words: Ally Watson
photos: Mark Clavin
Set up your stance, tighten the screws, step outside, strap in. Load the lift, take some laps, hit some features. Head back, fill out the survey, a few high fives, onto the next. The machinations of a seasonal board test can be borderline robotic and that’s not what snowboarding is about, particularly when you’re getting to try to new gear. Last winter, looking through catalogs for the upcoming 22-23 season, there were some impressive women’s and genderless boards to test, but we didn’t want to go about things in the same old way. In early spring, we had an idea, and decided to remove some rigidity and add an element of community and connection to our 2023 women’s board testing. And to do so, we called up a group of boarders who truly know their stuff when it comes to gear, the Rude Girls in Banff, Alberta.
Sure, the American portion of our team needed an excuse to jump ship and head back to the Great White North for poutine and Caesars, but we also knew that Rude Girls had the crew for the job. What job? you might ask. Well, we wanted to find a method to test boards in a way that created wavelengths, built a collaborative atmosphere, and went further than our own editorial needs in order to help consumers looking for women’s-specific and genderless snowboards get genuine and useful information about carving contenders. The result was working in tandem with the Rude Girls, whose ability to break down board technology into practical information is bar none. Together, we could test, shoot video and photo, and share the experience and results with a broad audience of snowboarders.
It didn’t take long to iron out the details. After a few Zoom meetups, emails, and phone calls, the dates were set, flights were booked, and schedules were accommodated. Snowboard Mag was going to Banff.
“YOU CAN READ A SPEC SHEET ALL YOU WANT, BUT NOTHING WILL TELL YOU WHAT A BOARD RIDES LIKE THE WAY DEMOING THAT BOARD WILL.”
– ABBY FURRER, RUDE GIRLS MANAGER AND BUYER
Calling up Rude Girls didn’t just mean that there would be a group of friends testing boards together. Rude Girls puts forth much more than that. With a growing global recognition, the shop’s brick and mortar location is an institution in the town of Banff, Alberta. It opened in 2000 under the ownership of its older sibling, Rude Boys—one of the oldest shops in Canada. The two share a quaint space on bustling Caribou Street, partitioned by a product wall and straddled by unified display counter and cash register.
The shop’s manager and buyer, Abby Furrer, has spent the last decade building a hub for women’s snowboarding out of 205 Caribou Street. Rude Girls offers the widest selection of snowboard gear for women in Canada, and possibly North America, making it the Grand Central Station of Banff’s snowboard community for women. Abby has been stacking the Jenga blocks of the industry for years, committed to bringing in not only twenty-three different hardgoods brands for women, but also focusing on product that supports women behind the scenes in roles such as designers, artists, engineers, marketing specialists, and team managers.
She does her buying strategically, looking at what companies are doing to support women in the industry and what their teams look like. She examines their offerings, determining if products are mirroring a male-driven counterpart or if they are tailored to folks who identify as women. Other key factors that influence what Abby brings into the shop are the actual value of a product and how it rides. Finally, she says, “We want to support our favorite riders and if ordering a board, boot, or binding with their name on it ensures more money or another contract for them, then we will order it for the shop.” Her clear dedication to both offering product for women and creating community connection is reflected by all the staff at the shop.
At the time of the board testing, we were joined by Abby, Cori Stevens, Chelsea Dore, and Delaney Cameron, while Krista Rose held things down on the shop floor. The Rude Girls are not just any sales employees, they know what’s up. These women could probably host an entire PK tour without a script, and don’t you dare think you could beat any of them in tech trivia. The team is stacked and they care. They care immensely about getting customers riding something that will make them happy and keep them snowboarding.
With opportunities to test and demo boards regularly, meet customers from the full spectrum of needs, see those customers progress through one of the longest seasons in North America, and amass sponsors and ambassadorships in their own right, the Rude Girls crew has it dialed.
“FIRST, THEIR PASSION FOR SNOWBOARDING AND THE COMMUNITY. WHEN YOU CARE ABOUT SOMETHING, YOU ARE MORE INCLINED TO ABSORB ALL THE INFORMATION GIVEN TO YOU ON THE SUBJECT.”
– ABBY FURRER ON WHAT MAKES THE RUDE GIRLS STAFF SO WELL-EQUIPPED
We packed up a diverse selection of women’s and genderless boards and met at the base of the Sunshine Village gondola in mid-April. That time of year might conjure ideas of slushy spring temps and t-shirt weather, but in the Canadian Rockies, April is far from spring. As the locals know, the resort name is disingenuous and in true spring fashion, Sunshine dished out some flurries, mixed clouds, hardpack, mini powder stashes, and interesting visibility to balance out some textbook variable conditions. Usually met with discontent, the fickle weather paired with the expansive terrain for ideal board testing conditions. Board testing can be flawed on a perfect bluebird day. Many boards shine, while the potential of others is lost in a lack of possibility. A tester could end up on a rockered pow board cruising hardpack wondering how it might handle in the deep stuff. While we weren’t blessed with the deep stuff, we were treated to fresh snow and found some hidden stashes among the groomers and the park, which made it easy to give each board a chance to show off.
