Snowboarding Origins and Early Development

Snowboarding first emerged as a sport in the 1960s and 70s when surfers in the United States started experimenting with tying ropes and waterskis to wooden boards to replicate the feeling of surfing on snow. The first commercial snowboards were produced by enthusiast Jake Burton Carpenter in Vermont, who established the Burton Snowboards company in 1977. The sport rapidly gained popularity through the 1980s and 1990s, aided by improvements in snowboard technology and the inclusion of snowboarding events in the Winter Olympics from 1998 onwards. Some key developments that improved snowboards over time include the invention of the high-back binding in 1986, providing more responsive edge control, and new shaping technologies in the 1990s that enabled snowboard designs to become specialised for freestyle tricks, racing, powder float and all-mountain capability. Nowadays, most snowboards feature laminated wooden cores sandwiched by fibreglass layers above and below for strength, covered with thermoplastic top sheets for graphics and polyethene bases that are waxed to glide across the snow. Steel edges run the length of the snowboard to grip the surface whilst turning.


Snowboard Types


Freestyle Snowboards

Freestyle snowboards are optimised for tricks, spins, jumps, jibs, rails, halfpipes and all types of technical riding. They feature a twin symmetrical shape, meaning an identical shape at both the nose and tail to facilitate riding a fakie or switch. This allows freestyle riders to take off and land backwards during spins and still control the landing. Freestyle boards have a relatively soft flex rating in the range of 1-5, which makes pressing and tweaking spins easier whilst still providing pop and ollie power for launching off kickers. The dominant camber profile is hybrid rocker-camber or hybrid camber-rocker forms, which incorporate rockered contact points elevated off the middle section. This profile essentially creates a suspended platform underfoot for stable landings, whilst the lifted nose/tail contacts facilitate buttery presses and effortless rotation initiation into spins. True twin models offer a centred stance whilst twin directionals allow setback options for float-in powder takeoffs. Construction emphasises pop and torsional give for tweaked grabs. 


All-Mountain Snowboards

As the name suggests, all-mountain snowboards are designed to perform well across various terrain and conditions - including groomed runs, powder slopes, tracked-out off-piste terrain and backcountry. This versatility is achieved through a directional twin shape providing the stability necessary for high speeds, yet has enough tail to handle float and steering in powder. The medium to stiff flex rating of around 5-8 suits aggressive riders who charge down entire mountains without compromise. Trad camber profiles generate explosive pop and dynamic edge grip on hardpack, though many all-mountain boards now use hybrid cam-rock shapes combining the best elements of both camber and rocker configurations for amplified performance. These hybrids ride like traditional camber boards on firm snow but initiate turns with less effort and deliver effortless float through powder. With balanced directional twin dimensions and the stability not to wash out at speed, all-mountain decks represent the most versatile type to confidently ride whole resorts in variable conditions whilst still offering playfulness to explore side hits.


Freeride Snowboards

Freeride snowboards are specialised tools for charging aggressively down the fall line, slicing steep chutes and stomping huge features in challenging backcountry environments. The directional shape features an elongated nose for tremendous float lifting tips skyward to blast through bottomless powder fields, combined with a tapered narrower tail to maintain a hold on edge and prevent washout when arcing high-speed turns. Bombproof construction sees reinforced laminates and ultra-rigid spines eliminating torsional give, built to withstand repeated heavy impacts from large drops without batting an eye. Freeride boards feature very stiff flex ratings around 8-10 for unrelenting stability when bracing against ultra-steep inclines at speed. Programmed camber zones target precision with deadly edge grip - Magne traction serrations on the steel edges claw tenaciously into firm surfaces. Custom setback options fine-tune deep powder competency by shifting more surface area forward of inserts to plough through pillow lines and maintain front foot steering authority sinking tails. 


Powder Snowboards

Powder snowboards are purpose-built for one reason alone - to effortlessly surf, slash and float through endless bottomless turns down deep snow fields. Oversize directional dimensions incorporate a massively tapered widened shovel nose providing tremendous surface area to keep tips riding high above snow so boards don't dive or sink. This front-loaded surface area combats subsidence combined with rockered or early-rise nose contacts lifted clear off the snow until needed for manoeuvring. The powder board's narrow pintail-style tail still retains effective edge control on steep slopes without requiring longer running lengths prone to shuttering chattery rides. Moderate to soft flex ratings in the 4-6 range allow the profiles to contour uneven terrain and rapidly snap turns on a dime with zero effort. Powder-specific boards utilise hybrid fusion cam-rock cambers blending rockered noses for an effortless float with dominant traditional camber bands underfoot for energetic pop driving explosive snap turns. Brands like Burton, Jones, Lib Tech, Ride, Yes, Niche and Capita offer coveted powder boards beloved for their deep snow specialisation.



