It all started with your typical Tahoe connection. My girlfriend’s friend told me that her boyfriend was making handmade snowboards. She asked if I would be interested in giving their new boards a shot. I’ve destroyed boards made by K2, Nidecker, Burton, Smokin’ & LibTech. So, what did I really have to lose? Plus, these guys were making snowboards and splitboards designed for high-alpine adventures and ready to take whatever riders could throw at them. Well, time to give the “new kid in town” a shot.
TahoeLab (http://tahoelab.com/index.html) was in it’s infancy and just starting to make boards for more than just close friends. I knew what type of riders the founders were, so I had no doubt that their boards would be up to the challenge of riding around Lake Tahoe. They are all too familiar with some of the unforgiving rock off Carson Pass and at Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Their original designs were simple, functional, and durable. As for myself, I needed a board that would be able to handle everything from teaching beginners on the bunny slope to navigating the steeps with my clients through Expedition Kirkwood. Could these boards fulfill my one board quiver, or would they be my high performance board that is relegated to freeride sessions?
I met with Lee Collins and Abe Greenspan to personally discuss what type of board I would need. At the time, I was riding three different LibTech boards. I had a full rocker Skunk Ape, a C2 Skunk Ape, and a C2 TRS. But, the TRS ended up being permanently torsionally flexed. And, I was getting frustrated with the magnetraction grip combined with the base wearing faster. The boards were getting a bit scary with our low snow seasons and firm hardpack. The magnetraction would fail to release on sections where I needed it to slip. I needed a board from TahoeLab to handle my Sasquatch sized feet, like the Skunk Ape could. I needed the board to go from the beginner hill, to the terrain park, then to the mixed conditions on the upper part of the mountain. Finally, I needed a stance width that worked for my wider stance. So, after a bit of talk, we decided that their 172cm twin tip would be a great board to start with.
The technology involved in making snowboards can be overwhelming at times. Every company hypes their specific cores, base material, rocker/camber, and different flex designs. TahoeLab knew their technology and focused on a bamboo core topped with a carbon fiber topsheet, as well as carbon stingers for added grip and pop. Their press created a flat profile with enough strength to still provide edge hold and pop, as well as an enough nose and tail rocker to keep everything afloat. The design was beautiful. But, how would it perform? Of course, I got the snowboard when Tahoe was experiencing a drought. So, time to test this thing out on the road.
If you really want to test a snowboard’s durability, then test it during low tide conditions. You’ll really get an idea for how well that edge will hold under the worst conditions. Well, I didn’t really want to “destroy” the board, so I saved it and went to where the snow was. Our first stop would be at the CBS Celebrity Ski Event at Deer Valley. Good, old, Deer Valley doesn’t take kindly to “knuckledraggers”. But, I did sneak a few quick runs in while we were setting up for the event. I was immediately impressed. I spent the next three days daydreaming of snowboarding while watching all the celebrity skiers pizza their way through the race course.
We had one free night at the condo after the event, so we headed over to The Canyons. The Canyons is a huge resort with so many different peaks to ride. This was going to be the first “real” test. Plus, we were fortunate enough to get the previous three days of snow to blanket the mountain. There were two skiers and me with my TahoeLab snowboard. Well, I don’t think there was going to be a problem keeping up. That board loves speed. And, the carbon fiber topsheet gave me all the confidence I needed to point it straight down the fall line without any chatter. But, could it turn? Hell yeah it could turn. Mounted as a twin put me right in the sweet spot of the board. There was more than enough effective edge. I was in love. But, I may need to narrow up the stance a bit. This was the first board that I ever had to make that adjustment.
Our next stop took us over to Colorado. The storms kept lining up and heading from west to east. So, we followed the storms to our friends’ condo in Frisco. Colorado is no stranger to great snowboard companies like Never Summer & Venture Snowboards. When the lifty commented on my 172cm twin tip TahoeLab with an expression of shock and awe, I knew I was in possession of something special.
