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The Best All-Mountain Snowboards of 2017

Method air in the park on the Best in Class winner!
By Chris Edmands
Wednesday September 13, 2017
Trying to figure out which mountain snowboard is the absolute best? For two months straight we took nine of the top boards of 2017 on intensive rides through all kinds of conditions. From deep powder to hardback to corduroy, we rode regular and switch, taking the same lines with each model to compare performance. Every ollie, turn, high-speed straight line, and spin/jib was executed on each board to fairly compare them. Keep reading to find out how each model performed in these metrics: Edging, Floating in Powder, Stability at Speed, Playfulness, and Pop/Jumping.

September 2017 Update
Our Best Buy Winner, the Jones Explorer, recently got an updated look as well as a $30 price decrease! New sweet graphics and an even more affordable price tag? Can't argue with that. Check out the individual review for details.

Best Overall All Mountain Snowboard


Never Summer Proto Type Two


17/18 Never Summer Proto Type Two
Editors' Choice Award

$569.99
at Backcountry
See It

Lightweight and floaty
Fun to ride
Super responsive
Affordable
Awesome graphics and aesthetic shape
USA made
None!
Ranking closely to its competitors in most categories, but edging them out where it counts, the Never Summer Proto Type Two wins Editors' Choice for Best All-Mountain Snowboard. Its asymmetrical properties, which allow riders efficient edge-to-edge transfer, initiated and held heel turns better than any other contender. Its impressive scoring in other categories, cool shape, and eye-pleasing graphics make it a winner. Very playful but capable when the going gets tough, it floats in powder with its hybrid-camber profile and speed stability. It pops nicely, with medium-stiff flex, and it's lightweight and responsive, thanks to smaller radii sidecuts. Bonus: it's made in the USA.

Read review: Never Summer Proto Type Two

Best Bang for the Buck


Jones Explorer


Jones Explorer Splitboard Late 2017
Best Buy Award


Agile and stable
Lightweight
Poppy
Incredible Value
Slips on hardpack
Incredibly nimble and fun in all conditions, the Jones Explorer takes the title of Best Bang for Your Buck. It has the smallest sidecut of the contenders, which helps make it responsive on groomers and hardpack. Had we tested it in bumps, it likely would have triumphed like Jonny Moseley in Nagano '98. If you don't know who Jonny is, click - this. (We know he's a skier, but it's still rad.) The Jones seemed to be almost self-driving, entering and exiting turns with ease and precision. In pow, it felt similar to other contenders; it floated well because of the hybrid-rocker combo and surfy tip and tail. It's light too, but not the lightest tested. The Explorer offers better pop than fully rockered boards, and is not quite up there with cambered competitors. The Explorer is a splendid choice for anyone looking to have the best time on the hill, all while saving cash. In fact, the price actually went down $30 this year, from $479 to $449! And while the graphics on the 2016 board we tested weren't our favorite, for 2017 Jones rolled out a new and improved look. All in all, it's hard to go wrong with this fantastic board.

Read review: Jones Explorer

Top Pick for Railing Turns at Speed


Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro HP


2017/18 Travis Rice Pro pointy
Top Pick Award

$599.95
at Backcountry
See It

Well-constructed
Fun and floaty, with a good pop
Great turning action at higher speeds
Made in USA
Heavier than many boards
Not as great at slow speeds or firmer snow
With a rad shape and first-class graphics, Lib-Tech proves they rarely fail to produce innovative and well-built boards. Although the Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro is on the stiffer, heavier side (mainly because the size tested was larger than the rest), it was surprisingly fun and playful, making it our Top Pick for Railing Turns at Speed. If it were cambered, it wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable. Although it was larger than other models, it didn't feel it and rode smaller than expected. Once at speed, it dominated sweeping carves like Ayrton Senna in any of his six Monaco Grad Prix Formula One victories. (To get an idea what we're talking about, take a peek at this.) Its Magne-Traction bumps bit into harder snow but released from those turns easily, a product of the rocker. It also performed well in pow, as do most rocker-profiled boards. It popped better than other banana boards, due to its medium-stiff flex. The only downside we found was that it wasn't as nimble at slower speeds on harder snow and groomers. Stiffer, heavier boards with longer sidecut tend to be less responsive if not pushed to their limits. This model was made to be pushed!

