Paul – Getting that first taste of mountain air and strapping a board to his feet while living and working as an Engineer in France turned everything upside down for Paul. A “normal” life no longer seemed acceptable, snowboarding was the only thing that mattered. Finally taking the plunge to ditch the rat race in 2013 he’s been a fully fledged Snowboard Bum ever since travelling the world in search of that sweet white powder. He now calls the town of Fernie, a little British Columbian gem in the Canadian Rockies, home and works full time at Boardstiff Snow, Skate & Surf when not out trying to cover his face in that white goodness (or using crude innuendos).
Working in a snowboard shop may not pay Wall Street wages but it does come with its perks, like getting pro deals, seeing whats in store for the industry almost a year in advance of release, test driving some of the hardware that his store sells and getting as much freeriding time as possible. Here he gives us his own personal review of their fleet of Never Summer Snowboards for 2016.
In my time working at Boardstiff I generally find there are two types of customer when im discussing snowboards: Those who ride and love Never Summer, and those who have never even heard of Never Summer. The great thing with the first group is I don’t have to tell them anything about the brand or upsell them with snowboard-speak and buzz words, they just want to know what’s new for the current year and can they buy one, right now. The second group is a whole different story. For many it isnt a familiar brand (the company don’t go all-in on advertising and a gigantic pro team) so I do find myself spending the first half of a conversation introducing them to the brand, their history and philosophy etc. By the end of this I am in desperate need of water to replenish my dry mouth. So I figured before I give you my oustandingly well written and witty reviews of the Never Summer boards we are carrying this winter here at the best store in Fernie I would give you a brief history of Never Summer and why they are awesome.
NEVER SUMMER HISTORY 101:
Designed and manufactured out of Denver, Colorado since 1983 Never Summer have been around the snowboarding block for quite a significant amount of time. I won’t go into too much detail about their progression from the old days to now, more of where they are now in this post-Back to the Future II present day. Never Summer apply to all their boards a “Rocker-Camber profile” believing that this is THE board profile that gives the most versatility and performance in all conditions. In simple terms, this means a rockered portion between the bindings that creates a natural float and surfy feel for the deep stuff and mellow regular camber extending from the bindings to the tip and tail bringing back old school edge performance and pop. So basically this puts them in the position of having benefits of both camber and rocker boards while eliminating (for the most part) the inherent drawbacks of each and creating 3 contact points instead of the regular 2. Now, obviously, nothing is ever truly perfect (my girlfriend will attest to that) so you are sacrificing some things with this profile but they do a damn good job of making their boards as versatile as possible for all-mountain slaying.
Throw in the fact that every board is made in house in their own factory in Denver, all come with a 3 year warranty as standard and that my Boss has carried them in our store for, like, forever then you know you have a mighty fine package on your hands.
So, you’ve made it this far and through my initial ramblings! Congrats. Now you have an idea of the brand let’s get in to my own personal reviews of the line up we have in store. Not to make a scene or anything, but I am Canadian Level 2 / Freestyle Level 1 snowboard instructor so I think I know what I’m talking about… I know, in fact, that doesn’t make me in anyway a big deal (I mean those that can’t do, teach, right?) but I like to think I know what I’m doing and what to look for in boards enough to be able to give you some decent feedback on how these boards performed. When I heard we were getting demo boards in the store this year I was super hyped. My old 154cm DC Mega was on its last legs, and I was really starting to feel my progression was being hindered by it in the awesome mountains that Fernie has to offer, so effectively having a quiver of boards to use over the season filled me with ever so much excitement. I tried my best to use them in ideal and not-so-ideal conditions to get a true overall feel for the individual boards. The reviews are in order of when I used each board. (Bear in mind that I’m a dude so I only ride the Guys boards. We do have some Womens Never Summers in store too which I will give a little bit of info on at the end)
For reference, I have definitely been on the freestlye side of things with my riding up until this moment in time (at least I’ve tried to be with moderate success) but as time has gone on and I ride more I am definitely leaning to pushing my freeriding this season with a freestyle edge sprinkled on top.
