Skiboards: Two of Them Reviewed (or was it four?)

Reviewed by Todd Murray, who claims complete editorial independence because nobody's paying money for this page. Click here to contact me.
Here I am trying Salomon SnowBlades at Lutsen.

Suddenly, it looks like the hottest new product of the year is skiboards.  What are skiboards?  Well, if you took skis, snowboards, and Sled Dogs snow skates and threw them all into a blender, you'd probably get skiboards as a result.  (Actually, you'd probably get shreds of metal, fiberglass, and wood.  You'd break the blades on the blender and possibly injure yourself, so don't do this.)  Basically, skiboards are shorter and usually wider than skis, usually in the range of 85 to 100 centimeters.  They attach to ski boots (sold separately, of course) with a nonreleasable plate-style binding, like you'd find on a snowboard.  In contrast, Sled Dogs snow skates are sold as a complete boot and base unit, and they're much shorter (about 45 centimeters).

Longtime readers to this page might notice a certain loyalty (or even bias) toward Sled Dogs.  Part of my loyalty was based on their innovative design and newness on the market.  However, I've noticed a few problems with Sled Dogs (even the new K-9 model).  For example, because the toe isn't upturned and isn't flexible, it's easy to hit a slushy patch or a pile of ungroomed snow.  This usually leads to a slowdown or an abrupt stop, which makes it harder to gain speed to do jumps and tricks.  Also, some people have experienced problems with the K-9's leashes and buckles, as well as the ill-fated T-nut system.  The company is currently in Chapter 11, and I'm hoping they'll survive.  But, in order to survive, they need to make a product than can compare to skiboards, especially since manufacturers such as Salomon and Dynastar are well-financed.

Anyway, enough rambling; it's time for the reviews.

Salomon SnowBlades

Picture of SnowBlades taken while I was riding a chairlift
A closer look, taken while I was riding the chairlift.
I tried these at Lutsen on March 6, on a day where it was finally snowing again.  (In Minnesota, the state hockey and basketball tournaments are accompanied by snowstorms.  I think the tournaments actually cause the snowstorms, but weathercasters say otherwise.)  I had previously tried my friend Janet's SnowBlades for about an hour at Hyland Hills, but I wanted an more in-depth experience.  The skis attach to ski boots using a non-releasable binding, which can be adjusted for different size ski boots.  The bindings have a small rubber piece that goes between the ski boot and the binding.  This compensates for any variances in the length of the boots versus the adjustability of the bindings.  The skiboards each have a snowboard-style leash (the orange cord shown in this picture) to keep them from flying away in case the binding releases.  Despite that, though, I didn't have any problems with the bindings releasing.

My initial impression was that they were very similar to Sled Dogs in their handling: the motion is basically that of inline skating, not skiing, so all of my knowledge of Sled Dogs applied here as well.  They handled very well, and I didn't have any problems carving on them.  (In contrast, I've occasionally noticed that Sled Dogs sometimes sideslip rather than carve in icy conditions.)  They seemed to go as fast as, or faster than, my Sled Dogs.  And, the best part was that they didn't catch on piles of snow, nor did they get stuck.  Here's how they performed in various conditions:

Carving: These things carve great -- I'd use them for a Thanksgiving turkey.  (Or Thanksgiving tofu, if you're a vegetarian.)
Moguls: They were so-so in the moguls, but that's probably because the runs with moguls were way too icy.  I was having bad luck with the moguls on Sled Dogs because of all the ice.
Jumps: I had a lot of confidence making and landing jumps, because I didn't have to worry about making a mistake and landing in the wrong position.
Powder: Minnesota is not known for deep powder, so I can't answer this question.
Halfpipe: How I wish.  I don't think Lutsen even tried to make one this year because of the minimal snowfall.
Ground spins (360's): This was the only negative part of the experience.  I wasn't really able to pull off ground spins because I kept catching an edge.  The uphill skiboard either dug in, or one of the edges was dragging.

Overall, I liked the SnowBlades.  I'm a little curious about whether the plastic guard on the nose can stand up to abuse and aggressive use, though.

