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Do alpine boards *actually* suck in powder?


Guest DruckenCarver
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Guest DruckenCarver

This has never been explained to me successfully: why hard boots are supposed to be poor for riding in powder, trees, bumpy stuff and all that compared to freeride soft boot setups.

I can see the point if you've got a skinny, race-ready board, but my Crazy Banana has something like a 21cm waist on it and a pretty wide side cut. Last winter at my Montana trip we woke up to 17'' of powder at the base of Bridger Bowl and somewhere around 3' or so in the upper bowls. I did the whole day in my hard boots and loved it. Never once did I feel the need for a soft boot setup.

After the big, wide open powder areas got cut up, we started hitting the trees a bit. Again, no problem. Had a blast and never wished I had a different setup.

So, color me unconvinced on the whole "soft boots are more versitle" argument. But, if someone has a good, solid explanation why soft boots are better for everything but carving on corduroy, I'd love to hear it. :)

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Comparing my 4wd (21.5cm waist) with my old Asym Air (25 cm waist), I'd say they both work fine in powder. The wider board is a little easy in powder, but it's not like the 4wd sucks there. For going really fast in heavier cut up powder or crud the Asym Air is more forgiving, but nowhere near the machine of a longer board like my old Gnu Race Room. Which is why I'm eyeing Tankers.

The 4wd is better in the bumps, the narrow waist and stiffer but not too stiff flex really help.

I can't say anything about race boards, never ridden one (although lots of people refer to my 4WD as a race board).

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The only downside I've noticed while hardbooting in powder, is that if I nose the board into some soft snow (which could happen with soft boots as well) and the board stops and my body keeps going, it feels like my legs are going to break right off at the top of the boots! In these conditions I use "softer" hard boots (Raichle 413) and unlock the lean mechanism.

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Guest DruckenCarver

Ah! Yes, I made this adjustment in my Riechles, too: loosening them up for powder. But, that certainly isn't quite an argument for going with soft boots if all you need to do is flip a switch on your hard boots. :)

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Guest Randy S.

I've ridden lots of skinny race boards in powder. Well, maybe not lots, but a Burton FP178, Donek Race 182, Donek SG210. All are OK. My Freecarve 171 is a little short off the nose for powder. It can submarine. Also, it helps a ton to move the bindings back as far as possible on powder days so you don't have to weight your rear foot as much.

I bought soft boots and bindings last spring when the big sales happened. I rode them recently on two different powder days. One was a heavy day and one was light (heavy snow vs. light snow). On the heavy day, I much prefered the hard boots when I switched over at mid-day. On the light day, the soft boots (mated to my O-Sin 4807 swallowtail pow board) were great in the powder, but were a sorry compromise on the pisted stuff. Plus my feet hurt more in softies than hard boots. Yes, you can walk easier in the lodge in softies, but who cares?

My suggestion for powder days is get a longer board, switch your boots to walk mode and ride hard! If you've got the $$ to buy a powder stick and an extra set of soft boots, hey, go for it. I might sell you mine soon.

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I think you are bringing up 2 issues. Is a hardboot binding setup easier than a softboot setup in powder vs is an alpine board better than a freestyle-park type twintip in the powder. I have been ridng a hardboot setup on both raceboards and powder boards for years. I like a hardboot binding setup for everything I do--freeriding, fun carving. I like a wider waist width raceboard(200mm+) for any new snow up to 4" , but if the snow is >4" then it calls for a true all-mountain powder board....I have an old 176 nitro fury that works great and a 01 radair tanker 192 (w/ wrecked front inserts). I am hoping that Roces usa will give a new one as my damaged one should arrive today. The tankers kick ass , I cant say how much these boards can do in both powder and hardpack however I would stick to a 02/03 or newer model as the inserts can pull out.

