Posts Tagged ‘Lake Tahoe

25
Jun
14

The Best All-Mountain Snowboard: 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing Review

Radmania Nitro Blacklight Gullwing 159

If you had to ride one snowboard for the rest of your life, do you think you could choose just one board that could do it all?

There’s certainly something to be said for building up a quiver of boards – to show the sideways-riding world that you are serious shredder who has the right equipment for every conceivable condition. But after a few years of accruing all manner of boards, you can get too spoilt for choice: your powder weapon ain’t much good when you hit the park at the end of the day, and your freestyle stick (usually) won’t float much when you hit the deep fresh. And no-one wants to be that whiney guy on the chairlift who complains that he should have grabbed one of his other boards instead.

So what if one board could do it all?

After getting my hands on a pre-released Nitro 2015 Blacklight Gullwing for my 2014 overseas trip, I reckon I’ve found the board that can.

 

Rocker vs Camber … or the best of both: Gullwing Rocker

Nitro_Gullwing_Rocker

Now that some of the euphoria around reverse camber has died down a little bit, there has been a minor pushback against the banana boats in favour of good ol’ stable and secure camber, or even zero-camber for something in the middle. And yes, it is true that rocker lacks the control and edge hold of traditional camber boards at high speed … but nothing can beat it for a neutral float in powder.

Nitro’s Gullwing rocker– or to use Burton-speak, Flying V – aims for the best of both worlds: the playfulness and powder-float of rocker, and the groomer control and response of camber. It does a great job … but, having ridden my old Nitro Team Gullwing on steep and Coke-bottle-icy early season St Anton slopes a couple of years ago, I was that complaining dude on the chairlift wishing that I had brought one of my stiffer, regular camber boards. The Gullwing was just a little too playful when maximum control was required on the slippery, icy slopes. But that’s where Nitro’s new Power Pods come into play…

 

Power Pods:

Nitro_Power_Pods

See that lil’ bump on the rail? That’s a Nitro Power Pod … and it’ll make you a carving demon!

The sidecut of the 2015 Blacklight contains a short and long radius, so that just in front of your leading foot, and behind your back foot two seemingly innocuous bumps protrude a few millimetres. They’re highlighted by fluoro green sections of sidewall, in case you hadn’t noticed them when you first picked up the board. These Power Pods give outrageous edge grip, and cut through snow like a proverbial hot knife through butter, or perhaps more like a serrated blade through crusty bread.

I was amazed at the insane angulation I could achieve on wintry hardpack, whipping through high-G euro-carves and loading up the pop so that I’d actually spring out into the next turn like a PGS’ing Olympian. And in my wake I left 4cm deep perfect-arc gouges in the groomers.

If you know how to lay it out and execute proper carves, you’re gunna want these Power Pods on your rails. And although this season’s California lean snow year meant Northstar didn’t build its normal epic superpipe, I reckon the Power Pods would give amazing grip up and out of the icy walls too.

 

The Short Board Revolution:

Epic 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing 159 topsheet and base graphics.

Epic 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing 159 topsheet and base graphics without all the stickers.

As a 100+ kg, 196cm-tall (6’5”1/2) shredder I understand that the gear I ride is outside the normal parameters for a regular 5’10”, 75kg rider: and in the (camber) past my all-mountain board was 163-164 and I stepped up to a 167 for powder. However, riding Nitro’s Team Wide Gullwing I have been able to step down to 159cm in length for ALL forms of riding, including the deep Niseko powder. During the ultra-snowy February of 2013 I just set back my usual wide stance an inch and the 159 Team Wide Gullwing gave me a more neutral-stance float in the Hokkaido powder than my 167 camber board ever did.

And with the Blacklight, the longer nose will help even more with powder float, but with a directional setback of only 15mm, it’s easy to set the board up for a pretty neutral twin-tip feel for park riding. During pow days in Tahoe I could stand more upright, lean back less and save the back-leg burn, as well as ride a shorter, more manoeuvrable directional-twin tip board straight from the steep(ish) and deep backside of Northstar to Pinball park and pipe.