Splitboards offer backcountry enthusiasts the ultimate powder riding experience. They allow riders to efficiently ‘skin’ uphill with free-heel skis, and then once at the summit, the split board folds apart into two separate halves. The splitboard halves then clip back together to form a solid board for descending pristine slopes. This enables accessing remote terrain inbounds and out-of-bounds otherwise unreachable except by helicopter. Splits feature directional powder shapes to surf deep snow, and moderate midrange flexes around 5 for all-round versatility skinning up yet stable and dynamic enough for charging lines on the way down. Custom stance widths and angles dial in ergonomics for skinning comfort whilst bilateral bindings avoid leg interference striding upwards. Robust construction withstands rugged use with downhill integrity when reassembled, as any solid freeride board. Traction skins glue to bases for grip ascending, then peel off to ride. 


Alpine/Race Snowboards

Alpine snowboards are highly specialised competition weapons designed for straight-line speed. Constructed for racing discipline events like giant slalom and boardercross courses, alpine boards feature race-based materials saturated with ultra-high graphite content for lightning-fast glide. P Tex racing edges with hand-tuned 90-degree side bevels grip mercilessly. The torsionally rigid spine eliminates wasted energy from flex and channels every ounce of power directly into driving through high-angled trenches. Minimised sidecut radii below 7m carve relentlessly smooth arcs perfect for weaving through GS gate sets. Rigid carbon stringers and customised laminate stiffness maximise high-speed stability and edge grip without flutter or washout. Custom stance geometry sees bindings mounted steeply angled pushing forward weighted stances for greater steering leverage powering high edge angles. FIS legal race boards must exceed minimum widths.


Snowboard Technical Details


Board Directional Shape and Symmetry 

A snowboard’s directional shape and symmetry refer to the profile differences from nose to tail which fundamentally affects the intended riding style and terrain suitability. Directional boards feature a longer nose with a tapered narrower tail, optimised for charging steep lines with ample float kept on edge carving downhill. The elongated front section ploughs through powder whilst the shortened tail still provides edge grip on firm surfaces when arcing turns. In contrast, true twin decks exhibit identical dimensions on both ends creating symmetry suited for park tricks, riding a fakie and hitting features switch. Meanwhile, twin directionals fuse properties of both templates - symmetrical shape but slightly setback stances for marginally more nose length benefiting float. Understanding these basic shapes and symmetry attributes makes selecting appropriate boards for specific riding intentions easier.


Widths and Rocker Considerations

Getting suitable snowboard width right relative to boot size is an important factor - too narrow risks toe/heel drag and catches, whilst too wide creates instability. Generally, the correct width allows toes/heels to extend evenly to the edges without overhang when angles are flat based on stance angles. Widths interact with rocker profiles so sufficient overhang enables angling boards during carves without catching edges, whilst rockered contacts lifted off the snow eliminate drags. Wider boards offer better float in powder conditions but reduced leverage and slow edge transitions. Narrower widths provide responsiveness yet compromise stability. Optimising width depends on rocker elements like early rise nose/tail lifts, or dominant camber sections, combined with riding preferences balancing control, agility and float.


Camber vs Rocker Profiles 

The profile shape engineered into a snowboard’s base from tip to tail has fundamental effects on performance. Traditional camber sees the middle of the base arc slightly upwards which effectively stores and releases energy providing dynamic pop and rebound when loading weight into turns. The arched profile also benefits edge power and grip. In contrast, rockered profiles invert this shape into a downward arc lifting contact points clear of the snow. Rockers initiate turns easier with less catch but at the expense of pop and stability. Hybrid cam-rock fuses aspects of both camber and rockers to achieve combined benefits - using rockers only at the tips alleviating catches, whilst retaining camber sections underfoot for power. Custom profiling creates a unique personality and feel.