The Dew Tour was in town, so we headed up to the top of the mountain to work our way down through some of the trees. Up on top, the conditions were wind-buffed with sections of sastrugi scattered across the mountain. With 172cm, there was a lot of snowboard to be bucked and deflected by those frozen waves. Thankfully, my TahoeLab tracked almost exactly where I wanted it to go. My confidence was growing with each new run. But, I had to remind myself that this was early season conditions and that I should be cautious.
Eventually, we ended up over in an area called The Windows. I wanted to see how quick this board could be edge to edge. Well, this may be an ideal testing ground with tight trees that were very unforgiving if I made a mistake. Not knowing the area, we traversed a bit until we found an optimal fall line. These tress were definitely tight. Although the tail of my board was clipping the tree trunks, the board handled each torsional flex with precision. The only difficulty I found was with throwing the board sideways and stopping. Some of the trees were that tight that 172cm was too wide. So, stopping wasn’t really going to be my first choice.
As luck would have it, we got a bit separated and I did have to stop to make sure we had everyone. Good thing I did, because we ended up over an open creek. It was early season after all. There were a few sketchy snow bridges. But, would they be able to hold somebody of my size? Only one way to find out. I pointed it and carried enough speed to not only cross the creek but continue down the other side and all the way back towards the chairlift. I think my new TahoeLab and I were starting off on a long and happy relationship.
With all the fresh snow starting to hit Tahoe, it was time to head home. I had a few intermediate and advanced clients lined up for the upcoming holidays. There would be plenty of beginner lessons lined up too. This would keep me busy until after the holidays. So, did I have enough confidence in my TahoeLab to make it my daily rider for those mixed groups? Hell yeah I did. But, I would’ve been happier continuing to test the board with some personal freeriding. First, there were some bills to pay.
A lot of my job as an instructor requires me to ride one-footed. We have to make it across the top of the mountain, as well as up and down the bunny slope. I also have to be able to give a good demo for each and every ability level. Sometimes, a stiff board makes those demos look a bit too advanced on the bunny hill. Or, it’s difficult to get the board to flex at such slow speed. A 172cm snowboard can also be a bit tricky to control one-footed. Another factor of riding a 172cm snowboard would be to navigate the moguls without getting tossed around. The flex of my TahoeLab seemed to be capable of everything from the bunny hill to the top of the mountain. And, the flat profile worked well for each task that I had to perform. That was a busy holiday season and the TahoeLab proved it’s durability again and again. None of the exposed willows, rocks, or even beginners riding over my board proved enough to damage it. TahoeLab wasn’t an elitist snowboard. This was a day to day board built to perform.
I did finally decide that another board would be in order. I replaced my Venture Splitboard with a 168cm TahoeLab Splitboard. That board has explored all around Tahoe, plus adventures into Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, & Colorado. I can’t wait to add more areas to it’s resume. And, I did finally get another solid to make it more of a possibility for a one board quiver. I had TahoeLab make me a 163cm twin for more of my day to day responsibilities. Plus, that would save my 172cm board from some of the wear and tear.
Every TahoeLab board that I’ve ever had is still in my rotation. After almost 200 days, my first 163cm board finally had a deep base shot that had to be repaired. I also had to ask for a touch up on the 172cm. After 4 years, I had a bit of edge separation. Without any hesitation, they’ve been able to keep my boards alive and still working, just like they did when I first rode them. If anyone ever wants to test their durability, then I think their boards will be up for the challenge. I’ve ridden over some of the most unforgiving volcanic rock, as well as many other damaging terrain features, and my boards are still looking in good condition. That’s part of the reason that I’ll continue to ride a TahoeLab for years to come.
There’s something awesome about being able to support a rider owned, local, snowboard company. Abe and Lee are two solid individuals that collaborate to make an amazing product. They’re experimenting with lighter designs and trying different topsheet combinations. They’ve kept up with trends to make their solid and split snowboards at the top of the game. I look forward to seeing what the future holds. And, I’ll be a strong proponent of TahoeLab snowboards. Maybe this year is the year that I’ll finally give their skis a try. Oh yeah. Didn’t I mention that they’ve also made skis, as well as women’s specific snowboards? Maybe that’ll be in another story? Check back in to see what the next “Made In Tahoe” feature is about.