Shape: True Twin
This was the board I wanted the most, I was even close to buying it myself before my Boss told me to chill my beans when we heard of the demo fleet. I still love freestyle so I normally favour twin tip boards and the 157cm size is right in the middle for me.
The first thing that jumped out at me on the Proto was how much pop I could generate out of it. I was concerend the rocker part of the profile coupled with a medium flex would mean less pop but it wasnt a factor at all, I was ollie-ing and nollie-ing nicely off everything and it gave me confidence when doing side hits with spins etc.
The board feels nice and light underfoot, and has a nice swing weight for throwing cheeky 1’s and 3’s off of cat tracks. The ease at which you can press this badboy and butter around the mountain is also apparent the second you strap in, even with the camber part of the board I never felt worried I was going to trip an edge.
The harmonic dampeners at the nose and tail did a great job of removing chatter when traversing which can be a problem for boards that have a rocker to their profile. They kept everything quiet and smooth.
Fernie Alpine Resort doesn’t really like terrain parks, I mean they haven’t had kickers for a long time and they don’t invest in their rail park enough to call it “good”. So while I have hit almost all the features in the park that they do have on the Proto I haven’t truly put it through its paces on a large portion of what the board was made for. That being said I felt comfortable hitting up rails and it felt nice and stable on all the features that I’m able to hit successfully and with some style, I feel that with a perfectly groomed kicker/rail set up the Proto would inspire confidence.
The reason why I say perfectly groomed above is because I did feel that, in comparison to the other boards in this review, that it did struggle at times in less than ideal conditions. Thats not to say it did badly, far from it, just the other boards in the quiver performed better. The board holds a nice edge and carves well, but when it gets choppy and not so pristeen on the slopes it was a bit harder to keep it going. With the true twin nature of the Proto and centred stance I tried to keep with it, I felt that with some turns the nose and tail were a bit too soft to really force the issue. The same can be said for when hitting drops in the slackcountry, the tail felt washy on landings and made me a bit more timid rather than building confidence, or when the powder got a little heavy and I lost the nose it was easy to flop over the nose at times.
Overall I had, and will continue to have, a lot of fun on this board. I felt it raised my game on spinning and pressing the second I started to ride it. And it did perform really well in all conditions, just not as much as I feel I need this season when freestyle is not so much at the forefront of my riding. On those days where conditions are perfect it it will be outstanding for carving, powder and park laps, but if you want a true all mountain destroyer I think there are better options in our line up. Definitely great for the freestyler who wants to hit the whole mountain but still have enough playfulness to make park laps or jib laps a blast.
*Note, I took the Proto out again just before I finished writing this piece to give it another crack after riding all the other boards. I still stand by my overall review, however conditions were great on-piste and for the side hits and when you understand where the board excels and where it has its (minor) limitations it was heaps amount of fun and I felt even more positive about the board overall.
This was the suprise package of the lot for me. I felt of the 4 boards we have this would be 4th on my list, but I have found myself coming back to this board over and over again due to the varying nature of the conditions we have been getting in Fernie this season.
While it doesnt have the same tech as the Proto it’s just as much fun, and definitely more versatile. The slightly set-back stance meant driving turns was much more effective even with the same medium stiffness as the Proto. The edge hold was great and I was confident railing this guy even when conditions were choppy. Obviously you can only drive so hard on a medium flex board but it realy held up well. On the scratchy steep sections the edges held up well even with the mellow camber sections. I feel the Vario Power Grip sidecut all the boards use (with the varying degress of radius across the effective edge) does a great job of retaining superior edge hold to help counter-act the rocker portion of the boards.