Flex Ratings and Core Construction 

A snowboard’s flex rating indicates the relative stiffness using a 1-10 scale. Softer flexes around 3 facilitate buttery presses and tweaked grabs ideal for jibbing rails or creative freestyle, whilst stiffer 8-10 ratings provide maximum response and edge grip necessary for aggressive hard charging speed runs. Flex is engineered into boards through tailoring laminate stiffnesses, fibreglass orientations and stiffness of the internal wood core material. Popular modern core types include poplar, beech and paulownia woods, or even bamboo cores in eco-boards. Mixed cores with multiple wood types in differing zones fine-tune performance nuances. Tri and quadraxial fibreglass weaves with fibres realigned for precision stiffness targets dial in characteristic flex patterns.


Bases and Steel Edges

Base material quality hugely influences glide speed and wax absorption essential for maximising performance. Traditional sintered bases made using ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene compounds absorb and retain wax providing the fastest glide speed. The molecular structure aligns under hot iron heat during waxing to optimise the structure. Cheaper extruded bases don’t absorb wax well and ride slower. Quality steel edges with full wraps are essential for gripping firm surfaces and ice. Bevelled edges specifically tune contact points and grip on speciality boards like aggressive pipe/race designs. Base edge tuning with precise angling stone grinds optimises this critical connecting interface dynamically engaging terrain.


Leading Snowboard Brands


Most Popular Snowboard Brands

When it comes to high-quality equipment from reputable snowboard brands, numerous key players are leading the way in pushing designs forward each year alongside the longer-running staples. Burton is undoubtedly the most well-known name having pioneered the sport and used continuous innovation with new technologies over the years, such as its exceptional Channel mounting disc system for bindings. Other heritage brands instrumental in progressing snowboard design and manufacturing include Santa Cruz, Barfoot, Sims and Winterstick in the 1980s. Nowadays the snowboard industry sees various major competing brands pushing technology and designs forward each year. Flagship brands include traditional category leaders like Burton, Salomon, Ride, Nitro, Rome, Arbor and GNU (Mervin), alongside relative newcomers like Capita, Jones, Yes, Niche and DC rapidly gaining loyal followings and moving the sport onwards. This diversity of brands provides wide-ranging options and price points for every type of snowboarding discipline.


Burton's Continuous Innovation Leadership

The Burton Snowboard company towers over the scene as the inventor of the very first commercial snowboard in 1977 when Jake Burton Carpenter saw potential in what was then just a grassroots hobbyist activity. Burton’s relentless innovation pursuing performance and pushing boundaries revolutionised equipment. Key innovations include highbacks allowing greater edge control and leverage in 1986, perfecting p-tex base extrusion manufacturing reliability in 1990, introducing the channel mounting system in 2003 for adjustable stance settings, developing nested fibreglass and carbon layering construction in 2007, and designing the pure pop camber profile in 2008 amping ollie pop distinct from rockered dominant trends. Burton fundamentally merged ski and skate influences that defined modern snowboard form factors. Alongside hardware advances, founder Jake Burton championed competition scene development and international organising bodies lending credibility to snowboarding as a legitimate sport. Recent technologies include breakthrough Step-In binding systems improving entry convenience without compromising board connection and feel. Through both product and sports advances, Burton engineered itself as the indisputable market leader based on continuous innovation.


Maintaining Snowboards and Equipment

  • Frequent waxing helps boards glide faster → Once the perfect board is selected, maintaining equipment well optimises longevity and performance. Waxing frequently helps boards glide faster by reducing base friction across the snow surface. Without wax, unprotected bases oxidise and absorb dirt leading to sluggish glide.
  • Stripping and properly rewaxing bases → Before initial use, factory machine wax should be stripped and rewaxed properly with temperature-specific formulations - in warm conditions use softer wax than colder snow. Quick field waxes mid-session refresh speed but boards should undergo full hot waxes every few days riding to maximise glide performance.
  • Field waxes refresh speed mid-session → Proper waxing requires fully cleaning the base first, applying melted wax evenly across the base, ironing thoroughly to penetrate wax into the pores, and then scraping off excess wax cleanly. Finish by buffing with a nylon brush to polish the base and align the wax structure optimally.
  • Checking for damage and prompt repairs → Inspect boards regularly for damage which can expand over time if neglected. Look for delaminating edges indicating core impact damage and epoxy promptly before it worsens. Deep base gouges or scratches require P-Tex candle drip fills which then file back flush once set before rewaxing.
  • Maintaining bindings in good repair → Maintain bindings periodically by checking mounting disc screws are tight and replace frayed straps when overly stretched.
  • Drying equipment prevents moisture damage →  Routinely drying equipment after riding preserves snowboards best against moisture damage over years of hard use. With attentive care taking reasonable precautions, each treasured board should serve reliably for many seasons before considering replacement.

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