I've been following this thread for a few months, thought I'd chime in with my first post:
Me: 39yrs old, 5'10", 175lbs | 19yrs on a board | Based in Colorado, hit Utah, Jackson and Baldface every year
Boards ridden: Burton (Customs and CX, BMC, Vapor, Fish, UnIncs) | LibTech Rice BTX | Never Summer (Heritage, SL, Proto CT)
Terrain: Trees, Back Country, Groomers, Powder. I spend the majority of my resort time seeking out hidden stashes in the trees, mixing in hotlaps on groomers here and there. Backcountry of Jackson, Utah spots and Baldface is as you'd expect: steep, deep and looking for/dealing with all things that present themselves.. cliffs, rocks, downed trees.. hell I think there are some buried snowcats and lodges at Baldface.
Board Reviewed: NS Proto CT 160 (Bindings: Burton Cartel Restricted | Boots: Burton Ion)
Boards and Me: After riding Airs and Brushies in the early 90s, I was drawn to the responsiveness and charging capabilities of the BMC and CustomX's. The longer UnIncs began to sway me that a more playful board could still charge. I was one of the few that REALLY liked the Vapor, I thought it was the perfect all-around board (price was just stupid). I said what the hell and jumped on the rocker bandwagon in the form of the TRice BTX and hated it. I thought it was dead, chattered like hell, gave me no confidence and high speed and was a tank in the trees. Moved over to NS and loved the SL first time I rode it. Decided on the Heritage last year because I had some backcountry trips lined up, it didn't dissapoint - I'm sold on NS's advancements in the last couple of years. If there's a way to make a capped, RC board, blunted tips and set back just a wee bit.. I'd buy 2.
Why I purchased the Proto CT: I rode a NS Heritage 158 last year. Spending many of my resort days with my 7yr old, I decided I wanted a board a little more flexible and playful but enough edge and dampness to charge down the steep stuff and capable of handling the snorkle-deep stuff at Baldface.
Review location: Copper Mountain
Conditions: Hard pack, no new snow. Bullet proof in the morning, softening in the afternoon.
First Impression: This board feels "extra-engineered", meaning.. it feels like the guys at NS are stepping into the next phase of their RC technology. Compared to the Heritage and SL of last year, the Proto CT gives me the sense that NS is realizing that RC by itself was good, but they're now exploiting RC with increased attention to materials, geometries..etc. The Proto CT flex pattern is playful, but you can easily put it on a rails and drive through steep, choppy stuff with that NS dampness we all love. The board is torsionally flexible giving the rider a greater ability of weight/edge control compared to the stiffer Heritage. Compared to the SL, the ProtoCT feels snappier off the tail, yet easier to butter. Once again I attribute this to the advancements in RC exploitation; the ProtoCT is "soft" in precisely the right places, allowing the rider to really "fine-tune" those moments of weight shifting. Example: Coming out of a butter at a high rate of speed, you can feel the board transition from "soft" to "stiff" in a pronounced way. The SL was similarly responsive in this manner, the ProtoCT just feels THAT much more dialed-in in my opinion.
- Groomers: Early morning and everything is bullet proof. First couple of runs I was smearing my tail around until I managed to figure out the how to engage a turn with my weight dialed-in. Once I figured it out, the ProtoCT performed well. The CF struts are apparent underfoot, not like the Heritage which is too stiff to really "feel" the end of the camber points. The SL is comparable, but the ProtoCT just provides greater feel. You can rail this thing on some of the iciest stuff you could find, you just need to tune into your weight transfer and engage your edges by pressing out to engage the contact points. Same could be said of all RC boards, but again.. the ProtoCT really allows you to fine tune this through more pronounced "feel". Unlike the TRice BTX, where the rocker made me less and less confident as I increased speed, the ProtoCT almost felt like a full camber board as the speed and steep increased. The flexibility allowed me to pull my knees in quickly to initiate quick turns and push out with confidence to hold it on it's edge with no wash out.
