Equipment - Thoughts for the First Time Buyer

Equipment - Thoughts for the First Time Buyer

Post by David Schu » Fri, 26 Aug 1994 00:24:42

Below is an article which I wrote for the Ski Patrol's
magazine.  It is intended for beginner riders with an emphasis
on those that are crossing-over from Alpine skiing  (they are
finally seeing the 'light')

Given that Summer is ending here in the Northern Hemisphere, I
thought it might be helpful.

I wish I had the ability to include the illustrations that were
part of the article.

Dave Schutz
"Board'n Patroller"


_Snowboard Equipment - Thoughts for the First-time Buyer_
(by;  David Schutz;  NSP Eastern Snowboard Advisor)

The choices available in the selection of a snowboard and
boots are nearly as vast as those in Alpine ski equipment.
There are about 50 different brands on the market with many
offering at least a half-dozen models.

Snowboards actually share more common elements with Alpine
skis than most people realize.  Modern snowboards have
continuous steel edges, polyethylene bases and laminated
wood cores, as do most skis.  Consideration of flex
patterns, side-cut depth, and camber are all relevant
concepts for snowboards.  With all these similarities it
should come as no surprise that modern snowboards can
"carve" a turn as well as an Alpine ski.

Snowboards fall into three distinct categories.  All three
types are commonly used for patrol work.

_Freestyle_ (60% of market) These have a fairly even flex
pattern and only a small amount of side-cut.  In general
they are easy to identify as their tails have a turned-up
shovel that resembles that at the front.  These double-ended
boards are specifically designed to ride backwards ("fakie")
as easily as forward.  They are truly "bi-directional."
This board is suitable for all types of tricks ("ollies",
"360's", etc.)  Some models may also be quite wide, as they
need to eliminate foot drag for larger riders who may assume
a stance angle nearly perpendicular across the board.

_Alpine_  (10% of market) At the other end of continuum are
the racing boards.  These are designed for speed.  They are
easy to spot, as most have a flat tail, like a ski, and a
lower shovel than the Freestyle models.  These boards tend
to be stiff with very pronounced side-cuts and a more narrow
waist.  When placed on edge they can "carve" phenomenal
tracks.  (Those extremely thin ruts you see are usually left
by Alpine snowboards).

Some Alpine boards feature "asymmetrical" designs.  In this
case the board no longer has a symmetrical side-cut.  The
design is actually a parallelogram, with one side offset
about 5 cm. from the other.  Asymmetrical boards must be
selected with consideration of whether the user ("rider") is
left foot forward ("regular") or right foot forward
("goofie") riding stance.  If you have never snowboarded and
are about to buy an asymmetrical board you need to know
which foot you want forward _before_ you purchase it.

_Free Riding_ (30% of market)  This is an attempt to marry
many of the characteristics of Freestyle and Alpine boards
into a single hybrid product.  They generally will have
somewhat of a turned-up tail so they can been ridden "fakie"
(backward), quite easily.  They can be used for many tricks,
yet still have respectable carving abilities.  They could
probably best be termed an "all around" snowboard for many
different types of riding styles and snow conditions.


Snowboard boots fall into two broad categories;  soft and

_Soft Boots_  About 90% of recreational snowboarders use
soft boots.  While these may initially look like a pair of
ordinary laced leather boots, they are actually a very
carefully designed product made specifically for
snowboarding.  They contain very extensive foot and angle
supports.  Use of boots not specifically designed for
snowboarding should be actively discouraged, as serious
injury could result.

In the past many patrollers have stayed away from soft boots
due to the extra time required to get into and out of their
associated binding systems.  This coming season there will
be at least two companies offering products that provide
"step-in" operation with soft boots!

_Hard Boots_  Hard snowboarding boots externally look quite
similar to Alpine ski boots.  They have a plastic outer
shell and most have an overlapping center tongue.  However
at that point the similarity ends.

Most hard snowboarding boots have very extensive calf
supports.  This is because in this sport 50% of all the
turns that you will make will require that you lean
backward.  In skiing we try not to lean backward, hence ski
boots provide minimal calf support.

Ski boots have a relatively thin sole, the dimensions of
which follow the DIN standard.  Hard snowboard boots have a
turned-up nose and tail to minimize drag and don't have a
flat sole.  Their binding attachment points are much higher
than ski boots.  While it is frequently possible to mate ski
boots to some hard-boot snowboard bindings, this can produce
an unstable boot/binding interface which the manufacturers
actively discourage.


Unlike skis the cost of a snowboard normally includes a set
of bindings supplied by the snowboard manufacturer.
Remember, snowboard bindings _don't provide a safety
release_ function.  This is because when your two feet are
connected to a single ski (snowboard), you are in a moderate
width stance, and have a fairly short distance between your
foot and the end of the snowboard, the chances for injury of
your lower body are far less than in skiing.

Within the past two years the snowboard industry has moved
toward the use of a pre-drilled "turntable" binding
configuration.  This design, which most companies (except
Burton) call a "4 x 4" mounting pattern, permits rapid changes
in binding placement and stance angles.

There are two basic types of bindings which are dependent
upon the use of either soft or hard boots.

_Soft Bindings_  The majority of soft bindings are a
two-strap "freestyle" designs.  The straps are around the
toe with the second over the instep.  There is a rear ankle
support, but it becomes useful only when leaning backward.

A few companies also offer a high-back "three-strap" design.
The third strap is positioned near the boot top over the
lower leg.  This design provides much greater support and
more decisive edge control.  These factors may speed the
learning process for people transitioning from Alpine

_Hard Bindings_  The bindings used for hard boots are
commonly referred to as "plate" units.  Most are simple in
design, since as you will recall;  snowboard bindings don't
contain a safety release function.  This season at least one
manufacturer will be offering a step-in model which will
further speed the entry and exit process.

_Thoughts About Pricing_:

Most retailers are able to rapidly sell all of their
snowboard inventory.  It's not unusual to find shops
virtually sold-out of snowboards by late January.  As such,
mark-downs are not as prevalent as for Alpine equipment.
Don't be surprised if your local shop doesn't offer
snowboard discounts comparable to its ski equipment.  Ever
notice how few snowboards you see at the pre-season
"Warehouse" sales?

In time supply will likely reach or exceed demand.  But with
the continuing rapid growth of the sport that probably won't
happen this year.  For the widest possible selection, shop

Questions & Comments:

David Schutz
NSP Eastern - Snowboard Advisor