Glossary of SNowboard TErms
Snowboarding is a fantastic hobby but if you are just starting out, it may seem like people are speaking a different language when talking about their favorite sport. This glossary should help you learn the lingo so you’ll be in the know when a seasoned snowboarder starts talking to you on your next lift ride.
Types of Snowboarding
There are several different sub-disciplines within snowboarding that allow for diverse experiences and specialties. The following section will talk about some of the popular styles of riding you can do.
All-Mountain Snowboarding: If you just want to ride the mountain, make turns and explore, all-mountain riding is for you. An all-mountain rider generally looks for a versatile board that will work in a variety of conditions and terrain so they can tackle any challenge the mountain presents.
Free Style Snowboarding: Some snowboarders choose to specialize in doing tricks on jumps, rails, and natural features. If getting big air pulling stylish stunts sounds like your type of snowboarding, you may want to look into "park" style equipment to help you on your way to X-Games glory.
Backcountry Snowboarding: For some, the resorts just don't offer sufficient adventure and chairlifts make things too easy. For those people, backcountry snowboarding offers a myriad of terrain outside the resort boundaries to explore. Whether you opt for a splitboard or snowshoes for the accent, you will need specialized backcountry gear to access the world of out-of-bounds terrain and stay safe beyond the purview of ski patrol and avalanche control.
The basic equipment you will need to go snowboarding includes a snowboard, bindings and boots.
Snowboards: A snowboard is generally made with a wood, dense foam, or composite core, a plastic topsheet layer, steel edges, and a low friction plastic base material called p-tex. Some snowboards will also include reinforcing layers of metal, fiberglass, or carbon fiber around the core to change the performance and behavior of the board.
Snowboard Sidecut and Snowboard Width: A typical snowboard will be wider at the tip and tail and narrower in the middle of the board (called the waist). The sidecut of s snowboard is defined by three numbers indicating the dimensions of the board at the tip, waist and tail. Some boards will only include the waist dimension as it is generally the most important. Some boards will come in regular and wide variants to accommodate riders with big feet. Additionally, boards designed for powder riding tend to be wider to help increase flotation.
Snowboard Stiffness or Snowboard Flex: The stiffness of a snowboard is usually referred to as its flex. A snowboarder may choose a soft or stiff snowboard for a variety of reasons including ease of turning, performance in different snow types, stability at high speeds and terrain park performance. In general, beginner snowboarders will use a softer flexing board because they are easier to control and more advanced snowboarders will use a stiffer board because they are more stable at high speeds and in variable snow. Many times, a snowboarder who specializes in terrain park riding will use a soft board to help with certain tricks and increase agility. Conversely, some terrain park snowboarders prefer a stiff board for stability when landing big jumps. It really comes down to personal preference.
Snowboard Camber and Rocker Profile: Snowboard camber refers to the springiness of the snowboard. When laid flat on the ground, most snowboard will rise in the middle and only contact on the tip and tail. This helps keep the maximum contact area on the snow at all times to increase control and stability. Many snowboards will also feature early rise in the tip and tail referred to as rocker. A rockered snowboard will be less likely to catch its edges while turning or performing tricks and will float better and be easier to control in powder snow. Some snowboard designed to be used pretty much exclusively in powder will take the rocker concept to the extreme and feature reverse camber where the center of the board contacts the snow and the tips and tails do not when it is laid flat on the ground. This type of board is not generally going to perform very well on hard snow and would not be recommended for beginners.
Twin Tip versus Directional Snowboards: Some snowboards are designed with a defined front and rear whereas some other snowboards are symmetrical "twin tips". A directional snowboard will be easier to control with one foot forward rather than the other and can improve the performance of the board when snowboarding in that orientation. The downside to a directional board is reduced performance when snowboarding with the other foot forward ("riding switch"). A twin tip board is usually preferred by snowboarders who spend a lot of time riding both ways like terrain park riders or those who just like the versatility it adds.
Snowboard Construction: There is some variance in the construction methods used for snowboards. This section will guide you through the pros and cons of each one.
Cap Construction: Cap construction is a method in which the topsheet of the snowboard is a single piece and wraps all the way down to meet the steel edge of the board. This method costs less in general so it is common on most entry level boards. It also tends to weigh less so when weight is a major priority like with some terrain park boards, you will also see cap construction being used.
Sandwich/Sidewall: Sandwich construction of a snowboard means the top layer of the board and the sides of the board are not one continuous piece of plastic. Instead the sidewalls are made of a separate, thicker piece of plastic. This method tends to make for a stiffer board with less torsional flex. The added stiffness rigidity comes at the cost of weight and expense.
Hybrid: If a snowboard has elements of both cap and sidewall construction, it is referred to a hybrid construction. These boards can enjoy the weight benefits of a cap board with the torsional stiffness benefit of a stiffer board.
Snowboard Bindings: Snowboard bindings attach the board to the rider's feet. They come in a couple varieties: strap-in and step-in (step-in bindings are quite rare as they tend to lack proper ankle support require specialized boots.) Snowboard bindings are generally composed of a baseplate which can be adjusted to change the angle of the foot in relation to the board, a highback which rises up behind the rider's ankle to offer support and board control, and a ratcheting strap system to securely hold the rider's foot in the binding. Some bindings feature highbacks that pivot out of the way so the snowboarder can slip his foot in and snap the highback into place rather than having to adjust the straps every time.