I have used this board a lot this year, so I have had those light fluffy pow days and the heavier (but still crazy fun) days. In the heavier stuff it did well but still took a bit of work to avoid getting caught out. But it did do well in the moguly powder, the softness of the board was in this case beneficial to soak up the bumps and intiate turns quickly and easily. It was in the soft, soft snow that this board really hammered home to me how good it is. I was lucky enough to head out on one of the best powder days of the year to an area of the ski hill that isnt always open, and not everyone bothers to hike to. It was EPIC. The board sent my stoke levels through the roof. It floated like a dream and shovelled snow out of my way. The board, like all the Never Summers, has so much pop I was ducking in and out of bounds under/over the rope like a man posessed. The smile this board gave me that day isn’t one I flash around very often. (My friends will tell you that I often appear grumpy…)
With its poppy nature and softish feel I had a lot of fun sending spins off hits and cat tracks, taking the confidence the Proto had given me and getting some great little jib laps (I even hit my first 540 of the season on it). I wouldn’t be too keen on hitting decent sized features in the park but I wouldn’t avoid parks on the Snowtrooper. It’s not designed to be a park board so you cant expect it to perform, but for someone who wants a board that hits the whole mountain and can still get you trying tricks in the park this guy would do you proud.
The lack of harmonic dampeners at the tip and tail was noticeable on traverses in comparison to the Proto and the Cobra, with a bit more chatter but nothing to cry home about.
Overall if you want a damn good board that handles everything but remains playful and fun thenthe Snowtrooper is a superb option, or if you are an intermediate rider looking to upgrade to a tastier board. It will help you progress your riding to new levels, and keep you stoked all day until you get to that sweet, cold beer at the bar.
I have one word for The West: WOW! This is without a doubt the best board I have ever ridden. There, I said it. Picture the scene: It’s snowed like 25cm or so overnight, it’s Thursday so the resort isn’t too busy, it’s primed to be one of the best days of the season so far. You get to test drive a new-for-2016 Never Summer for the first time, it’s longer than you would normally ride and more aggressive in nature. You strap in, you feel this bubbling in your veins – thats the confidence seeping in to you from The West. A lo tof your friends are here (whi said there is no friends on a pow day?)They drop the rope to the area thats been on standby all morning, pile-ups happen all behind you on the cat track and you are out front because this beast of a snowboard will carry you through anything. You see drops everywhere that must be conquered. If this all sounds rather epic in scale for what was quite a normal day for Fernie then it’s because this board is a true epic. Never have I felt so comfortable on a board, never have I felt so composed on big(ish) drops, never have I slashed as hard in the pow than I have with this board.
The West is a brand new model for 2016, and I had heard a number of people saying just how good it was going to be. It incorporates a modified Rocker-Camber profile called Ripsaw, with the camber portions much more aggressive than on the other boards. This adds a whole new level of stability that the others in the lineup cannot compete with. It also, for me, felt far stiffer than the Medium flex it is supposed to have, which I attribute to the more aggressive camber.
The extra camber doesn’t deter from the float in the deep stuff, though. This animal ploughed through the snow like no tomorrow. It was easy to turn and get it lined up for tight tree lines (which was my main concern going for a slightly longer board than normal). It felt like I had been riding this board my entire life. Drops felt smooth and less intimidating, and the landings were so, so stable.
Back to the real world and riding in regular piste conditions the edge hold is terrific almost to a fault. You dont need to try too hard to rail this baby, in fact if you try too hard it almost points you back up the hill in to oncoming traffic! That extra camber really makes a big difference to how the board performs over the others. In both pristine and choppy groomers this board just didn’t let up.
The only drawback I could find was that I wasn’t at all tempted to try any freestyle moves with it. That’s not to say you can’t throw down, for sure if you’re a strong enough rider you would get it to listen to you. It would take a few more rides and probably a 157cm length for me to be comfortable trying to huck spins. It felt more burly than the other boards which for me made it less enticing to get freaky off hits. But like I said before, freestyle is at the bottom of the list this year so it doesn’t really matter to me. All in all, gun to my head and only allowed one board it would be The West 157cm. Hands down.