Riding powder on Nitro’s Gullwing rocker boards feels more like the sort of float you feel when pumping through the face of a fat wave, or across the flats on a wakeboard: it’s playful and forgiving, light and loose, and the reverse camber allows you to really lean into pow turns much more without fear of the camber catching and the nose diving. And I have a sneaky feeling that the reverse camber shape of the base actually helps you spray more snow on those turns, flying radially off the rocker … or maybe it’s just that it’s easier to imagine yourself as Jordy Smith laying over a rail to bury the nose and spray your mates, allowing the rocker to pop you up as you prepare for your next turns with a huge grin on your face.

 

2015 Blacklight Specifications:

Nitro Oz’s Darragh Walsh hooked me up with the Blacklight as the up-spec version of the Team Wide that I was used to riding, and the Blacklight does share a lot of similarities with it as a freestyle-focussed all-mountain board. However, the Blacklight is listed at a higher price point, and it’s a little bit stiffer, it’s a mid-wide, a little more directional in profile, and it is equipped with a faster base and the Power Pods … and of course it comes with typically Nitro epic ghost-Viking, Game Of Thrones-esque graphics.

Scroll down for all the board’s specs from the 2015 Nitro catalog.

 

So, should you buy one?

If your next overseas trip is to Minnesota or Montreal, or you wanna get jibby wit it on Sundays In The Park, the Blacklight might not be the sort of freestyle noodle that you’re looking for. But if you like to ride the whole mountain, charge steep lines and deep powder, lay out high-G carves on wide groomers, hit big jumps and freestyle features in the park, and launch out the top of a superpipe, the 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing is the one board for you. You too can have a one-board quiver.

 

Want more information? Check out Nitro’s 2015 Blacklight Gullwing here and take a look at Nitro Snowboard’s full 2015 catalog here.

Wanna buy a 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing? Ask at your local Nitro Dealer, or online in Australia at Twelve Boardstore.

2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing from the brochure.

2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing features listed in the brochure.

Click to expand. 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing specifications and measurements.

Click to expand. 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing specifications and measurements.

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24
Jun
14

Iphoneography: USA iPhone Travel Photography

Radich NY-Times Square iPhone Panorama

Someone much wiser once said something like ‘the best camera you have is the one you have on you’ … and as my iPhone 5 is nearly always always in my pocket, it has become my go-to image creator. The quality of the images you can capture are quite amazing for something that also does a pretty good job of acting like a phone … and a computer. And with the outstanding Photoshop Express app, the level of post-production and editing you can do all in the palm of your hand rivals what many amateur photographers do on their desktops.

On my latest overseas trip to the USA my iPhone well and truly got a workout on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Reno. Around NYC I often carried my Canon EOS 1D MkIV, but with the ability to edit on the fly, then directly upload to Instagram and Facebook, I found that I have enjoyed the shots I took with my Apple phone much more. And sometimes having the limitations of a non-optical zoom, 8-megapixel mini-lens makes you think just a little bit more creatively to make the most of those limitations. So take a look at some of my shots, and if you like what you see, follow me on Instagram for more of my iPhoneography.

Click on the photos below to see larger versions…

08
Apr
10

Homeward bound…but where is home again?

To paraphrase the Michael Buble hit: Another winters day has come, And gone away, In even Reno and LA, And I wanna go Home, Let me go home. (And no, I’m NOT gay – I bought the CD for my Mum!) I didn’t really want to go home, but as I had finished my last photo shoot at June Mountain and I felt my shooting season was done I started to think about getting home to enjoy my first big family easter in five years in a little place in central Victoria called Tarnagulla. The more I thought about it, the more I began to miss home and started to plan all the final steps: packing the bags, cleaning the apartment, getting the landlord inspection, driving the crew to the airport, finding a place to store the car for several months…and finally running the gauntlet of check-in chicks with my excess baggage. Then of course there is the three actual flights and 17 hours or so of sitting on my arse from Reno, via LAX and Sydney, to Melbourne. Why can’t heading home just be easy? I guess any big move is always a pain.

