Blowing your load
Snowboards aren’t cheap, especially not the top-end ones. Splash out on a Burton Custom X, K2 Zero or an Arbor A-Frame, and you’ll spend at least £500. That’s a hell of a lot of wedge to have spanked if, upon blasting around the resort you’ve chosen for your even more expensive snowboarding holiday, you discover that can’t get to grips with your pricey plank.
And this can easily happen. Sure, there are test days at indoor snow slopes around the UK aimed at helping you make an informed choice about which board to buy, but they don't provide an acid test of how a snowboard performs. At best, they'll tell you how a board will handle the kind of park set-ups you find at Milton Keynes or Castleford Snozone, but they won't show you how a deck is going to cope with the massive variety of terrain you’ll encounter in a ski resort.
There is, however, a solution – Rudechalets' Snowboard Test Weekends, where you get to try out a whole range of boards in a proper resort, allowing you to make a truly informed decision about what to buy.
The height of Rudeness
British couple Chris and Helen Lavender launched their chalet business Rudechalets in Morzine, France, in 2003. Six years later, they’ve got four plush lodges – one in Chamonix and three in Morzine.
In the latter resort, Rudechalets has become such a focal point of the local snowboard scene (as well as running the chalets, they throw regular parties, sponsor riders and support jams), it feels as if they’re set for the kind of dominance that’s led to the Cornish town of Padstow being nicknamed Padstein in recognition of its ubiquitous chef, hotelier and restauranter Rick Stein. If the same thing comes to pass in Morzine, Rudezine gets my vote over MorRude. Flows off the tongue better.
Sorry, I digress. As well as more standard snowboard holidays, Rudechalets have been running board test weekends for five years now, and there’s always been a good buzz about them on snowboard forums across the interweb.
Try before you buy
In previous seasons I’ve bought boards that friends have recommended to me and, more often than not, I’ve ended up with something I struggled to ride when I got out to a resort. Could a testing trip really put an end to this painful cycle? I decided to find out so I signed up for the Rude’s 2009 test, which was taking place in Morzine from 11th to 14th December and was being sponsored by snowboarding mega power Burton.
This year, the test weekend cost £289. For that you got three nights half board in one of Rude’s chalets, transfers to and from Geneva, Switzerland, a lift pass and one day of guiding. Depending on the your flight times, you got between two and three days of riding. I got two and a half.
In the chalet I stayed in – the well-appointed Chalet Chapelle, which sleeps 20 – everyone ate and rode together, which fostered a nice inclusive atmosphere. The bonhomie was also aided by the presence of communal Xbox 360s in the chalet’s lounge, which led to raucous post-riding Guitar Hero face-offs. Each of the chalet’s two-man ensuite rooms also had a DVD player and an Xbox and there was a sauna and a hot tub you could use ease to away any jib-induced aches.
Each morning, Rude and Burton staff took almost the entire range of the brand’s next-season boards to a restaurant/test centre on the mountain so we could try as many as we wanted to. The lift passes we were given on this trip allowed us to ride the ski areas in and around Avoriaz, the small French resort above Morzine. Even though there was only a modest amount of snow on the mountain, enough had fallen to keep more than 100km of pistes and a jib park open. If you were prepared to hike, you could even get stuck into some crusty, yet fun powder too.
You could argue that the downside of going on a board test where you only get to ride one brand is that you’re not really getting a good feel for everything that’s available on the market. While in literal terms that true, the fact that Burton produce the most technically advanced boards in the world and have a staggeringly large range, accommodating all budgets and types of riding, goes a long way to negating this issue.
Love at first jib
I expected to have to try loads of boards before I’d be able to nail down my perfect ride, but I surprised myself by falling in love on the first day. I started out on a £470 Custom V Rocker but found this hard, powerful board difficult to control – I was only ever one dodgy turn away from catching an edge and eating hard piste. So when I arrived back at the test centre, I swapped it for something a good deal softer and slightly cheaper – the Fix, which retails at £420.
This board’s increased flexibility and slightly detuned edges (think kitchen knife compared to the ninja-sword sharpness of the Custom) made it more forgiving and easier to manipulate. It also features Burton’s new P-Rocker technology, which keeps the board flat and grippy beneath your feet but lifts the tip and tail off the ground so you don’t nose dive in softer snow.
It was perfect for a snowboarding jack-of-all-trades like myself and, after two and a half days of plummeting off drops, across bulletproof pistes and through early-season powder, I knew I'd found a board that I'd still love at the end of the season. I was ready to break out the credit card.
Lesson learnt – resort-based testing, in particular the Rudechalet’s Burton testing, is the way forward.
If you're going away this winter, you'll want to ensure you have the right eyewear, no? Better read MF's reviews of latest snowboard goggles, then.
For loads more wintersports stories, including workouts with top skiers and snowboarders, subscribe to the magazine. We'll give you five issues for £5.
Rudechalets' Burton Snowboard Test Weekend
When: 11th – 14th December 2009
Where: Chalet Chapelle/Joseph, Morzine, France
Riding experience needed: One week plus
To find out more about staying at one of Rude's chalets and for more information on future snowboard test weekends, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0870 068 7030.
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