Please don't flame me for posting a snowboard article on
I have had several requests from Alpine skiers for the
following information and a suggestion that I post same here.
Below is an article which I wrote for the Ski Patrol's
magazine. It is intended for beginner snowboarders or parents
of same. Thus, it places an emphasis on those that are
crossing-over from Alpine skiing.
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.
(25+ year Alpine skier)
_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
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 skiing.
_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:
NSP Eastern - Snowboard Advisor