The Shaper Summit is more than just a board test, it’s a soul test
Popsicle stick snowboards never spoke to me. I taught myself to snowboard arching turns on fresh snow in the pasture behind my house, and at the old rope tow that ran off an antique truck motor in East Corinth, Vermont.
Snowboarding was never about the park or pipe because there wasn't any. It was about the pure bliss of painting a turn on fresh snow.
Yet, driven by the popularity of the X Games and the Olympics, snowboard design became monotonous and lacked soul. It lost its way from the joyful radicals who invented the new sport, and became defined by the very things we had previously spurned. Judges, competitions, ego, vanity, elitism, and big-moneyed corporate partners. It left those of us in search of the perfect turn in the dark and ultimately led to me falling out of love with snowboarding.
Then came Rob Kingwill's Shaper Summit in 2013. Decidedly radical, the Shaper Summit rejected those uninspired shapes and looked back to our roots for inspiration. It was thanks to this event that we saw the triumphant return of the classic swallowtail and new applications of OG shapes. I remember drooling over the Franco Snowshapes and Gentemsticks that graced the pages of TransWorld SNOWboarding Magazine, dreaming that one day that I would get to ride these legendary boards.
Ill never forget the call from Adam Broderick, TransWorld's Gear Editor in 2016, Can you get to Jackson? We have a place, food, and lift tickets for you at the Shaper Summit. Its next week though... I dropped everything, including my savings account, on a $900 plane ticket that required a night spent in Dallas and somehow made it to Jackson just in time for the snow to start flying.
The event was (and still is) a whos who of grassroots snowboarding, and I instantly felt at home. There's a special serendipity to the interactions both in the tent and out on the mountain. A chance encounter in the gondola line with Leo Tsuo, the owner of Weston, would fundamentally change the course of my life. He recommended I try a board of his called the Backwoods, and I was instantly hooked. It would become my go-to board for the next four seasons.
Four years later, I finally returned to the Summit in February of 2020, now working for Weston. It felt like coming full-circle in my journey with snowboarding and I was excited to see how the event had evolved. This small grassroots event had ushered in a golden era of board design, and helped to propel small indy upstarts like Weston, Pallas, and Elevated Surfcraft into mainstream snowboard culture. The Shaper Summit had once again returned the soul to snowboarding.
For me though, the highlight was not the plethora of boards, but a conversation shared on a boot pack out to Four Pines with Chuck Mclean, the founder of Dig My Quiver. We chatted about building positivity and stoke in the snowboard community. About avoiding snowboarding's cultural devils of ego and elitism, and to instead foster a culture of support and stoke.
Months later, with the world in the grip of a global pandemic, after a summer of unrest and a divisive political election, I found myself reflecting most on that conversation. I wondered about how we translate all of the knowledge and stoke inside the physical tent of the Shaper Summit to broadening the proverbial tent of snowboarding?
How do we continue to expand the product offerings of Rated Radical-worthy boards for women? How do we break down barriers for LGBTQ+ people and BIPOC who have long felt relegated to outsider status in our sport? What do we all collectively want snowboarding to look like years from now, and how can this incredible event help shape that future as it has the boards we get to ride today? The Shaper Summit and snowboarding itselfis about more than just gear and turns. It is a living culture, and its up to all of us to define it.
Women's Rated Radical
Franco Snowshapes Lipstick
WOW. I've been harassing Mikey [Franco] for a softer board for old ladies for a while and they are getting close to nailing it with this one! It looks like this board will be all nose and very stiff, but it held tight like a tiny tiger in a Cheyenne Bowl and flew across the flats like it was on rails, taking me back to the tent in enviable style. It doesn't look like an everyday board, but it just might be.
Whoa nelly, she can turn and burn! I just wanted to keep cruising on this sucker! Pure carving. OMG-inducing. I will say it was a bit chattery on steeper, torn-up slopes, but cruised on groomers, and made wide sweeping turns. I didnt get too airy riding this, but I had an easy time popping off anything in sight. Nicely done!
Lib Tech T.Rice Orca
I was super impressed at how nimble and playful this board was despite its width and overall large surface area. The 153 floats like a 159 but the shape made it easy to transition from edge to edge. A powerfully playful snowboard! Loved it! Handles anything you throw at it, but still is easy to maneuver. Soooooo stompy.
MTN Local Frozen Fishstick
While all the young guns were hucking to flat into skied out moguls, Max Holzman of MTN Local was laying trenches on groomers with his smooth, easy going and joyful turns. His Frozen Fishstick is the embodiment of that style and offered effortless turns on less than ideal conditions. Would love to add this to my quiver!
This board rules---great job Weston! The shape is surfy yet versatile. I really dig how much power the tail has, it wants to pop when you engage it. I truly feel this board is a unicorn. Not sure there's much (if anything) to improve with this one. Somehow Weston has created what is in my mind the perfect board. Made by women for women. Beautiful art and beautiful story behind it. Gimme!
Yowzer, this deck does it all. The bite on turns was unmatched as it locked into high-speed carves with ease. I raced a crew of dudes off the Teton lift, and felt super confident pointing it SFD, given its edge-to- edge responsiveness. No pow in sight, but it held super tight on hardpack, and was surfy in the soft stuff. The directional shape isn't crazy, but there's enough taper to feel spoony. Hello new daily driver.
Men's Rated Radical
Salomon HPS - Takaharut Nakai
I was shocked by how much I loved this board. The shape is mellow, by Shaper Summit standards, and at 158 it was smaller than what I usually ride. But the board is just such a joy to ride! The wide directional nose profile and stubby round tail were perfectly balanced, and the construction felt incredibly solid all over the mountain in challenging conditions. Don't let the subtlety of the shape or the topsheet design fool you---Wolle Nyvelt and Takaharu Nakai designed this thing from the base up to be a precision shred machine. Go ride it.
Igneous Dark Star
Burton Hometown Hero
I loved every second on this board. I rode it in all conditions and could not find a flaw. It felt like it was made for me. High speeds, freestyle, powder, it allowed me to push its limits and still always asked "What's next?" Rides like a hard-charging groomer board but handles freestyle like a park board. Its worth the cost. It has a top speed, but it took some effort to reach it. Id ride the 162 if looking exclusively for powder but the 158 can go easily from all inbounds conditions to the backcountry, no problem.
Never Summer Harpoon
This board feels very playful, but has stability when you need it most. Camber profile eases in and out of butters and turns, which is opposed by a stable and responsive front end and a snappy tail. Crackin' ollies, bombin', butterin', heel side scrape'n --- truly a rad board!
See more Shaper Summit test results and info on the SHREDTalks event at www.shapersummit.com and www.shredtalks.org