Base Plate: The base of a snowboard binding is the part that attaches directly to the board and can be adjusted to vary the angle of the rider's foot in relation to the board. Snowboarding stance setting is entirely up to the preferences of the rider but a fairly typical stance for a beginner would be 15 degrees from perpendicular for the front foot and exactly perpendicular for the rear foot. Some bindings will also have a toe ramp adjustment in the base. This will allow the snowboarder to customize the length of the binding to increase comfort and control.
High Back: The high back of a snowboard binding is the part behind the rider's foot and ankle. The purpose of the high back is to support the snowboarder's foot and leg and offer control over the snowboard. Some high backs can be adjusted to increase or decrease the angle to fit the preferences of the rider. Certain snowboard bindings feature reclining high backs which allow the snowboarder to step into the binding and snap the high back into place removing the need to adjust the straps every time.
Straps: The ratcheting straps of a snowboard binding tighten over the snowboard boot to securely fasten the rider's foot in place. Typically, snowboard bindings will have two straps: one on the ankle and another for the toe. Some designs will merge these two straps into one wider strap with two ratchets to increase comfort. Other snowboard bindings will feature a toe cap style strap in the front which better retains the foot in the biding by providing pressure back towards the heel as well as down toward the board.
Snowboard Bindings Stiffness: The main factor that affects the performance of a snowboard binding apart from a proper fit is the stiffness. A stiffer binding will allow for more precise control over the board and better stability for more advanced riders. Softer bindings tend to be more comfortable and increase agility for less experienced riders or those who just like a looser feel.
Snowboard Boots: Snowboard boots are more than just a bulky pair of snow boots. They need to fit well in order to afford a snowboarder control over the snowboard. In addition, they need to be warm, dry and comfortable to keep sore or cold feet from keeping you off the mountain.
Liner: Some snowboard boots come with a removable liner inside a waterproof outer boot. The benefit of a removable liner is faster drying when you plan to snowboard multiple days in a row. They tend to be bulkier and heavier than single piece boots so some snowboarders choose forego the liner to save weight.
Snowboard Boot Stiffness: The stiffness of a snowboard boot will determine how the boot performs on the mountain. Stiffer boots tend to offer more precise control and are preferred by many aggressive snowboarders. Softer flexing boots tend to be more comfortable and offer added agility so they are usually chosen by newer riders or sometimes by terrain park riders who value the agility over precision control.
Fastening Systems: Some snowboards use normal shoe laces while others use some sort of quick-lace system. Various quick lace systems exist but in general, they are all made to make it easier to get your boots nice and tight.
Miscellaneous Snowboard Equipment: Apart from the main three components, there are various smaller accessories and pieces that you may need.
Leash: Many resorts require you to use a leash to prevent your snowboard getting away from you and careening down the mountain. This is usually a springy coil that clips to your boot and your binding.
Stomp Pad: A stomp pad is a grippy pad attached between the bindings on a snowboard that helps a snowboarder balance on the board when one foot is unstrapped (waiting in the lift line, traversing across a flat, etc.) It is not required equipment but can make life easier, especially for inexperienced snowboarders.
Basic Snowboarding Techniques:
There is some specific terminology associated with snowboarding techniques that may not be familiar to a new snowboarder right off the bat.
Side Slipping: Sliding with your board sideways across the mountain and an edge (most often your heel edge) diggin in to slow you down is called side slipping. For beginning snowboarders, this is a key skill to learn early as it is the only real effective way to control your speed.
Leafing: "Leafing" is a method for getting down the mountain without picking up much speed that involves sliding back and forth with your board perpendicular to the mountain. The name comes from the resemblance to a falling leaf when you employ this method.
Toe Side Turn: As the name suggests, a toe side turn is a turn made on the toe side edge of the snowboard. This is typically more challenging for beginners than a heel side turn.
Heel Side Turn: The opposite of a toe side turn, a heel side turn is made on the heel side edge of the snowboard. his tends to feel more natural for beginners and is therefore easier to pick p.
Carving: A carving turn is made by leaning into a turn and cutting a smooth arc without sliding the board. This technique is the best way to maintain speed through a turn.
Regular Vs. Goofy Foot: Regular and goofy refer to the foot you prefer to put forward when standing on a snowboard. If you prefer your left foot forward, that is considered regular and if you prefer your right foot forward, that is considered goofy.
Snowboarding Switch: Snowboarding Switch is when you ride with your opposite foot forward so if you typically ride regular but are snowboarding with your right foot forward, that is considered switch. It is a good idea to practice riding both ways so you can comfortably ride with either foot forward.
Strapping In/ Strapping Out: Getting in or out of your bindings is called strapping in/out. Yo will need to strap out with one foot at the bottom of every run in order get on the chairlift. At the top you will need to strap back in. Look for a bench at the top of the lift if you are having trouble strapping in.