Just when you think you’ve caught up with the latest in snowboarding tech, the scene changes again. Fads cycle in and out as new materials drop, colorways morph into new palettes, and never-before-seen designs shift the landscape. The 2016-17 winter is no exception: Surf-inspired styles continue to dominate the powder scene, with widening noses and an ever-expanding range of tail shapes. There were poppy park boards with pressy noses, free-riding slayers stocked with backcountry slash-tech, and an expansive array of all-mountain shredders. This year produced so many exceptional boards, it was difficult to narrow down the offerings to the absolute best, but we managed to pull out 11 that we thought performed a notch above the rest. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for these when deal hunting at those spring sales.
Burton Skeleton Key (All-mountain)
Many boards market themselves as the go-anywhere, do-anything “all-mountain” board. In reality, finding a stick that can rip corduroy as well as it surfs powder or tears up chunder is a rare discovery. If the elusive all-mountain deck does exist, the Burton Skeleton Key may be it. This fish-tailed quiver killer does just about everything — and does it better than most of it peers.
Blending elements of the Con Artist and the Flight Attendant, its directional design delivers power and precision on the groomers while managing to float over powder like an alpine hoverboard. If it’s slashing powder turns you’re after, you’ve got 10mm of taper to help your nose pop out and keep you afloat. Yet back on-piste, the camber underfoot offers awesome grip and stability while the slightly extended waist makes carving turns smooth and precise. The board’s Dualzone EDG wood grain at the toe and heel edges adds to the board’s responsiveness and, with a flex rating of 6, it is bendy enough to feel playful but solid enough to plow through chop.
The recycled sintered WFO base sucks up wax and keeps you hard-charging and fast as hell. Although beginners may find the Skeleton Key tricky to maneuver, the intermediate and advanced rider will truly find this a joystick.