Possibly showing my age but one of my most used film phrases is “I feel the need… …the need for speed” from Top Gun. Throughout my childhood my friends and I would quote Maverick and Goose before hurtling down a hill on a skateboard, bike, home made go-kart, sledge or even a car bonnet. So when I heard the fastest snowboard base in production was being put on the Pathron Carbon Gold and it would cost around £250 I just had to have it.
To conduct a review of the Pathron Carbon Gold I took it to Les 2 Alpes and rode it hard for a couple of days. I came away smiling like Maverick having just got one over on Ice Man.
Before I get into the review its worth letting you know my snowboarding style. I am an advanced snowboarder riding all mountain fairly aggressively. If there is fresh snow I barely touch the piste but if the off piste is not in good nick I like to make the most of the conditions and ride fast and pop tricks all over the mountain. I do like a run through the park but it is a long way from my main priority.
The fastest snowboard base
Lets start by talking bases and in particular the fastest snowboard base in production. Snowboard bases are made from polyethylene pellets which are either melted (extruded base) or moulded under high pressure (sintered base). Most snowboarders know that sintered bases are faster than extruded bases which is due to their higher density and better wax absorption. And that the higher the IS number of the sintered base the faster it will be.
The IS number indicates the density of the base, the more dense (higher the number) the less friction it creates and the faster your top speed will be. Fast sintered bases typically are IS6000+ and about the highest you can go is about IS7500. In the quest to create the fastest snowboard base manufacturers have starting adding other compounds to the polyethylene. The Pathron Carbon Gold uses NHS (Nano High Speed) technology to add graphite to the polyethylene to create a harder, more dense and faster base with an equivalent IS number of over 8000.
Without testing all different bases under scientific conditions I can not say for sure that it is the fastest snowboard base in production, however it is the same base technology used by Volkl on their boardercross racing boards. Volkl snowboards have achieved multiple Boardercross World Cup podium finishes so I think its fair to say the Pathron Carbon Gold is in good (or should I say fast) company.
Pathron Carbon Gold: Not just a fast base
The Pathron Carbon Gold is not just about the fastest snowboard base it packs a lot of other technology into its slight frame.
It has an ultra light topsheet made from a highly scratch resistant foil which gives it its unique look and saves weight. Beneath that a high density carbon textile (normally used by the aerospace industry) is combined with more traditional triaxial fibreglass laminate to create superior torsion, elasticity and pop while maintaining a medium flex rating of 6.
In terms of its shape the Pathron Carbon Gold is a directional twin snowboard which means the tip and the tail are the same shape and flex but the stance is set back slightly. It has a camrocker profile with camber between the bindings to generate pop and rocker outside of the bindings to help with float in powder, cutting through crud and avoiding edge catching. It has a fairly narrow waist which is aimed at making it very responsive in the turn.
My review of the Pathron Carbon Gold snowboard
OK so now we have all the technical stuff out of the way what did I think of the Pathron Carbon Gold snowboard…. The first words that spring to mind are fast, precise and responsive. I will deal with them in reverse order.
Putting in the first turn on the Pathron Carbon Gold I was so surprised by how quickly it initiated that I overcooked it then over compensated and had an embarrassing slow speed stack right next to the lift. It took a couple of turns to get the hang of it, but once I did I began to love the instant turn initiation. It is highly responsive to your small movements allowing for subtle adjustments at speed and incredibly tight turns.
During the turn the Carbon Gold’s elasticity stores power which pops you out of the turn with extra pace making for an aggressive riding style. As the Pathron site says the Carbon Gold ‘is a beast you will want to tame’, in taming it I had a lot of fun.
The responsive nature of the board means that you need to be precise in your movements but you are rewarded with exactly the result you want. At first it felt like the precise nature of the board would be unforgiving to any mistakes however as the first day wore on I grew in confidence and learned to trust that although it was precise it also has enough forgiveness to get away with small errors. Also its responsiveness means you can recover if forgiveness starts to wears thin.
Conditions were pretty poor (low visibility, snowing and chopped up) and I felt that the rocker in the tip dealt with the unexpected lumps and bumps very well. The edge has a very good hold and only failed me once right at the end of the day when I was tired and I hit a sudden icy patch while negotiating a cut up black run – I will put that one down to a combination of rider error and poor visibility.
The Pathron Carbon Gold is billed as having the fastest snowboard base in production. I can’t prove or disprove this (unless someone wants to fund a year of testing?) but I can tell you it is the fastest board I have ridden and I was much faster than my mates in the slow sections. Its not just straight line speed, the speed you take out of the turn generated by the boards torsion helps you to maintain speed.
As previously mentioned conditions were not great and certainly not conducive to riding as fast as possible. However when visibility meant I could see the snow and enough of the piste ahead to release the brakes I could feel the speed build quickly and that the speed was maintained even on flat bits with fairly clingy snow.
The day before I started testing the Carbon Gold I had been riding the Pathron Sensei freestyle snowboard and had been the slowest of my friends on the flat bits. The next day I was the fastest and they were all riding the same boards. Despite taking less speed into flat sections (as I could barely see them approaching) I was making it across them with ease while my mates had to unstrap and do the undignified one foot shuffle, which to me is testament to an extremely fast snowboard base.
I feel the need… …the need for speed
The Pathron Carbon Gold is a great all mountain snowboard for those that like to ride fast and aggressively. It has great pop so I am sure it would be fun hitting kickers and the half pipe. Also with the camrocker profile and set back stance it should ride very well in powder. I tested it in on a couple of runs with almost untouched 20-30cm deep pow and it very felt good, but conditions meant I did not do a proper powder test.
Although I was happy landing tricks switch the Carbon Gold did not feel comfortable switch due to the setback stance, although it felt a lot better than more traditional directional snowboards. I also found it too stiff to do decent tail or noses presses so I don’t think it would be great for rail riding or playfully buttering your way down a mountain.
Overall the Pathron Carbon Gold snowboard is an awesome all mountain board that leans towards fast, aggressive freeriding and for £250 (Approx E300 or $390) you get a high end board at a low end price. It is the fastest snowboard I have ridden and for those days when “I feel the need… …the need for speed.” I will be strapping on the Carbon Gold and I will be the Top Gun.
At the time of writing the Pathron Carbon Gold can be purchased direct from the manufacturer at Snowboard24 on ebay for £270 (including delivery) or from Minus Nine Snowboard Shop in Horsham, UK for £250. It is also available from other dealers all over Europe.