Gear trends: Backcountry snowboards for 2014/15

See the latest backcountry snowboards and learn about the trends heading to retail in 2014/15.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

From technically equipped price-point splitboards (finally!) to fine-tuned, high-end boards, the backcountry and all-mountain snowboard market is getting a lot of attention.

While the snowboard offerings at Outdoor Retailer remain limited, the brands that are present are showing up in a big way, revealing new technologies, innovations and designs that the rest of the market will wish they’d seen this early.

How’s the category doing off the show floor an on the retail floor? “There’s a lot of psyche for splitboarding,” said Mike Donohue, owner of Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vt., “Because it’s becoming more mainstream, we’re also seeing better performance. So, this year we’ve started carrying more splitboard product. Some of the brands are actually the best performing for us.”

G3 (Genuine Guide Gear), makers of award-winning backcountry skis, entered the splitboard category last year with the Black Sheep, an all-mountain freeride board that was inspired by some of its popular big mountain skis. This year, G3 ups the ante with the lighter-weight Black Sheep X3 (MSRP $850), a full carbon fiber version of its predecessor. Because it forgoes fiberglass, the X3 is a pound lighter at 6 pounds 6 ounces, appealing to the fast-and-light set that want an efficient ascent but don’t want to compromise stability or response on the descent. The poplar-paulownia wood core and rockered profile — which are the same in the original version — continue to prove this board’s worth in the deep stuff.

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Jones Snowboards is one the fastest growing brands in the business. First up: the new Explorer splitboard (MSRP $679), or what it’s calling “the people’s splitboard.” This directional rocker splitboard with Magne-traction and a poplar core makes Jones splitboards — with its trademark strong, responsive backcountry performance — more accessible to the rest of us thanks to the lower price.

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From a new puck system to an innovative new base design, Voile steps it up this year with progressive features to make the backcountry a little more accessible. All three boards in its new Revelator collection — the Revelator Men’s, Revelator Women’s and Revelator BC (MSRPs from $625) — feature Voile’s newly designed puck-and-channel system, which makes it easier to set up a rider’s stance and width than it is with current inserts. Plus, micro-adjustments can be made easily in the backcountry for a quicker transition. All of the boards feature carbon fiber, paulownia wood cores and early rise in the nose for riding powder. Exclusive to the Revelator BC, though, is the Voile’s unique, new fish-scale base. By molding fish-scale-like texture into the base, users can forgo skins on ascents of slopes up to 20 degrees. Because a rider can gain more ground with his or her skins in her pack, long approaches are quicker and flat transitions more maneuverable.

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Looking to get the next generation hooked on backcountry touring — safely, of course — Jones releases the Discovery splitboard (MSRP $649) built for youth. Available in a 138 and 145, the Discovery features progressive sidecut for easy turn initiation, a blunt nose and powder-friendly directional rocker.

K2 adds a women’s powder board to its quiver, the WowPow (MSRP $500), with more rise in the nose than in the tail for surfing the soft stuff. The brand also expands its backcountry Kwicker splitboard system, which launched last year. The lightweight, easy-to-use click-in binding system gets a new, softer boot this year called the Compass (MSRP $320) — the flexible feel makes the boots more comfortable for lengthy tours.

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In the world of solid boards, Jones Snowboards re-introduces its acclaimed freestyle Aviator snowboard as the Ultra Aviator (MSRP $749). Still full camber in profile, the Ultra Aviator has looser catch in the tip and tail thanks to edges that have been beveled an extra degree. In addition, this board exclusively features Jones’s Air Lightness technology, which trades some of the wood core at the tip and tail for carbon composite, reducing the swing weight while maintaining stiffness.

Jones also brings a new take on the no-board category. Its all-wood Powder Surfer, hand-shaped by San Diego surfboard shaper Chris Christenson, looks like a mini-surfboard at 4’6” and flosses through powder with a similar feel. The leash-equipped Powder Surfer doesn’t feature traditional bindings but it does have hooks that can be set in two stance options for better board control — perfect for backyard stashes and other open hike-to terrain.

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--Ali Carr Troxel

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