Review: 2011 Venture Storm

Posted: July 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Boards | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments »

“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)

Review: 2011 Ride Slackcountry

Posted: May 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Boards | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments »

Ride 2011 Slackcountry 164The 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.