So, I finally got a chance to get back up to the Stoke and test out the Raptor - I figured it was only fair to give it ideal conditions for a thorough review.
Having said that, There are some things I'd like to say as a disclaimer: First, this isn't a "fair" review.. My T. Rice is a 157, the NS Raptor is a 164. I also have super stiff Salomon Caliber bindings on the Raptor, and Ride EX's on the T. Rice, but whatever...
5'11", 200lbs, Vans Aura 10.5 boot.
T. Rice 2010 157 (C2BTX) w/ Ride EX bindings:
First, I want to say I absolutely LOVE this board. Super versatile, the bindings match up great, and it goes FASSSSST for a smaller board. The only weakness is that if you get a little lazy, it will wash out on you while carving. It's not a brick, but it's not light either... It just feels solid.
On groomers and ice/hardpack you can't go wrong. Carving takes a little getting used to with the magnetraction and C2BTX, but once you understand the board it rides like it's on rails. Until then, you may experience choppiness and instances of edge release. I'm not sure if it's the Magne or the C2BTX, but it will punish you for being lazy. I've also had a couple instances on wet groomers where I got locked into a carve, and had to butter around to get the edge to release. Those instances are extremely rare, and I think ANY board would have done the same in those conditions. I don't blame the magnetraction at all.. Just myself for not adapting to the snow conditions.
Once you understand that, it carves amazingly well, and just wants to keep going faster and faster... Warning to beginners!
The board will drive you out of your control zone until you understand how to bleed off speed through your turns. For this reason I would avoid glades until you learn how to control the board, but once you do, it is super fun to weave in and out of those trees
Knee deep powder, this thing holds its own and floats well. I get some serious rear leg burn, but that's to be expected on a 157 in the deep stuff at my size.
Excellent, although at this length, you do get a little chatter at high speeds - it's unavoidable.
Anyone who tells you this board needs more pop is either incompetent or doesn't know what they are talking about. Off even small rollers, this thing is like a trampoline. It's also super easy to spin. Not uncontrollable though, you can easily put a muzzle on it and keep it locked to the hill. You get what you give, so experiment with how to PROPERLY load up a rocker/camber board.
- I don't jib, it's just not my thing (I like my boards to last) but I don't have any issues buttering or pressing the nose and tail. Probably because I'm a strong heavy rider. It's also a twin, so it's easy to ride switch.
When new, this board is quite stiff, but it breaks in nicely.. It'll remain stiff, but becomes more playful and forgiving, and in my opinion, more poppy as time goes on.
All in all, this is my all-around do everything board and when it is toast, I'm most likely getting another one. I have beat the snot out of this thing, and it still looks almost brand new. I would probably get a 161.5 next time though.. I think I've progressed beyond the need for such a short board at my size.
NS Raptor 164 w/ Salomon Caliber bindings
Ok... I was a little apprehensive of this board, as the biggest board I have ridden was a 159 until now. I gotta say that I will probably NEVER buy anything amaller than a 161 once my T. Rice has worn out. The setup I have is LIGHT!! I was surprised even after putting on the bindings. When i picked one up months ago, I was shocked at how much lighter it was than the F1, which was also on my list. Having said that, you can tell it's a well constructed product even though it's lightweight:
Maybe it's the Vario Grip, or a longer effective edge, maybe it's the stiffer bindings... Or a combination of all 3... What I CAN tell you is that Vario Grip is > than Magnetraction in my books from what I experienced. You put this board in a carve, and you could fall asleep... It does everything else for you. In order to make it wash out, I had to force it and even then, it was easy to pull the edge back in line. I was totally blown away and became fearless after 2 carves. Throwing this thing in and out of the glades was effortless, even with all the extra length.
Another note... I don't know if it's the damping or the directional setback rocker/stance, but I had ZERO leg fatigue. Like, I could go all day without getting tired. It was weird, but amazing. Oh yeah this thing is FAST,as in faster than my T Rice (which says A LOT)! But it never feels out of control, unlike the T. Rice, which makes you feel like balls to the wall sometimes. Maybe I'm being subconciously conservative because it's new, But one day I will push this thing as hard as I can to see if I get the same feeling as I do on the T. Rice.
See comments above. I don't know how they did it, but it feels like you're surfing ALL THE TIME.
I will say this... My Vans Aura boots are 2 seasons old, and are not what I need on this board, they are TOO SOFT! This is a pretty stiff board, and I bought it as a quiver board for powder, so I want to test it again using Salomon Malamutes when I buy a pair. I actually tweaked my ankles after a day of riding, I had a hard time bending the board after a while in these boots.
Again, anyone telling you this board needs more pop is incompetent, or is simply a lightweight for a board this stiff. I loaded up my first try off a natural booter, and I wasn't expecting much from reading all the reviews.. Man... What are those people talking about? It surprised so much and launched me so high, I actually crashed my landing because I started laughing in mid air! I didn't try any spins, as I'm not used to it yet and didn't want to wreck it on day one.
Even if I liked jibbing, I would go to your home and beat you down using a Raptor for this purpose, then take it away from you. It's directional anyways, why would you Jib this thing??
It's not indestructible, but if you're a lightweight... Eat your wheaties. Don't know how it will break in, but this board is definitely not for everyone. If you like to be lazy on the hill skidding around with your pants falling off, find another board.
If you ride Big Mountain, the Raptor is your ticket. Floats like a dream, goes fast, and edge hold will keep you confident in handling anything ahead of you.
If you want a more rounded board, the T. Rice won't let you down, it will do everything you command, and it can handle handle powder very well - even better I would assume at a longer length like the Raptor. I may have to pick up a 161 or 164 T. Rice just to find out how it really stacks up!
Overall, I would have liked to compare a 2010 T.Rice 164 to the NS Raptor, but I have what I have, so the comparison can only be so accurate. Would the T. Rice do better with the Caliber bindings? Maybe... But I know that board, and I didn't want to change the setup.. If anything, it had the advantage of familiarity.
As I get used to the Raptor, I could see it POSSIBLY becoming my primary board, and not just a quiver board. But it's just not the jack of all trades that my T. Rice is. I love them BOTH for different reasons, but for now, I rely on my T. Rice when I am unsure of the conditions, and give my Raptor only the deep ideal days until I get more experience on it.