You can recognize the Borealis Koi with your eyes shut, just by feeling it. The bamboo topsheet is roughened, the feel is not hard and slippery as in most boards, but feels alive and organic. The bamboo is fully waterproof, so a thick finish is actually not necessary from that perspective. That natural feel really surprised me a lot. The design is also very au naturel and minimal, no hysterical colors or psychedelic designs; a Japanese Koi (fish) in a very recognizable Japanese style, decorates Koi’s deck.
During our review trip on the Hintertuxer glacier I, unfortunately, didn’t have the opportunity to ride the Koi in the best powder conditions. There were a few off-piste runs that I could do with a bit of untouched snow but for the rest it was all a lot of piste runs on good, not too hard-packed pistes.
Everything on the Koi breathes powder, especially the big rocker nose in front. But also the setback camber and the big radius of the board.
What is Radius?
The sidecut radius on a snowboard (or ski) is the extent to which the sides of the board are cut. You could also call it the waist line of the board. If you were to draw a (huge) circle along that line, then that circle has a radius. The larger the radius the less deep the board is cut, the smaller the radius the deeper the cut is. A deeper sidecut (small radius) allows you to make easier and sharper turns, a larger radius allows you to make beautiful wide turns and helps stability at higher speeds.[/vc_message]
In the powder you do not want to turn short sharp corners, that would reduce the speed of your board too much and dig you more into the snow. Wide turns, nice lazy surfy cruising; for that, you need that wider radius. And that’s what the Koi was made for. But, Borealis rightly advises about this board, there is not always powder. During our stay in Hintertux, only the last day was a real powder, and that was the day I didn’t ride the Koi but a number of other boards. Sometimes you’re “condemned” to the piste, so you want a board that can still transition easy from edge-to-edge, that’ll help you turn and hold your grip in hard carves.
When it comes to turning on the piste, I noticed that the lazy radius line forces you to keep working the turn, pushing all the way through it. Especially in the beginning, I felt that I had to push the Koi a bit more than I am used to doing. The board would rather go straight ahead. The board has a length of 160 centimeters, but that length is mainly because of that big nose: the effective edge of the board (the part of the edge that is in contact with the snow as you turn) as a result measures a radius of 126 centimeters. Still quite long, and it helps with those long, surfy turns you want to make in the powder or on the piste.
In these corners, the Koi is really grips well. To hel with this, Borealis has added, what they call “dual side-waves” to your edges; placed near the bindings, both at your toe and heel. These small waves in the edge, make sure that as you turn, the edge cuts even deeper in to the snow adding to the grip you need neer your feet (where the most pressure is). In as promised I felt no lack of grip with the Koi.
We did not have really ice-cold slopes, but on the basis of what I felt, the Koi should really be able to handle those circumstances well. It reminds me of the mage-traction technology that we encountered among others with the GNU Zoid, but in the case of the Koi, in a somewhat milder form.
Because the natural Koi habitat, a board inspired by the Japanese powder Mecca Hokkaido, is … tiefschnee. That’s where you will want to lay the Koi down and breathe in and exhale the mountain in delicious long lines. I would like to bind the Koi again under true powder conditions. I would love to ride this board in those conditions one day, it must be heaven. So, if you’re a powder rider, but take the piste every now and then, the Borealis Koi just might be the thing for you. If you want to ride short and fast, if you want agility on the piste or the park, you’ll have to look further.
Borealis is a young snowboard brand. Started in 2013, they work from Avignon, nicely situated between the Alps and the Pyrenees. A 45-minute drive from where Borealis is, you will find the Mont Ventoux, known for men in tight pants on light bikes, but in winter a lesser known backcountry destination. Borealis focusses on splitboards and freeride boards.