Photo: Jason Ross

Crested Butte is, in many ways, the ideal stage for a snowboard test. From the Silver Queen Express, testers can access rowdy double-black-diamond runs peppered with cliffs and moguls, plus flowy laps rife with side hits. There’s even a decent park. Yow busts a nose grab on the Never Summer West Bound in the midst of a quad-burning top-to-bottom run.

Photo: Drew Zieff

A far cry from last year’s meager snowpack, a healthy base covered the slopes this spring. And there’s been a good range of conditions—pristine corduroy, sun-zapped slush, refrozen chop, and even several inches of powder—which is ideal for testing the varied capabilities of the boards. Blackburn makes the most of the last slushy slopes at the bottom of the Red Lady Express, muscling through a stylish butter on the Pallas Girl Scout.

Photo: Drew Zieff

Our setup at the base is hectic. Two racks—one men’s, one women’s—hold snowboards. Four tables provide space for testers to swap out boards and fill out review forms. Drills and screwdrivers are everywhere, along with pencils and snacks.

Photo: Jason Ross

Blackburn busts out a classic flex test midslope.

Photo: Drew Zieff

After testers return to base and fill out review forms, they select fresh boards from the racks, swap out bindings, and get back on the chairlift. The whole exchange takes around 15 minutes. Will Sardinsky sets up the Igneous Dark Star, one of his favorite boards of the entire test.

Photo: Jason Ross

New snow isn’t guaranteed at a spring board test, but we were lucky to score a couple of stormy days. While the totals weren’t particularly jaw-dropping, enough freshies accumulated so we could try out the powder shapes, like Sardinsky does here. And once the obvious, under-the-lift lines were all tracked out, we hunted down hidden stashes off High Lift and North Face Lift.

Photo: Drew Zieff

Much like middle schoolers having a hard time focusing on their homework, testers are encouraged to use complete sentences, be creative, and, above all else, write legibly on their review forms. Here, Sardinsky concentrates on both his latest review and his questionable penmanship.

Photo: Jason Ross

Sardinsky, Kelley Wren, Ben Dohrman, Ashley Gruber, Alex Spectorsky, and Blackburn indulge in a party lap off the aptly named Paradise Lift.

Photo: Drew Zieff

Yow drops the mic (in this case, an oddly shaped, beautifully crafted Asym Fish from SnoPlanks) after another successful snowboard test. Now comes the hard part: selecting which few boards will make it into the Winter Buyer’s Guide. While there were plenty of capable all-mountain decks and specialized boards, only a handful will make the cut.