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Jones Hovercraft 2.0 Review: Your New Best Friend on a Powder Day

Jun 10, 2024

On future mornings when I wake to the glorious news of a sizable unexpected dump, I'll reach for the Jones Hovercraft 2.0 without a second thought.

During the annual GearJunkie Ski and Snowboard Gear test, I sampled an assortment of cutting-edge snowboards. This season, the Jones Hovercraft 2.0 floated straight to the top of the pile. On future mornings when I wake to the welcome news of an unexpected dump, I’ll reach for the Hovercraft without a second thought. It’s the consummate powder day companion.

Like making a homemade pizza, snowboarding is an enjoyable adventure with consistently tasty results. In both activities, specialized tools and quality ingredients elevate the experience into the realm of the sublime. I first tested the 23/24 Jones Hovercraft 2.0 at Crested Butte Mountain Resort after a quickfire storm dropped 6 fresh inches overnight. The board shined like fresh basil on a wood-fired Margherita.

Initially, the Hovercraft was inspired by Jeremy Jones’ racing days on the World Cup circuit followed by his freeride focus: impeccable edge hold for carves meets friendly, floaty board ends.

Now, after making minimal changes to the original Hovercraft for 14 seasons, Jones has outdone itself with the latest and greatest version.

In short: In powder, the unisex Jones Hovercraft 2.0 responds willingly to the rider’s every subtle movement and command. It has all the characteristics of a true pow surfer, while still maintaining a solid baseline of all-mountain competency. Though it has an impressively varied skillset, don’t be fooled — the Hovercraft is a powder specialist. The deeper the snow, the better.

My relationship with this snowboard began in glory: 6 fresh inches overnight, and free refills all morning. Hollers of stoke echoed across the mountain. To account for the light and fluffy conditions, I mounted my Union Force snowboard bindings in a slightly set-back stance. The Hovercraft’s directional shape and high-volume nose put me in the back seat by default, but with the extra setback adjustment, I floated like a helium balloon on the Dead Sea.

In tight, steep trees, the Hovercraft served up supreme maneuverability and turned on a dime — as long as the snow remained soft. While weaving through untracked meadows, it felt like an extension of my own body — intuitive and limitless. As soon as an intention to make a movement formed in my brain, the Hovercraft executed flawlessly.

As the day wore on and the hordes tracked out the new snow, the Hovercraft’s magic aura began to wane. The board always felt capable, but it showed some weakness when out of its powdery element. On harder-packed chunder snow, the Hovercraft chattered and bucked — the natural downside of its playful maneuverability in powder.

A lot of “powder-leaning” snowboards have versatile specs that are geared toward all-mountain riding. The Hovercraft 2.0 is different — it’s a proper specialist, not a do-it-all. It’s a 10/10 when in its niche habitat, and a 5/10 everywhere else.

It’s a touch clumsy at high speeds, and it’s slower edge-to-edge than a hard-charging board that’s built to rip long carves. This is perhaps why Jones launched the totally new Hovercraft-inspired Freecarver 6000s and Freecarver 9000s — to fill a niche that the OG Hovercraft fails to satisfy.

Of course, the Hovercraft 2.0’s limitations are totally on par for such a directional blunt-nosed powder board. I took the Hovercraft all over the mountain, and it always carried me from point A to point B without too much trouble. Like a performance sports car, the Hovercraft absolutely sings when it’s in its rightful domain. For daily commutes, though, it isn’t the most practical. It’s a proud addition to any quiver, not a quiver-killer.

The Hovercraft 2.0 might seem similar to its first-gen predecessor, but it’s actually the product of a significant overhaul. The 2.0 keeps but accentuates the floaty nose, compact shape, and directional camber profile of the first Hovercraft, as well as the short tail and long sidecut.

Another product of the makeover, the board’s 3D contour base now features a 12mm spoon bevel in the nose and tail, compared to the previous 7mm of bevel, which amp float and nix tricky edge-catch. While riding, the rear hull grooves do seem to shed moisture from underneath the board, and I don’t doubt Jones’ claim that they accentuate glide and boost speed. Compared to the original Hovercraft, the updated nose improves turn initiation, especially when driving hard with the front foot.

All three Hovercraft models in the series, which includes the Ultralight Hovercraft Split and the standard Hovercraft Split, are now unisex with a greater size run, shorter boards tuned to lighter-weight riders, and longer boards tuned to heavier-weight riders. This is the first season that the brand is making moves toward unisex boards, so we’re curious to see where the category goes.

Size-wise, the Hovercraft 2.0 is available in 144, 148, 152, 156, 160, and 164 cm. One of our testers with size 12 boots experienced minor toe drag with the Hovercraft. It isn’t available in a wide version, so folks with size 11 boots or larger may have issues — depending on their preferred stance.

The Hovercraft 2.0’s reclaimed core combines paulownia wood with poplar stringers, which provides predictable flex and snappiness across the board’s entire length. Like most boards in the Jones line, the Hovercraft uses Traction Tech 1.0 serrated edges for three mild additional contact points that enhance edge hold.

On firm surfaces, traction was average — I didn’t skid around too much, but I certainly would not buy this board for its edging power. (Rather, I’d check out an all-mountain snowboard.)

Jones was cofounded and named after Jeremy Jones, the same pro snowboarder behind the climate action group Protect Our Winters. Consideration of snowboarding’s impact on the environment is woven into the brand’s manufacturing process.

The Hovercraft 2.0 is now made with a mix of recycled materials from old snowboards — not surprisingly, given Jones’ commitment to sustainability in its outerwear line. Indeed: Warranty and retired boards are chopped up for fresh takes. The recycled boards also get recycled edges, 100% recycled ABS sidewalls, and an eco-plastic topsheet made from castor beans.

As such, the 2.0 is among the “most responsibly produced boards” that Jones has made to date, showing that the brand continues to work toward cyclical low-waste manufacturing.

To hold the base, core, and top sheet together, the Hovercraft uses “bio-resin,” a semi-plant-based adhesive that Jones claims generates 33% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional epoxy. Plus, Jones’ “Flip Flop Base” system utilizes two p-tex base color options, which allegedly minimizes waste. Every Hovercraft produced will have one of two base color schemes — there’s no way to know which you’ll receive upon ordering.

The 2022-23 winter season was marked by historic snowfall in just about every mountain range in the United States. Frequent dumps delivered ample powder days. If I had a crystal ball, I’d check to see if next season will follow the same trend. If yes, I’d run out and buy a Hovercraft 2.0 immediately.

Every snowboard is fun to ride when the getting is good, but the Hovercraft takes the joy of powder to its transcendental apex. The fat blunt nose rises to the surface like cream in a butter churn. The neatly contoured and compact tail lends itself to a natural easy-steering backseat position.

I never felt like I had to fight the Hovercraft — it served my every whim and movement. As long as the snow kept falling, I had no interest in taking a break for lunch.

In all other conditions that aren’t knee-deep power, the Hovercraft is a decent ride with its fair share of quirks and limitations. In its element, there’s no better board.

During the annual GearJunkie Ski and Snowboard Gear test, I sampled an assortment of cutting-edge snowboards. This season, the Jones Hovercraft 2.0 floated straight to the top of the pileHovercraft In short:Jones Hovercraft 2.0ProfileShapeFlexBaseSizes (cm)snowboard bindingsUltralight Hovercraft SplitHovercraft Splitall-mountain snowboard Protect Our Wintersits outerwear lineHovercraft 2.0