Guest Post by Matthew Sklar from evo.com |
When was the last time you got off the chairlift, strapped in above the blank slate that is a fresh powder run, and said to yourself “I’m gonna ride this switch”?
If your answer is “never” you’re not alone. Most snowboarders just aren’t riding backwards that much, and they’re definitely not wasting precious powder turns to dial in their switch carves.
Nope, for the vast majority of snowboarders, switch riding and fakie landings are solely the domain of park riding.
So why are most of us on symmetrical, twin-tip powder boards?
Maybe it’s because most beginner snowboards are symmetrical, they’re set up to be ridden forward or switch equally easily, and so we’re programmed from our first day on the slopes to ride bi-directional boards.
Maybe it’s because many folks harbor some delusions about needing to be able to carve into pillows switch. Regardless of the reasoning that’s kept us on symmetrical boards, every snowboarder should at least try a directional powder board. Switching to a directional powder board allows you to have more fun in deep snow, ride more seamlessly, and experience the mountain in a whole new way.
The logic is simple: if you’re almost exclusively riding your snowboard in one direction, why not optimize it for that? That gives snowboard shapers and designers the leeway to experiment with shapes, sidecuts, and setbacks to create a combination that will elevate anyone’s powder experience.
For example, a traditional symmetrical sidecut that’s the same shape at the tip and tail of the board isn’t as easy to break loose and slash in pow. But a directional board can have a mixed sidecut that’s narrower at the tip and wider at the tail to create a more surfy ride. Or it can even have a mixed sidecut with different radius toe and heel side edges to help you initiate turns more easily.
Camber Profile Considerations
Moving to a directional design also allows you to settle on a better powder-specific rocker profile.
Most snowboards have symmetrical rocker or camber profiles, but we don’t weight both feet equally when we ride, so why should they have the same amount of rocker underneath them. When you move to a directional powder board, you can factor in more tip rocker to help you plane, float, and slash in pow, but you don’t have to use the same amount of rocker and rise in the tail, so you can create a board that pivots easily, floats really well in deep snow, but isn’t squirrely or unstable on hardpack.
And the benefits that come from a directional board really shine when you factor in setback. Directional powder boards generally have the bindings set back toward the tail, instead of being centered on the board. This gives you a stubbier tail, and more tip out front, which means you can ignore traditional snowboard sizing and get a shorter board that still floats really well in powder.
Those changes mean that directional boards are often much more maneuverable in tight spaces, without sacrificing stability. You can make slashes and pivot in pockets of deep snow in tight spaces that you just couldn’t get to comfortably on a standard board.
In fact, some brands, like Arbor Snowboards, have capitalized on this to create directional big mountain boards that hold up in firm snow at high speeds, but are also a blast in tight trees and deep snow.
Can I Still Ride Switch?
And going to a directional board doesn’t mean that you’re completely sacrificing switch riding and fakie landings. Most directional boards still have plenty of tail splay, so you’re fine carving a few turns switch, or throwing a 180. In fact, brands like Salomon Snowboards are designing boards that are subtly directional, but are still designed to ride switch well.
For primarily inbounds snowboarders, it’s a no-brainer to at least try a directional powder board, they offer a completely unique experience in deep snow that’s hard to replicate. But for splitboarders, it’s an even easier call.
Most people who are earning their turns on a snowboard are doing it in an effort to ride more powder, not less. And for primarily backcountry riders, a directional splitboard is an awesome weapon.
All of the benefits of having a shorter board that floats really well are doubled in the backcountry. It’s lighter, easier to skin with, and more maneuverable in the tight trees and bushes that line many backcountry runs. And even fewer people are riding switch in the backcountry than inbounds, so you’re giving up even less versatility by switching to a directional board.
So get out there and give a directional powder board a shot. Sure, they’re not perfect for everyone, but any snowboarder will enjoy the unique ride and feeling that a directional board delivers, and who knows, you might just get hooked!
Big thanks to Matthew and evo.com for the writing this post and sharing it on Snowboarding Profiles. Note that the opinions in this post are the authors alone.