A large part of the existence of a rider incontestably revolves around his/her snowboard. So before you start hitting the slopes, you must first become acquainted with snowboarding's primary piece of equipment - the Snowboard. Moreover, you must know what a snowboard consists of, what its different elements are, and how it works before you should even try to ride one. Knowing all about Snowboards is a first step to choosing the appropriate board for you. In this section, we are going to teach you all there is to know about the Snowboard - from its materials to its maintenance:
Types of Snowboards
There are three different types of snowboards available on the market today: Freestyle, Freeride (All Mountain), and Alpine (Carving) Boards. Each board has a unique Construction Technique and Materials, Shape, Flex Pattern, and Size. The type of board you ride should correspond to the Style of Riding that you like to do, or aspire to.
Freestyle, freeride, and alpine/carving boards are the three basic types of snowboards. It is easier to ride on a soft-flexing, twin-tip, gradual side cut, all-mountain board. On the other hand, it is harder to ride a stiffer-flex, directional, aggressive sidecut alpine board with scores of combinations in between. Always remember that the type of board you ride should correspond to the type of riding that you like to do, and that both freestyle and freeride boards are good board types for beginning snowboarders.
Freeride or All Mountain Board
Of the three snowboard types, the freeride board is the most popular. Accounting for half of all snowboard sales, this type of board is a good all-mountain, park and Pipe board that is designed to float well in Powder. You can enjoy carving, catching air, and basically all riding aspects with this type of board.
Freeride boards have a directional shape and are meant to be ridden primarily in one direction. Having a directional shape means that the board's tip is different from its tail. In freeride, the tail is generally more narrow, shorter, and flatter than the tip of the board. With this, the stance on freeride boards is usually offset toward the tail of the board. Still, freeride boards can be ridden Fakie, despite their directional shape.
Freeride boards generally have a stiffer tail/softer nose construction, designed for floating through powder and holding a fast turn in hard snow. This type of snowboard bridges the gap between freestyle and alpine carving. However, it isn't as stable as a carving board and it isn't as agile as a freestyle board.
Freestyle boards are wider, more stable, and more forgiving to ride. Also, it is shorter, lighter and (compared with freeride boards) softer in flex, which makes them handle better in the bumps and easier to turn. These characteristics make freestyle boards very responsive to the rider. Consequently, it is the best choice for the beginning rider.
These boards are built mainly for performing tricks in terrain parks and half-pipes (e.g. spins, air, grabs and riding backward fakie). Still, freestyle boards have limited edge grip and stability, and are not good for carving turns or cruising fast.
Most freestyle boards are either twin tip boards or directional-twin boards. Twin tip boards have a centered stance with a tip and tail that are exact copies of each other, making them symmetrical in shape. Both ends of a freestyle board have a shovel, and freestyle boards with twin tip design makes it easy for beginners to ride both forward and backward (fakie). Directional-twin boards are similar with the regular twin tip board; only, its tail is stiffer than the nose.
Carving, Alpine, or Race Board
Carving boards are narrower than freestyle and freeride boards. Their long, narrow, stiff constructions are configured for higher speeds and cleaner carved turns. With this, carving boards allow quick edge turns, swift, superior edge-holding power on hard snow, and good stability for speed.
Also known as alpine boards, these snowboards almost look like an enlarged Ski. They are made in both symmetrical and asymmetrical styles and tend to only have a shovel on the nose. Similar with freeride boards, carving boards are made to ride only in one direction.
While carving boards offer a higher level of performance, they are more difficult for the beginning rider to use and are generally reserved for more advanced riders. Alpine boards are mainly preferred by snowboard racers for a great day of fresh unridden pistes. Keep in mind that alpine snowboards are configured for riding and carving downhill, not for doing tricks.
What is a Snowboard - A Detailed Look
Before you start hitting the slopes, you must first become acquainted with its primary piece of equipment - the Snowboard. Moreover, you must know what a snowboard consists of, what its different elements are, and how it works before you should even try to ride one. In this section you will learn that snowboards nowadays are highly technical feats of engineering. If you already have a snowboard, take time to identify the following elements:
Base - This is the bottom side of the snowboard, the part that touches the snow. Getting bases to glide faster is the perpetual quest of any serious tuner or racer. Most snowboard bases are made from a polyethylene material called P-Tex. These bases are either "sintered" or "extruded" type. Extruded bases are melted and cut to shape. They are long lasting and easy to repair. However, the extruded type of base is the slowest and holds less wax than the other types of bases. Sintered bases, on the other hand, are first grounded into powder, heated, pressed and then sliced into shape. A sintered base is superior to the extruded base - it's more durable, faster, and holds wax better. Even so, it's more expensive and difficult to repair. If you're looking for high performance, opt for a snowboard with a sintered base. Then again, if you're on a tight budget, an extruded model will do. Another type of snowboard base that is better than the sintered P-Tex base is a "graphite" base. The graphite base is the fastest type of snowboard base and has a higher capacity to hold wax. In a graphite base, graphite is added to the polyethylene pellets that are used to make the base. This type of snowboard base is always deep black and found mostly on fast racing boards.
Camber - This is the gentle arch the board makes when you rest it on a flat surface. Camber is closely related to flex - the higher the camber, the more pressure the board puts at the nose and tail. A Flat camber indicates that a board may spin easily, which can be good for certain freestyle moves. In a used board, however, it may also be a sign that the board is worn out. In most new boards choose a slightly springy camber that helps stabilize the board at higher speeds and on hard snow, and also makes it easier to turn.