Things were winding down at our place as we all thought about home, but although I wanted to pack it away, the camera couldn’t quite go in the camera bag yet. A couple of candid “lifestyle” portrait shots needed to be taken, and it was down to the wire to get a shot of Cohen Davies. A huge snow-dumping storm had rolled into Tahoe on the last couple of days making all our outdoor locations a bust, and with his lack of mobile phone credit, he was lucky to catch me still at home before I busted a move back down to Reno (I had aleady made a trip down and back to drop Darragh off at the airport early that morning…only seeing 4 wrecked cars on the side of the road in the blizzard!) Evil Editor has the shot and it will come out in issue 1, but not the frame I preferred as somehow Cohen was reading the newspaper upside down. I swear I thought he was actually reading the paper as I fucked around getting the lighting right – he must have upside-down eyes, or didn’t notice as a result of the previous night’s action?

We filled our last few days in Tahoe on a little bit of a party train – unfortunately everyone else in town was winding down and the party ended up basically being 20 bored guys around a dowstairs pool table. We had to find ways to amuse ourselves. The highlight for Darragh was his packet of peanut M&M’s (he’s mad for the things!) and the 3 buck McLovin fake ID he bought in 7-11!

More fun was to be had on my last night in Reno. I booked into the awesomely rad 30 buck-a-night Terrible’s Sands Regency (Terribles is actually a chain based out of Vegas – not merely capitalised adjective as you might think – but has the added benefit of running petrol stations around Nevada so you can cash your “Terribles Bucks” for gas on the way out of town. Awesome.) I was rooming with Longy, who was down to his last 10 bucks (in fact he had to borrow $5 off me to pay for his $10.99 all-you-can-eat at The Eldorado Casino) and couldn’t eat again till late the next evening when he got aboard the V Australia flight home. In fact, now that I think about it, Longy never paid me back for that 5 bucks!

It was Tim’s birthday, and the last night in the States for 3 of us as Ben was flying out to London on the Wednesday too, so the three of us not-totally-skint-guys (ie, not Longy) hit the town. It was an adventure, to say the least, but a lot of fun. Sort of like a trashy Vegas. But not bad for a Tuesday night. However, now I know why The Man in Black sang ” But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”: he was putting the guy out of his misery!

I had a reasonably late arvo flight, and despite the gods of time and scheduled lunchbreaks working against me, I managed to store the car away, check in and get my bags checked through all the way to Sydney (even if I had to secretly stuff some gear back into my board bag behind the pillar before I dropped it off at the Oversize Baggage section). I was confused when I saw the destination for my Horizon flight flash up as Mammoth – apparently, weather depending, that flight makes a short stop on the way to LAX in Mammoth Lakes. The flying scaredy cat, Longy, would have hated the swirling and turbulent landing, but it was worth it for the amazing snow stormy views out the door. Longy had taken an earlier flight to LAX, but would join me on the V Australia flight to Oz (one of the only times I have shared a flight with a mate in a long, long time. It was a welcome change…and I got my revenge for the missing $5 by freaking him out pointing out every mysterious plane noise, bang and bump on the 14 hour flight home!) As I took off from Mammoth, I turned around to see Falls/Hotham rider Lauren Smith a few rows back – while I had spent the day ferrying crew to the airport, running round Reno and waiting for my flight, she had been cuting laps in knee-deep Mammoth pow before she threw everything in a bag and made the 5.30 flight to LA and onto Oz. I wish my last day was so simple.

06
Apr
10

June Stair Shoot

For the last three years, every time that I’ve been at June Mountain I can’t help but think about doing a photo shoot on the stair-set leading up to the access chairlift. It looks so inviting, sitting all there alone with three high round down-bars and 24 or so cheesegrater stairs. Almost all the rails around Tahoe are wooden (which severely limits the tricks that can be done) and have all been shot on many times before. I think I remember Kevin Jones or someone hitting the June stairs back in the day when Mammoth (and June) were taking some of the shine from Tahoe and Whistler in the old Mack Dawg vids. This rail is certainly legit!

I’ve mentioned shooting on the rail a few times to a few guys, but it’s three hours away from Tahoe, and needs a fair bit of snow for the in and out-runs. Enter Reuben Cameron and Sam Pofley. Reubs is probably my oldest snow mate, and I would have met him back when he was a Falls Creek park monkey.

