The reality of testing out next year’s snowboarding gear at industry demo events is that you often only ride a board for a run or two. You base your buying decisions largely on initial impressions of what you are excited about and what you think your customers might be excited about. Occasionally when you come across something that is particularly fun, or different, you hang onto it a little longer. Maybe you test it out in the park or trees if possible, and maybe you have a little more fun on it if possible.
Gnu girls snowboards always seems to come through with something new and fun. The Gnu Beauty was the surprise of the demos for me. I have written about my initial impressions on the demo Day 2 recap. But to save you a trip back to that article, here’s a refresher. It is directional XC2. It has a short, pronounced rocker section between the feet, and it has fairly significant camber from the bindings out. Gnu rates XC2 as “aggressive perfect” on their board profile spectrum. It is medium flex.
At first I had no idea what to make of the board. I couldn’t even figure out what to write about it because it is quite different from what I usually ride and not something that I could dial in on a single run. So this was one of the boards I needed to spend a little more time on. A second run left me thinking about it the rest of the day and all night. On Day 3 (a powder day) I had to get back on it and give it another try. By then I was pretty sure it was fun and different enough from my other boards to justify owning it. So I grabbed it at the demos and then frothed at the mouth for the two weeks until we went on a snowboard trip where I could run it through its paces.
We had that chance last week. We spent three days at Jay Peak, two at Sugarbush, and one at Smuggler’s Notch. The first day was a powder day at Jay. Oh what fun! This board is surprisingly playful given the profile. It is soft enough to do a respectable tail press, it is very poppy, and will launch off of anything you want. I got air off of many a snow bump and small ramp. I had to make a conscious effort to not pop off of things if I didn’t want to. I spent most of the day in the little trees at Jay. I don’t get into the gnarly steep, tight trees at Jay that may involve the occasional cliff drop or similar natural hazard, but the baby glades are my happy place. It was very nimble and maneuverable through the trees. With the long nose and short tail, you can lean back a bit and surf it around the trees and bumps. The rocker between the feet and mid flex, make the board feel somewhat loose and playful in those conditions. But make no mistake…when you need stability and predictability it is there!
Days two and three were probably the coldest days I have ever ridden. With wind chills hovering around -40 there was a lot of snow blowing around so the trees were refilled nicely, but some of the trails were a little blown off. It was a good chance to test the Beauty on the firm groomers. This board is touted as freeride freestyle board. It holds an incredible edge on hard pack and it is fast. I don’t love to go fast, but on this board you can go fast and it doesn’t ever feel like it is going to wash out. It was a pleasant surprise. But there was still snow in the trees, so back I went.
When we moved over to Sugarbush, and later Smuggler’s Notch, groomers with packed powder, and some really hard packed powder, were pretty much the standard. Conditions were good for New England. But there hadn’t been any snow in about a week so most of the woods were beat up, and the groomers were firm but edgeable. I brought my Gnu Ladies’ Choice on the trip because I wasn’t sure enough that the Beauty would be good in whatever conditions we might encounter. I was never tempted to get it out of the car. It was a great trip to experience a little bit of everything and to test the Beauty in all of it.
The Gnu Beauty has enough playfulness to be lots of fun when you are bopping around or playing in the trees. And it has enough hold to bomb hardpack groomers and keep it under control. It is certainly up to anything I can throw at it and a whole lot more. After six days of riding in a variety of conditions, I feel like my early impressions were right on- that I can take this board anywhere I want and have a blast the whole time.