In my review of the Venture Euphoria, I mentioned my belief that Silverton Mountain is the Galapagos Islands of the snowboard world. The third video in Venture’s series provides further evidence supporting this theory. Check it out…
The next episode of Venture’s video series dropped today. It’s cool to get a little behind the scenes look at what inspires the company and how the boards are made. I’ve been riding Ventures for several years and can confirm that these boards are bomber.
We just got word that our friends at Venture are producing a new video series called “Your Venture Starts Here”. It ‘s going to give us a sneak-peek into their alternate universe where snowboards are handmade high in the mountains, Silverton is your local hill, bindings are optional, and Johan Olofsson is your riding buddy. Check out their first episode to see some great shots of Silverton, pow surfing, and their factory…
It took one glance at the Venture Euphoria to confirm something I’ve suspected for a while: Silverton Mountain is the Galapagos Islands of the snowboard world, where Venture Snowboards is free to evolve their products without the predatory forces found in the rest of the world. The Euphoria is designed 100% for a single purpose: riding pow. It’s completely free of the normal constraints almost every snowboard must follow. Even the most standard ways to describe a snowboard, things like “sidecut radius”, “taper”, and “running length” simply don’t apply.
It’s clear why Venture calls the Euphoria a “pow surfer”. Not only does it echo a surfboard’s shape, the ride has a float and buoyancy that I’ve never felt on a snowboard before. But don’t let the surfy feel fool you – this board is still a hard charging ride and has more diversity than you might think.
Our thoughts: Last spring, I was lucky enough to take the 2013 Euphoria out for four days of pow surfing at Monashee Powder Cats where I really got a chance to see what this board can do. During my time on the Euphoria, I rocketed down steep open faces, through tight trees, picked my way down a few cliff bands, and more. I even put it through the ultimate powder board test – deep snow and nearly flat slope.
Off the snow, the Euphoria doesn’t look like a nimble ride. But once in powder, it’s amazing at how nimble this board is. The short tail and massively rockered nose stay out of your way in tight trees or steeps, allowing the board to whip around quickly. And if you need to, you can easily shift back on the tail and get almost the entire board out of the snow for quick maneuvering. The Euphoria feels relaxed and natural. It wants to make what seem like big, lazy turns across wide open faces (but in reality it’s deceivingly fast).
There are three unique aspects of the board’s shape that make it such an amazing ride. The first is obvious: the reverse sidecut. This puts the most surface area in the middle of the board so you can center your weight. There’s really not much need to lean back even at slow speeds. It also puts the pivot point at the center of the board. Where a tapered board as a pivot point in the nose, causing the tail to slide out due to uneven pressure, the Euphoria remains equally solid under both feet. As you turn, this makes the edge dig into the snow causing the board to rail where others wash out.
The second is the short swallow tail. I normally thing of short tails and swallows as a way to create float, but with the reverse sidecut, there’s already plenty of float going on. Instead, the little tail lets you get the bulk of the board out of the way when you need quick maneuvering in tight situations or slow speeds. Likewise, when you need fast edge-to-edge changes, the little tail is easy to whip around in scorpion-like turns. Because the tail straightens out, there’s still enough there to keep the ride solid at speed.
And finally, the third aspect of the board’s shape is the long, slow rockered nose. I believe this, more than anything else, is what gives the Euphoria such float. Where most boards’ noses rise over a few inches at the tip, the Euphoria begins rising immediately in front of the binding and continues gradually all the way to the way through. There’s a lot of surface area in the rise, which means there’s more snow pushing up on the board to keep the nose from sinking. Some of my crew were joking that on the Euphoria, there’s so much float that you can’t tell if there’s 3 inches or 3 feet of fresh snow on the ground.