- Flat Land: The forgiveness of rocker is widely apparent on the flats, but the classic NS dampening keeps the chattering down and gives you the sense that at "flat" you're still on the majority of your base (even on the 160). Buttering is breeze, but snappy.. I didn't have to huck out of a butter as I have with more flexible boards. Ollie's are precise and snappy as the rider can feel the tail load. Anyone who rode the Vapor (and liked it) will like the smooth transition as the tail loads and you feel the weight transfer beyond the back foot with no effort at all. The SL was similar in snap, but less "dynamic", the Heritage just rockets you straight and you're up in the air before you know it (CustomX was very similar). If you rode any of the UnIncs, the ratio of snap to flexibility is similar when talking flat'ish ground and initiating ollies off smaller features. As a datapoint, many of the people I know riding Yes boards say the same of those.. (UnInc -> Yes.. so it makes sense)
- Trees: I didn't have much to work with, saplings poking through everywhere. Where there were tracks, the ProtoCT turned tightly. From reading this forum, the majority of readers go for smaller boards than I do. A ProtoCT in 157 would destroy in the trees where tight turns and responsiveness is key. The flexibility between the bindings allows you to pull your back leg up in an instanct, without sacrificing balance. The torsional flex really stands out as superior to the Heritage and SL, you can initiate quick turns and slower speeds and still keep your toe-edge intact at the front. After adjusting the ankle strap on my back binding (moving it down to the lowest position on the heelcup), I gained another level of control in the areas of tight, quick turns.
- Powder: NONE. Only thing worth mentioning here would be my assumption that the blunted tips, specifically the nose didn't leave me feeling like there was any risk of submarining in the deep stuff. The fact that the ends are soft enough and the placement of the rocker suggested to me, even though I was only in 4"-6" of powder, the nose would float just fine.
- Park: I'm 39, have a good paying job and two kids. I'd like to say I don't ride park because I don't want to wait in line. The truth is, I don't want to wait in line only to skip all the rails, flail off the hip and throw a vintage 1993 Jamie Lynn method off the kicker to the snickers of 100 kids who weren't even alive in 1993. Also, I'm afraid of getting hurt.
Overall Impression: I found the ProtoCT to be a perfect combination of all mountain, resort and (I'm confident) backcountry. It's a dynamic board that is playful enough that you can butter and goof off without fear of catching, but performant and responsive that you can throttle it when you want. It's not overpowering in that it'll ride you if you don't ride it, ala the Heritage, CustomX. Most of all I really get the sense that it's the first in the next phase of RC construction. The shape of the board exploits the RC and flexibility by providing increased effective edge and shallower sidecut. It did NOT feel like it rode longer than it is, I felt like it took advantage of the rocker in such a way that a full tip and tail could be spared and in favor of turn initiation, the torsional flexibility made for less sidecut. The only time the ProtoCT might lack what the stiffer hard-chargers excel is in REALLY choppy crud. Where you just want to push your front leg out and let the board destroy anything in it's path. Provided you're not having to plow through too much crud or your capable of making a few wider turns to your destination, the ProtoCT will be fine. For me the 160 turned out to be the perfect size, it doesn't feel as long as any of my previous cambered 158-160s and it's ability to hold an edge is top shelf. For those of you who rode UnInc's - I was always caught between the 158 feeling too small at speed and the 160 too big in the trees. The ProtoCT seems like it fills that type of gap, not just in terms of length but in the combination of length, geometry and RC. I cannot speak for those of you who prefer a shorter board for more park time. I'm confident that the 157 would get it done all over the mountain with few limitations, but you might be lacking in terms of stance - particularly in setting your stance back for powder. If you're 5'7"-6', I wouldn't recommend anything smaller than the 157, I just don't think you'd feel the advantages of the ProtoCT's nuances (could be wrong).
Bindings: I struggled between the 390 bosses, Phantoms and Cartels. What finally swayed me was the Cartel restricted's straps. Burton seems to have finally created a good toe-cap and the asym heel strap is SUPER comfy. I would trend towards a mid flex binding for this board. I think anything like a Targa or similar stiff binding would provide too much power and overwhelm the responsiveness the ProtoCT seems designed to provide. Also, the new baseplate channel thing on the cartels was completely unnoticeable, I reserve the right to alter my opinion, but I didn't feel any difference first time out.
Again, this is just the opinion of a 39yr old guy that has seen A LOT of snowboard designs and "technologies" come and go.
I'll update my review as the season unfolds and I ride the board across more terrain.