Breaking Down A Snowboard: Explaining the Terms

If you checked out Snowboard Life’s Top Twenty-Five Snowboards of 2000/01, you noticed the differences in boards are the length, width, effective edge, and sidecut radius. To demystify these terms (or not) and help you to figure out which board is best for you, we asked five experts from five different snowboard companies to each break one term down to the basics—or as basic as they could get it. – J.H.

“Board length can mean several things: it could be the ‘material length,’ which represents the length of the base material and/or topsheet; it could be the ‘cord length’ measured from tip straight to tail without the curvature of the ‘kick.’ Or it could be the ‘actual board length’ which could mean just about anything. Any of these measurements will get in the ballpark, but the most important of them is the ‘effective edge’ or ‘contact’ length—the tip and tail of the board are just there to make sure the board stays on top of the snow. Without them, it would dive into the powder, or stab into the wall of the halfpipe or kicker, and resorts would have to use Zambonis instead of snowcats.”

Steven Cobb
Technical Engineer
Mervin MFG.

What Length Means To You
“Board length defines the size of the board and is measured from tip to tail, either in a direct line or, more correctly, along the running base. But there is more to this number. Many people feel comfortable with a certain size and uncomfortable with another. Let your feeling and experience guide you, but keep in mind that, on average, board sizes have been going up over the past few years. You’ll do fine with a board that’s two to three centimeters longer than the one you bought two seasons ago.”

Thomas Delago
Nitro Snowboards

Effective Edge
“Effective edge is the widest point on the board, including the sidecut. It is the difference between the blend radius the shape where the sidecut turns into the nose/tail shape and the contact length the part that is on the snow. If you have a greater difference between the effective edge and the contact length, it will make the board feel more forgiving; less difference and the board will feel edgy. Freeride boards, generally, have a bigger difference between the contact length and effective edge, giving a slower, smoother response. Freestyle boards have less of a difference, giving a quicker turn response and allowing the board to ‘stand up’ more, which helps with landing spins so you don’t keep spinning after you land.”

Tucker Fransen
Head of Product Development

Waist Width
“Waist width is the measurement of the width of the board at its narrowest point. It has a direct influence on several characteristics of a snowboard’s performance: edge-to-edge quickness—a narrower board will be faster edge-to-edge; floatation—a wider board will float better in powder; comfort—a wider board will better accommodate riders with big feet. For freeriding, a ‘wide board’ will generally be anywhere from 26.5 to 28 centimeters at the waist, a ‘medium board,’ 25 to 26.5 centimeters and a ‘narrow board,’ under 25 centimeters.”

John Moore
Director of Hardgoods Development
Sims Sports Inc.

Sidecut Radius
“Sidecut radius is the radius of the board between the two points of snow contact. If a board has a running length of 1000 millimeters and a sidecut depth of twenty millimeters than its radius would be 6,260 millimeters or 6.26 meters.

If a board has a bigger sidecut depth, it has a smaller radius. The radius along with longitudinal and torsional flex and waist width helps determine the radius of the turn on snow. The rule of thumb is that the smaller the radius, the tighter the turn the board makes, and the less stable the board will be at speed. If the radius is bigger, the larger the radius turn and the more stable the board at high speed.”

Scott Barbieri
Senior Design Engineer
Burton Snowboards

For even more breakdowns, check out Lexicon, the complete dictionary of snowboard teminology.