Now, the downside: It’s very clear that this is a purpose specific board. Outside of pow, the ride isn’t so great. The reverse sidecut means the board does not carve on pack at all. I didn’t ride it at a resort, but I did ride several cat tracks where the best I could do was skid from edge to edge. I could control the ride, but it definitely was not fun. Where things get outright nasty is when you blast over a ridge onto an exposed face with a hard crust. With no ability to carve a turn on pack, the situation can turn from euphoric to extremely sketchy in a second.
The question I keep getting asked about this board is if it has any place in a resort. At first glance, you’d think no, but after riding the board for a few days I’m reconsidering. Here in the northwest, we get lots of big heavy spring dumps. There are days at Stevens Pass or Crystal Mountain where it will snow 24″ overnight, but because it’s heavy, many parts of the areas don’t get tracked out. Where others are sucking wind and fighting rear leg burn, the Euphoria would blast you through. Yes, you would have to deal with the sketchy skid across groomers and on and off the lift, but you could get so much more pow for your dollar that it may very well be worth it.
Besides the Euphoria, I’ve riden Venture’s Storm, Zephyr, and Odin. Each of those boards are hard-charging mountain dominators. Because of the surfy feel, the Euphoria feels more graceful than powerful. It’s clearly still a Venture, though. The board survived days worth of getting thrown in and out of the cat and everything else a mountain can throw at it. At the end of the trip, it still looked like it was brand new. This is the result of Venture’s dedication to handcrafted boards made in their factory in Colorado and why they’re able to confidently offer twice the normal industry warranty.
Summary: The Euphoria pretty much ends all debate on what board has the most float. If you end up with a Euphoria in your quiver, you probably won’t use it too much, but the days that you do ride it will be the best riding days of your life.
Sizes and Options: The Euphoria comes in 156, 162, and 168 (I rode the 162 and at 6’1″ couldn’t imagine needing anything longer). Unlike other Venture models, there’s only one width option, 33cm, but given the nature of the board, width really shouldn’t be concern. All sizes are available as either a solid or split. More details on the sizing and specs are available on Venture’s website.
Lib-Tech does it again. The company that kick-started the rocker revolution and brought magnetraction to the world has a fresh take on the powder board. The Birdman takes a normal board and wraps it with a massive powder nose. The goal is to create a board with unmatched float that still holds an edge traversing across nasty stuff on the way to the goods.
A quick glance at the specs of the Birdman give a hint that something’s going on. The massive 170 has the same contact length and sidecut radius as the Attack Banana 156. It seems that Lib has taken an attack banana-lik design and mounted a massive nose on the board. The nose gives you float when you’re in powder, and the attack banana design gives you control when you’re not.
Our thoughts: Can’t wait to give one a try. One of the big complaints we have with highly tapered pow boards is that they don’t track well on edges. You don’t want to traverse an ice-field above a big cliff on a tapered board. The Birdman solves this problem by keeping the edging of a normal board. And we can only imagine what it’s like to open up in a big powder field on a 170 or 180.
Camber: The Birdman has Lib’s BTX, which is their reverse-camber “banana” design plus magnetraction.
Shape: With a nose like that, it’s clearly directional.
Sizes and Options: You’ve got two choices – massive and gigantic. The Birdman comes in 170 and 180 lengths, both are wide with 26 and 26.5 waste widths.
“Just point it and go! The worst thing you can do is not commit.” We were lined up, 10 deep, at the top of a cliff band in the BC backcountry as our guide shouted us this sage advice.
Spend enough time in the backcountry and sooner or later, you’re going to find yourself at the top of a big drop. There’s a good chance that “just point it and go” will be your guide’s advice. And they’ll be right: confidence is the key.
Several years ago, I took a tumble off a 25 foot cliff near Crystal Mountain and landed in the hospital with five broken bones. The fall didn’t just end my season, it also did some serious damage to my confidence in just “pointing it”. Since that fall, I’ve had a hard time overcoming my nerves and just committing. But that day was different…
Many boards are fun to ride. Only a rare few make you a better rider. That day in British Columbia, I was on my third day testing the Venture Storm, and as I charged off cliff after cliff on the Storm, I was a different rider.
