The effective edge of a snowboard can be a confusing topic – with some differing definitions out there.
Hopefully this post can clear up some of those definitions.
The confusion usually arises because of 2 different terms – effective edge and contact length (sometimes known as running length).
Some say that the effective edge is the same as the contact length and others (myself among them) consider these different measurements.
What would be great in an ideal world, is if all snowboard companies published both of these measurements. But in reality, most only publish one or the other. Anyway, here are my interpretations of effective edge and contact length.
What Does Effective Edge Mean?
O.k. so what does effective edge actually mean?
Well, according to this author’s understanding, it is essentially this:
- The length of the metal edge of the snowboard from the widest point on the nose to the widest point on the tail, that makes contact with the snow
So, basically the length of the edges of a snowboard that are in contact with the snow, when you are on an edge. Though, this can be affected by camber profile. However, the measurement for this doesn’t take this into account (as far as I know) - it's just widest point to widest point, along the edge.
So, this length can be affected by a couple of things, depending on the snowboard.
- It can be affected by the length of the nose and tail. i.e. a snowboard with a short nose and tail will have a longer effective edge to length ratio, compared with a board with a longer nose and/or tail
- The side-cut of the snowboard: A snowboard with a deeper side-cut will naturally have more effective edge than a snowboard with a shallow side-cut. A straighter line from one point to another is shorter than a more curved line. However, this only makes a very small difference, in comparison to the length of the nose and the tail
Whilst the camber profile can mean that the contact points (widest parts of tip and tail) aren’t in contact with the snow (even when on edge), this doesn’t affect how the effective edge measurement is taken, as far as I know.
What Does Contact Length Mean?
Contact length as opposed to effective edge means, as I understand it:
- The length of the snowboard in a straight line between the contact points when weighted
So, this is essentially the amount of the base of a snowboard that will be in contact with the snow, when the snowboard is weighted (i.e. with you standing on it). The contact points in this sense are the points towards the tip and tail that are touching the ground (or snow) when you are standing on it.
So, the contact length can be affected by the following:
- The camber profile: A board with rockered tip and/or tail will have a smaller contact length than a board that is camber to tip and tail.
- The amount of contact length relative to length is also influenced by the tip and tail length of the snowboard (as it is with Effective Edge). i.e. if the snowboard has a long nose beyond the contact points, then there will be a smaller contact length to overall length ratio (because the overall length will take the longer nose into account but the contact length won’t take that into its measurement).
Note: The effective edge will always be longer than the contact length (assuming you use these definitions).
Hopefully this is making sense so far. Let’s take a look at some examples to clarify.
Let’s take a couple of boards to use as examples. I will be using Burton boards as they are one of the only companies to publish both effective edge and contact length (aka running length).
Burton Flight Attendant vs Burton Custom
These are the following effective edge (EE) and running length (contact length - CL) specs for these two boards, both in the 156cm length:
FLIGHT ATTENDANT 156
EFFECTIVE EDGE (MM)
RUNNING LENGTH (MM)
LENGTH TO EE RATIO
LENGTH TO CL RATIO
EE to CL Ratio
At the same length (156cm) the Flight Attendant (FA) has a smaller effective edge, a smaller contact length and larger length-to-EE, length-to-CL and EE-to-CL ratios.
The reason for the shorter effective edge is that it has a long freeride nose (good to have for riding powder), whereas the Custom has a more blunted tip and tail.
The Contact length is also shorter on the FA, and this is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, that longer nose contributes to it – and secondly, the fact that the FAs nose is rockered means that the nose is raised off the ground at an earlier point than the Custom. The Custom on the other hand is cambered from contact point to contact point.
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 effective edge and contact length 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. But, all else being equal, where there is a higher EE-to-CL ratio the board will be a more forgiving ride and provide a slower, smoother response. A lower EE-to-CL ratio will provide a sharper, tighter, twitchier response.
- More effective edge means more stability, when on edge – all else being equal, of course
- In powder the overall length becomes important but it's the effective edge that has more say on packed snow - overall length also effects swing weight and less overall length is better for spins, tight control etc, but in terms of carving and stability at speed, the effective edge is a more important spec than overall length
- More contact-length means more stability when flat basing
- A board with more effective edge will feel longer than another board of the same overall length but that has a smaller effective edge. i.e if the Length-to-Effective edge ratio is smaller, then that board will feel longer to ride (all else being equal) than a board of the same length with a higher length-to-effective edge ratio
Another Example: Freethinker vs Instigator
Let’s take a couple of very different Burton boards and take a look at their Effective Edge to Contact Length Ratios:
This is looking at a board that is designed for beginners (the Instigator) and one that is a quite aggressive, freestyle oriented snowboard (the Freethinker, which I categorize as an aggressive all-mountain-freestyle snowboard).
EE to CL Ratio
The bigger difference between effective edge and contact length gives the Instigator a more forgiving feel as well as a longer, slower response. This, in conjunction with a soft flex and a friendly flat-top camber profile, make the Instigator a great beginner's snowboard.
The Freethinker on the other hand has a very small difference between the Effective Edge and the Contact Length, relatively – making this a less forgiving feel, with a sharper turn emphasis. This, in conjunction with a traditional camber profile and a stiffer flex, makes this board quite aggressive and certainly not beginner friendly.
Note: You’ll probably also notice that the Flight Attendant (certainly not a beginners board!) also has a relatively high EE-CL ratio. That’s because the FA is a freeride board – and for this type of board, it is usually desired to have a smoother, slower response for hitting big lines, rather than doing short, sharp turns. Other things about the Flight Attendant (like the flex and camber profile) make it more aggressive and less forgiving, and unsuitable as a beginner board.
Thanks for Reading
I hope this has given you some more information on what is a confusing topic, which is yet to have consensus on term definitions. It would be nice to get some consensus and even better if snowboard companies published both of these measurements, so that customers could make a more informed decision on their choice of snowboard.
I welcome anyone’s views on what their understanding of these terms is. Just leave a comment in the comments section below.