I figure it’s as a good a time as ever to write something about snowboarding given that my season is starting this week (despite the fact that a large snowstorm kept me from safely making it up to Killington last night – oh the irony). Nonetheless, the week of my season starting usually begins with me grabbing the big blue Ikea shopping bag that holds my secret stash of snow goods, only to dump them on my floor and see what needs needs to be chucked and what needs to be replaced:
From the left to the right: 2 pairs of Level Fly protective gloves, 2 Oakley Wisdom Goggles, Burton ReD protective beenie (rarely used), 180s ear muffs, Burton Analog under-the-jacket pack (for my cameras, etc.), Belt with “spinnig rims” buckle, Marmot and Burton glove liners, a stack of base layer bottoms, clips/season pass/park passes detached from my Burton Cargo Night-Ops Gray pants (not shown), More base layer tops, Zip-loc bag with various locks, tools, etc., Travel board repair and waxing kit, socks, Burton Analog skull cap/liner, exterior shirts, Santa Cruz backpack. As far as whatever else I have, that required a bit of treasure hunting…
In the back, righ, you might notice some of my snowboards clipped onto the wall. This year, I will be, once again, going with a Capita board as my primary board. About four seasons ago, I made the switch from the 162 mid-wide Burton Baron to the 2005-2006 Capita Black Snowboard of Death (B.S.O.D). The Baron is an all-mountain board with a good deal of stiffness (I’d say 7/8 out of 10) with a mid-wide waist and a fairly average directional sidecut. All-in-all, it was a good board and handled the mountain well in all conditions, particularly at good speeds. Other than kickers, however, it was a bit of a dog in the park: heavy, not exactly nimble and not too much of a pop. I still do enjoy this board on powder days, however, particularly when it’s paired with my Nidecker Carbon bindings and ThirtyTwo T1 boots – probably the stiffest combo you can get without moving to a hard boot setup.
The move to the Capita B.S.O.D, however, provided a significant jump when it came to overall flexibility and agility. It was an amazing all-mountain board that didn’t have any trouble in powder, while being incredibly fast and nimble on the snow. I fell in love with it instantly and went on to ride it almost 80 days in the seasons to follow. Unfortunately, a trip to Stow last year seemed to do it in: after taking it for a wax, I noticed some a bit of de-lam going on. The cap was separating from the base just ahead of the rear binding insert. That, as anyone might now, is not good news for your board. On the upside, it provided me with a good excuse to get a replacement.
So, I figured that I should stick with a good thing and see what Capita was cooking up that season. As the board evolved over the years, the exact name had changed, but the “Death Series” had still kept the excellent reputation that had won it many accolades in the past, such as the Transworld Snowboarding “Good Wood” award a few years back. The 2007-2008 model was branded the Black Death Speed Tribe and, although it kept to the spirit of the B.S.O.D., there were a number of key differences.
Here’s a shot of the 2005-2006 Capita Black Snowboard of Death (B.S.O.D) next to the 2007-2008 Black Death Speed Tribe:
The B.S.O.D (left) has 74 days of on-snow time, while the Black Death Speed Tribe has about 8 days on it (Black Death Speed Tribe pictured with Burton P1 bindings).
When it comes to measurements, they are pretty much identical. The 162 length comes with a 8600/8000 progressive sidecut radius and 1268mm effective edge. The waist measures out at 254cm, which is, technically, a bit narrow for my size 12 boots – but my ThirtyTwo TM1s are a bit compact and I never experience toe drag. Put the boards base-to-base and they look nearly identical. (It should be noted that this board, as well as the 2008-2009 Black Death Inc., are also available in wide models, with the 162.5cm being closest to this one, having a 264 waist. I prefer something closer to a 260 waist on a mid-wide board, however, so this i s a bit fat for me).
Some of the major similarities, however, stop there. First, the construction has moved from a cap to a sidewall. This is a bit of a surprise to me, since Capita used to highly promote their superior cap construction. I’ve never been one of those folks who made a big deal over the supposed differences in control and response associated with cap vs. sidewall, so it didn’t matter too much to me.
The second major change was the binding inserts, where Capita moved, again, from their highly-promoted slider system, known as the “Freedom Groove”, to a standard 4×2 insert pattern. Here you can see the Freedom Groove inserts on the B.S.O.D:
Again, this didn’t wasn’t a big deal to me. I’ve always thought that sliders were over-hyped by companies like Forum and Capita, particularly after everyone started to move to 4×2 inserts. I was never easily convinced that I’d have to adjust my stance to the precise measurements that other insert patterns couldn’t achieve, and sliders always came with annoying side effects: shorter screws were required (or double-washers as a work-around) and they were notoriously unreliable compared to standard inserts (although, I had no issues on my Capita). I should note, though, that these do come in handy if you are frequently switching between deep powder and non-powder conditions, where you might be making a quick one inch adjustment on the snow in order to get your weight back a bit.
Third, you can see a bit of re-design on the tip. Take a look at the tip on the 2006 B.S.O.D (left) versus the Speed Tribe:
You can see that you no longer have the perfect arc on the tip. The tip on the Speed Tribe is approaching a level of flatness, as if someone had chiseled down the more traditional tip of the B.S.O.D. This is a design that a number of manufacturers started churning out over the past few years, Burton included. The design is supposed to cut overall weight and also slightly help with float in power. I don’t know if I can agree with the float claim, but I certainly won’t complain about anything that reduces overall weight, regardless of how small the impact is.
Last, but not least, you can see that the color of the board, is technically a deep purple – quite surprising for something that is part of the “Black Death” series! I should note, however, that, to the naked eye, it does look black. My camera really does exaggerate the “purpleness” of it.
Overall, the Speed Tribe is a marvel of engineering, however, as the engineers at Capita have, somehow, managed to make improvements to their tech while keeping the overall spirit and feel that has make the Black Death series so well-liked over the years. The overall ride on the two is very similar, although I must say that the newer Black Death Speed Tribe even exhibits a bit more pop that its predecessor. Also, I’m not sure if it’s bad memory, the fact that my B.S.O.D. had so many days on it or the fact that I haven’t actually done a true “side by side” comparion on a single day, but it appears to me that the tip and tail of the Speed Tribe are a tad bit stiffer, as it seems that I need to push just a bit harder when I do butters or nose/tail presses. This is not a bad thigh, however, just different. I had 8 days on snow split between very different conditions at Heavenly, Killington, Kirkwood and Sierra-at-Tahoe. The Speed Tribe certainly did not disappoint and I look forward to getting a full season in with it this year.
Gone are may days of, what seemed like, near-full-time snowboard writing, but I still do enjoy the sport very much. I should remind you that the Snowboard Buying Guide at cju.com, which I co-authored about three years back, is still very-much relevant and receives about 30,000 hits a month, so be sure to check it out.