Art: Jamie Padilla

2016/17 Snowboard Trends

Curves, Curiosity And Classics Spark Brand Development and Retail Trends

*Editors Note: This hardgoods trend report was originally printed in the Winter 2015/16 print issue of TransWorld Business. 

Snowboard brands and riders hold the key to future board creation and trends, but how do their efforts stack up at the storefront? As board shaping bustles with creative shapes, we were curious what decks were really heading out the door at core retailers across the country. With winter underway, we asked a number of shops to weigh in on what trends they see at the counter, and asked brands what they have in store for the future.


Counter Culture

“Shaped boards are getting all the attention,” says George Johnston from Milosport in Auburn, California. “The Capita x Spring Break Slush Slasher and United Shapes boards are looking sweet.”

In the Northwest, Brandon Clark, Snowboard Hardgoods Buyer at Tactics in Eugene, Oregon adds, “With a nod to what our older brothers are doing on the skate and surf industry side, it’s great to see modern twists on past designs.” Clark adds, “It’s nice to see a shakeup aside from the camber-versus-rocker-versus-hybrid story.”

In the upper Midwest, it’s a similar story. Ben Olsen from Damage Board Shop in Duluth, Minnesota affirms, “The different custom shaped decks seem to still be hot. Minimal to regular camber construction instead of reverse cambers is as well.”

Heading into 2016/17 there’s no sign of letting up from the brands either. “The industry is definitely experimenting with more surf-inspired pow boards and 3D shapes, and riders are a lot more open to creative designs than before,” says Tyler Ketz, operations manager at Bataleon Snowboards. “Bataleon has over a decade of 3D shaping experience, and we’ve discovered a lot of universal benefits in this process. We’re continuing to play with new shapes in future designs.”

Never Summer’s Marketing Director Christopher Harris says the brand is focused on creating new and interesting shapes. “The new shapes are really fun to work on,” Harris says. “They’re a very cool combination of modern and throwback design.”

Creative board shapes have certainly carved a strong presence on the board rack, but they’re not just powder boards for powder hounds. Riders like Dylan Gamache and the Yawgoons have proved what’s possible with a fish-shaped deck and a miniscule hill in Rhode Island, while others like David Bertschinger-Karg and Manuel Diaz have pushed the freestyle capabilities of directional powder cruisers.

This creative approach extends beyond the actual boards, according to Hunter Waldron, Global Brand Director at K2 Snowboards. “Open mindedness resulting in diversity is what I see driving things for the next few years,”he says. “There is a lot of energy behind surf-inspired shapes and riding. But I think the underlying drive that’s fueling this, and will eventually continue when the surf focus subsides, is a new willingness to accept any type of riding, and therefore snowboard. These days riders are more open and into different things, so there is more room for different shapes and styles.”


Easy Style

Curvy shapes don’t speak to everyone. Others see a continuing trend towards easy riding platforms and a refinement of camber profiles. Down south, Lee Elliot, the General Manager of Ambush Board Co. in Kennesaw, Georgia claims, “I see the trend moving toward softer-flexing, shorter, and easier to ride boards. People want to get the most fun out of the board so they want something user friendly. I relate this to the trend of surfboards with more volume—less work equals more fun.”

Paul “Bubba” Iudice, Owner of Bubba’s Boards in Durango, Colorado adds, “With the rocker and camber variations, we’re still seeing more people going to smaller size boards—they’re easier to control and lighter.”

The easy-riding trend continues for Slash Snowboards 2016/17 line as well. “We rearranged the flex in the price point boards, since the trend is towards softer and easier to ride boards,” says Owner Gigi Ruf.

For large retailers like EVO whose market extends beyond the Pacific Northwest, there’s a bit of everything happening. “Improved positive camber is balancing out the product mix here in the Pacific Northwest after years of more reverse camber hybrids,” says EVO Seattle Snowboard Supervisor Kevin Nimick. “More directional, asymmetric, wild, and wider shapes are gaining footing in an effort to inspire consumers to build quivers, carve more aggressively, look at snowboarding differently, and have fun! Re-issues and limited edition boards are coming back more heavily, as well.”


Stand By Me

The wide assortment of eccentric and terrain specific boards can confuse the average buyer looking for the quiver killer. Many are simply looking for that universal board. We dug up what staple boards many shops rely on, as well as other  approaches brands are taking for 2016/17.

“Staples are the Capita Defenders of Awesome or the Mercury, Burton Flight Attendant or the Easy Livin, and the Lib T.Rice,” adds George Johnston.

The Lib Tech Skate Banana, T.Rice and TRS, Burton Clash, Feather, and Custom are what’s moving for Elliot at Ambush.

Up in the Northwest, Clark falls back on The Never Summer Proto HD and Cobra, Capita Ultrafear and Defenders Of Awesome, plus Lib Tech’s Skate Banana and T. Rice.

Olson chimes in with, “We’ve always had Rome on the menu here. Capita is very heavy in the mix, and if Forum was around they would still be a staple.”

On the brand front, Ride Snowboards has a focus on boards that work for 2016/17. “We’ve been creating shapes that make sense,” says Marketing Manager Tanner McCarty. “Wild, wacky designs may look cool, but a snowboard is only as good as it rides. With the ability to prototype shapes, flexes, cambers, and profiles all in Seattle, we can jam up to the mountain the next day and really figure out what is going to work.”


End Of The Line

Snowboards are global and trends seep into their design through many forms. Movements in skateboarding and surfing can’t be forgotten, but sometimes one has to look beyond design, social media feeds, or weather outlooks into broader economic elements. When asked of current trends, Brent Sandford, The Source General Manager in Calgary, Alberta had an interesting take. “Customers are definitely becoming more and more educated regarding who’s supporting snowboarding in their area and at large,” he says. The origin of boards, brands, other goods, and who’s profiting from our hard earned payroll is becoming increasingly important. But no matter the brand, shop, or board, one thing is for certain—turning is universal. It’s the foundation of snowboarding, and new designs that make it easier, more fun, or more unique are something that everyone can experience.