Read review: Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro

Top Pick for the Weekend Warrior


Arbor Wasteland


2017/18 Arbor Collective Wasteland
Top Pick Award


Fun and floaty
Nimble
Aesthetically pleasing
Not great popping action
Spendy
Really playful, forgiving, responsive and aesthetic, the Arbor Wasteland is our choice for someone new to snowboarding or weekend warriors who want to push it more. This board is capable of handling anything you put in its way, and it's the friendliest of all tested. The combination of reverse camber, twin shape, medium flex, and middle-of-the-road sidecut make for a pleasing ride. Powder riding is difficult to get used to at first, and the reverse camber helps you stay afloat. Its medium flex makes it poppy and drives it through mashed potatoes and crud. And don't forget the classic wood finish!

Read review: Arbor Wasteland

up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
84
Never Summer Proto Type Two $570
Editors' Choice Award
You're blowing it if you don't buy this one!
84
Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro HP $600
Top Pick Award
It might take a while to get used to – it's not for the timid.
83
Jones Explorer $449
Best Buy Award
The best value; we're certain of that. Extremely well designed.
81
Burton Flight Attendant $550
Go fast and get low – you're carving now!
78
Arbor Wasteland $600
Top Pick Award
Good intro board for everyday riding.
77
Capita Defenders of Awesome $420
If price is your main concern, then you absolutely will not be disappointed in this board.
76
Rossignol One Magtek $500
Good choice for the price, but there are better options.
75
Burton Custom Flying V $600
A great option for someone getting into snowboarding, or the occasional weekend warrior.
70
Rome Agent $560
Great choice if you're a heavier rider looking for a stiffer board.

Analysis and Test Results


Imagine taking part in a blind taste test, tasting 1% and whole milk; easy peasy! Now imagine that you're tasting milks ranging from 1.1% to 1.9%. Your job is to pick the best. That's harder. Each milk is so close in taste that, in the end, they just taste like milk. See what we're getting at? But wait. What if one milk had a touch of chocolate in it? That would make things easier. We're here to help you determine which all-mountain model is YOUR chocolate milk. Your friends' opinions might vary, and other factors might weigh in. But if you know what characteristics are important to you, we'll tell you the board that has them.

The options. It's going to be a tough one.
The options. It's going to be a tough one.

What Type of Riding Defines You?


If you love carving groomers, we recommend the Burton Flight Attendant. Classic cambered profile, a stiff flex, and shorter sidecut give all that you could ask for. Are you only riding pow? A rockered board with more length and width, along with a gradually rising nose, such as the Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro, is likely your best bet. Maybe you're a park rat who can't be bothered to hunt down pow or just make turns on corduroy. If that's the case, the Capita Defenders of Awesome is light, playful, and poppy, perfect for the park.

Types of Snowboards


This review only covers all-mountain models, which combine the best qualities of other boards. However, there are many other varieties you might want to explore. If you know that you only ride in a specific conditions, such as powder or park, perhaps you should look for a different board. If you have the means, plenty of time to ride, and a big enough garage, why not buy one of each? To read more about the different types of snowboards, view our buying advice.

All-Mountain
This is the most versatile, do-anything-anywhere board you can buy. All boards in this review are all-mountain. They are designed to adapt to any snow and riding situation. Whether you're a seasoned shredder or just starting out, an all-mountain board will keep you happy surfing powder, airing in the park, riding the half-pipe, or carving groomers. All mountain boards are relatively non-specific in design. They can be directional or twin tip, and come with differing base profiles, flex, and edge types. When buying this variety of board, there are actually more things to consider than with a more specific model.

Bootpacking with the Explorer
Bootpacking with the Explorer

Criteria for Evaluation


Some criteria is paramount when testing all-mountain models. The metrics we tested for were chosen because they are deciding factors when considering your purchase. When our tester was a child, he picked boards based on how cool the graphics looked. If the board had a skull or he had seen it in a video ridden by one of his favorite pros, he'd buy it. It was a long time before he realized that there was more to a rad board than a cool graphic or big name. Maybe that's why it took him so long to get good at riding. Fortunately for you, if you continue reading, you'll be a better rider than he was when he first started. He didn't know s@#$ about nothin', man! But now, 33 shredding years later, he does.

