We don’t know exactly how many models of snowboard are available to buy for the 2015/16 season, but it feels like laying them end-to-end would reach to Mars and back – with enough left over for a few laps of Olympus Mons while you're there.
So how do we decide which ones to feature in our annual Buyer's Guide? Simply put, we ride them.
It all starts in January with the Avant Premier snowboard test in La Clusaz, France. For snowboard testers, it’s like a second Christmas: not only is it our first opportunity to get our hands on the latest gear, but given the time of year it’s usually a chance to try out the powder boards in their natural habitat.
Next up is the Subvert Slushy Social, a week-long test in the popular French resort of Morzine. Spring riding is very much the order of the day and demand for fun freestyle boards is sky-high. This one is open to all, and there's always a healthy contingent of shred lovers there with which to talk shop.
Finally, the big one: the UK Snowboard Test (aka Spring Break) in Kaunertal, Austria. What feels like the entire British snowboard industry heads up to the glacier for a week of riding, testing and squeezing the last drops out of the season. When we’re not running the Whitelines Rail Jam or drinking ourselves to death, it's all about getting on as many different decks as we can.
All the while, our goal is simple: get the right rider on the right board, in the most appropriate conditions and on the intended terrain wherever possible. Every aspect of a board's performance - pop, edge-to-edge speed, stability and flexibility, to name a few - is factored in to our verdict on each model, which we then break down into a jargon-busting review. Even if you don't know camber from rocker, you'll be able to learn what each board can do.
Obviously we can’t possibly test everything ourselves, so we draft in some help; the Whitelines Test Team is a select band of retailers, instructors and other industry folk. Together they’ve got a total of 235 years’ snowboarding experience, ride countless boards every season, and know a good stick when they see one. From the scores of snowboards, bindings and goggles that they tried, we took their feedback on board and whittled down the list.
There are, of course, things that we can’t appropriately test. Boots is the most significant one – even if it were practical to try two or three pairs at a test day, that’s nowhere near long enough to get a proper impression. Setting aside the breaking-in period, people's feet are just too different! However, we've plenty of combined experience wearing a variety of makes and models, so with a little help from brand reps and word of mouth, we’ve gathered together our top picks to provide the most comprehensive overview possible.
From decks to packs, shovels to wax, the Whitelines Gear Guide 2015/16 covers the best snowboard products on Earth – or any other planet for that matter.