Jim

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Guest Pre School Rider

I've been riding freeride boards quite a long time with plates,and in Powder,using hardshells is just fine. The 'disadvantage' is in subtlety,as hardshells tend on put you on edge quicker with less effort.There are a few times where having a 'soft' touch is needed and riding the board on the flat of it's base is what you want.Having some non-directional freedom of movement down at the ankle can be a good thing here.It's a bit more difficult to feel the changes in snowpack in hardshells,so nose-augering can sneak up on you occasionally.With hardshells however,charging through snowdrifts is easy,as is riding very fast over 'lumpy' snow.I also like being able to get in quickly,as it's rare that I want to be the 2nd rider through the Fresh! If stuck,it's also nice to be able to get out,Skate,and back in,without having to Sit Down;That's KEY in tight woods IMHO.I tend towards riding softer-nosed,stiff-tailed,fairly big and medium-wide boards in softer snow.While the Tankers are one of my all-time favorite boards('cause they rule on ANY terrain),I often find myself riding my venerable '94 Rad-Air Obsession 172,which just charges in powder.If it's good enough snow for riding in 'unmarked' woods,then the O-Sin 4807 is the tool,and it works pretty well with plates amazingly enough.After things are a bit tracked out and lumpy,I love taking the 200 Tanker out and just letting it ramble along.I've found that used with plates it's actually reasonably manuverable in mellow glades,and will float at lower speeds,allowing access to freshies way after the snow is depleted elsewhere.So,yeah,it's only in that "ride flat,slowly" venue that softies have an upper hand;well,then and when you hit roadside attractions and need to hike+strike before the cops drive by,but that's another gig altogether!

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drunken carver --

I'm a fan of soft boots in powder. They are certainly not as precise as hard boots, but they are versatile. Example: try riding fakie in hard boots at 60 degree angle.

Who cares about fakie, or the ability to kick your board around . . . well, I find that in the trees, that kind of versatility can be helpful.

Went heli boarding at CMH two years ago, and one guy was on hard boots and old burton plates and a custom 178 (he had way too much money). He did just fine.

I had one day of inadvertent powder on a 174 race board last year, and didn't like it. To me, the race board/hard boot set up is The set up for the groomers. Otherwise, I go all mountain with the soft set up.

All I know is, life is good when you spend time wondering about what board to ride, what set up to use . . .

enjoy

pc

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Here is my take on the subject. It's dumping in Utah and I rode waist deep pow yester day with my slalom set up, and another day of waist deep today with my soft powder set up. With that beining said I prefer my soft set up but not by a whole lot.

Some reasons for this are, flex. Yeah you can flip a switch on a hard boot and loosen the cuff, but you only get a piviot point at the ankle, a soft boot flexes through out the whole boot including the sole. Another is on a soft set up you are much closer to the board with you feet this help get more feel and less leverage; in pow you are using more subtle movement with your ankles and a soft boot is better for this than a soft hard boot. Because you can get so much leverage on a hard boot set up I useally over edge in pow, not so in my soft boots.

This is why I prefer to ride pow in soft boots, even though my hard boots fit better and are way more comfortable after a day of riding in them. But if I didn't have the luxary of having many different set-ups I would pick hard boots for every thing.

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For me it depends on what type of terrain I'm on and just how powdery the powder is. I've got a ton more experience in softies and consider myself a far better softie rider (working *really hard* to "rectify" that though!)

I still find soft boots easier when the trails are not very steep, or when the snow is heavy, deep and tracked, steep narrow chutes, or on *extremely* steep slopes.

On open bowls (even pretty steep ones) I prefer my hard boots and Axis 172.

I have a gut feeling as I get to be a better, more experienced ghard boot rider I will feel just as comfy on plates anywhere though.

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The proper hardboots are the most versatile in all conditions.

with regards to soft powder days, loosening up the top buckles works wonders.