The 2011 Storm is Venture’s “big lines and burly terrain” board. The directional board has a big, soft, pointed nose designed to absorb whatever comes its way and keep things floating. The board has a moderate 8mm of taper with a 30 mm setback to keep the tail settled and the nose up. Venture’s given the board a very gentle rocker with an early-rise tip and tail. To keep the board edging predictably no matter the condition, Venture uses a triaxial fiberglass patern stiffening the board along the torsional stress lines. Everything is wrapped in Venture’s bomb-proof construction, with p-tex on the sidewalls as well as the base.
Our thoughts: I spent several days riding a 168 Storm in deep Canadian powder with Monashee Powder Cat Skiing in BC. I rode the board in everything from dense trees to open bowls to narrow chutes with conditions varying from bottomless fluff to rock-hard wind and sun crust. As the one-day test quickly turned into three, I did not want to give up this amazing board.
The Storm is like a beautifully handcrafted samurai sword: powerful, precise, graceful, and (at times) dangerous. The big, soft-ish nose easily absorbs any surprises and the stiff, powerful tail grips and cuts through the snow with amazing ease. The board has a very dominant “power center”, where energy transfer and control seem to amplify out from the bindings through the edges of the board. This results in an incredible strong and “in charge” ride. In wide open bowls, the board produces big, strong, dominating carves. In tight trees, the board was amazingly nimble. And in steep chutes, the tip and tail are rockered just enough to get them out of the way when you need to move from edge to edge quickly.
Combining moderate taper and rocker is a very effective way to give the board float without sacrificing performance elsewhere. Even with all of my weight on my front foot, the tip of this board never dove. Not having to shift weight back means not only is there no rear leg burn, you can truly carve the board the way you do on hard pack. At 8 mm of taper, the Storm doesn’t face the tracking issues that more aggressively tapered boards have. And the rocker is subtle enough to give the board the benefits of rocker without making it feel squirrelly and unstable on landings.
It’s easy to focus on rocker and taper when discussing powder boards, but I don’t think that’s where the Storm’s secret powers come from. What makes the Storm such an amazing board, I believe, is its stiff and powerful tail. Where boards like the Burton Fish chop the tail off and taper it heavily to get it out of the way, Venture has taken a different approach. The Storm’s stiff tail is responsible for the board’s powerful feel, stable landings, and nimbleness. The result is simply amazing.
No board is perfect, and there are some areas where the Storm’s strengths become its weaknesses. As with any tapered board, this is a board that does not like to be ridden fakie. Attempts at riding switch were generally rewarded with a prompt and awkward faceplant. The Storm is not a board to ridden casually – the stiff tail demands your attention. If you don’t take control, the board will start making decisions on its own. During my time on the board, I was thrown around a few times for getting lazy and letting the board take over. And while it might be obvious, this is not a board to learn on. Beginning riders should look for something much more forgiving. None of these downsides, in my opinion, is significant enough to be of concern for anyone looking for a hard-charging board to dominate the steep and deep.
A board built for burly terrain needs to be a bit burly itself. This isn’t the lightest board you’ll find. But after three days of intense riding, countless loads and unloads from the back of the cat, and a tree well “incident”, the demo board looked brand new. Venture backs their boards with a warranty two year warranty – twice the industry norm. Clearly they’re confident in the durability of their craftsmanship.
If the board itself isn’t enough, consider the company that makes it. Venture is a small company based in Silverton, Colorado. At the heart of the company are a husband and wife team – Klemens and Lisa Branner. Send Venture an email and there’s a very good chance that one of them will respond. Where many companies are scaling production up by taking manufacturing overseas, Venture continues to handcraft their boards in Silverton by people who love snowboarding just as much as you do. The company’s focused on renewable and green production, constantly experimenting with materials that reduce their environmental impact without decreasing performance.
Summary: In case you haven’t figured it out, I loved my time on this board. I can’t imagine you can find a better board for tackling big mountain terrain.
