Here is my detailed review of the OES 169FC Kevlar model from the perspective of a new user of hard boots.
Disclaimer: I am a beginner hard boot snowboarder. I have used soft boots and wide boards since I started in 2001. I purchased this board with the intention of using it to progress to an intermediate level carver after having an exciting experience on hard boots last year.
I was planning on writing this review after riding some steeper terrain that opened up, but my season has ended early due to a hand injury. I do not want to risk messing up my hand by riding with a cast on. This review will be limited to my time on green and blue slopes.
I purchased a demo model from Québec Man.
This board comes with the Kevlar construction and medium stiffness.
Specs are: 19.2cm waist, 9-13m variable sidecut, 169cm length, with I think a 0.5cm setback. http://oes.cat/index.php/en/our-production/freecarving/169fc. The board arrived in impeccable condition and excellently packaged. I would recommend buying from Québec Man again.
This board came with an 88 degree edge. It seemed to have a 1 degree base edge.
The board is described as being optimized for Eurocarve geometry. I assume this means similar to EC with less body inclination, but I have no references to this style or what this might look like. I assume it might be the style used in many of the OES videos but I cannot confirm.
For reference, I am 6 feet (183cm) tall, and 172 lb (78kg). I rode this in 2019 production year UPZ RC12 boots, and Bomber TrenchDigger TD3 SW standard bindings. My local hill is Massanutten, Virginia, and my closest resort is Snowshoe, West Virginia.
I use a variety of riding styles, but mostly bomber and race style (shoulders facing binding direction), and sometimes EC.
My binding angles on this board are 65 front, 55 rear. This yielded a centered position with just a tiny bit of overhang.
I started on the 2nd day after opening day at my local hill in late November. Conditions were semi-frozen slush, but smooth. Perfect beginner snow.
The only terrain open was the flattest green run, and the steepest black run as they merge on the same run at the midpoint.
I spent the day on the green run.
I was anticipating the full noob experience of falling every run, but the board was approachable and stable. Initiating turns was very easy in any body position. The first day on the slope was just to get familiar with the board and to develop good techniques early. The body position was a bit strange for me, as this was a much narrower waist than I have ever tried. I rode a Donek Flux on hard boots and the angles were much lower. Most of the time was spent developing an efficient body position.
The stability of the board felt great. I practiced getting more angulation in the board and eventually made some half-circle shaped turns by noon with roughly 35 degrees angulation.
The almost centered stance and minimal taper provides an interesting riding dynamic. Turn initiation is instant. On flat terrain, this board seemed to work best when you load the tail in the last 1/3 of the turn. Zero effort is required to pop off of the tail at the end of the turn. Very fun.
After a few more days on the green runs practicing technique, the first blue slope opened; well, half of it anyway.
Conditions this time were hero snow at first, but was choppy during the second half of the session.
The general observation here is huge edge hold. The limiting factor on this day was the smoothness of the slope. This is the Kevlar construction after all, and the board is quite lively and not particularly damp. My skill level is not good enough to make full use of this board in less than ideal conditions.
As a result, on slightly steeper terrain, I had some more difficulty selecting an edge transition technique. Cross over technique seemed to not work so well unless I added a lot of nose loading. This was the only way to get the board to carve a tight enough radius to make half-circle turns on such a narrow slope. It did not necessarily feel super stable either.
As it turns out, cross through and cross under techniques seemed to be the right recipe for this board, at least on blue runs. I think this is due to me being able to get the board on edge sooner. With better technique and more experience, I could see how someone better than I would have a different experience. The board really talks to you and tells you what works and what doesn't work, an excellent learning tool for me.
The next day was at Snowshoe, West Virginia. To say the conditions were firm is an understatement; every slope was straight ice from top to bottom, but smooth for most of the day. To prepare for this ice rink, I gave the board a decent re-tune with an 86 degree edge bevel and polished the edges with diamond stones and a finishing stone.
My technique started to get pretty consistent. I found keeping a solid upper body position on this board provided the most rewards. I noticed cross-over technique was much easier on smoother terrain. Cross-through seemed to still be better. The edge hold was incredible. I' have never dug a trench in ice before, so this was something new for me to experience. This just happened to be the same day I got injured so I never rode the board after this day.
Overall, I am excited to continue exploring the limits of this board and honing my technique. An excellent learning board for sure.