The Raven Core snowboard is one of the cheapest snowboards on the market. At the time of writing you can pick one up with Raven bindings for £170. Even so, the low-end price tag comes with impressive sounding specs, such as a 3-stage rocker/camber profile, true twin-tip shape, tip-to-tail wood core, sandwich constructed sidewall and an IS4400 extruded base.
My previous experience of buying snowboards is that you get what you pay for. So, does this model from Raven Snowboards live up to its specs or its price tag?
Before we start, a little about me and my experience: I’ve been riding for a decade and previously spent a full season in Whistler. I consider myself an expert and like to ride all-mountain fairly aggressively. Until recently I had a 2003 Burton Custom with Cartel bindings; I loved the board and was devastated when it disappeared from outside a bar on my last holiday.
I rode the Raven Core snowboard for a week in La Plagne, France. For the first 4 days it was sunny with great piste conditions, although getting a bit hard packed on the last day. For the final 2 days the snow came in and I got to test it in powder. In the same week, I had a few runs on a 2-year-old Burton Custom X to compare the Raven to a high-end board. Both boards are 158cm but the Raven is about 1cm wider and they were about the same weight.
My first impression when strapping in and setting off down the mountain was that the board felt very well balanced, was easy to ride and not liable to catch an edge. It felt very stable at speed, and held an edge well even on steep, icy black runs, but also cut through chop with no problems.
Turn transitions on the Raven Core are quick and smooth – I thought the extra width would make this a problem, but I found it much easier to turn than the more rigid Custom X. In comparison the X felt unweilding, unforgiving and forced me to concentrate more in each turn to ensure I came out the other side.
I’m not one for park riding, but I was popping the Raven Core off each little lip I could, managing to get good ollie height with little effort. I also found that it spun well and it was much more forgiving in the landing than my old Custom. The twin-tip and central stance made landing and riding switch a lot easier.
I didn’t get the chance for any serious off-piste, but I got to test the Raven Core in about 30-50cm of fresh powder on the last day. It rode the powder well, with the 3-stage rocker profile and extra width giving it plenty of float. However, if riding powder again, I might set my stance back one, as on the flat sections I found it difficult to get sufficient weight on the back foot to keep up enough speed.
I am surprised to say it but I prefer the Raven Core to my old Burton Custom – I also massively preferred it to my friend’s 2-season old Custom X. I tried to set up a trial ride of a Burton Custom Flying V or Libtech Travis Rice to compare it to another 3-stage rocker but there were none available at the time. Looking at other boards with that profile, they are a lot more pronounced than on the Raven Core whose 3-stage rocker looks quite flat – I will try to do a comparison on my next visit to the slopes.
What I can’t tell after 1 week of riding is the Raven Core’s durability; my Burton Custom was still going strong after 8 years and 50+ weeks of riding. Will the Raven Core last as well? I don’t know, however with the low price you could replace the Raven Core 3 or 4 times for the cost of just 1 other top-end board.
I think the Raven Core would be good for beginners as it’s forgiving if you get things wrong. It’s also suited to intermediates as it’s fun to ride and can handle all mountain riding with ease meaning you progress quickly. The Raven website says the board is suitable for beginners to pros; I consider myself an expert and am excited to ride this on my next boarding holiday in February – which I think is the best testament I can give.
In conclusion, this is not the best board ever made. That said, I don’t think you can get a better board for the price, making this the Raven Core the best cheap snowboard I have come across. And to answer my original question: I feel it rides its specs more than its price tag.