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.
Great descriptions. I’m collecting a few Mervin boards (one C3, a BTX and a C2X) and it’s been fascinating noting how some of the seemingly “shorter” boards like my Skate Banana 156W, has a considerably longer contact length than my 159W Antigravity for example. It’s easy to get distracted by the visual impression of a board vs the board’s specs. Cheers
Thank you very much for your answer and for being in touch with all the people here. I think I ll change 149 to 146. And definitely will step up to the next level being more confident. Also have a feeling that with 146 it’ll be easier for me to progress as you said. Have a good day!
Your very welcome Anastasiya. Hope you enjoy your new board and have an awesome season!
Hey there! Maybe you can help me with my frustration. I’m 169 tall and 59 kg weight.I used to always rent a board till I progressed and decided That i’m ready for my own.i remember feeling more comfortable with a bit shorter board but my goal was to get all mountain snowboard that I can also use sometime for freeridiing and some powder .So I bought Nitro Lectra 2017 with k2 bindings,I was thinking as a woman snowboard it will be lighter witch doesn’t seem so. I took 149 length as it’s reccomended by the model and my weight but now I’m worried bcz I see that running length is pretty big as it’s zero camber and I really like riding without giving to much power to my turns. Can this length affect my turns and carving And maybe it’s big for me considering the type of profile and my own length? I still have option to change it for shorter one or some other model as I’m not a complete beginner. Unfortunately I can’t test is now, so it will be too late to give it back .Thank you and sorry if there is too much info.
Thanks for your message.
I would say something around 148, 149 would be a good all-mountain board length for you, as an advanced rider. As an intermediate rider (as it sounds like you probably are? Or at least a high-end beginner), then taking off some length can definitely help – something in the 145 to 147 range might be more appropriate – and particularly so, if you think you might have a personal preference for shorter.
But I can see why you wanted to go longer, to get something that might last you into a more advanced phase. The problem with doing this is that it can slow down progression.
But I don’t think that something around 146 would necessarily be something you couldn’t keep at an advanced level either – it wouldn’t be that small, TBH, and if you do have a preference for shorter, it could even be a length that you stuck with as an advanced rider.
So, on balance, it might be that the 146 is a better option.
Note also, that I don’t test Nitro boards, so I can’t say anything about their boards in particular, in terms of weight etc.
I did some quick research on the Lectra and couldn’t find any running length stats for it – but it does have rocker tip and tail, so it’s not completely flat, by the looks of it – so it shouldn’t be too much in terms of running length to overall length.
Hope this helps
Hey Nate! Awesome post, it was super helpful! Too bad it seems like a lot of companies are only putting one measurement out (Rome is the only one I’ve found so far that has both) but this definitely helped explain another aspect of technical snowboard jargon I was confused about. Thanks!
Glad that it was able to at least somewhat clear up what is often a confusing term. Rome is one that shows both and Burton is another. Would be good to see more companies publish this information.
Here’s how I read it…
Effective Edge: The amount of edge that is in effect while a human is standing on and carving a snowboard (i.e. widest-point-to-widest-point). In other words, the length of edge gripping the snow while euro carving. Camber profile doesn’t matter.
Running Length: The length of base material that makes contact with the snow with a human standing on the board on a flat surface; length running/gliding across the snow.
What matters is the length in contact with the snow at any time. A board with 2000mm in contact is going to be more stable than one with 1500mm which will be more twitchy (all other things being equal).
A straight line measurement between the widest parts of the board, the nose and the tail, is meaningless if the profile of the board is different eg rocker or camber or if the edge has a wave incorporated into it – eg magna traction.
Comparisons must be with like for like to aid any kind of choice.
Board length, stiffness and weight recommendations are more helpful for choosing a board and being honest with yourself about what kind of riding you actually do will all help choosing the right board.
Yeah, confusing right!
Would be nice if every company used the same terms and the same meaning for each term.
Totally agree that flex, riding style, size (length and width), and also ability level are key for choosing the right board. Effective edge (assuming meaning contact with snow) is definitely important but if you get these other things right, the effective edge will take care of itself.
This is why I have all of my snowboard reviews and top 10s classified into styles.
Thanks for your input. Hopefully there will be a more universal measurement and terminology for this in the future.