When I first laid eyes on K2’s Cool Bean several years ago, I must admit I was skeptical. Compared to a traditional snowboard, this thing is, well, funky. Big nose, wide body and precious little real estate beyond the back bindings, before it fans out into a couple of stubby fins. The whole thing is just 140 cm long, a far cry from the 157s I was accustomed to riding.
It’s like if God started making a snowboard late on the Sixth Day, got mostly done, and then just tied off the ends and called it quits.
And yet, I was intrigued. One of the tricky things about riding deep powder is keeping the nose up — which is why boarders often set their bindings back in such conditions — and the Cool Bean has that problem solved from the jump. Floating on powder is what K2 intended it to do, after all, as a very specific addition to a quiver.
So I gave it a shot — and had so much damn fun that, little by little, I started picking this board over other options, even in situations where powder was unlikely. I live on the proverbial Ice Coast, mind you, so such situations are not exactly uncommon.
Shockingly, I found this board to be a blast even on the kind of snow it had no business tackling. These days it is pretty much my daily driver. Here is one detailed explanation and two much simpler reasons why.
1. It’s Better Than You’d Think Away from Powder
Let’s cut to the chase. The main reason I am writing this article is to stress the surprising versatility of the Cool Bean. I’ve had mine for something like seven years now, and I’ve ridden it just about everywhere — from New York and Vermont and West Virginia to Colorado and Utah and Washington to Canada and Austria and Japan. Which means I’ve gotten to try it out in a variety of conditions, including not only groomed runs but ice and slush and dust on crust — and very ill-advised tree runs with rocks and roots peeking out of the snow. And with the exception of a couple scenarios (see below), this board crushes just about anything.
The squat nature does slow the Bean down a bit on groomers, but the small back end makes for very nimble ruddering, so you can maneuver pretty smoothly through narrow shoots and navigate glades with aplomb. Despite what you might think, it is possible to ride switch, which comes in quite handy when squeezing through tight trees.
The rockered base provides plenty of glide for long cat tracks, and the goofy geometry encourages jumping and casual cab 180s. On slush, it’s about as capable as anything else you could strap on. I have yet to try it on a pond skim, but I imagine the wide surface area would keep it afloat quite nicely.
So where is this board not great? The lack of camber or anything approaching magne-traction mean the grip can be dicey on sheer ice. I have had a couple close calls at Lake Placid's notorious Whiteface Mountain, the last place this board should probably be, but the challenge has added to thrill — and taken my mind off the fact I am freezing my ass off.
And as you might guess, the Cool Bean isn’t perfect for terrain parks. But as a person who is kinda getting too old for that shit, I actually like that aspect. Bad things tend to happen to me on kinked rails, so the mere fact I’m standing on a fishtail — and am not Zeb Powell — serves as a constant reminder to steer clear of the ol’ vegetable garden. I prefer to reach the base on a snowboard, not a ski patrol toboggan, after all.
2. It Changes Your Riding Style — in a Good Way
If you’ve spent time riding different kinds of snowboards — or skateboards or surfboards or wakeboards — you’ve probably noticed that what's under your feet noticeably affects how you ride. As someone who can be a bit mechanical with my riding, I find the Cool Bean brings a much… surfier element to the table. The size and shape lend themselves to getting all soulful on the hill, really cutting loose and feeling the turns as you cruise down the slopes.
That’s the real beauty of this board. It came into my life when I was perhaps a bit burned out on the sport, and instantly made it enjoyable as hell again. It’s just so playful — and such a conversation piece in the lift line — that you can feel your stoke returning and regenerating every time you ride.
As my esteemed colleague Andy Cochrane noted in a recent review of the Black Crows Solis, snow sports are supposed to be fun. So any item that reminds you of that truth is a welcome addition to any quiver — even a one-board quiver.
3. When You Do Luck Into Actual Pow, It’s a Dream
Goes without saying, but when things get deep, the Cool Bean will take you to snowboard heaven. I’ll shut up now and let this little video from Japan a few years ago do the talking...
Interested in giving it a shot? Having outlasted multiple bindings, my Bean is several years old now. But you can find similar versions on eBay, and the more widely available later editions really aren't that different from what I ride.
K2 also makes a similarly shaped board called Special Effects, and the brand clearly believes in the concept. How else do you explain one of the more recent releases... a little backcountry number called the Split Bean?