The Ides of March have cruised on by and today I packed up the snowboard gear until winter 2009. That's right, all is done. Washington D.C. has seen some warmer temperatures recently and the time has come to pack it in for the season. While skateboarding will always be the one thing I feel strongly connected to through participation of enjoyment ... snowboarding is fun. This year I decided to venture out and purchase a few new boards. One I had always wanted and one really intrigued me. The following review is based on nothing more than plenty of riding this season, 16 years of snowboarding in my back pocket and the lone statement "I know what I like." Buckle up for round two of "Another Product Review or Opinions Are Like Assholes: we all have them."
We do need to set the level on one fact. I don't get free snowboards. I do make the purchase via proform like any guy who still works in or with a shop or is out there in the media. But, I still pay for boards. No freebies. Not even for review. Most companies encourage you to hit up the on snow demo rather than send out boards. This, of course, is understandable in these wacky economic times. OK, moving on...
There have been two snowboards over the last few years have intrigued me. They both have a variety of reasons but it's pretty simple. The Burton T6 is one and the Gnu Riders Choice with magne traction is the other. Two very different boards that shouldn't be compared side by side but we'll get to that later. The T6 is Burton's $800 board in the upper echelon of their all-mountain freestyle line up. I picked this up in 162 cm and really enjoyed the ride it provided. The Gnu Riders Choice with magne traction in 16.5 that i grabbed was equally enjoyable and had more pop than any board I have previously ridden. Stability wise at high speed the T6 couldn't be matched but because of the all-terrain freestyle vibe the Riders choice provided more fun on the kickers and rails.
Here's where I weigh in with the dreaded opinion. I give the advantage to the Riders Choice. Here's the reason why: the technology works for you. In the instance of the T6 being light, stable, and aggressive is great but the board is always moving in that direction. If you fall outside of the boards skill set by a narrow margin it will be the difference between a really good day and really bad day of riding. The Riders Choice was a bit looser at high speed but the magne traction can account for the margin of error based on skill or sketchy conditions. However, the most enjoyable thing about the Riders Choice was its' affinity to skating. The board reminded me of when you get a new deck for skating and all you do is transfer over that one pair of trucks and wheels you've spent a month dialing in. This overall sense of comfort allowed me to dive right in on the Riders Choice in both the park and the few kickers I built this year. I didn't accomplish anything great but I had more fun. Simply put: with the technology of the Riders Choice working with me while out riding rather than focusing me to utilize the technology ...I had more fun. The T6 was fun and I had some great days on it. But, the Riders Choice is the board that had me smiling the most.
Having worked in snowboard shops off an on for 15 years this is always a great story to tell the consumer who wants to come in and buy top of the line everything. We typically relate to them that we don't even ride top of the line stuff, if they want it we'll sell it to them. However when that first year rider walks out with a $1200 set up that terje himself wouldn't strap into...there's always unspoken words of: "your not going to enjoy this board, boot, binder...whatever."
Should these two boards be compared side by side? Why not, both claim an all-mountain freestyle sensibility and that should be enough. But, you should also know what you like and even though both baords claim to be a part of the same category they are light years apart. For snowboarders just getting into it or looking to get a new deck hype, graphics, marketing any number of variables can skew their choice. Both of these decks work but on two different levels of use and function. But, the choice of buying a deck should be made on what you enjoy the most. What will work for you needs to be the biggest factor.
Now, I'll hold onto my T6. Because I enjoyed the Riders Choice more doesn't mean the T6 should be thrown out. Then again I see I can easily pay for a Lib Skate Banana if I drop the T6. As you can tell my wheels are already turning for next season. In the mean time. I'll be skating and thinking about those first turns for winter 2008 - 2009.