He’s progressed to become Falls’ chief park builder, and after a couple of seasons at June Mtn, he’s also taken on that role there. Yankee Sam did a couple of seasons at Falls, showing Reuben the ropes, poached him to June and just this last season took over the organisational role for the freestyle park program. So when I finally found a project and a rider who wanted to come to June I called up Reubs to see if he could help, and he promised to not only smooth it over, but even use his Kat to build the take-off and landing!

Darragh Walsh was pumped (but a little nervous) to get a shot on the rail, and I roped in his Destyn Via teammate, Cohen Davies, to come along and get a different shot. All was planned…and then I got a call from Reuben saying that it was all cool to go ahead, but that another crew wanted to shoot on the rail so we would be combining shoots. No problem…until I heard that the other riders would be none other than super-pro Eddie Wall and wunderkind Tyler Flanagan! Talk about pressure on the Aussie boys to get the goods.

So packing the car Tuesday morning we set off, picking up Olliepop Films’ Jeremy Richardson on the way, and arrived in June’s carpark (complete with redneck truck and guard dog) by lunch. The guys have an awesome Taco Tuesday in place for Spring, with cheap beers and tacos besides the halfpipe and quarterpipe – and you don’t have to even hike the pipe or catch a chair – the maintenance guys tow you back to the top behind a sled! Awesome. It certainly was the place to be on a warm and sunny Spring day and there was a big Aussie and Hotham crew enjoying the good times, including my good mate, Mike D. Mike’s a salty old character (literally, as he spends half his life out at sea working on big ships) who’s been a big part of Hotham Boardriders for many a year, but who loves nothing more than to boost massive out the top of a halfpipe…and he’s always great for a crazy story or laugh. After the arvo shred it was time to celebrate with a couple of cold ones (check out Mike’s stoke with his fridge’s beer dispenser!), a recovery spa, then some good times down at the Auld Dubliner pub in town.

We all woke a bit foggy-headed, except Cohen and Darragh who took it easy to be in the best shape for their meeting with Eddie and Tyler, and headed back to June to get a few shots in the park. Once you’re up the mountain and off the super-slow access lift, June is a great place to shred a fun park without any crowds and hit some unique and cool-looking features. Cohen even found a new way use the top of his board to slide park features. We got a couple of nice shots and Jeremy filmed a bunch of park laps for Destyn Via…but the big challenge of later in the evening was never far from the guy’s minds.

Finally we headed down the hill when the lifts closed, grabbed some food and came back to find one kat shaping the in-run and take-off, and Sam dumping piles of snow in the car-park for the landing. Sure beats shovelling! However I was surprised to see such a huge crew on site – there seemed to be about 30 people stuffing around, getting in the way, arms waving, busy yelling and looking like they were there for business. No site of Eddie Wall though, unfortunately. I guess we weren’t cool enough for Video Hyper Shred. As time wore on and the sun dropped down it looked good to go and a heap of guys started hitting the middle rail and left rail (I’m not not sure why you would bother, though). It was an absolute shit show. Everyone was acting as if they were the most important person there without any consideration for all the other guys. There were 2 other photogs, and I counted at least 6 video cameras. Tyler Flanagan did some steezy boardslides, and Darragh and Cohen stepped up straight away, but all the other riders were less impressive. But it was such a weird vibe – there was no central organisation or order, and dudes were getting in shot, getting in each other’s way and causing lots of angst.

Cohen stomped his nose press before even the sun went down and I had one shot in the bag, but Darragh was trying to get a much more difficult switch front board – much harder than all the 50-50’s, boardslides and front boards the Yanks and Euros were attempting. There was one loudmouth fat photog who I’ve seen around Mammoth and June a lot before – he had all the gear, including a big strobe setup…but clearly no idea how to use it. One flash just isn’t enough to get a decent shot, no matter how powerful it is (I jusy had 3 small Canon Speedlights), and he must have moved the flash 10 times and done test shots 10 times for each location. We were all on edge as wind storms blew through and covered everything in dust, straining to hear the call of “All clear?’ and “Dropping!”. Then as Darragh stomped his trick the fat boy got in my way, and another time one flash failed to go off.  It was a complete shemozzle, and we just wanted to get the fuck out of there and get back home. Darragh was banged up, but I coaxed him into going back up the hill a couple more times…and he kicked a goal straight through the sticks, stomped that switch front board and with a sigh of relief high-fived the crowd. I was happy with the shot, and happier to be getting out of there and heading home to Tahoe. Job done.

