My transition to the realm of snowboarding was more out of necessity than desire. Having been a skier, I was content until 1993 when I destroyed my knee in a slope accident in Crested Butte, Colorado. My season concluded that day. While kicked back on the deck watching my friends enjoy the remainder of our ski-cation, I began plotting my return to snow sports endeavors for the following year. Not wanting to endure another knee injury, I began researching the possibilities of migrating to the dark side.
In 1994, while visiting Breckenridge, Colorado, I rented a board and boots and showed up for my first lesson. Having been a decent downhill skier, I was less than graceful on those first two days that would ultimately shape my snow resume for the next 20-plus years. By day three, it clicked, and I was back on blue and black runs before week’s end. Over the last two decades, I have boarded all over North America and tested my fair share of gear.
Here are our top picks from the latest, greatest gear and apparel to ensure you are the envy of the slopes this season.
I have ridden almost every type of terrain and board. Over the last few years, I have acclimated back to an “all mountain snowboard” lifestyle. These boards still allow me to ride the groomed slopes, parks, and backcountry in a wide range of conditions. Here are four of my favorites.
RIDE Wild Life – $450
The Wild Life board was updated this season to include an all-new shape and mid-flex. It features the brand’s versatile hybrid camber, with rocker, in the nose for float in deep powder, as well as a camber zone underfoot for added stability and control. For those of us that like flying down the mountain, slimewalls add durability and reduce vibration, stabilizing the board at high speeds.
Burton Flight Attendant – $550
The Flight Attendant is the perfect compliment for deep powder and hardpack. The secret weapon is the Balanced Freeride Geometry, which creates a twin freestyle feel. When on edge, the board turns tight and quick.
Gnu Super Progressive Air Machine (aka S.P.A.M.) – $600
This hybrid board is better suited to aggressive and skilled riders. I love the serrated edges on the board, which will hold great on hardpack. The collaboration between Gnu with art by Airblaster has created a truly radical ride board.
Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro – $600
Pro snowboarder Travis Rice has collaborated on several products in this roundup, including apparel, and we couldn’t be more excited about this board. While it’s a proven freestyle and freeride board, it’s still great on the mountain. Designed for intermediate to advanced riders, the Pro features a true twin shape for ripping. This board also boasts seven strategically located edge serrations that provide hold and control regardless of the conditions.
They are the binds that tie. In this case, to the board itself. In the beginning, I would have to regularly sit down to buckle and unbuckle before getting on and off the lift. With practice, I learned to unclip as I was traveling up to the lift.
RIDE Rodeo – $280
I like this all-mountain versatile binding as it features the brand’s 100-percent Aluminum Infinity Chassis paired with the Forged Aluminum Micro-Disc to maximize the true flex and feel of your board.
Burton Step On
Earlier this year, we announced a new boot-to-binding interface, Step On, by Burton. While we still haven’t gotten our hands directly on this product, we are excited about its addition to the market. Unfortunately it is currently out of stock, so keep your ears to the ground.
Boots are arguably one of the most important pieces of gear for snowboarding. While I can easily pick my favorite boots from the list below, it really is a personal decision, and there is no replacement for trying on the boots before you buy. All of our picks in this roundup feature the Boa lacing system as it allows the rider to dial in his or her fit.
RIDE Lasso – $350
The Boa Coiler system on the Lasso means less time dialing the fit and more time riding. The boots also come with RIDE’s heat moldable Intuition Support Foam Liners for the support.
Burton Ion BOA – $550
The Ion is the only men’s model in the Burton line this season to feature BOA Focus lacing. I really like the AutoCANT EST soles, which allow for better natural lower body alignment, and the ReBounce etch, which reflects body heat and cushions consistently. No more cold feet on the slopes.
K2 Renin – $380
This was my second pair of K2 boots. They fit great right out of the box and the new BOA Mobility Conda works to create a more mobile heel hold system.
While I never went biking without my helmet, I snowboarded for more than a decade without one (and skiing before that). It wasn’t unusual to catch a backside edge and fall backwards against a hard-groomed slope while my skull absorbed the impact. Luckily, I survived without any long-term repercussions and, today, a good helmet is as integral to my kit as my snowboard. Here are a few great options for protecting your noggin that also provide a mounting platform for that action camera.
POC Auric Cut Backcountry Spin – $220
POC specializes in producing protective equipment for a variety of adventure sports, and the SPIN is ideal for on- or off-piste riding. The helmet runs a little large, so measure and choose appropriately.
Smith Code – $180
Don’t let the minimalistic aesthetic fool you. The features abound in this low-profile shell, including Aerocore construction and a Boa system that allows you to customize the fit.
While the concept of goggles hasn’t changed much in the last couple of decades, the technology has. Clarity is everything, and today’s lenses provide optical advancements worthy of investment.
POC Orb Clarity – $250
Designed in collaboration with German company Carl Zeiss AG, the Orb Clarity was created to optimize vision and performance regardless of the conditions.
Smith Squad XL – $130
This is a lower cost option but no less suited for long days on the mountain. The Squad XL is the largest cylindrical google in the Smith line and features Fog-X anti-fog technology and ChromaPop for crystal-clear vision.
The right jacket should be both stylish and functional. Conditions can change dramatically without warning, and this is especially true when carving some white lines in the backcountry. It’s important to consider waterproofing, breathability, and insulation when choosing the right jacket for your needs. Here are five jackets that will be at home in the Alps, the Rockies, or anywhere your travels take you.
