MARCH 29, 2013
BY: STEVE HARTMAN
Jenna Rickard, the Snowboard Buyer for skis.com and snowboards.com, sits down and discusses riding in the west vs. Midwest, her favorite snowboard and some new features on some trusted brands for the 2013-2014 season. Also, why it may be time to buy a new board.
STEVE: Welcome to our first ever snowboard podcast. I'm the host. I'm Steve and across from me is Jenna. She's been working at Summit for 10 years, she's been a buyer for 4 years, so, Jenna, say hello.
STEVE: How's it going?
JENNA: Good. How are you doing?
STEVE: I'm doing just fine. Okay, so you are a snowboarder and how long have you been snowboarding for?
JENNA: I've been riding for about 13 years now. It's gone by really fast.
S: So when it comes to buying snowboards, you should know a thing or two about it.
J: I hope so.
S: How often did you get to ride this year?
J: I'm not sure how many days. I haven't really counting but I feel like I got a lot of really good quality days in at a lot of different locations.
S: Okay. And how many years? You said 13 years.
S: And what are some of the best places you've snowboarded this year maybe, and maybe, overall in the previous years?
J: I've been fortunate to make it out to, this year I've made it out to the Canyons and Brighton in Utah. Was out in Vail, Winter Park and Beaver Creek in Colorado but to be honest, quality-wise, I actually got some better snow days out here in the Midwest just, you know, I had gotten out west kind of early in the season, the snow was a little rough. So, been fortunate to get out all over. Last couple years I got out to Steven's Pass out in Washington. It's different snow out there, it's a lot wetter, heavier snow out there.
S: All right. And what kind of snowboard do you ride on? Or do you have a variety of snowboards that you choose from?
J: I have a few. My go-to right now is the Gnu B Pro with the Ride Fame Bindings and the Ride Cadence Focus Boa Boots.
S: For somebody that doesn't know much about those, can you tell us a little about those snowboards, boots and bindings?
J: Sure. The B-Pro I really like because it's hybrid so you get rocker and camber which kind of gives you the best of both worlds in terms of both play and edge hold and you also got Magnetraction on there so that is, if you look down the side of the board, it almost has, it looks like it has a wavy sidewall to it. And what it does is it actually gives you more contact points with the snow but I guess in layman's terms, what I really like about the board is that I feel confident everywhere on the mountain with it. I can play and jib when I want to but at the same time I have edge hold and can cruise at higher speeds and it's not going to chatter on me. It's my go-to board because I'm confident on it. I'm not afraid of hitting a patch of ice or something on it because I know I have that extra edge hold.
S: And what kind of overall, that snowboard, boot and binding package, would you say advanced?
J: Yeah. That would be more your high-performance, lady's package.
S: You are the snowboard buyer for snowboards.com and skis.com, what do you look for when buying a snowboard?
J: For myself or for in terms of everyone else?
S: I guess, what would be your ideal board to pick from and, I guess then, how do you make that universal for what everybody else might need?
J: When you're buying for a company like this, I think the first things you've got to learn is that, just because it's not something you like or you would ride doesn't mean it's not going to sell to the consumer so I try to get into the head of the consumer and try to take a lot of what I learned by working in our shops and trying to combine it with my own instinct and my own perception of some of the technology that's out there. You have to look at some of the new and what's hot but also what's tried-and-true and a good buy is a mixture of all of that.
S: What 2013 snowboards made an impression on you so this past season maybe going into next season?
J: I've ridden a lot of different models for next year. There's a lot of different individual models that had some really nice features but overall some of the very nice features I've seen for last year…Burton has taken their channel and their channel is on almost all their boards now. For those of you who are not familiar with their channel system, rather than the normal four-hole on a normal board or a three-hole that Burton used to provide for mounting your bindings, you have a channel that runs down the middle of the board and what that does is it really allows you to get a lot more feel and flex out of the board if you're using the bindings that go along with it. Just overall increases the performance, increases the response of the board because you're not getting the dead-spot that a plate of a binding usually would give you. So, that used to be found on their higher-end boards, they've now brought that down to everything in the line other than their bottom of the line models.
S: Bottom of the line meaning beginners or…?
J: Yes, their entry-level model that they keep at a good price point for those getting into the sport. Also, on their bindings, on their disc bindings, they've actually made everything reflex which means the disc of their bindings is a little bit different than the disc of a normal binding in that the disc itself has a lot more flex to it transferring that energy and that feel better to your board. In terms of a specific board, the K2 Highlight was one of my favorites this year.