Sizes and options: Venture offers the Storm in four widths – 24, 25, 26, and 27 cm, each with 3 to 4 lengths, ranging from 152 to 180 cm. And if that isn’t enough, Venture offers the Storm in both a solid and split version. Check out all of your options at Venture’s Website.
Video: Making some turns on the Storm (it appears 0:05 – 1:10, 3:21 – finish)
The Slackcountry’s name describes it perfectly: this is the perfect board for lift-accessed powder stashes. Rule the powder and have an awesome time getting there. Most powder boards require you to give up significant performance in-bounds. Not this ride. The Slackcountry is equally at home carving up your local mountain and raging the steep and deep of the backcountry. Dare I say “quiver killer”?
The 2011 version takes last year’s rockered twin-tip powder design and refines it to make the board even better. The board still has the minor 3/4 inch setback (with markers for 0″ setback if that’s your style) and rocker from bindings out. Ride has kept the board’s urethane sidewalls to absorb chatter and keep edge pressure on the pack. The new model adds an ultralight base, a clear hemp top sheet, and a new 157 cm option.
Our thoughts: Ride hooked me up with a 164 Slackcountry to ride for several days in varied conditions. I took the board out for several days at local Washington resorts, including a fast-charging bluebird groomer day and a powder day at Crystal Mountain and a spring slush-fest at Stevens Pass. After getting to see how it did riding lift-accessed slackcountry, I took it up to British Columbia for a cat-accessed backcountry trip with Monashee Powder Cats to see how it did in non-stop deep powder. I rode the Slackcountry on ice and hardpack, I carved up wide-open untracked bowls and snaked through trees, I bombed chutes and dropped cliffs. No matter where I was or what I was riding, I had an absolutely awesome time on the Slackcountry.
They’ve nailed it with the rocker on this board. The float is fantastic. Because the board isn’t tapered or set back, the tail doesn’t settle on it’s own. Fortunately, it only took the slightest shift toward my back foot to pop the nose up and get some float. If I didn’t keep my weight shifted back, the nose would dive, but because it rocked back so easily, rear leg burn was never an issue. The Slackcountry doesn’t have the non-stop float of a heavily tapered board, but for what you gain with it (in-bounds awesomeness), I think it’s a fair trade.
The almost-centered stance and twin shape let me do something I rarely attempt on a heavily tapered board: ride powder switch. Which I did a LOT. And it was tons of fun. Tons. The rocker also made buttering and wheelie-ing much easier in powder. I found myself playing around on this board much more than I ever had before.
There is a downside to the heavily rockered shape of this board: landings can be squirrelly. Because of the ease with which this board pops up in front of you (to give it float), I found it really wanted to zip out from under me on big landings. If I came down centered, this wasn’t a problem, but if my weight was back even a tiny bit, I really had to shift forward as fast as I could if I wanted to stick a landing.
The biggest surprise the Slackcountry had in store for me was how well it carves on pack. It’s a fairly soft board designed for powder, so I didn’t expect much on groomers. Turns out it carves phenomenally well. Groomers are a blast on this board. I think the secret is in the urethane side walls – even though the board is fairly soft, they keep the edge in contact with the snow. I only had issues at very high speeds, where the edging couldn’t keep up and the board would begin to feel a bit unstable.
During my first day at Monashee, our guide pointed me toward a perfect chute between two cliff bands. It was about 100 feet long, 10 feet wide, and very steep. I’ll admit that I was a little nervous as I dropped in at the top. Losing my edge would have resulted in quite a tumble. About two turns into the chute, I realized that on the Slackcountry, I had nothing to worry about. This is where the board really excelled. The rocker gets the tip and tail out of the way – the board flipped edge-to-edge effortlessly, but once on edge, it gripped the snow with a Vulcan mind-board connection. As I dropped out the bottom of the chute, I had a massive ear-to-ear grin and I was hooked on this awesome board.
