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Coiler Contra Review, 2021


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Coiler contra review


Please note: This will be lengthy and detailed.  I asked Bruce if I could post my review and his response to it.  So here you go.


Background:  I was an east coast high school / college ski racer, and began alpine carving in 1996, mostly at Loveland in Colorado.  Now I ski, soft boot snowboard, and alpine carve in New Mexico.  5’3, 135 pounds. 


I’ve been on many boards, ranging from a 162 Sims slalom board to a Sims 188 Burner.  I rode Burton Factory Primes, Sims, Nideckers  and Doneks for years, and got on a Kessler once, but for the last decade plus I’ve been on Coilers custom made for me by Bruce.



Current carving boards:


Coiler Nirvana VSR     2013                174                  84 days            19 width  12/14         

Coiler orange energy  2016                170                  23 days            19 width  10.5 / 12 / 11

Contra                         2021                172                  1 day               18 width  11


Coiler                           2009                177                  63 days            13.2

            I gave this one away, since I haven’t used it much in the last few years

            and NM is a bit tighter, a bit narrower, in general.  



All boards have the same set up: Bombers, 60 degrees front, 55 back, and are tuned the same way (by me, with a file).   The bases are in the tightest holes: the front is in the middle hole pattern, and the rear base is as far forward as possible (attached).  In other words, tight stance.


January 7, 20201        Ski Sante Fe

Very good groom, 25 degrees, beginner/intermediate terrain, not narrow.

8:30 – 11:30.


I took 2 runs on the VSR and then switched to the Contra.  I wanted to feel the comparison.  I am very comfortable on the VSR, and the first two runs felt great.   On the Contra I rode the same slopes, slopes I know very well.   I was pushing the board, letting it turn without much push, doing longer turns across the hill, shorter turns across the hill, and short turns down the fall line.


The Orange Energy was designed to perform on steeper slopes (because I couldn’t clean 1776 at Beaver Creek, while Paul Miller could.  Hence, I needed a new board – the “Miller Killer”).


The Energy turns so easily it is initially startling.  It holds very well between turns, and with the 10.5 nose it initiates turns astonishingly quickly and seemingly effortlessly.  I have never been on a board like it.  The “learning curve” from the VSR to the Energy felt virtually immediate.


Since I ordered the Contra last spring, I did not remember the specs, and I chose not to look.  The board turns easily – not like the Energy, more like the VSR, but not as easily as the VSR. I think the radius would be 12, like the VSR.  It was very stable across the hill, but I did not feel as smooth as on the VSR.  My take is that it is a new board, and I need some time on it.  In addition, I need to ride it on steeper terrain.  The Miller Killer, for example, comes into its own on steeper slopes.  It is very good on all terrain, but on steeper, narrower terrain it is magic.


I could feel it holding very well say 3” in front of my front foot, and 3” behind my rear foot.  I’ve been on lots of boards, and this was a different feel than normal, and of course very cool.   I did some experimenting on trying to be less forward.  Normally, I am pushing into the boot tongue to initiate turns, and I’m wondering if I can be less forward, more neutral.  The biggest surprise was when, during some fall line slalom style turns, it “popped” like a pair of slalom skis.  Which was also very cool. 


On the easier terrain I experimented with slower turns, still down the fall line.  The board was super smooth here.


My one thought is that I could move the rear bomber binding base plate one hole back, changing the balance point of the board and putting me slightly less forward.   If you think this is way too anal, note that perhaps 5 years ago I felt slightly off on my board, so I checked the set up.  I had inadvertently changed my position on the base plate by one hole – about 3/8” – and it was noticeable.


Bottom Line:  Clearly, I need more time on this board, and more time on different terrain and different conditions – not just nice groomers.  The transition from the VSR or Energy is not immediate; I feel like I will have to learn this board. 


Bottom Bottom Line:  Bruce makes great boards.  I haven’t even talked about my MFS soft boot carving board, which is yet another great board.  He is a master craftsman, constantly working on making great boards even better.  He is also really fun to talk to.


Reply From Bruce.


Sounds about right.


Since you have ridden the Nirvana style of board for so long, these do require an adjustment since weighting is different. Moving bindings by one hole can make quite a difference for sure so any adjustment can be tried as worst case you just move it back. I've had one guy who adjusted his front foot angle more forwards and that was the trick for him to get it to where he liked it. No doubt it is just getting the body to weight the board when you need it. These do not need the forward/back weighting of a Nirvana so the way it effectively does a turn is different. The theory is that a softer tail will allow you to keep your weight neutral more at the end of the turn so the nose stays more planted as you do not have to get your weight back to a stiffer tail. 


Do they do everything better? Of course not but they do have a great ability to grip especially when you start to go over varied snow surfaces. They feel more efficient and that is what gives the grip. The pop comes from mid board which I like as it is safe and will not launch you off the tail which can be fun or also hazardous. Turn initiation at slower speeds is not their strong point but they are stable at higher speeds for their particular sidecut size.


You summed it up by mentioning that they are different and do have a unique feel. I find it fun to try and challenge yourself to become efficient on something a bit different for a change.


Bruce Varsava

486 lakeshore Rd East

Oro Medonte L0L 2E0






3 coilers.jpg

bomber rear base.jpg


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thank you for the write up.

I have similar experience.  First run on the contra AT (165 23cm waist 10m sc)
Didn't take it easy nor did i over estimate my ability.  Tote road of Sugarloaf.
"Headwall" of tote road feel great; hold a incredible edge where i was struggling on my familiar setup.
it's on the section where one just cruise around that i end up in the tree.
I do tend to put lots of pressure on the front of the board.  still wasn't quite sure how it happen.
on my heel when i was transition to toe; it pitch me (that's my guess).

I did change a whole bunch stuff at the same time(which is a big no no but hubris)... so going back to the basic next.
Get more miles on it before i get fancy with it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

coiler update, day 3.

first, mario:  bring it on.😎


bruce commented, "weighting is different," and that is the key.  i've been going back and forth with bruce, and these emails have been very helpful.

i was riding it like i do my nirvanas, initiating the turn by pushing on the tongue of my front foot.  that doesn't work (for me).  instead, i initiated the turn by putting the board on edge.  with the 11 sidecut, it moves into the turn easily.

the big difference is what happens next.  instead of keeping the pressure toward the front of the board - again, like on the nirvanas - i feel like my weight is now centered on the board, and even with a little more pressure on the back leg.  the board locks in very solid, which i assume what makes it ride well in variable conditions.  again, i was on a very smooth groom.

i need more time on the board, of course, but now i think i get it.

i hope all this verbiage helps.


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Okay, so I just put a couple mornings on one of these. It’s really good! 
I have some reduced mobility these days but the damn thing allows for it and gives me a massive amount grip and I can really adjust the turn size without laying into the nose all that much. Was slightly twitchy at first but once I got used to it really really easy to ride. 
basically has what I like about my Kessler SL but in a way less tiring package 

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