Snowboards have exploded into dozens of niche and sub-niche categories over the past few years. Though this can make it challenging to choose just one board, the trend gives us the opportunity to tune the riding experience to our individual styles, abilities, conditions, and terrain. The reality is that no single board handles every condition i.e. groomers, powder, steeps, Vermont ice, Sierra cement, Wasatch champagne equally well. You either pick one board that reasonably handles most conditions or you build a quiver of boards to suit specific days and disciplines.
The following represents the best snowboards, boots, and bindings of the year for resort riding.
Burton Custom X Flying V, $750
If you have to choose one board to handle all conditions, the Custom X Flying V is about as versatile as boards come. The design is a symetrical balance of camber and rocker styles. The former is ideal for holding an edge through fast turns; the latter provides float in powder and more forgiving transitions from edge to edge. The camber is focused under foot, where you apply the most pressure through turns, and the rocker is found at the tip, tail and between the feet. Though it's a directional design, the tradtional shape of the tail combined with the rocker style enable it to ride switch pretty naturally. The "X" designation comes from the carbon layers that reduce weight and add stability. This is a relatively stiff board and is intended for hard charging. It rails groomers, floats through blower powder, and stomps landings equally well...as long as you're riding aggressively. If you want a more mellow ride, the standard Custom Flying V is a bit more forgiving.
Rome Blur, $580
For the day after the big pow day, when you're riding groomers and left-over tree stashes, this is the board I'd choose. The design is 90% camber with a touch of rocker at the tip and tail, which provides for a very stable board on edge. It enables you to lay down massive toe-side turns on groomed terrain, leaving deep trenches in its wake. The flex is medium, so it reacts quickly and effortlessly to rider input. The directional design and shaped tail also enable it to blast powder shots without having to lean hard on your back foot to keep the nose up. At 5'10" and 180lbs, I chose a bit shorter than normal at 159cm and loved how quick it was through tight trees.
This unique design rides powder so well that legendary big-mountain snowboarder Jeremy Jones and his following have taken to calling it Hovercrafting (#iheartHovercrafting) i.e. the joy of riding deep powder on a Hovercraft. The big feature is the Spoon design at that nose and more subtly at the tail. The 3D shape is similar to a surfboard, resulting in superior glide, float, and flow through fresh snow. Every centimeter of the Hovercraft is designed for charging through deep powder in a way that is much more natural -- even soulful -- than most any other snowboard. So this is my top choice for snowcat- and helicopter-assisted snowboarding.
Burton Modified Fish, $500
This is many generations removed from one of the first powder-specific board designs--the Burton Fish--that wasn't a split tail. The principle is pretty simple: taper and shorten the tail, such that it sinks into fresh powder naturally. This enables the nose to float and the rider to weight each foot equally. As the name suggests, the Modified Fish is, yes, modified...to be a more versatile board than just powder. The tail is slightly longer and doesn't taper as much, which means it's much more comfortable on groomed or hardpack conditions than earlier versions. But the sizing has not changed. It's still a short board, so while I typically ride a 161cm, I opted for a 156cm Modified Fish.
Rome Mountain Division, $600
There are days when you know there will be fresh powder. But some of it could be wind blown. So you'll likely end up on the trees or hiking for the choice stashes. You know you'll be out there all day, so it will definitely get choppy by the afternoon, and there will definitely be some air. For this level of knowledge and uncertainty, the Mountain Division is my board of choice. The bend is a unique combination of camber at the rear half of the board to finish turns strong, a flat section under the front foot for stability and a rocker nose for floatation and turn initiation. It leans toward the stiff side, especially in the tail. If your days are often filled with powder, this is a potential quiver killer.
With Burton bindings you have two choices: its proprietary EST design, which only fit contemporary Burton boards with the two-bolt channel mount, or the standard, four-bolt Re:Flex version for all other boards. If you want to ride Burton boards, though, your only choice is the former. The Channel enables the board to flex evenly from tip to tail, whereas four-bolt bindings create "dead" spots under the feet. This is not something I've felt either way, but it makes sense. The Genesis X is a perfect match to the Custom X above. It's a light-yet-stiff, all-mountain binding with a carbon composite baseplate and solid feel all around. The ankle strap also has a virtual hinge, which opens up and makes it really easy to step into the binding right off the lift.
Rome Katana Bindings, $350
I've ridden Rome bindings for more than a decade, and they are plush. From the padded baseplate covers to the super-cush ankle straps, it feels like the bindings have suspension. Yet the Katana is also extremely responsive. In terms of customization, no binding offers as many dimensions for adjustment. Indeed, it can take days of riding to truly fine-tune them if that's your jam. The highback can be rotated around the boot and leaned forward; the ankle strap has two pivot points and can be mounted at several points on the chassis. You can even adjust how far the ankle straps open so you can more quickly step into them.
Rome Folsom Boots, $400
The BOA closure system has come a long way, and it is now a viable option for high-performance snowboard boots. The Folsom uses two dials for the upper and lower boot respectively, enabling you to customize the fit and flex pattern with a high degree of precision. And loosening them is just a matter of releasing tension in each of the BOA dials. The Folsom also features a Vibram sole for impact asborbtion and superior traction when hoofing it for your turns.