Patagonia PowSlayer Jacket – $699
This technical jacket features a more minimalistic design and Patagonia’s first-ever Gore-Tex Pro Shell with a fully recycled nylon face. For those that regularly ride the backcountry, the integrated RECCO avalanche reflector is an added bonus. Pair with the PowSlayer Bibs (more on that below) for unparalleled protection.
Burton Hightrack Anorak – $500
We like the look of this outer-shell anorak from the snowboarding icon. The corduroy pattern, one of two colorways, will look as fashionable on or off the slopes. Uou will feel confident in its premium waterproofing to assure you stay dry.
Quiksilver Travis Rice Stretch Snow Jacket – $360
This versatile jacket incorporates stretch technology to ensure complete mobility on the slopes. In addition to the performance features, it is chocked full of amenities for the serious rider or the weekend warrior, like integrated lens cleaner, a media pocket, and an internal goggle pocket.
Teton Brothers TB Jacket – $490
This versatile jacket from the Japanese brand, which we profiled earlier this year, is a technical piece that is sure to become a staple in your seasonal kit. The jacket was originally developed in 2008 and has continued to be a flagship product for Teton Brothers over the last decade.
The North Face Ceptor 3L Jacket – $320
This three-layer, waterproof piece offers jacket-to-pant integration to keep you dry in deep powder situations. Stay connected via the chest pocket with media ports.
While the same principles apply to pants as it does to jackets, your pants will be in closer contact with potential moisture, regardless of whether you are riding deep powder or getting in late-season runs in the Cascades. Here are three pairs of pants that will provide the protection and all-day comfort you need.
Patagonia PowSlayer Bibs – $599
Just like the jacket, the PowSlayer Bibs also feature a 100-percent recycled nylon face and provide the highest level of waterproof and windproof protection thanks to the Gore-Tex Pro fabric.
Burton Hellbrook Pant – $240-$280
There are multiple options in this style, but the ones I use feature a polyester-blend corduroy fabric to provide a stylish and premium stormproof design. Several of the colorways are also bluesign-approved, meaning they have less impact on the environment.
Quiksilver Forever 2L Gore-Tex Snow Pants – $290
These two-layer Gore-Tex pants are ideal for varying conditions and will keep you dry all day. I also like the attachment system that allows zipped connection of jacket and pant.
Gloves and mitts are about as diverse as footwear. Finding the right option for your hand size or insulation needs can be exhausting. Here are two good options for keeping those digits toasty while offering dexterity.
The North Face Montana Gore-Tex SG – $70
Snowboarders spend more time with their hands in contact with the snow than skiers, and keeping hands dry is paramount. I love these Gore-Tex gloves with the waterproof insert. The Etip feature works with touchscreen devices and the removable Wrist Oven leash provides extra warmth when combined with a handwarmer.
Quiksilver Travis Rice Natural Gore-Tex Gloves – $130
These 100-percent leather gloves combined with a Gore-Tex membrane provide excellent durability and complete waterproof protection. They also come with a elastic leash and provide touchscreen technology so you can access your device on the mountain.
Layering is the key to comfort on any winter endeavor.
Airblaster Merino Ninja Suit – $200
I really like the one-and-done functionality of the Ninja Suit, complete with a 350-degree waist zip for easy bathroom access. And, I just like to say I have a Ninja Suit.
G-Form Pro-G Board and Ski Compression Shorts – $110
While I don’t fall nearly as much as I did in those early days, the padded compression shorts are sure to become an integral piece of my kit this season.
Probably the least romantic piece of kit, but one of the most important. A poor choice of socks can ruin a day on the slopes as quickly as cold hands. Here are a few staples that might have you dreading to remove them at day’s end.
Farm to Feet Wilsall Midweight – $28
The brand’s first snowboarding sock features a blend of 74-percent Merino wool for warmth and 23-percent nylon for durability. We like that the sock is produced entirely with U.S.-sourced components.
Smartwool PhD Snowboard Light (VANS) – $25
Smartwool has long been a go-to brand for my adventure pursuits, and this includes snowboarding. With over 60-percent Merino wool and light cushioning, this pair is ideal for the slopes.
FITS Pro Ski (BOLT) OTC – $24
I love the feel of FITS socks. The 57-percent Merino wool paired with the padding in the shins makes for a comfortable day of hard riding.
Osprey Kamber 32 – $170
Packs are only really needed when riding in the backcountry. They should fit close and almost feel nonexistent. They are great for carrying an extra layer, a water bottle, nutrition, and perhaps an extra GoPro battery or two. I don’t pretend to be unbiased when it comes to Osprey packs. I like them for adventure travel and backpacking, and this one will make more than one trip with me into the backcountry this season. The features on this pack make it ideal for both skiers and snowboarders.
Dakine Mission Pro 25L – $125
This pack from Dakine is stacked with features specifically designed for the skier or boarder. The adjustable straps mean you can transport your snowboard or skis hands-free and, as a bonus, the horizontal board-carry panel flips down to provide a dry seat on the mountain.
Dakine High Roller Snowboard Bag – $200
Occasionally, we get the opportunity to ski at an epic location that requires us to transport our equipment across the country (or globe). I have at least one international trip planned for 2018, and this bag will transport two boards (one with bindings mounted) along with my boots and outerwear. The 360-degree padded board protection will ensure my boards arrive intact. I don’t have to carry the bag, as it comes equipped with rollers; an integrated handle system pairs with rolling luggage to allow towing of both with one hand.
Cobra ACXT1035 FLT SNOW – $60
Cell phones are wonderful, but are limited in their coverage, especially in remote backcountry locations, international destinations, and off-the-grid resorts. With a maximum range of 37 miles, these “walkie talkies” are also waterproof and will float should you accidentally drop them into water.