Review: 2013 Venture Euphoria

Posted: November 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Boards | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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.

Venture Euphoria Pow SurferIt’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.

Forget float. The Euphoria basically levitates you down the mountain.

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.

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: Winterstick TB 172

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Boards | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

TB72For 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.

Camber: Yep.

Shape: Directional. Massive 11m sidecut. 4 mm taper. Stiff progessive flex.

Sizes and options: 172 cm

Review: 2010 Rome Notch

Posted: September 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Boards | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

rome notchRome 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.

Review: 2010 Libtech 1986 Snow Mullet

Posted: September 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Boards | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

LibTech1986SnowMulletBTXLibTech’s 1986 Snow Mullet blends the taper of a Fish with features of a freeride board to create what might be the ultimate all-around powder board. Do not be mistaken: this is not Libtech’s Fish – the Mullet is clearly it’s own beast. The Mullet has a slight setback an directional flex and Magnetraction to make the board grip on hard pack without worrying about a short tail washing out. Because of the more centered stance, you don’t size down the way you would on a Fish. Riders that want a big board can get one with a Mullet, and with the centered stance and Banana Camber, enjoy the more traditional powder riding with lots of float and the ability to carve powder like it’s pack and pack like it’s powder.

Our thoughts: I haven’t been on one, but I want to. The Mullet has a unique combination of features to make it sound like a board that can really rip in all conditions, and still bring that huge smile to your face on a powder day. Given the aggressive taper, I’m not sure I’d want a Mullet as my only board, but it should be perfect for those days with mixed conditions. The Mullet seems to be perfect for weekend resort powder days in the Northwest, where you’ll be rocking fresh stashes all day, but working hard to get to them as the slopes get tracked out.

Camber: The board has Banana camber between the bindings, which should definitely further the fun factor of this ride, but is flat from bindings to tip and tail to help maintain edge pressure when you need it.

Shape: The board has a 30 mm taper, but with 1.5″ of setback, it should still ride like a traditional board.

Sizes and Options: The 1986 Snow Mullet is available in a 156, 160, and 165, and 172.

Review: 2010 Burton Fish

Posted: September 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Boards | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

2010_burton_fish_ltdThe board that ignited the powder board revolution is back. For 2010, they’re taking the key features of the 2009 Fish and combining it with the premium options found on the Fish LTD.

The result is an incredibly maneuverable board with a very stable yet surfy feel. Because of the board’s shape, Burton recommends you actually downsize 3-6 cm when deciding what Fish is right for you. Fans of the board love the playful feel, though critics say that the board doesn’t give you the same ability to ‘carve’ on top of powder that you’d find in a larger backcountry ride.

Our thoughts: I’m not going to hide it. I love the Fish. This board takes powder riding to a new level. Because of it’s maneuverability, you can access powder stashes that most riders never get to, letting you farm a storm long after others have gone back to groomers. It’s definitely a powder-specific board. You don’t want to cruise hard pack on this ride, but we’ve found that the short tail and surfy feel can be a ton of fun on packed powder days. If you’re looking for a more all-purpose stick with many aspects of the Fish, check out the Molalo or SuperModel. But if you want a no compromises powder board for your best days, the Fish will do you no wrong.

Camber: The board has Burton’s S-Rocker, which is designed to increase float and help keep the nose up by lifting the tip of the board when force is applied to the flex.

Shape: The shape of the board has a 30 mm taper, the most in the Burton lineup, to help the tail to settling into the snow and the tip to keep from submarining. In case the pintail taper isn’t enough, they’ve given the board a subtle swallow-tail to decrease the surface area of the board’s rear. The result: no more rear leg burn.

Sizes and Options: The Fish is available in a 150, 156, and 160