I find the biggest advantage of hardboots and powder days is in the backcountry. I use a ski mountaineering boot like the Scarpa Laser for this application- they fit in plate bindings just fine, lock into crampons and snowshoes well, plus the plate bindings have a marked advantage over soft bindings in terms of release if you're ever caught in a slide.

hardbboots are also better for step kicking up crusty and windblown backcountry snow.

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In big bowls I don't think I would mind my hardboots but I tend to hang in the trees to find untracked powder all to myself for most of the day. Problems that I find with hardboots in the trees are that the snow conditions vary depending on terrain features, like if I'm under a tree or in a clearing, so I want to feel the snow and be able to adapt fast. But then again, I have not been riding in hardboots for long and this may change.

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I quit riding soft boots about 8 years ago. 1995 I think it was... so that tells you what I think about boots. But my narrowest board right now is 21cm - wide by alpine standards. I don't get a lot of powder days (not cold enough at my 'home' slope) but it seems just fine.

And since I like to play with numbers: A "skinny" 18cm snowboard has about the same surface area as a pair of "fat" 90mm skis of the same length. So while floatation might not be as good as a freeride board, most alpine boarders probably still have more floatation than most skiers.

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Forward/backward flex in the boot is not the issue - the issue is the lack of lateral flex in hardboots.

I believe riding in powder/trees is almost a different sport than carving - skidding to slow, waggling the back foot around, and surfing around lazily in powder are what makes riding powder so wonderful in the first place. In particular, powder/tree riding with style requires (imo) a lot of quick weight transitions towards the nose or tail of the board.

In softboots, to move your weight quickly from fore to aft or vice versa, one needs only to flex the both boots sideways.

In hardboots, to move your weight quickly fore/aft, it requires large, awkward changes in your whole knee/waist angulation. In particular, I defy you to quickly move your weight towards the tail of your board in hard boots and not at the same time push your toeside edge into the snow more without lots of effort.

I think if you ride fast enough, you can certainly ride powder competently (I rode with Randy S. a few days ago in pretty epic pow and he definitely ripped the hell out of the mountain), but I think if you want to soul surf the powder and really enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed, the right tool for the job is a soft boot setup.

You can certainly carve the groomers with soft boots, but it's the wrong tool for the job; similarly, I think using hard boots in the powder is certainly possible, but it's not going to look or feel as good as having soft boots

My 2c

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IMHO different people mean different things by "powder". My experience is that resort powder is very different from back country powder.... the latter is bottomless, unlike the former, which is just fluff on top of a base (even if it's "off-piste").

So if you're riding a resort, even a good one, then you can easily get by with a race board. My Donek ripped Snowbird on a powder day.... the catch of course was that I had to use all my technique and I was working way harder than necessary to make it happen. Not a problem there, because by 11:00 we're all in crud anyway. It was the same deal in Whistler... it looks like powder, and it's even quite deep, but there's this solid base down there somewhere. Sorry guys, but it's not the real deal.

But when it comes to real powder things are different. I have actually ridden a slalom board in heli-terrain and although it's possible it's just daft. Your nose wants to dive, and landing jumps is a fine balancing act. If you want to rip genuine steep and deep then you want, as someone pointed out, a Fish. I hate Burton as much as the next guy, but that board rips in powder, no returns. Take a look at the geometry to figure out why. My information is that other people will be bringing similar designs out in due course.

If you want to compare soft and hard gear in powder that's a different issue.... Here's how it works. The North American guys see this Euro (me) with these hard boots and bindings and they kind of take the piss in a friendly way. They never saw anything like that and they think it's not going to work in powder. Then the heli leaves and they eat my dust, until I stop to take their pictures before setting off to beat them to the bottom of the run. After that no one takes the piss.

I tried soft gear, but it's like paddling with your wellies on [if you don't know both meanings of that then ask a Brit]. I do know some good soft-boot riders.... strangely enough they tend to ride the stiffest stuff they can get. Go figure.

