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Falling in love with boarding all over again after 15 years!

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I first started boarding well over 15 years ago when in my early 20's. Back then there was a big group of mates, all clueless, heading to Glenshee/Lecht/Cairngorn on a regular basis and then making our first trips to Europe as we progressed and fell in love with boarding and the mountains. We self-taught from magazines, videos (VHS!) and from watching/pushing each other to improve.

Fast forward 15 years and a few have dropped out with married life/kids, a couple did seasons and burnt out and a couple of us kept a steady interest and still get a few days in each season, but rarely together.

Last year I starting skiing - yeah, yeah I know. Did two days and by the end was happy enough on Scottish reds (which as we all know are equal to double blacks in normal alpine conditions!) It was like those early days of boarding again with rapid progress, a great sense of achievement and of course the odd high speed fall to the amusement of everyone. I'd started skiing so I could hang out with my kids whilst they were learning and before I knew it I was looking forward to skiing more than boarding.

This season I've had a few days in France and a couple at Heavenly and I decided I had to board. France was frustrating. I took my own stuff (Rome Anthemn 66, Technine bindings and Vans Fargo Boa boots) and found that the lack of fresh snow meant not much off piste and the on piste was ok, but compacted and a bit limited. My wife by contrast was loving the conditions on skis and in hindsight I think I'd been better off on skis. Going to Heavenly I didnt expect much. Thankfully there was fresh snow the whole weekend and the conditions were very good with the exception of the lowest runs. Lots of off piste, lots of trees and lots of friendly people. In short it was amazing and I had a great time. I fell in love with boarding again for the first time in a long while.

So what's the point of this post? Well now that I've rekindled my love affair I want to look at my technique and equipment and get a sense of what I can do to improve further and get more out of my rather limited time on snow in future.

Equipment-wise the Rome 66 is old, heavy and not very responsive. Likewise the Vans Fargos are big, heavy and ridgid. Fine for big mountain off piste, but frankly thats a rare occurance for me. The hire equipment in the US I found to be a revelation. The board was a Jones All Mountain Twin 64 which was light, responsive and great fun across the whole mountain. Powder, choppy on/off piste and pisted it handled all with ease. The hire boots were cheapo Head efforts but they were so soft and flexbile compared to my Vans! Despite being initally concerned at the lack of ankle support they were so comfortable with no foot pain at all, and all the control I wanted. I was left wondering why I had stuck with the chunky Vans for so long. I'm now very tempted to try and find a Jones board of similar spec. It really worked for me. The boots are definetly getting replaced.

In terms of technique I've become aware of a few things that might be worth addressing. First the approach to binding position seems to have changed over the last 10 years. When I started out for freeride it was accepted that you angle both bindings forward and only those doing parks/freestyle would ride with "duck feet" positioning. Now it seems everyone pretty much rides this way. I assume that any concerns over potential knee stress and over extention have been addressed? I'm planning on some more aggressive experimentation with binding positioning in future. I like to ride switch now and again and like small kickers but at my age big park action isnt where I want to be! Would be great to know how everyone here rides.

Related to the above I was really aware on the lighter Jones board that whilst my toe side turns were really smooth and controlled at speed, my heel side turns (I'm regular btw) tended to be overly aggressive leading to too much turn in when turning left. This wasnt such an issue on steep runs, but very evident on blues and gentle reds on piste. Stability at speed on my heel edge also wasnt great. Would be great to get some thoughts on some ideas to improve this? I have fairly big feet at UK 11, but have not found wide boards to work that well for me. The few I have tried are like trying to turn the Titanic! The board I've most enjoyed owning was a Burton Jim Rippey 54 from 97. Not only did it have an awesome base graphic but was really responsive and predictable - although a bit small for me (6'4''/ 95 kg)

Would also appreciate thoughts on what kind of recent boards/boots would be recommended given my future boarding will likely continue to be 3-5 days in Scotland, a week in Europe and a weekend or two in the US each year.

snow report
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
The Mountain Twin is bang in the middle of 'all mountain', there are loads of decent boards in the same category but the MT is considered one of the best. I certainly wan't one. I also want a Lib TRS/T Rice, Gnu Billy Goat, Never Summer Proto/Snowtrooper/Ripsaw, Burton Custom/Custom Flying V, K2 Turbo Dream, Rome Anthem, Yes Basic/Standard/The Greats, Capita BSOD....

My 2 current boards sit either side of the 'all mountain meridian', a Yes PYL set up +18-6 and a Flow Era set up +15-15 (I too learnt with both feet pointing forward).

I also have issues with heelside carves and found that bending my knees more helps, you need to have your hips and shoulders 'stacked' over the board as much as possible, flexing mainly at the ankles and knees. You might also be opening your shoulders a bit causing the board to turn too quickly. Ideally you turn the board with your feet, keeping your hips and shoulders in line with the board and turning your head mainly.

This is the theory of it anyway. Please don't ask me to demonstrate. I'd love to live nearer the Scottish resorts - the Alps are only a little further.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Board-wise, it's like cars or clothes, the "fit" is the most important thing. I'd rather ride the correct size of any board than the wrong size of my favourite board, because if the size isn't right then the board is either a noodle or it won't turn well.

If you're riding 1.54 Burton at 95kgs, although I'm not familiar with that board I would say you'll completely over power it. I weigh about 2/3 of your weight and haven't found a Burton board under 1.56 which is the right size for me. I would look at the manufacturer's recommended weight range and make sure you're in the middle of it. I've not ridden the Jones, but 1.64 sounds like a more reasonable size than 1.54, for your weight. Check the specifications. That alone may be why you like the Jones: perhaps it's the right size.

If you like the Jones (made my Niedecker I think), then look at similar boards and pick the one you like best.

Really all snowboards are good, it's just that they're good for different people.
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
I pulled the trigger on a new Jones board this year - I'd been looking at the Mountain Twin all year but after chatting to the guys in Endless Winter in Courchevel last week I took a Flagship out for a test drive and was won over. More of a charger/carver than the M.T. which is probably more my style anyway, but it's still got much more pop in it than my old Burton Triumph ever had. The flagship really responds well to an aggressive turn and rides up on its rails well and holds speed nicely too.
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