Hey guys, thanks for all the responses so far!
On the Raptor, it looks better and better the more I look at it. The Shayboarder review, in particular, jumped out at me because it mentions Mammoth, groomers, and tree riding, which is all right up my alley.
The Proto CT is too far on the freestyle side of things to really fit my style.
I had not given much consideration to the Cobra only because the reviews that I read were not as glowing as some of the other NS boards. That being said, I am not against learning something I wasn't expecting to. According to Never Summer's "selection chart," the Cobra is actually probably closer to the side that appeals to me.
What about the board makes it more of a powder board than the Heritage? The reviews on the TheGoodRide seem to imply the Cobra is better for groomers while the Heritage is built to float on powder. It's also worth noting that, while the snow in Big Bear is always thin and powder-less, Mammoth and Breck can (and have been) better in that regard, and I spend much more time in the latter locations than the former.
Agree with what others have said - Heritage is the first choice for sure. Cobra not really that close, but might be a consideration for powder capability and playfulness - but a bit softer and less damp, sacrificing stability at speed and on the steeps.
You picked 2 terrible reviews. Shay is a nice person, but she does not do anything like the riding that you have in mind and her gear review are super shallow.
TheGoodRide can be hit and miss - recently more of the latter. Normally they quote the brochures pretty accurately but only ride the boards for a couple of runs on test days (and never seem to do any real powder riding). In case of the Heritage and Cobra they even messed up copying from the brochures - unlike what their review says ("The Cobra is made for those who spend most of their time on groomers" WTF!?) the Cobra is actually more powder focused than the Heritage.
Last edited by hktrdr; 12-01-2012 at 08:03 PM.