Here's a soft-booter on a Fish a few days ago. Shot from a Fish equipped with hard boots, of course... you have to get ahead of these guys to shoot 'em

A19S9076.jpg

I generally have a fair amount of time waiting at the bottom of powder runs for those soft-boot guys. I try to use the time constructively by attempting to understand why you'd want to introduce slop into a control system. I still haven't figured it out... I want total control in powder just as much as hard-pack. Hell, I'm going to go fast so the last thing I want is control-lag. It's a triumph of marketing over logic.

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Originally posted by bola

Hey Billy:

I do not want this to become my quiver is bigger than yours. I think the thread is about soft boot preference in powder. So, what boot do you ride on your powder board and why?

However, you raised another question that may be addressed in separate thread if you want. That issue is boards. As far as I know, I think there are lots of hand crafted boards out there that will run circles around the mass produced Burtons. Just try some of the Doneks, Priors, or Nideckers, to mention a few.

Bola,

The fish just rips in powder, Plan and simple! I ride what ever boot I am in the mood for on that day!

Big mtn, lots of hiking around the resorts(read as Chop and bumps) may be a Driver day.

If I am going true Back country riding I ride a softer boot like the Ion MD.

If I want a blend between the two boots I ride a Deeluxe Royal Flush.

I have riden the fish with Nidecker 850 carbons, Burton CFXs, C-14s and C-16s, P1-HDs, P1-MDs, customs, freestyles, Missions. and Carrier Plates, and Race plates. Also Drake Matrix and Super Sports. I also have tried TD1 and TD2 on it (With burton Winds, Fires and Raichle 225s,123s,324s).

I enjoy the ride of P1-MDs the best, Matched with a older pair of drivers that have softend up a bit(No RAF).

I have ridden the megalight and enjoyed it very much in the Pow the soft thin nose bends very nicely and gets up on plain right away, The fish plains faster and has a shorter tail, it turns much faster and allows me to charge with lots of weight on the front foot. In the trees and chutes the short tail allows me to sink it and check speed whille just pivoting the Nose for a direction change. It land with lots of stablity, It is a great stick!

I have ridden all of the boards you mentioned, some of them before they had four hole patterns or even inserts.

I may not own a shop like yourself but, I have access to a Max rental Fleet so I get to ride What ever I want (If we have it).

I was enjoying a Omen 166 in the Pow yesterday and a Ride Yukon 64 just the day before. I have ridden lots of big swallowtails and several Split shapes as well, The Fish Kills them all! It is the best Powder stick I have ever ridden. I have Not ridden and of Sean's or Chris' Powder spacific shapes. So I can not make a true Judgement for or against their Powder product.

If you come out this way be sure to send me a e-mail I am always out on the hill, And love to make turns with New friends.

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Guest mphdemon

I don't think that it's a question of Hard boots of soft boots. I think that it has to do with the surface area of the board. A carving or racing board will not ride on top of the powder like a freestyle board will. It will ride underneath. That is why it is harder to ride a carving or racing board in powder. If u are riding a freestyle board the width of it will cause the board to ride higher in the powder which makes it easier to make turns and u don't get that sudden stopping feeling. There should be no real difference weather you are wearing had boots of soft it has to do with the board.

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Originally posted by bola

I am sure you know all these but you have not made a very strong case for hard boots on powder at all. The whole terrain is a fluid and so it is "loossy goosey" and the precision of the hard boot is not a necessary requirement. Just think about cut backs and about dealing with sluff, etc and I think you will begin to get the picture

Yah, I agree with Bola - you want slop in your setup in powder because the whole situation is loosey-goosey. Frankly, the slop and the fine control you get in your feet and the feel of the powder in your toes is what makes powder riding so much fun in the first place.

PhilW wrote:

I generally have a fair amount of time waiting at the bottom of powder runs for those soft-boot guys. I try to use the time constructively by attempting to understand why you'd want to introduce slop into a control system.