We were equipped with a variety of all-mountain freestyle boards including some directional options like the Never Summer Harpoon, Burton Feelgood, and Salomon Highpath; some jibby freestyle picks like the Arbor Cadence and Salomon Abstract; and a selection of quiver killer freestyle boards such as the Roxy XOXO Pro and Rome Muse.
Once everyone had something set up, we headed to one of the classic Sunshine side hit runs to get things going. The energy was immediately roaring, and for one reason in particular: Everyone was riding together for the first time in a long time. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Banff, traveling, second jobs, and scheduling, it’s rare that the faces of Rude Girls Shop actually get to lap together on their own time. Of course, there are Rude Girls Ride Days, various events, and some overlap in days off, but when it comes down to burning laps with your buds, this occasion was surprisingly rare.
We bounced around the mountain sessioning side hits and wide-open groomers on day one, getting the feel of the boards and reporting back with astute evaluation. The crew was hooting and hollering and cheering each other on while trying new things on the side hits and getting creative with their carving. Samantha Deleo and Mark Clavin documented the controlled chaos, and left Mary Walsh to orchestrate the board changeovers. Energized by each other’s unique style and draw to certain natural features, the boards kept in circulation while the reviews stacked up. Just as some decks fluctuated between highs and lows among the collective, a few stood out as crowd favorites, balancing the fulcrum and causing the claws to come out for who was next in line to strap in.
The first day wrapped up with a trip to Caribou Street’s offbeat burger spot, Eddie Burger, so the Americans could get their Caesar fix. Garnished with a spicy bean and a deep-fried pickle, the liquid appetizer held us off while we gabbed about Canadiana and snowboards until our food came. We needed a pick-me-up, so we ordered a round of shafts—a cold brew cocktail concoction with a mandatory straw chug—only to shock the unaccustomed American cohort into a state of thrill and caffeination. Stuffed and satisfied, we headed to the shop to check out the goods and get some behind-the-scenes work done.
With more variety than an episode of Hoarders, we mingled between the overwhelming amount of product that fills the shelves at Rude Girls. According to Abby, 2022 saw thirty-three types of boots, thirty-seven models of bindings, and seventy-nine different snowboards as women’s offerings at the shop. The shop gals are able to reel off tech specs on any given piece of gear like walking encyclopedias, and on top of that, they truly have a sense of what it all means, and how it feels underfoot.
When asked what gives the shop staff such a well- rounded knowledge base on product, Abby responds, “First, their passion for snowboarding and the community. When you care about something, you are more inclined to absorb all the information given to you on the subject. Before the start of each season, we have product knowledge sessions with our local reps. These PK sessions are vital for our staff to understand all the different terminology and lingo that each brand uses to describe their products, allowing us to effectively educate our customers. And of course, demoing the product. You can read a spec sheet all you want, but nothing will tell you what a board rides like the way demoing that board will. We are grateful for all of these opportunities that these brands offer to educate ourselves and this is the reason why everyone on our staff is so gosh dang good at their jobs.”
So, as we wanted to build community connection beyond our own needs, having Rude Girls test product with Snowboard became mutually beneficial and enlightening. The shop team sees every type of customer imaginable walk in the door, sometimes all in one day. They see splitboard mountaineers, fresh-to-town newbies, and talented shop riders rotate through those endowing four walls on a regular basis. The diversity of clientele, community members, conditions, and terrain that Banff has to offer correlates to the shop’s contribution to the sport, making the staff literal experts by nature. The team sees a demographic for every product in store and is able to dismantle bad blood between customer and brand to offer unbiased suggestions that just work for people.
On day two of testing, we made it back to our base of operations from next to the kid’s camp lunchroom in the Sunshine Mountain Lodge after a few morning bumps in the road and a missed turnoff. We continued to swap out boards, brainstorming what type of rider would be most suited to each deck, getting hyped on everyone’s reviews and opinions between whiffs of spaghetti and hot chocolate next door. We spent the day riding some fun park laps sandwiched between hill bombs, more side hits, and a fence gap. We were joined by team riders Isabelle Aubry and Nikki Goodwin for the second half of the day, further amping things up. We practically buckled their bindings for them to see what they thought of a select few boards, excited to share our favorites.
We wrapped the testing session with a group download in one of Sunshine’s aptly colored gondola cabins before rolling back to Banff. We left with enough content to fill a cartoonish-sized scroll, usable for both parties. Sharing the intricacies of everyone’s board experience made us aware of how certain tech and specs felt for each rider, some being favored across the playing field, and some being diametrically opposed between testers. The results came in, calling the Rome Muse, Roxy XOXO Pro, and Burton Good Company to the Platinum Picks list. While the Roxy and Rome selections were unequivocally favourited by the testing committee, the Burton Good Company won the hearts of only half the crew, but those who loved it, wouldn’t stop talking about it.
The mutually beneficial outcome for us and Rude Girls went beyond the board testing as evidenced by the way the group chat blew up over the next week. Many of the testers, including myself, fed off the camaraderie and support that lingered in following days, feeling like trying new things on our own time and taking on more confidence in our personal style and ability. With the first inaugural Snowboard Mag x Rude Girls board test in the books, know that your Platinum Pick selections and rider-driven, community-facing reviews (find these online) were fueled by the juice that keeps friends riding together through progression and collaboration. That juice might be the contents of the shafts we drank at the Eddie Burger, but who’s to say, really?