Looking for the best all mountain do it all snowboard? So am I. And so is pretty much every snowboarder. Find out about the latest do everything board I tested in this Borealis Shaman snowboard review.
Introducing Borealis Snowboards
Borealis Snowboards are not exactly a household name. But within the European freeride community they have built up a loyal following. They started out with the goal to make off piste snowboards that are more environmentally friendly.
These days they have have a range of 13 boards including two splits. They still follow their eco passion but have branched out from purely freeride orientated gear to snowboards for all types of riding.
In the early days I reviewed the Borealis Drakkar their big powder offering. It’s a dream on deep days and in steep conditions. But on the piste and icy off-piste it was hard to to ride. And although fun and manoeuvrable when moving quickly, when going slow it was tough going.
Since then I have also reviewed the Borealis Viking one of the most eco friendly snowboards on the market. Designed for freeride it has an all mountain lean. It’s very good in pow, on piste and great to carve. But it is not the best for freestyle.
I loved both these boards (RIP Drakkar you went out in style) in different ways and was always happy to have them in my quiver. However, neither are the best all mountain do it all snowboard.
So I, along with every other snowboarder, am in the market for a snowboard that can actually do everything. And I don’t just want to do it, I want to do it all well. Up step the Borealis Shaman snowboard!
What makes the best all mountain do it all snowboard?
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect any all mountain board to be as good in powder as a powder board, as fun in the park as as freestyle noodle or as sexy to carve as a free carver. Specialist boards are are always going to be better for that specialism.
But what I am looking for is a board I can ride powder without having to move my weight onto my back leg. I want to ride switch and pop tricks either way without feeling sketchy. Plus I want to be able to carve and travel at speed without any chatter on ice and through crud or slush.
I am not asking for much! But Borealis claim ‘The Shaman is an ideal “do-it-all” board if you like riding in variable conditions, on any kind of snow’. So the Shaman should be the do everything snowboard I am looking for.
What’s under the Borealis Shaman’s bonnet?
At its heart is the Borealis Element Core. This combines poplar, bamboo and basalt with carbon power beams. It is ultra lightweight, with explosive dynamic pop and is better for the environment.
Its 100% natural bamboo topsheet is the foundation of the Borealis concept. This reduces vibrations adds pop and response to the snowboard. It is also eco friendly.
The Borealis Shaman has a hybrid rocker profile. This combines parabolic rocker over the entire length with camber under each foot. I have never been a fan of rocker (except at the tips) so was worried how this would handle speed and ice.
It is a directional board with a slightly tapered shape and 1cm extra in the nose. With a reference stance that is set back by 3cm it is rather directional. I was worried it would be tricky to ride switch which would impact freestyle riding.
The Shaman has a stiffness rating of six out of ten, which is 10% higher than earlier versions. The edges are made of ultra hard recycled steel and have Sidewaves 5.0, which is similar to magnatraction to improve grip in icy conditions.
The sintered base uses Electra 4000 Graphite which combines traditional materials with graphite. The result is faster, more resilient, and has better wax absorption. It comes pre waxed (twice) with NZero Eco-Wax which is 100% natural and biodegradable.
Borealis Shaman snowboard review
I have now ridden the Shaman for 14 days and have experienced the full range of conditions. From bullet hard ice in the Monte Rosa, Italy to epic pow in Damuls, Austria. Plus perfect piste conditions and plenty of sunshine slush in Solden, Austria.
For the first three days I rode the Shaman on the reference stance. Combined with the extra long nose this means the bindings are set back 4cm.
This would be great in powder but didn’t feel right on the piste and in particular when riding switch. Since then I have moved the bindings forward a couple of cm and it has felt great – even in fresh snow (more of that later).
As I am looking for a do everything snowboard I think the best way to present this Borealis Shaman snowboard review is by the different styles of snowboarding.
On the piste
First and foremost a the best all mountain do it all snowboard needs to be good on the piste. My first day of this Borealis Shaman snowboard review was on bullet hard, icy pistes in Monte Rosa. We skied (and I say skied because there was me and six skiers) from Champoluc to Alagna and back again. All at high speed.
I was on a press trip with skiers I had never ridden with before and I didn’t want to let us snowboarders down. So I kept up with them, forgoing fun things like side hits and off-piste. I got compliments from a few of the skiers who were impressed with my speed in the icy conditions.
And I’d put much of that down to the Shaman. It handled blasting around the piste and flat out riding on ice really well. I was worried the parabolic rocker would feel sketchy at speed but it held its own without any noticeable chatter.
The Sidewaves did a great job of holding an edge when it got icy. The profile felt stable and powerful and I would not have thought I was riding a rocker.
The next day we were in Cervinia and rather than a super fast skier for a guide we had a more mellow snowboarder. He still rode fast but took in side hits and rode in in a much more fun way.
Conditions were also much less icy, in fact they were very good. Over a couple of days I got to know the Shaman very well. I found it great for popping little tricks and okay switch (at the reference stance) but where I struggled was….
Carving the Shaman
I was having a really hard time getting it to properly hold an edge and carve. I am not a hard core euro carver, but I can usually get down low and carve properly when the conditions are right. And they were perfect in Cervinia.
I put it down to the hybrid rocker profile and got on with enjoying other aspects of snowboarding. I didn’t realise until later but the mid flex Pathron Fastec bindings combined with my snowboard boots that had softened up was the issue.
