Board: 2011-2012 Venture Zephyr, 155 cm
Dimensions (mm): Length 1550, Waist 250, Effective edge 1210, Sidecut Depth 21.60, Stance -20, Taper 5.8, Equivelent Sidecut Radius 8.48
K2 Thraxis boots, K2 Auto Uprise bindings
Stance: Goofy, Width 26”, Front 9 degrees, Back -6 degrees
Days tested: 10
Venture Snowboards has been on my radar ever since they moved to Silverton. I was living in Durango at the time and was very impressed with a start-up company moving to the remote San Juans.
I got to demo some of the original Venture decks, and I have to say that I was less than impressed. There was a funky stepped-back stance and a strange floppy characteristic that made the board unpredictable in turns and bumps of any sort. The only advantage to these early boards (though it certainly aligns well with riding in Silverton) was in DEEP POWDER.
Even though they were great boards in terms of powder specific components, what about the other days that are crunchy, sun-baked, slushy, icy, and worst of all, rocky?
Fast forward a few years and meet The Zephyr: a true testament to a company with unrelenting focus on figuring out the details on possibly the best board I have ever ridden. Let’s just say that next year I’m getting one of these.
Rider feedback at Venture goes directly into the development in a small town / small business way. The people who build the boards are all riders themselves, and they understand the technicalities of a good, big mountain board.
The board has a few new additions that create a ridiculously fun ride, such as a stance moved closer to center. Combined with the tip and tail rocker, the narrower stance allows for a more freestyle feel without diminishing float in the powder.
The stiffness of the board has increased on the whole, and certainly underfoot and within the binding inserts. The nose and tail are still stiff enough to boast nice pops, but flexible enough to eliminate throttling in the bumps and weight-forward situations. The shovel on the front does not have a huge rise, but the flexibility compliments the overall shape of the board well. Plus, the low-profile nose comes in handy at high speeds by adding to the running length stability. In other words, it still carves, and carves well. If you only smear your turns, try a different board.
My time on this board was a combination of patrolling at Taos and freeriding, and I started out testing with a run on Kachina Peak. It had snowed a bit a couple days earlier, and the seam of the old and new snow had combined and was soft. I chose K1 as a run to get at the powder above the large cliffs, skier’s left of the cirque. I got some speed, launched off a cornice, and cut a nice toe side turn to get to the shelf above the cliffs. I slowed down and cut some turns through the trees to open up into The Apron, wondering if I should turn more or let the board accelerate….Too much thinking, lots more acceleration, and I was now going mach out of The Apron. But the board was so stable, it would have been comfortable going even faster; an impressively high level of hold on before wash-out.
And yet, the Zephyr doesn’t require speed to do it’s job, which is possibly the magic of the low profile shovel and flat base under the feet.
With every new board a bit of stance adjustment is in order. I spent the rest of the day taking runs on blues and greens off of Chair #4, with a screwdriver session in between each one. After much frustration with knee tweaking and hard-to-jump scenarios due to an unsettled stance, I gave up for the day.
The next day on the board I started fresh, widening my stance and opting for a very moderate amount of angle on both feet. This seemed to fit very well. It was the middle of spring break and we were fairly busy patrolling (which translates to: “Not busy testing boards”). But something happened while I was on the clock that allowed a great insight into the board: I’d responded to a wreck in the terrain park, located on the back side of the mountain. From that location, a long, flat return trail lies ahead. I had never taken a sled down the trail because it is usually assisted with snowmobiles, since even skiers typically come to a stop and need a tow. But on the Zephyr, I soon found myself at the bottom of the return trail with the sled. Yep, this board is super fast.
What about strength? During a last-minute BLISTER photoshoot on Kachina Peak, I gave the board an unexpected durability test. I was with Jonathan and Will Brown, headed for Kachina. We ended up hiking out to K5, which has a maze of rocks that makes it very tricky to scout a line. As we leap-frogged down in phases of turns, I felt really solid on this board. It jumped, landed, and turned over, on, and through rocks. I remember taking one line through some rocks with a tiny drop near the end only to land on a large rock. I rode it out and turned to show Jonathan the result of the damage. His report? “I don’t see anything.”
After a few scratches (that should have been core shots), no waxing, and varied testing conditions, I unfortunately had to send the board back. Simply put, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the board.
The Zephyr is best suited for an aggressive rider who loves stability at high speeds without sacrificing playfulness on pops and airs. It has a near indescribable sense of grip and cut, due to Venture’s edge shaping. It also seems nearly indestructible. It’s clean looks are super attractive and simple, and get points in my book. Venture has done a great job with this board, and they have clearly made modifications since their early days of designing decks that make for an incredible ride.
Yeah, I definitely gotta get one of these.