ASK THE EXPERTS - Your Product Questions Answered

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Tyler Chorlton. Front 5 underflipper in Avoriaz. Photo: Matt Georges.

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MAILBAG – ASK THE EXPERTS

Having amassed a voluminous mailbag of product related questions over the year we thought that they would be best answered by a panel of shop dudes. We sent them off to the crew at the TSA (The Snowboard Asylum) – specifically snowboard buyer Chris Orchard marketing honcho Chris Shannon – as these guys not only have a lifetime of riding under their belts but also a well-honed knowledge of products. Without further ado, here are you questions… answered!

I get away to the mountains like twice a year for a couple of weeks each time and really wanted to get in the backcountry. What do you think; should I get a split board or some snowshoes?

Personally if you aren’t going away that much then purely on a cost basis snowshoes are the obvious choice. Another alternative though is if you have an old board you can make that into a split board. There are plenty of videos on YouTube [or you could have Xavier De Le Rue show you, or even David Benedek for that matter] that show you how to do it. All you need to buy is the conversion kit and a set of skins from Voile. Check them out at www.voile-usa.com. – Orchard.

What are the disadvantages with a split board compared to a regular stick? Do you think a split should be bought in addition to another board or as ones only board?

A split isn’t as stiff torsionally as a traditional board, due to the fact that it’s split in half, so won’t ever offer the same level of performance as a traditional board. The compromise in performance really dictates that a split should only be used for touring, an option is to get access skis if you only want to buy one board but the price of access skis is the same as buying a split. – Orchard.

I was thinking about buying a promodel. Are they very specific boards? And if you were to recommend one for me (5.8, 75k) what would it be? 

Pro models are generally boards that are tweaked to certain rider specifics – they may be slightly stiffer or narrower for example due to the rider’s needs. Personally I wouldn’t choose a board just because it’s a pro model, go for one that suits your riding style and not necessarily that of someone else. If you ride pipe like the ginger one or slash pow like Jeremy Jones then go ahead, but be aware that there is something for everyone out there, no matter what style, size or ability. – Shannon.

The financial constraints of my riding restrict me to ratting around in the street in search of rails and building backyard shit with my mates. Can you recommend what sort of boot, board and binding combo would suit me?

Sounds like you need something relatively soft and forgiving to ride rails and mess about on. Boots – go a for a softer flexing boot eg Vans High Standard or an equivalent should be the sort of area to look at, but go on what fits you best. Boards – you have a massive choice nowadays for jib boards, almost every brand will have some sort of softer jib stick available – Bataleon Disaster, Salomon Salomander and Lobster Jib boards are great examples. Bindings will follow suit – Flux Titan Rk, Union Contact, also check out Switchback bindings, which are new for this year! – Shannon.

I have heard way too much about riding without highbacks to not try it. So my question to the expert is what are the best bindings to try this with? And why?

Switchback is a new brand and aims to fill this gap that has appeared over the last few seasons. With Switchback you can totally remove the highback and fill the space with a foam block – keeping your foot centered on the board. This is the downside to just removing your HB from conventional bindings; your foot will slide back into the binding and won’t be centered, unless you slide forward on the disk. Also check out NOW bindings, which are designed to ride with or without. Artec’s Gus Engle also comes without a highback for this year. – Orchard.

I am really shocked by the price of avalanche equipment. It seems the brands are making no effort and every year young people die out there. So two questions: how to force companies to sell those cheaper – I mean it’s not fashion, it’s security right? And secondly, do you have an idea for me if I have only 200 Euros budget for that?

I think the brands are making an effort; transceivers are getting more expensive as they are using far more technology to make them easier to use. With the older more basic transceivers they took a lot of learning how to use and most people weren’t willing to put in the hours to learn. So you had people going into dangerous situations with no experience which if we are being honest is an absolute recipe for disaster. So the manufacturers had to make them easier to use which makes them more expensive. As with the majority of rescue equipment it’s generally made of the best material, a cheap avalanche probe or cheap shovel that breaks when you’re trying to rescue somebody buried in an avalanche would be a disaster both for the person who’s buried and for the rescuer who would have to live with consequences of buying cheap equipment. – Shannon.

I’m always wearing glasses and got used to ride with my glasses as well, but it’s not very comfortable with the goggle. What would you recommend: buy an XL goggle (which one?) or get those clipable lenses into the goggle?

The easiest thing to do is buy goggles made specifically to fit over glasses. They’re usually called OTGs (Over The Glasses). They have specific cut-outs in the plastic frame so that the arms of your glasses sit more comfortably and there is more space from the lens to your face, to better accommodate your glasses. Scott have some really good models (such as the Notice which uses a light sensitive lens and you can even customise the frame size around the bridge of your nose), Oakley do the popular L Frame and for next year the new model, the Canopy, will take glasses underneath. Insert lens such as Adidas work OK too, but are expensive as you’ll need to buy the goggle, the insert and have the inserts glazed to your prescription at an optician. If you haven’t already considered it you could look at getting disposable soft contact lenses, these are ideal for riding in as they’re comfortable, easy to fit and you won’t be bothered if you loose 1 when you slam head first in powder and yard sale!” – Orchard.

