Whistler Blackcomb, an ideal destination for trying out new snowboarding gear, has 8,000 acres of snow-filled slopes that include six terrain parks and long, gladed runs. Following the first story on my favorite resorts and spas, this review surveys the gear that kept me moving downhill all day. Stay tuned for one more this week on apparel.
Salomon XLT 2012 board
I tested four different 2012 boards this year, but the Salomon XLT ($650)—super light and full of pop, but still solid at high speeds—really rocked my world. It's a traditional camber board, which I now know is just right for me. I've tried rockers and rocker-camber hybrids and I see why people love them, but for all-mountain riding with minimal tomfoolery, I guess I lean toward the older school. The XLT gets its lightness and strength from Salomon's Ghost Construction which combines honeycomb core components with carbon stringers—new tech for 2012.
Nike Kaiju 2011 boots
Admittedly, I was hesitant to give Nike's snowboarding boots a try, but there's something to be said for the fact that they've been a footwear innovator for decades. This year's Zoom Kaiju boots ($350) have an air midsole, internal Flywire ankle harness and simple-but-smart lacing stays to optimize fit. The boots are moderately stiff making them versatile enough to play in the park and race down the steeps. Buyer note: the lining compresses almost a full size so buy them tight and by the fourth ride they'll be perfect.
DFP Podium Custom Footbeds
As everyone's foot is different, it's a bit challenging for a bootmaker to create a footbed that will fully support you. I decided to give Dynamic Foot Positioning's custom-molded Podium insoles ($150) a try. The customization process happens in under 20 minutes at select dealers and basically entails heat-molding a blank to your foot. After trimming excess material away, you're good to go. Walking out of the shop, I immediately felt an increase in comfort and support in my boots that resulted in happier feet on the mountain.
Salomon Cypher 2012 Bindings
The last thing you want to do with a light, fast board like the XLT is weigh it down with heavy bindings. That's why the carbon-based Cypher ($200) compliments a fast board perfectly because it's not only lightweight, but also strong.
Oakley A Frame Goggles
My mainstay for years, the Oakley A Frame goggles ($130) are distortion-free, glare cutting and super comfortable. Best of all, they never fog up.
Bern Carbon Baker Helmet
Light, comfortable and lined with EPS hard foam to meet safety certifications, Bern's carbon fiber Baker helmet ($230) looks good while protecting and insulating. The snap-out knit liner can be replaced with a lighter headband for summer biking as well.
Seeblade Goggle Wiper
A simple but necessary item for the often wet snow that falls at Whistler, this mini wiper blade ($5) straps on to your thumb for easy goggle squeege-ing. I bought one in one of the shops on the mountain only to discover that Seeblade is a Whistler company—necessity does breed innovation!
Ski Tracks GPS Tracking App
Launch Ski Tracks, hit start and this app will take regular GPS readings, even when running in the background. That data is interpreted on the fly to show you number of runs, number of lifts, total distance, top speed and more. Your day can even be visualized on a map and exported to Google Earth. Impressively, while it runs in the background all day, it doesn't consume much battery life at all. At only $1 in the iTunes App Store, this one's a steal.