It was a short day-and-a-half road trip to June Mountain…but I’ll never have to walk up those access stairs ever again and wonder “what if…?” It was well worth the drive and the shit-show surrounding the rail, and it was a bonus to get a couple more shots in the park too. Thanks again to Reuben and Sam for organising everything for us – I think you guys should be happy with the published results. Cheers, boys.

22
Mar
10

Girl on girl action

A couple months ago Evil Editor hit me up about shooting a girls trip – I was initially hesitant as I had heard from various photographers about how different, and in someways difficult and frustrating, it is to organise and shoot a banger female snowboard trip for publication. For the last few years I’ve just been shooting a bunch of guys, most of whom were my friends before I was a “Senior Photographer”. But when I heard that I wouldn’t even have to travel outside of home-base Lake Tahoe to shoot Nitro/3CS’s Jess Rich and Roxy’s CP (Courtney Phillipson), I started to warm to the challenge and opportunity to have some pretty faces to look at instead of Ben’s heinous red beard.

And when CP rolled up ready to rock: quickly buying a plane ticket from Colorado, booking a motel, hiring a car, and bringing her own shovel even, it was a welcome change from some of the penny-pinching guys I’ve had to shoot over the last few years. Too bad Jess was holed up at Squaw Valley, with only the hourly TART local bus to get in around vast Lake Tahoe…but we’d find a way to work around that.

Just as CP was flying in, a major storm had just dumped a foot of snow in town, and with blue Saturday morning skies we jumped in the black panther Chevy Tahoe and headed up the road to Donner Pass. It was epic! Perfect sunshine, but crisp, cold conditions (rare for mid-March) keeping the foot and a half of light dry powder in perfect shape. Darragh, Longy and Ben came along for the ride, and helped set up a couple of jumps (which were left over by others from previous storms, just needing a reshaping) so the girls could just save their energy for the numerous hikes back to the drop-in zone. Not only was this Jess’ first proper photo shoot, but her first time in the backcountry, first time hitting a hand-made jump…and first attempts (and stomps) in powder! It was a great first day, getting to know the girls better, being impressed by their strong riding and “can-do, will-stomp-it” attitudes. And to round out the day I managed to snap a couple shots of the boys and even get to hit one of the jumps myself (for a change). (And thanks to Ben for some of the shots I stole from his blog)

The girls were here to shoot for four days only, and so I revisited some rails around the lake (finding one chained up and unhittable…unless we went to buy some bolt cutters), and had a day at Northstar to round out the article with some park shots. And another first for Jess: her first urban rail, first attempt at a backside 50-50…which she nailed first go! I think seasoned vet, CP, was a little stunned.

Before the girls arrived I was trying to come up with some sort of concept, or at least a “visual hook” to try and make the article look different, and to make it relevant to a two-girl photo shoot. I like to have a theme, or concept to all my magazine trips just to give me something beyond the regular to try and focus on. So I started to think about Jess vs CP, and Snow White’s “Mirror, mirror on the wall…who is the fairest of them all?” refrain. Mirrors, two good-looking girls, doing their makeup in front of the mirrow, one regular, one goofy-footer etc etc…with the idea that I would try and shoot all the features from opposite, but equal sort of angles (where possible) so that if the photos were side by side, they would almost look like mirror images. This also gave me a theme for some “lifestyle” photos to accompany the action based on legendary (and slightly creepy) Australian-German Vogue photographer, Helmut Newton, who must have drawn some influence from Velazquez’ Baroque masterpiece (click in the hypertect links to see these visual references). But I can tell you that you won’t see any Newtonesque naked shots of CP and Jess in Australian-NZ Snowboarder…I saved those for my personal collection!