Camber: The Slackcountry features Ride’s “Highrize Rocker” which is a reverse camber design where the board is flat between your feet for stability and edge control, and rockered from the bindings to the tip and tail giving the board lots of lift and float.
Size and options: The 2010 Ride Slackcountry is available in a 157, 161, 164, and 168.
For many of us old-timers, Winterstick defined powder boards. Their classic swallowtail and tapered roundtail models begged for powder. Now with Tom Burt at the helm, the company remains true to its unique roots while producing a modern snowboard made of going big on the steep and deep.
This big board is not designed to be ridden gently. With a massive 11 meter radius side cut, it bombs big arcs down the hill. Want to make tighter turns? You’ve gotta bend the board to your will. Combine the directional shape and flex, 4 mm of taper, and 3 cm stance set-back, and you might have the ultimate big-mountain ride for the ultimate big mountain rider. Enough taper to float in powder, but not so much that you give up edge control in a hard fast carve. Dominate this board or it will dominate you.
Our thoughts: This board is a beast. If you are looking to charge hard and aren’t afraid of speed, this board is up to the challenge. But if you want even a slightly mellow ride, look elsewhere. This board is not designed for slowness.
Shape: Directional. Massive 11m sidecut. 4 mm taper. Stiff progessive flex.
Sizes and options: 172 cm
Lib-Tech puts a lot of design innovation into the signature models for their resident mad-man Travis Rice. Besides offering ice-gripping magnetraction and a choice of camber options (traditional camber or Lib’s C2BTX), they also offer park-focused blunt nose shapes and powder-specific pointy shapes. We care about powder, so we’re focused on the pointy shaped options.
With no taper and a minimal set-back, this board relies on the old-standby’s of speed and rear leg burn to keep the nose floating. But if you’re like Mr. Rice and spend almost as much time riding fakie as normal even on powder days, taper would only get in the way. And with magnetraction, you aren’t going to be hating life if you stumble on some hard-pack on your way to the deep stash.
Our thoughts: This isn’t the board that you’re going to take on a back-country trip. It’s designed for the rider who wants to rip all conditions; not just powder. We’re purists and aren’t looking for any sacrifice in the white room, but it we could only have one board, this would make the short list.
Camber: Available with Lib’s C2BTX, which is rocker between the bindings and camber underneath them. This gives the fun of rocker with the powder of camber.
Shape: Directional twin-tip with a slight set-back.
Sizes and Options: The powder tip comes in a 161.5 and 164.5, as well as a blunt tip shape in 153 and 157. You choose between camber or C2BTX.
Rome is packing a lot of technology and options into the 2010 Notch. The board has S camber, similar to the Fish, to give you traditional camber benefits when carving with the added bonus of lifting up the nose when you flex into a turn. They’ve beveled the edges 1 degree to keep them from snagging, added ultralight bamboo to reduce weight and the board’s environmental impact. What else?
- Impact plates of titanal aluminum under the bindings to soften big landings while strengthening the board where it needs it most
- Carbon fibers laminated in at 30 degree angles to give a blend of looseness and power transfer
- “Centerline Stringer” technology where carbon and other materials and lined down the center of the board from the bindings to the tip and tail to increase olleys and pop
I could go on, but I wont.
Our thougths: This board has a lot packed into it. With all of this technology, it’s clear that Rome has put a lot of work into it. What’s less clear is what this board is supposed to do. Rome says this board is great for powder, freeride, and corduroy. Either they’ve built the perfect no sacrifice all-around board or they’ve made a board that tries too many things and but doesn’t succeed and any one. The jury is still out.
Camber: The 2010 Rome Notch has S-camber, with rocker from the front binding to the tip and traditional negative camber between the bindings.
Shape: The board has a directional taper shape, and is available with a swallow tail in certain sizes.
Sizes and options: You can get your Rome notch in a 155, 158, 162, 168, 164 swallow, and 172 swallow.