Trapper are a small company making powder-orientated freeride boards in Revelstoke, B.C. Small ’boutique’ brands are all the rage at the moment but what sets the Trapper Ursa Major apart from the pack?
When I heard about Trapper making boards from scratch in Revelstoke, right from selecting the heartwood of local Douglas Fir for the cores, it ticked a lot of the right boxes for me. As with the local brands in Japan, their boards are a product of their environment. Revelstoke, BC and Hakuba, Japan have big snowfall and technical terrain in common, so in the search for that elusive big mountain and super deep day quiver killer, I picked up a Trapper Ursa Major 161. As it’s not a board you might be able to check out in person before ordering, here’s my review for anyone interested in one of these lumberjack-made shredders…
We spotted this girl wearing “lumberjack-chic” and so we just had to get her to model the Ursa for the camera – matching Japanese girl not included with purchase of every board.
First impressions: It’s light… and it looks nice!
It’s not as extreme a shape as I was expecting from the pictures online. It’s actually very subtle: functional more than flair. It’s light in the hand and very good looking. Graphics are subjective, I know, but with oak sidewalls and the core showing through the topsheet artwork, it’s clear this isn’t a cookie-cutter board from China.
The Profile: Less is more …as long as it’s in the right places.
The Trapper Ursa Major has a nice gradual rise rocker in the nose, and a tiny touch in the last inch of the tail, but the camber is minimal. It’s a barely visible 1mm rise against a flat surface. This isn’t a problem, as many of the boards I’ve enjoyed have had minimal camber profiles and they tended to work very well in all conditions.
The profile works great for doing this:
How does it ride?
First day out was in 40cm of deep, heavy powder. The very first run was down the bottom of a rolling natural half-pipe, which was hard work. I feared it was the board… until I noticed that I was keeping ahead of my riding partners on a Burton Fish and a K2 Peacekeeper, both of whom had my track to take speed from. On steeper terrain it really came into it’s own. The official blurb talks of the profile and tail shape “planing” on top of the snow, rather than sinking the tail, to float …and this exactly is how it felt. Popping off natural features was really fun and landing in deep snow I felt the nose saving me a few times. It has that rocker lift back to the surface to stop you going over the bars. It goes without saying that spraying powder around on this was good. Whether long drawn out carves or quick cut-back slashes, the float and smooth ride have you forgetting about your board and just thinking about the line – just how it should be.
The overall feeling was one of lightness underfoot – a nimble ride rather than a weighty crusher of terrain. It was like the ride was the opposite of the shape – the shape is so blunt, all utilitarian rectangular functionality. I was expecting it to ride this way too; solid, smashing through terrain… but it was quite the opposite, it was easy to flex and manipulate to finesse small adjustments at speed, on pillows or between tight trees. There is power too, and it’s in the tail… quite a few high speed run outs had me hanging on for dear life, but the tail simply would not give up it’s hold on the snow. No rocker board loop-outs here.
Being centered on the sidecut is no handicap for this:
Switch powder is do-able… It’s not really a “OK, let’s ride this whole line switch” kind of ride, but no worries if you want to land backwards and link a few switch slashes. It can handle it without tossing you, but you need to adapt your technique as with any directional shape.
Here’s a short clip of the Ursa’s nose planing in low-angle powder (and a little back 3 into powder turns). Despite the warm afternoon “hot pow”, note how the nose stays on top and the displaced snow flows to either side, rather than over the top of the nose:
What about non-powder days?
Yes, even in Japan we do have days when there’s no powder… sometimes. So how does it handle those? Nobody wants to be ‘that guy’ scraping around on the powder gun on a frozen piste jib day. At first I thought this might be the Ursa’s weak point. It felt a bit strange on hardpack as I wasn’t used to having so much edge hold behind the back foot. Once I got used to it, I really don’t notice that I’m on a “powder board”. I had always liked deep sidecut boards previously but have found that when pushed the Trapper Ursa Major can carve tight eurocarves thanks to the flex. When you need to hold a long turn the shallower sidecut is an advantage, and makes a nice platform for spinning off too. Flex that strong tail and there is plenty of pop. On sidehits I was surprised to pop and spin as much, if not more, than usual. Things you are not supposed to do on a “powder board”!
How many freeride boards would still be your first choice for this?
It may work great on piste… but be warned: it will try and return to its natural habitat:
One thing I did notice is the base is faaaaaast. Cruising side hits on a cat track, every time I pointed it back down the track I repeatedly breezed past guys on well-waxed good boards who were racing each other down. They all wanted to know what the board was, and why the base is so fast!
This what Trapper say about it:
I bought the Trapper Ursa Major as a powder board but it’s actually more an all-mountain charger with a surprisingly fun versatile character too. Powder is where it works best, and when freeriding I think it will answer the call however hard you push it. What really sets it apart is that it doesn’t have many of the compromises of a straight powder quiver board. In powder it’s a no-brainer, but the more I get used to it on hard snow, the more I find myself reaching for it even on non-powder days. It manages to pull off this Jekyll and Hyde balancing act from how the uber-functional shape, subtle profile and lively flex all interact. That’s a really tough balance to get right but Trapper have pretty much nailed it here. Maybe that’s what you get when boards are hand made from start to finish by powder hungry Canadians?