Your speed at getting down a powder run is not indicative of the quality of your run - a skiier who straightlines a groomed run will wait for you at the bottom, but I think we'd all argue that he's missing out on the wonderful sensasions that we all get while carving gigantic circular trenches on the way down. Similarly (and having no knowledge of your riding style or ability, I mean no disrespect here), I would argue that your mach-5 carved powder turns are kind of missing the point of the powder; you're missing out on all the wonderful, lazy, loosey-goosey, tail-waggling, surfing turns you could be making in softboots.

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Just got back from 8 days of riding Snowbird, Brighton, Park City, the Canyons, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin in all that lovely powder (snowed 6 feet while I was there).

YES YES YES: "real powder" is not found on the resort's standard trails. Its mostly found in the woods and its bottomless and its the only true test of a board's "float" (and your physical training too).

BUT ....

This much I can tell you: off trail will eat your boards to pieces. If you think for one moment you are going to ride a quality, sharp edged carving board in REAL deep pow then expect to have a piece of garbage on your hands after 8 days. All our freeride boards were perfect. They are now a total mess (core damage & edge displacements). Trust me on this one. 10 feet of pow does nothing for 9.5 foot rock pinacles except hide them from your eyes. There are rocks EVERYWHERE no matter how deep the pow is at every resort when you are off the standard trails. So if you think you are going to use your east coast carving board out west... expect to fly back with junk. Better yet: just toss it in the trash bin before you board your flight back out. Saves you the trouble of looking for it in the oversize baggage areas. Wish I had.

PS1: saw just one guy on hardboots out there on the WHOLE trip (on a twintip). And I was looking because of this thread! And we rode from 9 to 4 every day. I did find that "under represented" statistically.

PS2: And all the soft booters are skidders on packed powder. Not 80%, not 90%. We are talking 100%. I found that odd too. Gee, no ice and skids???? Looked like extra work to me.

It was a blast and our good fortune to have so much snow.

sic t 2

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I think if you ride fast enough, you can certainly ride powder competently (I rode with Randy S. a few days ago in pretty epic pow and he definitely ripped the hell out of the mountain), but I think if you want to soul surf the powder and really enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed, the right tool for the job is a soft boot setup.
You can certainly carve the groomers with soft boots, but it's the wrong tool for the job; similarly, I think using hard boots in the powder is certainly possible, but it's not going to look or feel as good as having soft boots

I think that sums up the arguement pretty well for my own opinion but would like to add that the choice is still a matter of preference.

There is nothing unique about the shape of the fish or the set back, just look at the age old wintersticks or the O-Sin pow stick then you realise that Burton learned something, even though it was stated as Terge inspired

That is completely true statement. And when I got Burton's "The Process" video when my brother and I met the team this year they said the same thing. But, in the video, Terge said he was looking for something that was less heavy, easier to turn and eliminated the back leg burn, so, in trying to solve these problems they went back to the designs of the Burton Backhills and Elites, because they worked, and updated the concept with newer technology. It's true that the fish is not a new idea. Not to mention that Custom Craft Snowboards has offered the "powder nose" on their custom snowboards for a while too; similar concept, shorter board built for powder. Burton just came along to perfect it.

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Originally posted by bola [...] Please don't take this personally.

Nonsense. You made a clear personal insult: you can't squirm away from it like it's nothing to do with you. Your obvious lack of basis makes your rudeness hard to comprehend; I hope you are able to improve your manners in time.

The whole concept is surfing solid water. If you have never surfed before or skated it will be difficult to explain.

I do both skate and surf, but I still disagree with your view. Your difficulties in expressing a coherent rationale are nothing to do with the sporting abilities of your audience.

Speed down a powder run: agreed, it's only one measure, although better boarders tend to go faster, in my experience. My point was simply that better equipment allows you to go faster: it's not compulsory. Indeed, I think that soft gear actually restricts the ability of most borders to short-swing, precisely because of that control-lag.

Whatever, each to their own.

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