Edging


A product's metal edge gives it turning and stopping ability. Without metal edges, carving would become sliding, and there would be less control while riding. In our hunt for the best, we looked for a board that got on edge easily, maintained control, and exited turns easily. We tested how every board performs while moving on edge, transferring from toe edge to the heel edge and vice-versa, analyzing how different edges handle. There are Magne-Traction, or serrated edges, and there are classic, non-serrated edges. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Serrated edges grip better in harder snow and ice but can sometimes feel catchy or hold on to a turn longer than you want. In powder, edge style doesn't make a significant difference.

When the board choice and snow conditions are right you can really get down.
When the board choice and snow conditions are right you can really get down.

After thoroughly examining the specs of the models we tested, those with medium-to-stiff or stiff flex held their edges exceedingly well. There were three standouts that scored nine or above out of 10. The Jones Explorer and Burton Flight Attendant, both with the shortest tested sidecuts, scored nines. The Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro C2, claiming the longest sidecut of the contenders, scored a ten.


However, the other boards with long sidecuts, like the Capita DOA, the Rome Agent, and the Rossignol One Magtek did not fair as well as the Lib-Tech Travis Rice did, which relates to their flex. The Lib-Tech Rice Pro was the stiffest contender tested and killed it on edge. Both the Lib-Tech Pro and the Jones Explorer have Magne-Traction, which helps keep edges firmly planted in harder snow.

Comparison of a board with a classic edge and one with Magne-Traction. Lib-Tech T.Rice pictured on left and Burton Flight Attendant right. Both top edging machines  but totally different edges and base profiles.
Comparison of a board with a classic edge and one with Magne-Traction. Lib-Tech T.Rice pictured on left and Burton Flight Attendant right. Both top edging machines, but totally different edges and base profiles.

Stability at Speed


Back when snowboards were less tech  skiers often referred to us as "knuckle draggers." You can call me a "fore-arm dragger" if you'd like.
Back when snowboards were less tech, skiers often referred to us as "knuckle draggers." You can call me a "fore-arm dragger" if you'd like.

This metric was by far the most fun to compute. Feeling in control at speed, whether straight-lining or carving, is incredibly important. If you feel loose or out of control while cruising at maximum speed, you're likely going to wreck, possibly taking someone out while tomahawking down the mountain. Most of the boards tested had differing base profiles. Choosing a base profile is difficult to do without knowing the characteristics of each, but we're here to help. Each board was opened up, shooting it straight and carving on an uncrowded resort run to achieve the best results. Boards with longer sidecuts and cambered profiles performed well at higher speeds, but were tougher to control while going slow. Those with rocker and softer flex were more playful but looser while going full-tilt. Overall, board dimensions play a role in stability, too. The best board has a little bit of everything.

Going fast in less than perfect conditions.
Going fast in less than perfect conditions.

The same three that scored the highest in edging also scored top of class in stability. The Burton Flight Attendant topped this category with a perfect score, while the Jones Explorer and Lib-Tech Travis Rice Pro C2 scored nines. Of these three, the Burton Flight Attendant is the only fully cambered model.


Both the Jones Explorer and the Lib-Tech Travis Rice have hybrid-rocker/camber base profiles, which hurt them ever-so-slightly, and their Magne-Traction can sometimes make the ride more "catchy."

Pushing Magne-Traction to the limit on the Lib-Tech.
Pushing Magne-Traction to the limit on the Lib-Tech.

Float in Powder


How hard do you want to work while riding the best snow of your life? You simply don't, so choose a board that works for you. Cambered boards resist float by nature. Their downturned shape makes them want to dive, regardless of upturned tips. How many surfboards do you see with tip and tail that point toward the coral? None. You will work harder to keep your nose up in pow with a cambered board over a rockered board. But that rockered board won't have the same pop off flat ground and jumps.


To test this metric, the models were pushed to max speed, jumping, and backwards riding in the deepest snow we could find. The boards with a combination of rocker and camber did the best all around.

A hybrid base profile makes for more playful turns.
A hybrid base profile makes for more playful turns.

