SIA on snow demo 2011
Every year at SIA, the best and the brightest get together to show off their wares and vie for the honor of marketing all their gear to none other than you and me. For those of you who don’t know, this isn’t just your typical meet and greet with a bunch of booths, marketing dudes, and marked down gear from last year. This is where the heavy hitters of the snow sports industry meet media personnel, buyers, and others from around the world to show off everything that’s going to hit the shelves next year. We here at Active Gear Review have been loyal attendees for numerous years – but this is the first we’ve hit up the full on snow demo to put all the different gear to the test. Your two favorite testers, Shannon and Zach, got to head up to Winter Park for a day full of new gear and just plain old fashioned fun on the snow.
While Shannon got down and dirty on numerous pairs of skis, I got busy right away at the Lib Tech/GNU tent. Part of the fun of the convention is getting to meet all the people from top to bottom at each company, and Mervin Industries (the parent company for these two) didn’t disappoint. I was immediately greeted by a cheerful, super stoked rep who helped me look through the latest line up. I wanted to start with them because they have been on the forefront of the reverse camber revolution (love it or hate, it’s here to stay, and had a HUGE presence at the demo – I didn’t ride one traditional camber board all day) and they also have an interesting technology called “Magnetraction.” Converts to such board models as the “skate banana” or the “attack banana” swear that it not only rules the icy, choppy conditions found in most terrain parks, but also tree runs and powder. Needless to say, I eagerly hopped on a “TRS” which is a moderately (for Lib-Tech, between $500-$600, price to be determined next year) priced all mountain board.
Not only did the TRS deliver, it delivered in a big way. Although I would later demo numerous companies and products, Lib Tech may be making the most fun, most responsive boards out there. Magnetraction, which turns the side of your board into a serrated steak knife, is also found on all of their skis. While we didn’t get a chance to take out any skis, it worked superbly in ALL conditions, not just chop. There is a rumor out there (probably started by competitors) that Lib Tech doesn’t do well in powder. That’s just flat out wrong. If you don’t believe us, check them out for yourself.
Eagerly buoyed up by my experience with Lib Tech, I headed off to numerous other tents throughout the day. Essentially, after checking in, you are free to roam the tent city in search of all of your favorite gear and merchants. I tested out Flow, Never Summer, DC, K2, Salomon, Ride, and Lib Tech/GNU. Needless to say, it was quite a busy day. As I mentioned before, I didn’t test a single board with traditional camber. Reverse camber was definitely in the spotlight, being a feature of every board line up. A few highlights of the day:
1.) K2 had the best sub $400 board, by far. It was the World Wide Weapon, which is designed to be a jib specific park slayer. What’s super cool is that they’ve figured out a effective edge technology that allows the rider to carve as if he or she is riding a board that’s much longer. I rode a 154, and felt like I was on a 160. The affect of this is that while I’m able to get on a much, much shorter board, I’m able to hold steady while hitting trees, rock drops, and powder. Riding is all about personal preference, and while a nice stiff all mountain board is great for the bombing runs at Mach 2, jib boards are just fun.
2.) DC had the coolest reps, hands down. I’ve been a big fan of DC boots for awhile. Snowboard boots are mainly all about foot shape. Have a rep at your local store check out your foot, talk to you about your arches, the height of your instep, and the shape of your toes. I’ve ridden lots of boots, but I come back to DC every time. Since I’ve got my boots dialed in, I took the time to get to know their board line up. The reps took the time to get me educated on the entire line up from top to bottom, and their enthusiasm was infectious. We then went and grabbed lunch, had a few beers, and hit the slopes. Some tents just shoved a board in your face and let you have at it. DC took the time to make sure I was stoked on their personal favorites. The Devun Walsh that I rode was stiff, carved well, and very responsive. I loved the fact that DC’s reverse camber felt exactly like a skate board underfoot.
3.) Flow has a love ‘em or hate ‘em reputation in the industry, so I had to get in some of their new bindings. One thing I’ve learned about flow – shell out the extra cash, and you won’t be disappointed. Even the guy at the tent advised to test only aluminum base plate bindings out – the composite bindings just don’t hold up. Don’t listen to all the other flow reviews out there – I got dialed in in approx. 5 minutes, and rode them comfortably for most of the day. I still like the feel of this years Restricted Cartel from Burton better than the lock down that flow provides, but if you like the security with zero foot cramp issues, Flow is where it’s at.
All in all, the SIA on snow demo was highly successful, with great interaction from all companies with the exception of one – we aren’t naming names, but for home grown boys, they were surly and put an hour time limit on all of their boards. So much for customer service. We look forward to heading out next year and keeping you guys updated. For more info on any of these demos, check out their websites in the coming months – next year’s line up is just around the corner.