For my next trip I swapped to my Nitro Phantom bindings and bingo I was back in the carving game! The stiffer bindings meant I could hold a solid carve. I even got in some of the best reverts I have ever done.
With stiffer bindings the Shaman is easy to carve. I found myself doing so in conditions I would not usually consider it and popping a few tricks from a carve and landing back in a carve too (this didn’t always go to plan!).
Freestyle on the Shaman
A do everything snowboard needs to be good for tricks and in the park. The target niche of the Shaman is backcountry freestyle so with that in mind it should be good for chucking tricks.
The foundation of freestyle are pop, switch, ollies and presses. If a board has them in abundance then you can make it sing.
I am a long way from being a park rat but I regularly hit 180s off kickers and side hits, plus chuck the odd 360. During this Borealis Shaman snowboard review I have found it to be a dream to pop and spin.
The first time I hit a lip and ollied I was surprised by the amount of air I got. And off both kickers and side hits I have gone much bigger than intended quite a few times.
As the board is very light it feels great in the air. It rotates very quickly and I found it easy to spin in either direction from regular or switch. Great qualities if you want the best all mountain do it all snowboard.
Once I changed my set up by moving the bindings forward it was easy to ride switch. I can confidentially pop between between the two and happily ride entire runs in switch – even in powder.
I’d go as far as saying the Borealis Shaman feels as easy to ride switch as twin boards I own. And surprisingly the tapered shape does not seem to have a negative impact on switch riding.
Finally presses are a doddle and look more impressive than on my freestyle board. I was combining them with spins for some of the best buttering I have ever done. Plus of course the rocker profile make it more forgiving.
Off piste on the Borealis Shaman
Please note I have a section about powder next, but off piste isn’t always about fresh snow. To be the best all mountain do it all snowboard it needs to able to handle any snow condition.
Having taken the Shaman off piste in cut up icy snow I can confirm that it handles it well. The Sidewaves give you grip and the profile is forgiving but still powerful enough to get you out of trouble.
Through the trees or anywhere that you need manoeuvrability the Shaman is amazing. It is very responsive without being twitchy, and nimble enough to do very tight turns when required.
Borealis Shaman in powder
Of course a do everything snowboard needs to be able to ride powder. I was fortunate in this Borealis Shaman snowboard review to get two days of fresh snow in Damuls in the Vorarlberg region of Austria.
We had around 40cm of fresh snow overnight followed by heavy snow during the day. Despite very sketchy visibility we rode powder all day – our tracks from the morning were covered by the afternoon. It carried on snowing all night and the next day dawned with clear skies and at least 40cm more snow.
I did not change my bindings so I was set up 2 cm forward of the reference stance. But still the Shaman handled the powder exceptionally well. I never had to consciously shift my weight back even when in powder around 75cm deep.
I did get my weight too far forward off one or two jumps and ended up sinking the tip for a spectacular fall. This generally doesn’t happen to me on a powder board and it would be less likely if the Shaman was setup on on the reference stance.
However, with my slightly forward stance I was able to ride powder switch. Although I do have to consciously shift my weight back a little. Riding powder switch is great for landing tricks and doing butters in fresh snow. It is also good if you need to do a heelside traverse as you can flip to switch to make it easier.
For a 159 snowboard it had incredible float. This is partly due to the elongated nose and tail, but mainly because of the parabolic rocker profile. It just works so well in fresh snow that I wonder if I’d use my powder board again.
Slushy spring conditions
Finally, the last four days of this Borealis Shaman snowboard review were spent riding in spring conditions. The afternoons were very slushy with slow sticky snow.
However, despite needing a wax the Shaman was maintaining its speed. Friends on skis and boards were getting stuck and despite starting with less speed than them I was making it across. This is down to the fast graphite base.
At the end of the day the home run was a mogully nightmare. However the Shaman is so light and nimble that riding slushy moguls at pace was much easier than on a bigger stiffer board. It was also a lot of fun.
Borealis Shaman snowboard review: Negatives
The reference stance didn’t feel quite right to me. Once I moved the bindings forward 2cm I had better edge control and switch riding felt much more natural. Plus it still performed excellently in powder.
The eco wax only lasted the first day of riding – but this was in very icy conditions. Since then I have given it a proper wax which lasted over over a week. So this is not not a big issue.
The best all mountain do it all snowboard?
I have ridden many all mountain boards over the years and they always seem to either lean towards freestyle or freeride. But with the Shaman designed for backcountry freestyle it covers both bases exceptionally well.
I would expect it’s performance to suffer on the piste, particularly when riding at speed or carving. But it handles both excellently – I’d go as far as saying it is better than stiffer boards I have owned.
Get the shaman in powder and it is incredible. Even putting my bindings forward from the reference stance I had epic float and powder riding was effortless. And dropping off little cliffs or windlips I felt I could trust it to stick the landing like a much bigger board.
So is it the best all mountain do it all snowboard? Well I haven’t tried them all… But having done board test events and owned many all mountain boards it is without doubt the best that I have ridden.
To conclude this Borealis Shaman snowboard review I’d say it is my favourite board. Testament to that is I have stopped taking two snowboards away on trips as the Borealis Shaman really is a do everything snowboard.
If you are looking for the best all mountain do it all snowboard I recommend you give the Shaman a go. The RRP is €599 and it can be bought direct from Borealis: www.borealis-snowboards.com/Shaman