Go Play Gear: Reviews of the Reverse and Kapow from Colorado’s Unity Snowboards
Long before the niche snowboard market exploded, Unity Snowboards was quietly pressing boards by hand in a small, unassuming warehouse on the north side of Silverthorne, Colo. If snowboarding were hip-hop, Unity would be OG.
But I digress. These days, with boutique manufacturers popping up in every corner of the state — think Weston in Vail, Venture in Silverton and that other Colorado OG, Never Summer in Denver — it’s easy to overlook the sheer amount of experience co-founder Pete Wurster has under his belt. He was pressing and riding Unity’s first line of boards while the majority of up-and-coming manufacturers were still riding Burton Customs.
Just don’t let Wurster’s old-school ties throw you off. Unity decks aren’t outdated or under-built, nor are they weird for the sake of weird, though he’s not afraid to experiment with new tech once it’s been proven. (Case in point: Most Unity boards now feature hybrid rocker construction, the same found on made-in-China decks from Burton, Ride and K2.)
And Unity has the pro seal of approval. Longtime Summit local JJ Thomas has been on a Unity board for years, while up-and-coming pipe riders Taylor and Arielle Gold hopped on the pro team in time to slay the Burton U.S. Open this weekend.
Right in time for spring park and powder season, Unity sent me out on two wildly different boards: the Reverse, a tried-and-true freeride model, and the Kapow, a funky little true-twin powder deck.
Reverse (155 cm)
For folks who’ve heard of Unity — and there aren’t too many, even after this long — the Origin ($515) might as well be the only board Wurster makes. It’s the go-to park deck for Gold and fellow team rider Zack Black, a true-twin beast with plenty of pop for rails and enough backbone to handle the Freeway jump line in Breck.
The Reverse ($475), then, is the Origin for riders who crave a few tree runs between park laps. It’s another true-twin board, but it’s made for all-mountain freeriding, with traditional camber between the feet and mellow rocker from the binding inserts to the tip and tail.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m hardly a stickler for tech stats like sidecut radii, effective edge and the myriad other numbers gear junkies love to quote. They make my eyes cross. I think of it as a first date: I’d much rather judge a board on feel and impression. It’s an inexact science, but, like dating, snowboarding should be enjoyable — no spreadsheets and equations required.
My first date with the Reverse came on Presidents Day weekend at Copper, when a much-needed stretch of quasi-decent snowfall finally arrived after nearly a month of nothing. She (like boats, my boards are female) was fun and poppy on the early-morning groomers, with just a touch of edge-to-edge flex for newcomers who might get yanked around by super-stiff, super-heavy decks like the Never Summer Proto.
That said, the Reverse felt a bit loose on the back edge, but it was limited to carving only — I rarely had trouble locking into a hard edge after spinning or buttering over rollers.
And then I popped into the front-side trees. Within seconds, I knew the Reverse and I would make it to a second date: At 155 centimeters, she was sized perfectly to cut through steep, tight glades, yet mellow enough to nearly surf through gullies and creek-side run-outs. It was nothing short of a downhill mountain bike in snowboard form.
Would I take the Reverse home and introduce her to mom? Yes, but only if I didn’t already have three decks for park, powder and urban. This one is a solid upper-mid-level board for any condition, and at less than $500, she’s a pretty affordable date.
Kapow (157 cm)
While waiting for enough fresh powder to make a backcountry trip worthwhile — the 6 or 7 inches Copper saw over Presidents wasn’t quite enough — I couldn’t stop thinking about the Kapow ($525). I also couldn’t stop describing it as weird, strange and downright alien. After a while, my go-to conversation starter at Backcountry Brewery and the Breckenridge Town Council meetings became, “So, about this funky Unity deck…”
And it truly is funky. Wurster introduced her to me as a “true-twin powder board,” which might sound sacrilegious to some. I disagree: For the past two seasons, I’ve ridden a K2 World Wide Weapon wide (159 centimeters) in the powder. It’s a jib board to the core — it collapses on cliff drops — but it’s unexpectedly nimble in the trees and on log rails, plus it floats like a feather.
Needless to say, the Kapow was right up my alley.
Along with the true-twin shape and a centered stance, it features Unity’s “mega-kick” camber, with flat camber between the feet and dramatic, ski-like rocker from insert to tip. The legitimately experimental shape gives it the look and feel of a hybrid surfboard/wakeboard, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Turns out, I’m definitely into that sort of thing. The Kapow is too much fun: After slaying it on the meadows and cliff drops of Inner Mongolia Bowl at Vail, I took it to the Gold Peak terrain park — home to the U.S. Open — and was surprised by how well it handled the large jump line. It’s not quite made for locking onto a nosepress or boardslide, but I expected that. It handled just fine on Vail’s side-country log rails, and that’s all I needed.
Make no mistake: The Kapow is a quiver board, but after shattering the core on my K2, I was in the market for a new powder deck. I’m ready to bring this funkiness home.
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