I can’t recommend this board enough. It does everything and then some. It is aggressive, though, so definitely suited to a more advanced rider who knows how to take charge of situations. This heavy hitter deserves a suitably gnarly rider who doesnt give 2 sh!ts about the terrain park. The only complaint I can come up with is that my Boss loves it as much as I do so I won’t get to use it as much as I would like…
The Cobra is a flagship model for Never Summer and has a proud tradition of being one of the best boards out there, period. It’s definitely aimed at powder riding first and foremost with a drawn out nose and blunted tail, set back stance and stiffer flex. I have known a number of Snowboard Instructors who use the Cobra and swear by it. So I was very excited to try the 2016 model. Using it after The West set an impossibly high bar, but I did everything I could to give it a fair crack.
The good news: It’s still a damn fine board. In the open bowl powder it was a dream, floating really nice and easy with minimal effort. On drops the cushy dampening made landings feel almost like pillows. And the pop I was generating almost caught me off guard a number of times! I was launching my dolphin turns out of the powder and slamming into my next turn with so much ease its almost seemed as if I am actually half decent at them. It also felt stable at speed which helped build confidence in the board.
The board didn’t feel as stiff as I was expecting and I did find the tail washed out on some turns if I was pushing too hard – which was a shame because it wasn’t what I was expecting.
Edge hold was nice, very much like the Snowtrooper. With the mellow Rocker-Camber profile and slightly stiffer feel than the Snowtrooper it held good carving in variable conditions.
It wasn’t as much fun in less ideal conditions, in my opinion, as the Snowtrooper however.
It definitely is not a park board, however I did use it to do one of the best wall rides I have ever done weirdly enough! I did a few spins here and there but that’s not really what this old favourite is made for.
It is a great board, like all of them, and it for sure has the powder fiend in mind. The rider who wants powder 80% or more of the time and for that it certainly delivers. I feel it handles all conditions well but it’s definitely powder focused. If you are a rider who only rides on powder days then this could be the board for you, if you get out regardless of conditions because you paid $1000+ for your lift pass then The West or Snowtrooper are better options because they offer that little bit more versatility. Because of its nature and the conditions it is focused at I would say definitely it is suited for intermediate to advanced riders. If you are interested I made a little instagram clip for my own self-indulgence when using The Cobra on one of the best days, you can find it here…
So there you have it, my own humble review of our Never Summer line-up. Every one of them is fantastic in their own ways. I love how they are all subtle variations of the same idea but these small differences in geometry etc. have big impacts on how they ride on the mountain, and that in turn means there is a board for everyone depending on what you want as a rider. They feel so solid underfoot, the quality of the construction is evident just by looking at them. They appear burly and strong yet are suprisingly light. I’m yet to see one be brought back into the store because it has snapped or is broken, which is why they come with a 3 year warranty – they are that durable. I was trying to be as delicate as I could with them because of course they are our demo fleet and they are there for customers to try out primarily but even when riding hard and getting knocks here and there none of them showed signs of any incident. And lest I forget, the graphics look dope!!! Which is also important.
They also have a much bigger line-up than we can carry at Boardstiff, with boards filling in the gaps of the ones we do have at both ends of the spectrum, most noticeably the Ripsaw and The Chairman which I fully encourage the gnarliest of riders to check out. We also have the Womens Infinity and Raven boards in stock and available for demo. The womens line-up follows the same philosophy as the guys range and I have had nothing but praise from female riders when either testing and/or buying. Check out their http://www.neversummer.com/snowboards/
In conclusion, you should give Never Summer a go. I guarantee that you wil enjoy the hell out of them. And if you ever end up in Fernie, pop by Boardstiff and demo one for the day, you won’t regret it. Oh, and tell me how much of a wonderful writer I am. I need praise to survive.
Peace out shredders. P