After all said and done, I was really pleased how the four days panned out: the girls threw down, impressed me greatly with their riding skills, weathed the bumps and bruises, and they were always positive and smiling (and only failed on one super-gnarly rock-exposed rail that had me shit-scared just looking at it, and only because they lacked the speed to get onto it properly).  So feeling like we had pretty much got all the shots we wanted (and enought to keep Evil Editor happy), it was nice the next few days to be able to get back to just shredding The Star with the (somewhat-uglier-to-look-at) boys and celebrate Darragh’s 24th Birthday co-inciding with St Patrick’s Day down at Stateline. Tomorrow we’re off to June mountain for a night or two for my last session of photo-taking for the season…it’ll be nice to pack the camera in the bag at the end of it and know that I’m done for 2009-2010 publication shooting season.

08
Feb
10

Tahoe: It’s good to be back!

With Darragh arriving into town we could finally settle into a place for 2 months, but not before we spent one last night in Reno before our place was ready. Reno sure is one classy place…NOT. The contrast with Vegas is incredible, and i don’t really understand why Reno’s casinos and Strip have gone so downhill while Vegas has gone from strength to strength. On our way outta Dodge, we made sure to stop in at Cabela’s Outdoors warehouse, making sure to check our guns in at the front desk. Cabelas is amazing – Walmart in size and full of fishing rods, boats, clothes, tents, and of course rows and rows of guns and enough stuffed animals to fill Noah’s Ark. And to get you in the spirit of hunting, there’s one of those amusement centre infra-red shooting galleries – heaps of fun for 50 cents, and my 100% accuracy has carried over from last time.

There’s quite a bit of snow in Tahoe, and I’ve got El Rad’s Double Whammy Pass from last year to get me up to Northstar for free. It’s been fun, with a good couple of park lines but unusually cloudy most days, which has kept the pipe in great shape. Sunday was pow day, and I took a few snaps with my pocket Sony Cypbershot, but it’s hard to get good action self-portraits. Only a couple of the photos are still in colour…see if you can work out which.

Northstar isn’t the most epic location for pow turns, but risking a 2 week ban (made worse as the photo on the pass is not of me!), I nicked under the rope and out-of-bounds to find some awesome untouched fresh, steep turns, before finding some more fresh back in the resort – a few laps of the Backside chair made an awesome afternoon, and it felt great to be really riding again, not just sliding throught the park.

07
Feb
10

Casinos and Motels…life out of a bag.

After two nights at the crappy, but excellently-located Imperial Palace I knew that I wouldn’t quite be ready for the 800km drive from Vegas through Nevada to Lake Tahoe on Saturday morning after Brooke’s actual birthday. So I drove the Beast down the Strip to Sahara for a $40 “mellow'” Saturday night before I hit Hwy 395 on Sunday. Vegas, as usual, was a trip – almost as hard on the body as the last 30th birthday I went there for (although that was for 5 days!) It’s always great to meet up with mates from back home and party with them on the other side of the world. Thanks Reuben and Brooke, Thommo, Zac, Timmy et al.

I got a mental boost just before my long drive as I passed a sketchy photoshoot for 8-Ball Bail Bonds, complete with some ghetto cruisers and hoes out front. But this site wasn’t enough to keep me going and after 7 hours on US395, passing Shady Lady and the  Wild Kat out in the desert, by the time I got into Reno I was ready to crash. I checked into Boomtown, 10 minutes towards Tahoe on I-80. The fake cowboy theme is awesome, and I was impressed by the attention to detail in making up the bathroom. Another 40 bucks well spent!

The next night in Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe, was less impressive – i’m sure that all you are really paying for at the Sun ‘n Sand Inn is the private beach access. It was pretty terrible. But it was interesting to see a fog of smoke floating way out down near South Lake.

And finally, it was one last night living out of a bag – after picking up Darragh Walsh at Reno Airport we checked into the incorrectly named Terrible’s Sands Casino. It was anything but terrible, with a huge clean room and bargain basement price of $32 between us! And it was much better than the motel we could have stayed in across the road. I counted it up – after that last night I had stayed in 4 casinos, 2 motels and 1 youth hostel in just over a week. I was more than ready to settle into our Tahoe apartment and unpack the bags for good…




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