The answer to the extruded vs sintered base question is, as always, depends.
The best snowboard base for you will depend on a few factors including budget, ability level and riding style.
Below I will outline the differences between the two different bases and which is better suited to which rider.
The Manufacturing Process
Extruded bases are created by super-heating and melting polyethylene pellets. The result is a base that is essentially one piece and is not very porous (not as may tiny holes as sintered bases).
Sintered bases are also created using the polyethylene pellets. However, instead of being melted they are forced together under super-high pressure. Don’t ask me the technical details as to why this occurs but this results in a porous base (one with lots of microscopic holes in it).
Extruded Bases Pros, Cons & Best Uses
Despite the often held assumption that sintered bases are better there are some pros to having an extruded base – there are also downsides.
Pro #1: Extruded snowboard bases are cheaper to manufacture than their extruded counterparts. This means that the overall cost of the board for the consumer is also typically less expensive.
Pro #2: They are cheaper to repair. If your extruded base gets damaged it will be less costly to get fixed and easy to fix if you are fixing it yourself.
Pro #3: Easier to maintain. Although they don’t hold wax as well as sintered bases they require less waxing. Huh!?
Waxing an extruded base won’t make as much difference as waxing a sintered base will. Therefore it is not necessary to wax as often. For example an un-waxed extruded base (EB) will actually be faster than a an un-waxed sintered base (SB). A waxed SB on the other hand will be faster than a waxed EB.
So if you want to wax less often and still maintain a reasonable speed of base then extruded is the way to go.
Con #1: EBs won’t hold wax as well. They aren’t completely non-porous (that’s the technical term – well that’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it!) but aren’t as porous as their sintered cousins so won’t hold as much.
Con #2: Because of con #1 they aren’t as fast as a waxed SB – so if you are willing to keep your SB well waxed and want better speed out of your base then go for SB over EB.
Con #3: Less durable. Though there is some debate as to which is more and less durable. Even so, as per pro#1, if you do damage your EB it is easier/cheaper to repair.
EBs are best suited to:
Freestylers: Freestylers aren’t typically too worried about hyper-speed so that’s not really a downside. Also if you are riding a lot of rails and other obstacles there is a higher chance of damage – the EB is cheaper and easier to repair so a better option.
All-Mountain Riders: Less aggressive and more budget conscious riders will be fine with an EB and maybe won’t notice enough benefit of going for the SB if they are looking to save cash and don’t ride that aggressively.
Beginner: Beginners are probably more likely to cause damage, are less likely to be skilled in the art of waxing and less willing to pay the extra cost of a sintered base (and the extra maintenance costs). Also, quick acceleration is not necessarily a desirable feature for a beginner!
Lazy or more casual riders: Less maintenance is great for those who can’t be bothered waxing and those who only ride a couple of times per year and don’t want to invest in waxing gear (especaically if they are only going to wax once a year or every other year) or pay someone to wax for them.
Sintered Bases Pros, Cons & Best Uses
Most of the pros and cons are the opposite for SBs.
Pro #1: Holds Wax well. Yes you have to wax it but the SB will hold that wax well which means you should get a fair bit out of your waxing – and this should also help with prolonging the life of the base. Plus and you will get the benefits of Pro #2 below
Pro #2: Speed. A well waxed SB will accelerate quicker and glide much more easily on those slight up-hills and flat sections. They are also faster through powder.
My current snowboard has an EB and having to skate or take the boards off and walk on some of those little uphill/flat parts is a bit of a pain (but I do like the low maintenance!).
Pro #2: More durable. This is somewhat debated but the balance of evidence seems to be in favour of the SB being more durable.
Con #1: Maintenance. In order to maintain its speed advantage over an EB the SB needs to be regularly waxed. If you are riding a lot this should be a regular task anyway regardless of EB & SB but if you neglect it with SBs then you will notice a greater difference.
Con #2: Price. The process of “sintering” the base is more expensive for manufacturers and that is reflected in the price of the snowboard that has a SB.
Con #3: Cost of repair. SBs are more costly and more difficult to repair if damage does occur.
SBs are best suited to:
Free-riders: Those who enjoy and search out speed, the backcountry, powder etc will definitely want a sintered base. This is a major part of the reason why free-ride boards are more expensive on average than freestyle and beginner boards.
All Mountain Riders: Those all mountain riders that are willing to spend a little extra on a SB. An SB isn’t really a must for an all-mountain rider but it’s a nice-to-have and if you can afford it why not. It’s more appealing for the more aggressive style all-mountain rider and worth the extra cost if you like to ride more aggressively.
Advanced Riders: If you are a more advanced rider (except perhaps if you only ride in the park) then it’s probably worth the extra cost to go with sintered.
Racers/Boardercross riders: Anyone racing wants to be fast of course!
Which Do You Ride and Which Do you think is Best?
There’s often a lot of debate over which base is better. I think it depends on your purposes, as illustrated above, and that there are situations where one is better than the other. What do you think? What do you currently ride? Leave a comment below.