Last season, I spent more time at my home resort’s side country than on the slopes and park. My goal for next season is to start exploring the backcountry. I am thinking about taking an avalanche course and buying an ABS backpack but I can’t do both, which one should I give priority?

It’s great to hear that you are thinking of taking an avalanche awareness course and investing in some off-piste safety equipment; riding in the backcountry is amazing and being aware of the potential dangers out there is fundamental. However I think you have overlooked some key equipment. All the training and ABS backpacks in the world won’t help find someone should you get caught out. You need to invest in a transceiver, shovel and probe, these are required for victim location in an avalanche should yourself or others in your party be buried. As an addition to this I think an ABS pack is a great piece of backcountry kit. I know all this equipment and training can be expensive but it is well worth it to help preserve the life of yourself and others should the worst happen. – Shannon.

I have a really big shoe size; how can I find the perfect binding?

Most binding manufacturers will make an XL + binding which should fit even the very largest of snowboard boots. For optimum fit look for a binding that has adjustment on the heel cup as well as strap lengths and toe ramp. Even without heel cup adjustment there should be a binding out there to fit you. – Orchard.

Mostly I am in the park, but when there is powder I love to go offpiste. Is there a type of board where I can combine those things?

Quite a lot of park boards now come with rocker or combination camber/rocker profiles. As well as being more forgiving in the park they will also improve float in snow when riding off piste. Alternatively if you’re set on riding a cambered park board set your bindings back so that you will effectively lengthen your snowboards nose, this will help to improve float in powder. – Orchard.

What’s the best base layer material for people who sweat a lot?

If you sweat a lot you’ll want to get that moisture away from your skin as quick as possible so look for a base layer material with good moisture wicking properties. These could be synthetic fibres or natural materials like wool or bamboo. Synthetic base layers are generally a bit cheaper but not as insulating as say Merino wool. Most layers will come in varying warmth’s so pick one that suits the environment you will be riding in best. A cotton T-shirt is a no go; you will just end up feeling clammy and cold. – Shannon.

There are so many different camber types these days. Which one is the best for park riding? And which one is the best for all mountain riding? And which one is your favourite?

Well this is the million dollar question, which kind of profile is better is kind of difficult to answer as each different profile has its advantages and disadvantages. The simplest way to look at it is to put them into a column. At the bottom you have rocker and at the top you have camber. Rocker is loose and Camber is performance, as you work up between the two the closer the combination gets to the camber the more the performance and response increases. So to answer your question, for loose skate-like riding, i.e. slow speed jibbing and rail riding then rocker is generally perceived as being more suitable. Then as you start to get bigger and faster you need the board to deliver more solid performance then more and more camber is preferable. For me personally I think full camber is best, if you ride a board that is available in both rocker and camber generally the cambered version blows the doors off the rockered board. – Orchard.

Are soft bindings generally for jibbing and hard bindings for backcountry action? And which ones are best for park riding?

Softer bindings give you more manoeuvrability at slower speeds but less response at high speeds, so making them good for jibbing as you have more feel for what’s going on underneath your feet. Stiffer bindings help transfer your energy to the edges quicker giving you a faster edge to edge speed but less room for mistakes. For general park riding, go for something in the middle of the two extremes. – Shannon.

What do I do when my boots’ speed lacing or Boa system breaks?

It should be really easy to replace, head to your nearest snowboard store as the sale staff should be able to help you. Alternatively if you got a spare speed lace or Boa with your boots just replace them yourself; it’s a pretty easy job to do. Having said this Boa and most speed lacing systems are pretty reliable these days. – Shannon.

If I chose to ride without highbacks would I need stiff boots, too?

It really depends on the riding you will be doing and what boot would suit you and that the best. Removing your highback will give a looser feel but that doesn’t mean you would have to ride a stiffer boot. I use the same boots for riding both with and without highbacks. Orchard.

Is it true that once you wash your snowboard outerwear the waterproofness will be gone or at least suffer?

It’s actually a good idea to wash your snowboard clothing; dirt, sweat and grease can all affect the performance of your snowboard jackets technical fabrics. Just make sure though that you re-proof your clothing with a wash-in or spray-on product like Nikwax or Granger. This will not only keep you dry from the outside but also maintain the breathability of your outerwear. – Shannon

A friend told me that once you wipe your goggles on the inside they will fog up all the time: Myth or truth?

There is some truth to this, I wouldn’t recommend wiping the inside of your goggles as most lenses will have some sort of anti fog coating. Remove that and you probably will affect the performance of your lens. It’s best to try and shake out as much snow and moisture as possible and let the lenses air dry. – Orchard.

I’m a girl and have cold feet all the time. Are there any downsides when riding in heatable boots? And is there anything else that could keep me warmer on a mountain?

The only downside with boot heaters is just the bulk of the battery. Another option is to get some silk under-socks to wear underneath your normal snowboard socks. These are super thin so you won’t feel too bulky, but they are really efficient at retaining heat. You can get them from most outdoor stores or heaven forbid your local ski shop. – Shannon.

Hey, it’s me the girl again. I don’t like girls’ boards, because most of them go for a girly butterfly rainbow look. Is there anything negative about riding mens’ boards in shorter lengths?

Not really, just make sure that if you have small feet or don’t weigh much the flex and the board width are ok: if those don’t apply dive in. – Orchard.

 

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