I was lost. She moved on without me, but I remained transfixed. Trees. Japan. Deep powder. Effortless maneuverability. Luckily she didn’t go far. We were at a trade show after all and it was her job to answer my questions.
“She” was Lesley Betts, Burton Snowboards’ Global Senior Product Manager of Snowboards, and as you may have guessed the object of my attention was the latest addition to Burton’s Family Tree line, the Branch Manager. When she told me Burton took specific direction from members of their Japanese team to sculpt a board that performed perfectly in their legendary glades, I needed to know everything. Was it the best board for my favorite conditions?
The key, as relayed by Norifumi ‘Beru’ Yoshimura, was a short effective edge for kitsune-like quickness in the trees combined with a big, long nose for ample float. Designer Scott Seward didn’t think it would work, but Family Tree boards are all about experimentation. After four shape revisions, the effective edge was shorter than some of their children’s offerings. Too crazy to work, or just right? I had to ride it.
The conditions aligned at Mt. Baker’s Legendary Banked Slalom. A powder day, a crazy board and the right terrain all came together. I picked the 159cm offering as this board is meant to be ridden close to your everyday board length. It has a slight taper and mid-wide waist to boost the quickness and float, but nothing as radical as some of the short fatties or fish that have popped up in the last few years.
The nimble nature of this fox jumps right out at you. You don’t have to be in Japanese trees to experience it. Maybe you’re just slaloming the crowd around the first chairlift. Give it speed and it will respond. In keeping with the LBS, it seemed my board was thinking two turns ahead for me.
A drawback made itself apparent as I broke for the bottom of my first run. That short running length is not ideal for high speeds and chunky snow. However, on a groomed run the Branch Manager carves harder than a chisel through a block of cheddar. And given that it has a real, honest-to-goodness tail, it rides fakie as well as anything that isn’t twin. Backwards pow landings are even fair game for this sled.
The true test got under way when I was able to get the Branch Manager into the trees. After the all-too-brief LBS session, I scored a reride. Hokkaido’s finest wasn’t in the budget, but Oregon was a ready replacement. The storm conveyor was rolling foot after foot into the forests of Mt. Hood Meadows, and the Branch Manager slashed every glade, gully, gladed-up gully, and gullied-out glade as though it knew the path before I did. In short, it worked in its intended terrain.
The trick about Burton Family Tree boards is you never know when you’ll see them again. Most of the boards in this line are only around for a year or two, so the Branch Manager’s days may be numbered, but that doesn’t mean it’s design elements will be discarded. As Scott says, “Every year when we look at redesigning the Family Tree line, we try to go after ride styles or even riders who we can represent in terms of a board shape that we don’t see out there, and this is one of those.”
In other words, maybe next year they’ll make the perfect board for your perfect day–and it may be one that shares the genetic code for the Branch Manager.
About the reviewer:
Weight: 170 pounds
Boot size: 9.5
Riding style: everything but rails
Riding experience: 20+ years, 20-50 days per year
Typical board length: 159cm