S: And that is available now or is it coming up available 2013-2014?
J: That will be the model I was referring to available 13-14. But what's cool about it is it uses K2's new backcountry shaping so it's got this real flat, elongated nose and tail on it. It looks like something you just want to take in powder yet it performs great on groomed trails as well. I felt more comfortable in trees and everywhere on the mountain than I have in a long time than I have on other boards. It's just very stable, very comfortable. Kind of easy to make the little adjustments in the trees with it. Floats well in powder as well.
S: Is that board that you can take over to the park or is strictly just a, you want to stay where the trails are?
J: It's more something you're going to want to keep on groomers as well as into some of the deeper snow if you're doing any backcountry riding. It's not really a park board by any means, it's a stiffer board. But the real flat nose and tail are kind of fun to do presses and butters on. Just not something you're going to take and hit a bunch of rails and stuff with.
S: Okay. Do you have a park board that you're excited to see?
J: I always really enjoy the Gnu B-Nice. I actually have that as kind of my play board. Personally, I like to either ride something really stiff or really soft depending on the day and what I'm planning on riding and the B-Nice is very soft flexing rockered board. What I like about is that for as buttery and soft as it is, it still has Magnetraction so you can still take it outside the park and actually have edge hold. But there are a lot of boards out there now, everything's different now in that you used to have your very distinct, entry-level all-mountain boards and now there's sort of a blurred line between all-mountain, all-mountain freestyle, and a lot of the entry-level, mid-level boards are made to learn and progress on all over the mountain and in the park if you're looking for something soft-flexing.
S: Well, it is Spring…
S: I know, for us skiers and snowboarders, again, this is the last week of March. What kind of stuff is there are skis.com and snowboards.com that you could recommend while there are deals still out there?
S: Okay, and then. Going back to the 2013-2014 season, any major technological difference that you're seeing?
J: Well the interesting story that's kind of new, I guess, is technically an old one. In the last, I'd say 5-6 years everything has moved toward rocker. Rocker is great technology but you've got a lot of riders out there that still want camber and we're seeing a lot of brands reintroduce camber in a new way. So, I think in the next year, and I think as the years go, K2 is doing something called “lifted” where it's almost like a real flat camber but it's bringing that performance, that pop, that camber had to offer back into the market where rocker has been the story for the last 5-6 years where its been rocker, rocker, rocker, then we moved to hybrids. Hybrids are still great but there is still a need for a pure cambered board out there and we're seeing vendors sort of rebrand that.
S: For the beginner who is not aware of rocker versus camber…please explain.
J: Sure. The benefits of camber versus rocker, well, let's go back to when boards first came out everything was camber. If you put a board flat on the ground you'd see it gently arc up from the tip and the tail. You had your contact points up near the tip and tail and then from there, in the middle of the board, it would kind of rise up from the ground. Rocker is the reverse of that so Rocker is almost a U-Shaped, that the middle of the board sat flat on the ground, where the nose and tail, the contact points of the board actually rocked up off the snow. What rockers done, is it made it really easy for people to learn, they're not catching their edges as much they're able to easily slide those turns where before on a cambered board, that response, that pressure was causing them to catch their edges. So, it's made it a lot easier for people to learn the sport.
S: So, you're saying that if 10-15 years ago I took a snowboarding lesson and I did not have a good time maybe it's time to take another crack at it?
J: I think it would be worth a shot. And it's the same thing that we tell people who were on old straight skis and are now haven't been on a shaped ski yet, it just makes things a lot easier. Not to say there is no place for camber because there absolutely is, but really in that entry-level board it definitely helps. And some brands are kind of taking it to the extent now where the board doesn't have a ton of rocker to it but it's simply lifting the contact points up out of the snow making it an easier transition to learn how to turn.
S: We mentioned some technological advances over the last couple of years, say a snowboarder has been riding on the same snowboard for five years, it works well, they like, should they buy a new one? And why should they buy a new one?
J: Again, we just talked about how for the entry-level rider technology has been updated over the last couple of years to help you learn and progress. Same thing goes for the intermediate-level rider to the advanced-level rider, if you started off 5 years ago, got that entry level board, five years go down the road, you're a lot better rider hopefully than when you started but, you get on a board that may be a little stiffer and has better response to it, it's going to make you a better rider. You're going to be able to ride a little faster or a little bit harder. You're not getting that chatter that you got on your entry-level board. Things have changed, the products are lighter. If you look at boots from 5-6 years ago and they just look huge and bulky compared to now. And bindings have changed. The straps have gotten so much better, more responsive and more comfortable. Everything is just updated to help your experience be better, to help you ride longer and more efficiently. It's al about the efficiency of how you're transferring your energy. A newer product helps you do that, it helps you get more, better feel of your board, better control of your board. Again, when you get on that new equipment you'll find yourself riding a little better, progressing a little bit more and that goes to say for any type of rider, as well as any disciplined rider, somebody in the park or somebody who likes to cruise are going to be more confident.
