Every year there is a board at the demos that is “the one that got away.” Two years ago it was the Hel Yesby YES Snowboards. It was so fun at the demo I thought about it all year.
The Hel Yes has undergone a few changes since two years ago. It has changed construction a bit with the addition of bamboo to the core, and it now has underbite (instead of overbite). This is kind of the opposite of Magne-Traction, it interrupts the sidecut by bumping in instead of out like Mag or overbite does. The principal behind it is that it is the interruption that gives it extra hold, and underbite will prevent catchiness. The edge hold was definitely there on icy terrain.
The Hel Yes is a serious freeride board. It is a stiff (4/5 on the YES scale) directional twin, Camrock board. It has camber between the feet and rocker outside. I rode the 152, and it wanted to go fast… faster than I wanted to go in the conditions. It’s a very lively board, but it wasn’t hard to reign in. The bamboo is partly what makes it so lively and lightweight, but I’m guessing it’s also why I could feel every little ice chunk that I went over. That gets tiring fast. I think the harder you ride this board, the better off you are to get the full effect of it.
I also rode the new NOW Conda women’s bindings with this board. The danger in demoing an unfamiliar board with unfamiliar bindings is that it’s not a controlled experiment. It’s hard to identify exactly what each piece contributes to your overall experience. The Condas are designed specifically for Helen Schettini to go with her Hel Yes pro model.
The bindings, like the board, are also pretty stiff, and they have a taller highback than either the NOW IPO or the Vetta (the women’s model that joined the line last year.) And the baseplate was running a little too narrow. It was hard to get my boot settled properly and I ride a size 7 Salomon boot which is very middle of the road as far as the size and boot profile. Hopefully that will be remedied before production.
The straps were comfortable and held well, and the response was excellent. But the response was a little too excellent for my taste, making it feel almost twitchy. It would have been nice to try the bindings on a board I was familiar with to be able to isolate the board and bindings before trying them together. But I really didn’t want to spend more time being bucked around on the ice grooves and chunks.
When I returned that board, I got talked into trying the YES Emoticon 149. It is a softer, true twin board, still featuring Camrock and underbite. This is the board designed for everyone who isn’t Helen Schettini. It is certainly more forgiving with a softer overall and torsional flex. I rode this with my existing small NOW IPO bindings, which were a good match, softer board, softer bindings. I think a lot of women would really enjoy this board. It’s much easier to ride, and it absorbs slightly more chatter than the Hel Yes. But it is still lively and fun, and it is a board that you can take anywhere on the mountain with confidence.
The final day was another adventure in variable conditions. This day started at the Salomon tent where the Wonder 150 was recommended. Salomon snowboards has a whole special vocabulary for their tech that we will cover in a future post. I asked if it was going to be able to hold an edge if it was icy on the top and I was spared the language but told that it should. It did.
It is a directional twin with camber between the feet and rocker outside that they call Cross Profile. There are various degrees of bevel on the edges to provide hold without being catchy. And there are variations in the thickness of the board for snap and pop. It also has royal rubber blocks in the high-pressure zones of the sidewalls to absorb vibration and soften landings. You could feel the effect of these in the super hard snow. The board is a great all around choice for someone looking for a really solid board to cruise groomers or ride powder. It’s quick enough edge to edge that it would probably be fun in the trees. And it certainly was up to a variety of conditions since the bulletproof top of the mountain was met with a much softer, creamy snow at the bottom of the mountain.
This board was a very pleasant surprise to me…probably my favorite $399 board I have ridden. It is a great value and definitely rides like a more expensive board. So many price point boards compromise features, construction, or performance to keep the price down. The Wonder doesn’t compromise anything.