Freeriding is where snowboarding started, and where whatever ‘soul’ the sport has is often said to reside. It’s no surprise that so many riders still prioritise the powder over everything else, and much of the market is aimed at keeping them happy. Take these weapons, for example, which are all designed to excel off the beaten track.
Of course, all of these can also be ridden on the piste, and some perform exceptionally well. More riders than ever are making their purchasing decision based on its carving chops, and that’s not gone unnoticed by the brands.
"It’s no surprise that so many riders still prioritise the powder over everything else, and much of the market is aimed at keeping them happy"
Some are also well suited to backcountry freestyle, albeit the natural-hits kind rather than rails and boxes. We’re not saying you can’t go into the park with these, but really that’s not what they’re for. If you want to hit the features between pow days, maybe consider an all-mountain model. However, if your main interest is the simple art of turning, with a healthy dose of high speeds, then there’s something in this list for you.
All boards are in alphabetical order, other than the category winner which can be found at the end of the list.
All photographs by Sami Tuoriniemi
Production: Ed Blomfield / Mike Brindley / Andrew Duthie / Sami Tuoriniemi
Bataleon Magic Carpet
Most people think of freestyle when they think of Bataleon and their TBT, but the Magic Carpet could start to change that.
The wider base sections at the side part the pow like Moses parted the Red Sea, giving you plenty of float on what is a short, twin-shaped board.
Burton Flight Attendant
Added to Burton’s Family Tree line of freeride boards last year, the Flight Attendant is carried over for more pow-chasing good times.
The setback camber keeps you stable at speed, and although you wouldn’t want to lap the park on one it’ll launch off natural hits with aplomb.
CAPiTA Charlie Slasher
While the CAPiTA Charlie Slasher is happy melting down the groomers, it’s been a powder favourite for years.
The slightly tapered shape and early rise rocker nose are ideal for the deep stuff, so have it ready when you see a storm coming.
Plus there's a channel of sidewall material running down the middle, which you can cut down to turn it into a splitboard.
Gnu Original Swallowtail Charger
Unlike a lot of ‘freeride’ boards, this one is actually built with the piste rather than the powder in mind.
It harks back to an 80s model but features all of Mervin’s latest tech, including carve-friendly Magne-traction edges.
Then when it dumps, the swallowtail lets you get stuck in to the deep stuff.
If you placed a pint glass on a Jones Flagship and pushed it down the mountain, we reckon you’d get to the bottom before a drop got spilled.
OK, maybe not, but this is about as stable at speed as boards get. The dampening is spot on, sending your confidence soaring with every descent.
K2 Joy Driver
Another new one for this year, this has the Lucas Debari seal of approval.
It’s quite snappy and light for a charger, though, so you’re missing a trick if you don’t get it into the air. It’s too stiff for basic freestyle, but in the backcountry it’s perfect.
Plus it can really move, thanks to the high quality sintered base.
Going shorter and fatter doesn’t mean you have to abandon aggressive riding.
The Salomon Derby may be great for launching off cat tracks and hucking spins off sidehits, but the verdict was just as positive when it was taken up to high speeds and into hard carves.
Whether you get powder or not, this offers a terrific ride at any speed.
Freeride maniac Manuel Diaz has designed a board for Slash this year, and it’s a beauty.
The mostly flat base has more pop than you’d think, and is seriously quick and stable. It’s not so stiff and heavy that you have to work hard, and you can even butter it.
It’s better when you open it up, though, so get this if you’re feeling fearless.
Stepchild OG Powder
With a subtle taper and pointy nose – not to mention the name! – it’s clear this is designed for the powder. It’d make a good introductory option for backcountry freestyle, and tears up the piste and side hits too. Take it through the park at your peril, but expect to find new tricking opportunities elsewhere with this.
WINNER - K2 CarveAir
The winner of this category really had to be one that puts the ride first, no matter what the snow conditions. Be it pow, piste, crud or slush, our testers found the CarveAir to be an absolute delight. It may be shorter than conventional boards, but unless you’re into charging serious steeps then it still gives you all the stability you need in deeper snow – and on tight lines at slower speeds, it really comes into its own.
On the piste it’s even better, stiff enough to hold a hard carve yet light enough to fly off rollers and side hits. Having ridden the K2 CarveAir on both firm and slushy groomers – as well as in the powder – our testers gave us the verdict; this is the year’s best freeride board, and maybe one of the best of all time.