The 7 Best Snowboards of 2013
Never Summer Proto CT/CTX Snowboard
GEAR OF THE YEAR: Twin boards used to belong to freestyle riders, shining most on kickers and rails. But because they were soft and often chattery on uneven snow, they were less fun outside the park. Tides have turned, and manufacturers like Never Summer are experimenting with stiffness and pop—and it’s working. Enter the all-terrain twin Proto CT. “Best board of the test,” one rider wrote across his form. Credit the use of burly P-tex sidewalls and a wood core concoction, which adds pop while cutting weight. Plus, rocker between the bindings blended with camber at the tip and tail makes it breach like a porpoise in powder and hold an edge when it counts. Big feet? The wide-waisted CTX pleased testers with size 11 feet. Our only gripe: the 160-centimeter length (longest available) wasn’t long enough for some.
Jones Flagship Carbon Snowboard
BEST FOR: Advanced freeriders who want high performance.
THE TEST: This year’s Flagship has carbon fiber (in the topsheet and stringers) to bolster the FSC-certified poplar-and-birch core, resulting in added responsiveness and lower weight. But none of its good qualities dropped off. A directional shape and rocker toward the tip and tail continue to keep this board glued to the fall line, where it rode best at high speeds and made lightning-fast turns. A blunt nose diminishes swing weight, and Magne-Traction technology held an edge where many boards washed out. Testers noted that its stiff flex required substantial input, so beginners and intermediates, beware. Heading into the backcountry? Try the split ($1,100).
THE VERDICT: A lively update to a proven big-mountain performer.
Gnu Eco Genetics Snowboard
BEST FOR: All-mountain riders who don’t shy from hardpack.
THE TEST: The Eco Genetics’ tried-and-true profile (rocker underfoot, camber outside the bindings) and seven wavy contact points (called Magne-Traction) made our testers basically fearless. They took to slaloming down anything—icy double black diamonds, powdery tree runs, low-angle groomers—at top speed because the board held an edge so well. “We should ride boards with Magne-Traction last: it’s not fair to the others,” said one. The Eco Genetics’ sustainably harvested bamboo, balsa, and aspen core made it exceptionally poppy. But the lack of a wraparound edge had testers questioning its durability.
THE VERDICT: Experts milked the most performance out of this board, but its excellent edge hold made intermediates better, too.
WHAT’S WITH THE WAVY EDGES? Lightly run your finger along the edge of many snowboards these days and you’ll notice it’s not straight. That’s because these boards have what’s known as serrated edge or Magne-Traction, as the inventors of the technology, Mervin Manufacturing—the maker of Gnu and Lib Tech snowboards—dubbed it. The reason for the waves is to take the squirrelliness out of rockered boards: those wide points in the wave give you more stability and edge hold when you’re ripping around. You’ll find serrated edges on the Jones, Gnu, and Arbor boards.
K2 Ultra Dream Snowboard
BEST FOR: Laid-back powder surfers who don’t want to work too hard.
THE TEST: Beginners will love the Ultra Dream because of its stable profile (flat between the bindings and rocker at the tip and tail) and forgiving flex. Plus, a set-back stance creates a shorter tail, making turns easy to engage. The Ultra Dream surfed everything from a dusting to a one-foot dump, and it’s no slouch cruising groomers. “It held an exceptional edge, and its switch-riding ability surprised me,” one tester noted. Bummer: our most aggressive freeriders found themselves sketched out on icy steeps—its response and hold aren’t that finely tuned.
THE VERDICT: A great powder board for beginners or intermediates looking for an easy-riding, confidence-inspiring board.
Rome CrossRocket Snowboard
BEST FOR: Advanced park riders looking for more stability.
THE TEST: The new camber mashup on the true-twin CrossRocket is unlike any we’ve seen: there’s a diamond of traditional camber that extends from the center to just outside the bindings, followed by rocker to the tips. Once we got used to it, the extra surface area and edge contact gave us more control on all types of snow, including steeps, and added ollie power. Our park players reported smooth sailing off big booters and out of the pipe, followed by stable landings.
THE VERDICT: The wacky yet stable camber profile and soft flex make it park perfect. Just heed the steep learning curve.
Arbor Wasteland Snowboard
BEST FOR: Intermediates who like to take the twin out of the park.
THE TEST: The iconic Wasteland keeps getting better with age. In the past few years, it has integrated Arbor’s approach to rocker: a heavier arc underfoot and gradually less toward the tip and tail, with medium flex. Experienced reviewers and newcomers alike called the directional twin Wasteland a quiver of one and lauded the easy transitions from mellow trees to choppy steeps. True freestyle testers found it a bit overbuilt for rails and park jibs but appreciated its fortitude in natural terrain. Bonus: All of the Wasteland’s wood—from the top sheet to the core—is FSC-certified or sustainably harvested.
THE VERDICT: A sure bet if you spend most of your time out of the park.
Of all the boards here, the Wasteland is the most environmentally friends, with FSC-certified, sustainably harvested wood from core to top sheet and bamboo sidewalls. Not far behind are the Jones and Gnu, which also have FSC-certified cores.
Burton Juice Wagon Snowboard
BEST FOR: Powder lovers who still crave traditional camber.
THE TEST: The directional Juice Wagon fills the backcountry freestyle slot in Burton’s new Family Tree collection, marrying a noticeable amount of taper in the tip and tail with positive camber, unlike most freestyle powder boards, which have a heavy dose of rocker. Nevertheless, the Juice Wagon made precise turns, and landings were super stable. And none of our testers missed the standard reverse camber, since the spade-shaped nose and tail planed easily above the snow.
THE VERDICT: A surprising hybrid that rode powder like a trusted old friend—without getting caught up while lapping the lift.