What is a Snowboard?
A Snowboard is made up of several parts, all of which differ from board to board. When broken down into their individual components, these parts can be separated into 3 groups.
The original snowboard is credited to Sherman Poppen who, in 1965, strapped two skis together so his daughter could ‘snurf’ (snow + surf) down the hill outside their home in Michigan.
Over the next 10 years or so, early snowboarding pioneers such as Jake Burton, Demetrije Milovich and Tom Sims began developing specialised designs utilising new designs incorporating features such as sidecut, which was later to move into the skiing world as well.
Note: Sidecut is what helps the board turn. The smaller the sidecut radius (usually less than 8.5m) the tighter the board will be able to turn. A board with a larger sidecut will make big arching turns.
Currently there are three main types of snowboard: Freestyle, Freeride and Carving or Alpine boards.
Freestyle boards are typically used for riding the half-pipe or in the terrain park. 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. Directional-twin boards look like a regular twin tip board, but with a tail that is stiffer than the nose. Most freestyle boards tend to have a softer flex than freeride or alpine boards, which makes them handle better in the bumps and easier to turn. Freestyle boards are good beginner boards because they are easy to turn and their twin tip design makes it easy to ride both forward and fakie (backward).
Freeride boards are good all-mountain boards that are designed to float well in powder. They have a directional shape, which means that the tip is different from the tail (the tail is usually more narrow, flatter, and shorter than the tip of the board). Freeride boards can also be ridden fakie, despite their directional shape. Also, the stance on freeride boards is usually offset toward the tail of the board. The flex of freeride boards is still fairly soft, yet stiffer than a freestyle board. Freeride boards are also a good board choice for a beginner snowboarder.
Alpine or carving boards are typically used by snowboard racers. Alpine boards have a very narrow waist with a flat tail, and a stiff flex. Alpine boards are quick turning, and almost look like an enlarged ski. An alpine or carving board is not a board for a beginner.
The current basic snowboard construction goes something like this:
Imagine a snowboard as a sandwich made up of several layers. On the bottom of the snowboard there is a layer of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (plastic), commonly known as P-Tex. This allows the snowboard to slide around on the snow and needs to be kept waxed to go fast.
There are three different types of snowboard base: extruded, sintered, and graphite. Extruded bases are long lasting and easy to repair, but they are the slowest type of base, and hold less wax than the others.
Sintered bases hold more wax than extruded bases, and they are faster than extruded bases, but sintered bases are more expensive than extruded bases and they are not as easy to repair.
Graphite bases are the fastest type of snowboard base. Graphite bases are usually found on high-end snowboards. In a graphite base, graphite is added to the polyethylene pellets that are used to make the base.
This base layer is surrounded by steel edges. These edges can dig into the snow, helping the boarder control their speed and turn. Some companies wrap their boards completely with the edge, while other companies wrap their boards only partially (leaving the edge off the tip and tail of the board).
The second layer is fibreglass reinforced plastic which provides strength and stiffness.
The main bulk of the snowboard is made up by the core, which could be wood foam, honeycomb panels, or a combination of wood and other composite materials. This has metal inserts drilled so that the board can have bindings mounted on it.
After this there is a second layer of fibreglass and another plastic ‘topsheet’. The whole board is held together by epoxy resin.
The board is placed in a snowboard mold with all the layers pasted together with glue. It is shut inside and heated for around 30 minutes to melt the glue. After which the snowboard is removed, trimmed, tuned up and ready to go!