Anatomy of a Snowboard

If you want to know a little more about what goes into your board, read on...
Understanding how your board works will help your progression as you can see and feel why your board behaves the way it does. Various grades and qualities of materials are used in different boards, which give them their riding characteristics – and determine the price that you'll pay. There are also scores of other technological gizmos that can be included to increase performance, but here we feature on the basics. The main things that affect a snowboard's performance are construction and geometry – what goes into your board and how all the elements are put together.
The main physical areas of a snowboard are the core, the structural layers and the base, and here we'll explain their respective roles.
The Core
The core is where the basic riding characteristics of your snowboard are created. Most cores are made by glueing precisely cut strips of wood together along the length of the board. This allows the designers to control different characteristics along its length by shaping the core in different ways. It's also common for different types of woods to be used in different areas of the core to produce different riding characteristics.
Wood Types...
Poplar & Aspen
These are classed as mid-hard and have almost identical properties. These woods can form the whole core (usually on lower price to mid price boards) or be used as the foundation for higher spec cores.
Beech, Maple & Ash
These stiffer, harder woods are more resistant to compression so are used in strategic areas where increased strength is required. Combining the harder woods with a mid-hard wood optimises performance and weight.
Abachi & Balsa
Very light, but with little in the way of strength, they are usually placed in low stress areas of the core as a means of saving weight.
Synthetic Materials
Used in strategic areas to dramatically reduce the core's weight without compromising performance.
90% of a honeycomb is air, so it combines great strength with light weight. Two types are in common use – Nomex, which is wood based and aluminium. Both offer similar weight and strength.
The Structural Layers
The structural layers give the flex and performance characteristics and often use a combination of materials to tweak the ride to the user's needs. Fibreglass is used on most boards, but exotic materials can be placed tactically to fine tune the ride.
Fibreglass Types...
Bi-Axial Glass
Two sets of fibreglass strands are woven together at 90° angles, giving a soft, yet smooth flex. Commonly used for boards that are intended to flex a lot, such as novice and jib boards.
Tri-Axial Glass
Three sets of fibres are woven together, two of which are typically woven at 45°, and are intersected at 90° by a third for a stiffer, more responsive flex. Works well for riders increasing in confidence and are demanding more performance from their board.
Quad-Axial Glass
Introduces a fourth set of fibres for even more response. Not so common these days, but can be found in super responsive, high-end freeride boards.
Carbon Fibre
Offers a stiffer flex than fibreglass, but is much lighter and more expensive. Often used in strips around the nose and tail to add 'pop' to a board's flex.
The Base
The material that is used for your board affects speed, how often you need to wax and how resistant it is to impact damage, among other things. There are a number of different types and grades of base, which vary according to price and performance.
Extruded Base
Melted PVC granules are pushed through a flat die to form a sheet – cheap to produce and found on many entry-level boards. Extruded bases are easy to repair and run well with little or no wax - although they're more prone to damage.
Sintered Base
Compressed and heated PVC is bonded together to form a porous block of material, which then has sheets shaved off it. Sintered bases are tougher, faster when waxed and they absorb wax well. They are more expensive and need more maintenance, however.
Base Grades
By using smaller granules of PVC during manufacture, a denser, harder end result can be achieved. A higher grade absorbs wax better and is less prone to impact damage. The higher the number, the tougher the base.
The shape, or geometry, has a major impact on the handling of a board.
Look at a snowboard from above and you'll see the edges form a curve, the radius of which is called the 'sidecut' - this is what makes your board turn. Board designers can combine various radii on a sidecut to achieve different turn characteristics.
Radial Sidecut
Formed by taking a section from the radius of a circle. The smaller the circle, the tighter the turn.
Progressive Radius Sidecut
Formed by merging various sections from a selection of circles and give a more controllable turn.
Multi Radius Sidecut
Formed by blending multiple areas of different sized circles. Allows the designer to build-in specific turn characteristics at different points through the turn. Mixing these characteristics allows for custom-tuned performance.
Taper, or Pin Tail
The nose of the board is wider than the tail for easy turn initiation and exit, increased stability and improved floatation in powder snow. Pure powder boards have the most taper whilst pure freestyle boards have none.
Board Characteristics
As you ride your snowboard it reacts to the forces exerted on it in the form of flex, which occurs in two main directions – longitudinal and torsional.
Longitudinal Flex
The flex along the length of the board. A soft to firm nose area will work well in powder conditions; less stiffness between the bindings will allow a greater 'feel' in a dead area of the board; while a stiffer tail will aid ollies and give power out turns.
Torsional Flex
Torsional flex describes the resistance that a board has to twisting. Torsionally soft boards will be best suited to beginner riders and jibbers, but may slip out during harder turns. While torsionally stiff boards will perform well for strong riders at the expense of forgiveness.
Camber is the curve that is built into most boards to give them life in hard snow conditions – lay them flat and you'll see it rises from the floor in the middle. Some companies are building negative camber into their boards now, which means that they perform fantastically in powder. Others are making boards with no camber at all for enhanced jib performance.
Effective Edge
The amount of the board's edge that is in contact with the snow. The longer the effective edge, the better the 'grip' provided. Jib boards tend to have a lot of effective edge, owing to their short noses and tails.
For more specific information relating to a board that you're considering, please check out the manufacturer's website, or talk to your local snowboard shop.
This guide is brought to you in association with SS20 and Whitelines.
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