Just what the effective edge of a snowboard is, is a bit of a confusing topic.
There are many terms used surrounding this and you may have heard terms like contact length and running length as well as effective edge.
Hopefully this post can clear up some of the confusion over what effective edge is and what it actually means for your snowboard choice.
What Are We Measuring
There are really 2 things that effective edge could mean. To some people the effective edge means the first thing and to others it’s the second thing.
- The amount of the edge that is in contact with the snow
- The length of the widest point to widest point of the snowboard
The contact length and running length also can mean both of these things, depending on who you talk to. But both measurements are very different.
So, Just What is the Effective Edge of a Snowboard
The answer to this question depends on who you listen to.
Traditionally there was only one measurement – from widest point on the tip to widest point on the tail – in a straight line. This is when all boards were full camber (traditional camber) and this was actually a reasonably accurate measurement to compare the “amount of edge that is in contact with the snow” between different boards.
So, the amount of edge in contact with the snow equalled widest point to widest point, essentially. So, it was simple.
But with all the different camber profiles out there now, this measurement is not so simple anymore. And terms have become confused. The amount-of-edge-in-contact-with-the-snow now rarely equals widest-point-to-widest-point.
With boards having rockered sections, the wide point to wide point measurement is no longer an accurate measurement of a board’s edge-that-is-in-contact-with-the-snow”.
Does Effective Edge Now Mean “amount of edge that is in contact with the snow”?
This is somewhat confusing. To me – and to a lot of other people the term effective edge suggests that it is in fact the “amount of edge that is in contact with the snow”.
But, in reality, it is a term that is often used to describe the measurement from contact point to contact point in a straight line (from widest point on tip to widest point on tail).
So really we now have 2 different terms.
- The Running Length (aka contact length); and
- The Effective Edge
What we can say for sure is that, the wide-point-to-wide-point measurement will always be longer than the amount-of-edge-in-contact with-the-snow measurement.
The terms used above are often confused and some brands, retailers etc have different ideas:
- Some think that the contact length/running length is equal to effective edge – i.e. they’re all the same
- Some think that the effective edge is wide point to wide point and running length/contact length is the edge that is in contact with the snow
- Some think that contact length/running length is wide point to wide point and effective edge is what is in contact with the snow
So, you can see how it gets confusing!
Making Some Assumptions, What Does this Measurement Mean?
Let’s assume for a moment that effective edge means the amount of edge that is in contact with the snow and that contact length means wide point to wide point. Just so that we have something to work with.
Rocker versus Camber Effective Edge
Now, the effective edge measurement on a board that has a rockered tip and tail will be shorter than the same length board with all camber in the profile – or at least with cambered tip and tail – all else being equal (i.e. overall length, nose length, waist width, width of the widest points etc).
If we took two boards with the same length and the same camber profile and all else being equal, except that the first board had a shorter nose and tail – then the board with the shorter nose and tail would have a longer wide point to wide point (in this definition the contact length measurement). If this was on a traditional camber snowboard – this would mean that the effective edge would also be longer.
However, on a board with rockered tip and tail, this would not affect the effective edge measurement (assuming an identical camber profile) but it would change the “contact length” measurement.
Still with me?!
How this Affects the Turning of the Snowboard
You’re probably asking yourself – this is all very well but how does that actually effect the performance of the snowboard?
And that would be a very good question to ask.
It affects it in a number of ways.
- Where the difference between contact length and effective edge is greater, the board will feel more forgiving and where it is less the board will feel more edgy. This is also affected by side-cut, the camber profile and the shape of the snowboard – so this difference will be relative to the other specs of the snowboard
- Where there is more effective edge, there is, typically better edge hold. It makes sense that when there is more edge in contact with the snow, you are going to get a better grip – relative to the length of the board
- More effective edge means more stability – all else being equal, of course
- More effective edge, relative to contact length, typically means harder to ride for beginners (less forgiving and more catchy). Though this is only to an extent. Too little effective edge and the board gets too loose and then it’s not so easy to ride.
- A board with more effective edge will feel longer than another board of the same overall length but that has less effective edge
This might be confusing if you use the term “effective edge” to mean contact point to contact point and the term contact length to mean amount-of-edge-in-contact-with-the-snow – said another way:
- Where the difference between wide-point-to-wide-point and edge-that’s-in-contact-with-the-snow is greater, the board will feel more forgiving and where it is less the board will feel more edgy. This is also affected by side-cut, the camber profile and the shape of the snowboard – so this difference will be relative to the other specs of the snowboard
- Where there is more edge-that’s-in-contact-with-the-snow, there is, typically better edge hold. It makes sense that when there is more edge in contact with the snow, you are going to get a better grip – relative to the length of the board
- More edge-that’s-in-contact-with-the-snow means more stability – all else being equal, of course
- The more edge-that’s-in-contact-with-the-snow, relative to the length of wide-point-to-wide-point measurement, typically means harder to ride for beginners (less forgiving and more catchy). Though this is only to an extent. Too little edge-that’s-in-contact-with-the-snow and the board gets too loose and then it’s not so easy to ride.
- A board with more edge-that’s-in-contact-with-the-snow will feel longer than another board of the same overall length but that has less edge-that’s-in-contact-with-the-snow
Don’t know if that is easier or more difficult to read or not but it’s another way to put it.
What Different Brands and Different Retailers Think?
I am currently researching what different brands and retailers think about these terms – and this subject in general – and I will add a table in here that shows what term which brands and retailers use to describe “amount-of-edge-in-contact-with-the-snow” and what they use, if anything, to describe the “wide-point-to-wide-point” measurement.
Thanks for Reading
I hope this has given you some more information on what is a confusing topic that is yet to have consensus on term definitions.
I welcome anyone’s views on what they think these things mean. Just leave a comment in the comments section below.