S: Okay, so basically, if you are new 5 years ago, it's time. Even if you were beginner-intermediate, it's probably time because you've taken that board as far as it would go.
J: Exactly, and boards do lose energy and pop over time. You do wear a board out even if it looks cosmetically fine. You are going to break it down after a while and it's going to lose that energy and response that it had.
S: Real quickly, do you have any general snowboarding tips?
J: For those that are just starting out or thinking of just starting out definitely take a lesson and don't give up. It's easy to say “oh my friend snowboards, he can teach me how to ride,” I've been riding for 13 years, I've attempted to take people out and teach them and it's very tough. An instructor knows the little tricks. They remember what it's like to be at that point where you may not know or remember at this point.
S: And they have a steady stream of people who have no idea what they're doing coming through.
J: Exactly. They know what to tell you to do that's going to help you learn and progress. And don't give up. The first couple days of riding can be a little rough and eventually it kind of clicks. I can remember where I was the first time I can link my turns. It's something that you get beat up a little at first and then it finally just sets in. It's a different learning curve than skiing. Skiing, you're probably going to make it down the hill the first time without falling the first time you get out there. Maybe. But then it takes a little more time to become a good skier.
J: Snowboarding it's a little bit rougher of a transition but then it kind of clicks and it's easier to fine-tune your style after that. If it's something that you're concerned about falling or you're concerned about those rough first hours there's a lot of protective products. There's wrist guards, there's helmets – everyone should be wearing a helmet. Wrist injuries are one of the most common in snowboarding and a good pair of wrist guards or gloves that have them integrated into them is always good idea.
S: Yeah, because you're either falling back on your butt or forward on your wrists.
J: Pretty much, and there's butt pads, all that kind of stuff too so if you really want to…
S: Just go after the good powdery snow and you'll be okay.
J: That's why Spring riding's a great time to learn and keep progressing because the snow's soft. It's a little less frustrating. Get yourself into a good lesson. That really sets you up to succeed.
S: So there is still plenty of time out there this season to ride especially if you're near the Rocky Mountains, I know Colorado just got hit with a foot or so of snow.
S: And even up north here in Michigan they're still getting it.
J: Spring's great because the rates are a lot cheaper, the lines are a lot shorter, there's not a lot of people there. It's more comfortable because the weather is a lot more mild, warmer. You don't have to bundle up quite as much especially if you're learning it's a great time to get out there in more of a comfortable setting.
S: Over at skis.com and snowboards.com, we have a Spring Clearance, at least as of this recording you get some stuff up to 50% off. And then $99 snowboards. I thought that had to be a misprint. Is that a misprint?
J: It is not. What these boards are, we see these as a good way to get people out there. They're usually a lesser known brand, they're softer flexing, they're forgiving, they're just, you know, they're better than going out and spending money on rental equipment. You go 3-4 times and you could've bought your own equipment. It's great to learn on. Something consistent so a board that you know how it's going to perform time-after-time. It's yours, you get comfortable with it. Now these are beginner boards…
S: So you probably wouldn't benefit from the $99 board.
J: No. If you get a more aggressive rider on these boards they're going to find that it doesn't have the power and response that they want. It's going to chatter at higher speeds. This simply to get people, to give people an inexpensive way to get into the sport and that's the trouble that we have is that it can tend to be a more expensive sport and giving people the opportunity to get into it for lower prices really helps them fall in love with the sport.
S: Why spend money renting? You spend one season renting and you're $99 in pretty quick.
J: Yeah. You could have easily bought your own equipment. Again it helps you get out there and try the sport and, as you progress, you'll want to step up to something more advanced at that point.
S: Okay, so I want to tell everybody to go to facebook.com/snowboardsdotcom and like us there. Go to facebook.com/skiscom and throw a like over at skis.com. And of course Twitter. @snowboards_com and @skisdotcom. Follow us on Twitter. Thank you very much, Jenna.
J: Thank you, Steve.
S: This has been a fun first podcast and, everyone out there, stay tuned for more.