Contact Points - These are the points at which the board contacts the snow without the pressure of the rider being displaced on the board. This is also called the board's "wheel base". Contact points can be found by placing the board on a smooth, flat surface then sliding a piece of paper under the center of the snowboard. Slide the paper toward the nose or tail until it stops.
Edge - This is the metal edge on the snowboard. The "toe edge" is the edge at the toe side of the snowboard. Accordingly, the "heel edge" is the edge at the heel side of the snowboard.
Effective Edge - The length of metal edge on the snowboard which touches the snow is the effective part that is used to make a turn. Consequently, it does not include the edge of the tip and tail. The effective edge is in contact with the snow when the board is in a carved turn. A longer effective edge makes for a more stable, controlled ride; a shorter effective edge makes for a looser, easier turning board.
Flex Point - The flex point is located between the two bindings. This is the point where the board begins or ends its flex, and allows for sidecut radius contact. "Stiff torsional flex" allows a board to grip hard snow and ice. On the other hand, "soft torsional flex" makes a board less responsive, but more forgiving to the rider. Lighter riders and beginner riders usually prefer boards with a softer flex which handle better in the bumps and are easier to turn. Freestyle boards are the softest among the three types of boards. Next are Freeride boards. Carving boards are built with fairly firm flex and stiff torsion.
Nose/Tip - This is the front end of the snowboard. If your snowboard has a similar front and back side, the side that is turned up higher is usually the nose. Alpine boards often have a pointier nose. You need a higher nose or tip for higher speed alpine riding to keep your snowboard from digging itself into the snow.
Nose/Tip Length - This is the length of board from the widest part of the board's nose to the tip of the nose.
Nose/Tip Width - The widest part of the board measured across the front tip or nose area of the board.
Overall Length - This is measured from the tip of the board to the tail, and is usually referred to in centimeters (cm).
Sidecut Radius - This is the measurement of how deep or shallow the board's cut is along the effective edge from the nose of the board to the tail. The sidecut radius helps the board turn. Thus, the smaller the sidecut radius the tighter you will be able to turn. In contrast, a board with a larger sidecut will make big arching turns. The radius of the circle is responsible for the hourglass shape of the snowboard and, accordingly, how it is defined and measured.
Stomp Pad - A stomp pad or nonskid pad is a rubber mat that you can stick on top of your snowboard next to your back foot binding. This is used when you need to slide only with your front foot bound to your snowboard (e.g. when you are exiting a lift). Without a stomp pad you could slide off your board, catch the snow with your back foot, and even pull your legs apart - this could be very painful. TIP: Best placed between your bindings up against the back binding so you can apply pressure down and back against the binding.
Tail - The tail is the rear end of the snowboard, opposite of the nose or tip. Generally, the tail is flatter than the tip, with squarer cut. Some alpine boards have a split in the tail for more turning power and coordination in high speed turns. Freestyle boards often have similar tips and noses to make it easier to ride fakie (with the front foot in the back).
Tail Length - This is the length of board from the widest part of the board's tail to the tip of the tail.
Tail Width - The tail width is the widest part of the board that is measured across the tail's tip or tail area of the board.
Top/Deck - Opposite of the base, the top of the board is where the bindings are mounted and the rider stands. Most boards have mounting holes in the deck where the bindings can be screwed into. These holes enable you to connect your bindings to your board in different angles and stances.
Waist Width - This is the narrowest point of the board. The waist width is normally at the middle of the sidecut, located between the bindings. Waist width of a board should be relative to the size of your feet. Boards with narrow waist width are quicker from edge to edge. However, you should choose the width of your board based upon the size of your feet.
Board construction, what are they made of?
There are 4 main construction methods used for making snowboards which create boards of varying performance, durability and weight.
SANDWICH - A relatively expensive, labour intensive method where resin is applied to each layer before being put together by hand starting at the base. - like making a sandwich ! It's then placed in a mould press to form the board. The board is made up of the P-Tex base, steel edges, separate sidewalls, core material and the top sheet. Both foam and wood cores may be used. This method creates good quality, light and very durable boards. They can also be repaired relatively easily.
CAP - This is the most widely used method of construction. This also makes a cosmetically better looking board with a one piece top sheet that also forms the sidewalls. It eliminates the need for separate sidewalls during construction and yields better transmission of power through the edge for a highly responsive and lively ride. This method uses a wider core that the sandwich but is essentially the same as the sandwich construction method. There are some variations but the strongest method - full cap - is where the core is completely wrapped, creating a vertical wall of fibreglass to which the top sheet is directly bonded. Sidewalls can be either vertical, which is the strongest or inclined that perform better but are more easily damaged. Edge damage to cap constructed boards is the hardest to repair.
RIM - This stands for Reaction Injection Moulding. Cheaper than the cap and sandwich methods. This method is where the base, edges, core and top sheet are placed in a mould without resin. The resin is then injected under high pressure into the mould, bonding all the materials together and creating the sidewalls. Creates very durable but slightly heavier boards. They are not a responsive as cap or sandwich methods.
PU - This is used to make the cheapest boards. Similar to RIM construction but with the core and sidewalls being made during the moulding process. The core is formed by injecting polyurethane - PU - into a mould containing the base, edges and top sheet. This forms the core and sidewalls. Lighter than RIM construction it creates boards that are not very durable and have a tendency to break and lose their performance. Used mainly in boards for juniors and beginners.