Dynastar Twins

Picture of a Dynastar Twin skiboard
Picture of a Dynastar Twin skiboard.  (I actually rented two.)
I tried them at Afton Alps on March 14, a bright sunny day with surprisingly good snow conditions.  The rental shop didn't know which forms I needed to use, so I had to fill out another form.  After getting that straight, I finally got the Twins.  The bindings are adjustable to the boot length by tightening or loosening a screw.  This is different from Salomon's system where you pull out a tab and move the metal bar back and forth.  I suppose this might make SnowBlades easier for rental shop people, but they're probably used to adjusting ski bindings anyway.

Twins are a little bit shorter, but about half again as wide, as Salomon SnowBlades.  (See the picture above.)  Also, Dynastar's skiboards have a metal edge going all the way around the base; I don't remember if the SnowBlades had a metal edge on the tip or not.  Also, the Twins didn't come with leashes.  I asked the rental shop people about them, and they said that people either ended up breaking off the leashes or removing them.  I would have preferred to have them, mainly because the Ski Patrol requires some kind of retention device and because I wouldn't want to chase down the hill after a skiboard fell off.  I didn't have to test that theory, though.
Detail of the base of the Twins.  They must expect you to get a lot of air, since they printed their name on the bottom too.
My first impression was that it's hard to keep them going in a straight line.  They seemed to be kind of squirreley and always want to turn in one direction or another.  I think it takes a little more ankle control than SnowBlades or Sled Dogs, though.  After a few runs, though, I seemed to get them to run straight.  As it turns out, they carve and turn so well that it's easier to stop fighting it and just turn.  I later noticed that the bindings were starting to work a bit loose, so I brought them back to the rental shop and had them tightened.  The rental guys said that a little bit of play was normal, but they shouldn't have a lot of play.  (I think the rubber spacers between the binding and boot would have helped; the Twins just had a hard plastic spacer.)  They seemed okay after that, and I didn't have any problems with the bindings falling off and the skiboard zooming down the hill without me, but it's something I'd definitely keep my eye on.

Carving: These things carved great -- in fact, they were a little bit better than the SnowBlades.  I was able to carve so hard that I had to put my uphill hand on the snow to keep my balance.
Jumps and tricks: Like the SnowBlades, the Twins had a lot more stability on landings than Sled Dogs.  Unfortunately, Afton Alps didn't have such good jumps in the park; I went off one jump and I felt I was diving off the edge of the earth.  I landed very hard and lost my balance.  (Of course, I would have hit that landing hard on a snowboard, skis, or Sled Dogs.)
Ground spins: These were a lot easier to do on Twins than on the SnowBlades.  The edges didn't catch into the snow.
Moguls and powder: Afton Alps didn't have any moguls set up, which was probably just as well since they'd have been even more icy than Lutsen's.  There's no powder in Minnesota, as I mentioned.
Halfpipe: Again, Afton Alps didn't have one.  I'd love to try these on the halfpipe sometime; I think they're perfectly suited for the halfpipe and they might just impress some of the 15-year olds who sit around watching everyone else.

My overall impression was that the Twins were a lot of fun.  They behaved a little more radically than the SnowBlades, but not so radically that they were impossible to control.


First off, I should mention that I hate rental ski boots.  Also, I should mention that, although I've built up loyalty to Sled Dogs over the years, their products have a few flaws that need to be fixed.  The short base and the fact that the toe isn't turned up contribute to the fact that it's easy to catch the toe in a thick pile of snow.  (That always seems to happen when I'm on my way to do a jump or something.)  Sled Dogs have also had some quality problems, such as the leashes breaking and the buckles coming off.  Skiboards don't seem to have these problems, although I'd be interested to see which skiboards seem to hold up better over time.

It's hard to pick a real winner between SnowBlades and the Twins, because I liked them both.  The SnowBlades are a good choice if you want a lot of stability and tend to be a cruiser.  The Twins are great if you want to be more radical and get into doing tricks.  That said, I think my interests lie more in the radical direction, and I just might end up buying a pair of Dynastar Twins.

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