If it's your first day in deep powder, YOU WILL HAVE A DIFFICULT TIME! But don't let that turn you off from trying. Learning to ride powder is tough, but it is fun! Boards with rocker profiles help with powder float, and these four topped the charts: the Never Summer Proto Type Two, Rossignol One Magtek, Arbor Wasteland, and the Lib Tech Travis Rice Pro. It's not just that they all have some sort of rocker; their widths helped them surface better than narrower rockered models, like the Burton Custom Flying V.

Arbor Wasteland model detail.
Arbor Wasteland model detail.

Playfulness


What is your primary goal on a board? Are you going to get all "racers ready!" and bash gates on a slalom course? Are you looking for the gnarliest couloirs in Svalbard? How about stomping that triple-cork 1440 while the world watches you on ESPN 8? You may want to do all this, but our guess is that you're simply looking to have a fun day with your friends. Only you can decide what constitutes fun, but we can help you get started. To test this metric, we made the tightest turns possible through the range of sidecuts. We popped off of side hits spinning little 360's, buttered and pressed our way through the park, and wandered through trees. Big, heavy, and stiff boards were not nearly as fun as smaller, lighter ones.

Slashing a lip and throwing some snow.  This is what messing around looks like for Kurt Wastell.
Slashing a lip and throwing some snow. This is what messing around looks like for Kurt Wastell.

In most cases, the "playful" metric seems to go hand-in-hand with a lightweight, poppy, twin-tip shape. Twin-tip boards are known to be more freestyle, and to most, freestyle means playful. They're quick and easy to turn, with decent pop. Of the four top-scoring boards in Playfulness, one was directional, the Rossignol One Mag-Tek, and all others were twin. Despite its non-centered stance, it was a blast to ride.


The Capita Defenders of Awesome was light and nimble given its larger sidecut. The Burton's Custom Flying-V was a blast because of how rockered and soft it was; it was a bit weighty, but this wasn't noticeable while riding. The Arbor Wasteland was also nimble and light, scoring a nine out of 10.

Pop and Jumping


It would be rad to ollie over that SLOW sign at the bottom of the run, wouldn't it? Yeah. Then you can go tell your friends how rad it was and pop a beer. How do you know what model has what it takes to pop you that high? In testing pop, we ollied, hit park jumps with varying kick, and flexed the competitors in the parking lot. Then, after snagging my nose on the sign, shoulder checking the hardpack, having the patroller take my ticket, and sulking as I walked to my car, I looked down and realized I was using the wrong board for the job.

Popping off a roller in the backcountry.
Popping off a roller in the backcountry.

Snap, crack, spring, thwack, burst, bounce…however you say it, pop is what you get when you crouch low then leap upwards off your tail to clear an object, whether it's a shrub, handrail, or 75 feet of air. Boards that are cambered have greater pop than those with rocker. A cambered board acts more like a spring, resisting your downward force, then blasting up once that tension is released. A rockered board doesn't have the same fight or push-back of a cambered board. So you would think only cambered boards would pop well. Not true.


Flex and weight play a role in this. Contrary to the camber rule, the Never Summer Proto Type Two, with its hybrid-rocker/camber profile and a softer flex pattern, popped well. It's not a traditionally banana'd board, but has a combination of camber under your feet and rocker in the middle. If you're looking for the best pop, both the Burton Flight Attendant and Rome Agent killed it with camber and stiffness, with spring-like camber. The Burton Flight Attendant is heavier than the Rome Agent, and that extra weight is harder to pick up when popping.

With the right pop your board will easily come into your hand. Kurt Wastell demonstrates with a proper frontside grab.
With the right pop your board will easily come into your hand. Kurt Wastell demonstrates with a proper frontside grab.

Conclusion


Mens Best All-Mountain Snowboard Lineup
Mens Best All-Mountain Snowboard Lineup

All of the opinions and hypothesis we've determined throughout our testing are, ultimately, subjective. We have provided you with our understanding and knowledge of how these all-mountain boards reacted while testing and how we came to our decisions. If you're still unsure about which direction to head, read our buying advice for additional purchasing assistance. Read the full review. Look at the numbers closely. Check to see what your account balance is and make a choice. You won't be disappointed. Even if you pick the poorest scoring board we've tested, you will still enjoy it. You know why? Snowboarding is fun.

A staple move while rolling through the park.
A staple move while rolling through the park.

Chris Edmands
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Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.

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