Mt. Hood Meadows
Daytime at Meadows was a great mostly sunny spring day with light winds and mid 30′s. All of my riding was off piste trees and technical steeps in our Heather-Clark Canyon complex as well as Private Reserve.
The snow condition was classic challenging PNW variable. Wind packed powder, heavy sastrugi, large avalanche debris fields, deep soft powder stashes, wind scoured ice fields, heavy rutted tracked out powder transitioning to corn in sun exposed areas and powder under a heavy frozen sun crust in shaded areas.
On the technical steeps of upper A Zone on 45-50 degree slopes, the Raptor’s agility and sure footedness instill total confidence to lean forwar and dive into every turn with full commitment and confidence. With good, aggressive dynamic riding, this board has no difficulty maintaining a controlled dynamic short radius skidded turn on these pitches in even less than ideal conditions. To me, this and speed is where this board shines. I find it far superior to any other Neversummer board and it eclipses the Billy Goat in this arena.
The powder float is very acceptable and satisfactory but not as phenomenal as the Cobra or the Summit. I would compare it equally with the Heritage and Premire as well as the Billy Goat. The new Proto HD planes better as a result of the low profile tip and extended transition. It is my opinion that incorporating this tech in the nose of the Raptor would give it exceptional powder handling.
In the trees and large moguls, the agility is superb but not quite as agile as the Billy Goat or the Cobra. In this arena, I feel that the Raptor, Premier and Heritage are all neck and neck.
In the really craptastic crud snow conditions, the Raptor’s dampness and stiffness aids the rider in remaining stable and turn ignition remains fairly constant and stable despite poor conditions. The nose is not easily deflected by crust, crud and death cookies. In this area, I believe that incorporating the Harmonic Damper in the nose like the Proto HD would enhance already very satisfactory performance.
As in the powder, I found that in the deep, heavy, tracked out mashed taters with frozen crust, the nose would catch and plow the snow rather than cut through it. Again, I think incorporating the low profile tip and extended transition in just the nose would improve this and give the Raptor some of the characteristics of the Proto HD and Cobra in these awful conditions.
Friday night at Mt. Hood Meadows became very icy and fast and it was groomer time. This new Raptor seems to have no speed limit! The dampness, stiffness, edge profile and Elastomeric Underfoot Stabilizers provide unmatched stability, edge hold and quiet ride. In this arena, the Rsptor blows the Billy Goat out of the water along with the Cobra and to a lesser extent the Proto HD. The addition of the Harmonic Dampers would enhance the already outstanding high speed performance.
I opened this board up on the smooth icy green and blue groomers and at all speeds up to around 55-60 MPH as measured by GPS, I discerned no resonance in tip and tail even during brief moments of no to low edge angle. Above 60 MPH (top measured speed burst of 71 MPH), the ride began to destabilize alarmingly with noticeable resonance and overall twitchiness. I am reasonably sure this has more to do with the overall shortness of the board and my natural anxiety at this speed. A longer Raptor and several shots of Jack Daniels would no doubt solve this issue.
Carving with this new Raptor is a dream. It really wants to lock the edge in and rail you through the turn. The first few carving drills will tend to spook you as the board seems to take control. Edge transitions are smooth and quick; requiring only moderate unweighting. Once the new edge is set, its ready to run. The Raptor makes basic inclinated carving ridiculously easy and it really loves aggressive angulated dynamic carving!
Friday night also brought about several park progressions as I was coaching my multi week advanced college group. Jibs are not the Raptor’s strong points but this is no surprise due to its task specific design. While doable, I found riding boxes to be sketchy as the damp was and stiffness of the board inhibit the rider from feeling the feature with the feet or feeling locked on. All I felt comfortable doing was 50-50′s on easy boxes.
Jumps are another story however! The stability of the new Raptor allows for great stabilized approaches and take offs. The board has incredible pop; far more that is usual with most RC profiles. I startled myself several times as a result of the unexpected boost I got fr the Ollie off of kickers and rollers. This board Ollies and Nollies very well. Nose and tail rolls are energetic and smooth. It is surprisingly adept at board walking as well considering how stiff and damp it is.
In the air, the Raptor has natural balance and is easy to manipulate for grabs and tweaks. The dampness makes landings very soft and stable. Landing a bit nose or tail heavy is not as sketchy as softer boards. The spring in both nose and tail resists that feeling of tacoing on a hard landing. Overall, I feel this board performs admirably in the jumps.
Where this thing really excelled in freestyle was in the Superpipe! All of the characteristics that make the Raptor a superior aggressive big mountain board, serve it well in the pipe. I found that it boosted up through the transition powerfully and the edge hold up the wall was superb. It releases effortlessly when transitioning to flat base and reengages easily coming back in and locking onto the wall. I really enjoyed this in the pipe.
The one thing this board does not like is going slow and making low edge angle beginner type turns. I taught several classes on the Raptor and it is work making these entry level basic linked turns. The Raptor wants to ride fast and on edge. slow, low angled skid turns are manageable, but not smooth and you find yourself having to work the board. This is a great board but absolutely not the ideal board for a beginner or low intermediate. Hold off on this board until solidly carving blue terrain and comfortably riding black terrain and have begun to get dynamic in all of your riding.
This board is a very task specific tool that is designed for the aggressive rider who is primarily interested in challenging free ride. It loves speed and steeps and to appreciate its full potential, the rider has to be aggressive and skilled. It is not a quiver killer really, but for the right rider comes close and it does perform almost all high level ring tasks well.