Wednesday, January 05, 2011

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

Sam getting her shred on.

I picked up a Rossignol Experience [thanks Julie!] just before x-mas, and was able to ride it on three different hills in 5 days. I had two days at Mt Washington, one at Blackcomb and one at Revelstoke. Conditions ranged from over-the-head blower pow to polished hardpack. Here is a quick review of the board and some notes on the trip...

 My stats: 175 lbs + gear, 5'10", 22.5" stance +9/0, setback 1" from reference
Board: 2011 Rossignol Experience 163
Binding: 2010 K2 Auto-Ever, forward lean set to "5"
Boot: 2010 ThirtyTwo Prime, sz 9.5
Previous board: 2006 Ride Timeless 164, 1-degree base and side bevels

Initial Impressions
Excellent finish on this board. The clear topsheet is a very nice touch, as are the inlaid insignia. The bolt inserts were clean and free of burrs. All seams are smooth, with no high/low spots or odd finishes. The edges were sharp and ready to ride out of the bag. I did not detune the edges or re-sharpen the board before riding it, just a coat of all-temp wax and a good scraping.

The Ride
My first ride on the Experience was at Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island [Dec. 26-27]. This was our first trip to this hill, and we were lucky enough to be there during a ridiculously heavy snowfall. As I am not a big believer in warm-up runs, I headed straight for the nearest set of trees and just let it rip. My first thought was "WOO HOO! POWDER!", which also happened to be my second through nth thoughts. Somewhere near the bottom of that tree run, I started thinking about how well the board turned when pushed hard.

For the rest of that day and the next, I rode the trees almost exclusively. Visibility was not great out on the main runs, but I was able to get the speed up on some fresh corduroy. Edge-to-edge was smooth and easy, edge hold was staggering - more on that later. In fresh, deep, slightly heavy powder, the Experience was confident, agile and easy to move. Transitioning from powder to groomed run mid-turn was natural.

Next up was Blackcomb [Dec. 28]. Whistler/Blackcomb got some of the snow that fell on Mt. Washington, but definitely not as much, and it was heavier. This was our first trip to the Whiz, so we relied on intuition, beta from friends who had been there before and chatting up locals on the chair in order to find the goods. The main runs were pretty hard-packed, and there was an unending line of people heading to Spanky's Ladder, so we headed for the trees off of the Crystal chair. The snow was decent, and the masses didn't make it that far into the woods, so we got decent turns in all day. Some sections were very tracked out, so I was able to see how the board handled fast panic-turns in the trees. Very well, as it turns out. On at least a couple of occasions, the board enabled me to rip a turn that saved me from a pretty decent bail and a guaranteed beat-down from a frozen tree.

At the end of the day, it was time to head for the base. Eventually we ran out of trees to ride in, and had to dice it out on the main runs. By that time, I had forgotten that I was on a new board. Imagine my surprise when a hard turn on the bulletproof bottom third of the hill didn't result in the usual powerslide. The edges hooked up. I turned. I turned like I was on fresh, first chair corduroy. The board made a little farting noise with every turn, and it was the best sound in the world. I stopped to wait for a clearing to appear in the crowd, then made the last few hundred metres at speed, doing quick carves. The edges held, edge-to-edge transition was like buttah. At the bottom, I unstrapped and just stared at the board for a bit. "What are you - magic?"

Final day of the trip - Revelstoke [Dec. 30]. First run was the North Bowl. Visibility was non-existent, so the first couple of turns were tentative. Then I realized that almost nobody had dropped in before us - there were no tracks. The Experience rolled easily from turn to turn, all the way down through two feet of light pow. Effortless. We exited parallel to a creek, which meant riding the toe-side up and down and around trees and rocks. Great grip, easy speed. The rest of the day was spent - you guessed it - in the trees. Lots of untracked snow, mini pillow lines and small drops made for a fun day. The few times I rode groomers, the results were the same as before - great grip at speed. It also passed the cat-track test - it's just as fast on the long flats as my old cambered boards.

The Short Version
Great in powder. This will be my board to take on cat trips.
Great in the trees. It turns much quicker than the length would indicate.
Great on hardpack. Despite the soft, pow-friendly nose, the Magnetraction edges really work with the stiffness of the board through the middle and tail.
Would I buy it again? In a heartbeat.

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