Monday, December 27, 2010

Snowboard Review: Ride Slackcountry 164

For the first ten or so years or snowboarding, I was always a single board quiver guy.  I never felt the need to own more than one board, although my college student budget for four years of that period certainly detoured me from buying a new board.  It wasn’t until last season when I started riding a lot more off piste powder that I realized my trusty traditional camber Burton Custom 158 had its limitations.  I recall one day in particular at Mount Baker last season where they got just short of two feet of fresh powder overnight.  All I could do was point the board downhill and lean back as far as I could just to keep myself from sinking.  I was sitting somewhere on Pan Dome buried in powder thinking, “I really need to get myself a nice powder board.”

As soon as the late season sales started popping up, I was out shopping in full force.  I hit all the local ski shops and talked to a lot of sales guys.  I eventually settled on this particular Ride Slackcountry 164 that Evo had sitting all alone in the corner of their shop.  The combination of the late season mark down along with an Evo Groupon (gotta love Groupons!) made the purchase quite affordable.  Since my purchase last spring, I have been able to ride this board on two separate occasions: one Saturday late last spring that featured over three feet of fresh at Stevens Pass, and one day last week at Whistler with close to two feet of fresh.

Last season a ton snowboarding companies made big splashes with tons of different alternative camber offerings, from soft jib rockers to huge powder rocker profiles.  Ride’s big powder rocker, HighRize Rocker, can be found on the Slackcountry.  Laying the deck on a flat surface, you can see it is completely flat through the bindings, then up to a three stage, or three angle, rocker on each end.  Very boat-ish, if you will.  The board just looks absolutely killer as well.  Nothing flashy at all, but I love the Schmidt Beer inspired graphics.  I have definitely used the “Wish You Were Here” message on the base in a few pictures to send to friends who were missing out on the fun.

Both days I’ve been on this board involved pretty decent powder.  I had plenty of untouched runs to test the pow float, and all I have to say is this thing absolutely KILLS in the powder.  It takes almost no effort at all to keep the nose up when slashing through the deep stuff.  Despite the 164cm length, it still feels quite nimble through the trees or more technical runs due to the rocker profile.

When all the pow got tracked into some nasty chop, the Slackcountry just chewed it up and spit it out.  The board is stiff and damp enough to power through any chop without getting all chattery or anything.  Ride’s 90A Slimewalls can be partially attributed to these characteristics as well.  One thing I did notice in these variable conditions is the tip and tail of the board were a little softer than I expected.  I’m wondering if perhaps this is due to the rocker?  I just felt like I wasn’t getting as much response pushing off the tail when I pulled a railed healside turn.  This really isn’t a big knock on the board, just merely an observation.

The one big downside to the Slackcountry is packed powder and groomer performance.  The amount of rocker in both the tip and tail really do affect the control on groomers.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not uncontrollable, but it does take some getting used to.  You really have to pay attention to what the board is doing or you might have the tail slide out under you.  There were a couple long low speed cat tracks at Whistler I took last weekend where I felt like I had stay slightly on either edge just to make sure I kept the board from getting squirrelly.  On steeper groomers that aren’t too packed, the board does carve nicely once you get used to getting it to that edge.

One other thing I noticed during both days on this board is how it seemed to turn into a freight train late in the day on tired legs.  As soon as my legs got tired and the snow got tracked out, I felt like I was in a constant fight trying to make the board go where I wanted it to.  I attribute this to the size of the board, the rocker profile, and my shot legs on tracked out snow.

Ride rates the flex on this board at a 7 out of 10, which I feel is a pretty accurate rating.  It’s not super stiff like you’d think a big freeride board would be, but I don’t think I’d really classify this as a straight hard-charging freeride deck at all.  It’s strictly a powder board.  I’m no expert on board dynamics, but I’d think that the semi-soft tail helps give a little extra buoyancy in the deep stuff.  Like I stated earlier, you can really tell the board isn’t super stiff when trying to pull a really hard turn in anything other than powder.

I really enjoyed how damp the ride was on the Slackcountry once the powder was chewed up.  Just point the deck and go, powering over any and all chop without transmitting a lot of chatter or roughness to your feet.  This really helped take a lot of stress off my knees and legs.

The tail of the board does have a bit of spring to it, but I’ve found it really hard to get a good pop off the tail due to the amount of rocker.  The canted footbeds on the Ride CAD did help get a little additional leverage on the tail, but I still couldn’t launch myself off kickers with any authority.  No big deal in my mind though, this isn’t a freestyle deck!

Both days I’ve spend on this board were on different sets of bindings.  The first set I had mounted last year was a pair of Burton CO2s.  I definitely enjoyed the CO2s, they were a very comfortable binding, but I felt like they didn’t give me the right amount of stiffness I wanted for my freeride powder board.  It also didn’t help that they were slightly oversized for my low profile boot.

Before this season started, I made a huge score on a pair of brand new past season Ride CAD bindings from a Pawn Shop in a pretty sketchy area of Seattle.  For those of you not in the know, the Ride CAD bindings are one of the stiffest, tech-iest bindings Ride has made.  The adjustable ankle strap and footbed let you dial in the ride exactly how you like it.  The response on bindings these are incredible!  The stiff chassis, highback, and ankle strap translate any movement directly to the board.  Don’t try to tweak any grabs in these though, because it’s simply not going to happen.  Pretty good fit for the Slackcountry in my opinion.

Final Thoughts
This powder deck does exactly what it’s made to do: absolutely annihilate the fresh, deep stuff!  It is just an absolute blast to ride in fresh powder, as both of my days on this deck have been.  Chopped powder is fun too once you’ve tracked it all out.  The drawbacks start once it gets all packed down though.  The ride outside of powder is doable and not incredible hard, but it’s enough of a drawback makes this board pretty much a quiver stick rather than a quiver killer.  Regardless of its drawbacks, this board remains one of my favorite and will be my main powderstick for all of my backcountry adventures, cat boarding, and deep resort riding.

My Slackcountry in action.

1 comment:

  1. OH YEAH!! Buddy, we are definitely going to have to get together and ride.