Snowboard Design 🏂
8 minute read · Issue Number 32 · September 4th, 2020
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What’s the one sport you love, but you’ve never practiced?
Snowboarding might be one of the most exciting sports that I’ve never practiced.
A while ago, I wrote an edition about sports facilities, which exist to make outdoor sports accessible. How come there are no “snowboarding gyms” yet? Is this the 21st century?
Regardless, in today’s newsletter, we’ll explore the built-in properties, the design, and the technology embedded in a snowboard. Our guiding questions will be:
How did snowboards evolve through time?
What are the main properties of a snowboard?
What differentiates the different types of snowboards?
Let’s get to it!
Snowboarding is a relatively new sport. It began in the US in the late 1960s.
In the beginning, most ski resorts prohibited its practice. Society gradually accepted snowboarding as an alternative to skiing between the 1970s and the mid-1990s.
The International Olympic Committee officially introduced snowboarding into the Olympic games at the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998.
Today, it is one of the fastest-growing sports and leisure activities in the world. Every year, there are about six million recreational snowboarders on ski slopes worldwide.
It is arguably one of the most popular winter sports out there.
The recent growth in participation and popularity of snowboarding as a global sport has attracted the interest of multiple sports scientists and engineers.
Traditionally, snowboarding has multiple disciplines and competitions, such as freestyle, snowboard cross, alpine snowboarding, freeriding, and others.
Snowboarding is a sport that tests the boundaries of both the physical and technical competence of the athletes.
Design, Materials, Properties, and Manufacture
In the beginning, manufacturers made snowboards with materials that would break or often bent, more massive, and without any capability to adapt the board to the athlete.
Modern snowboards are now significantly stiffer, lighter, and more robust, allowing more significant levels of performance across all styles and standards of riding.
Snowboards today are built using the “sandwich structure” composition, where many layers of mixed materials such as hardwood and softwood are combined to provide a balance between high strength and low mass to achieve different capabilities.
Common types of wood used in snowboard construction include spruce, ash, and maple.
The snowboard design depends mostly on the type of application or style of the ride, as ride conditions determine the characteristics and type of equipment that a rider will require.
For example, a longer snowboard will have better stability and edge grip than that of a shorter snowboard.
The stiffness and the density of the materials applied are significant components that will determine the ride capabilities of each board.
Scientists and manufacturers have worked closely with professional riders to improve the on-snow performance of the board.
Riders evaluate the performance of a board based on its perceived ‘feel’ or the physical and psychological feedback experienced by the rider while snowboarding.
This feedback may be visual, aural, kinaesthetic, or vibrational; All affecting the muscular inputs applied by the rider and the resultant movement and control achieved on a slope.
Nine characteristics evaluate the performance of a snowboard:
Stability: how stable the rider feels on the board;
Maneuverability: how easily the board responds to rider inputs;
Accuracy: the precision of board movement in response to rider input;
Edge grip: the level of grip exhibited during turns;
Speed: the gliding speed compared with other boards of similar length;
Feedback: the amount of stress felt in the rider’s body;
Forgiveness: the tolerance of the board to errors from the rider;
Transition smoothness: how easily the board flows from edge to edge;
Liveliness: the level of spring on the board when performing a jump.
Riders & Board Types
Different rider characteristics will affect the perceived feel and performance of any snowboard within the major riding styles.
The key parameters to pick up a board that fits you are:
Mass & Gender (for bending and torsional stiffness);
Height (length of a snowboard);
Foot size (perceived feel and performance): a larger foot will change the edging force applied during a turn and, consequently, the response of the board;
Developed under the direct influence of skateboarding;
They are designed specifically for the snowboard terrain park: shorter, wider, lighter and more flexible, possessing more spring than the others;
This board’s shape is symmetrical to balance the weight and to focus on jumps, board slides, and a wide variety of aerial maneuvers;
Those boards are not likely to perform well outside of their specific riding conditions.
Forgiveness, maneuverability, and board liveliness are the fundamental properties for freestyle snowboards.
Those are the most suitable boards for beginners because they are longer, narrower, stiffer and directional in their shape;
These boards’ design has a long nose and an upturned tip and tail for all-mountain riding under any snow conditions and a limited amount of aerial maneuvers;
Stability, maneuverability, and accuracy are usually the most critical characteristics of freeride models.
The Future of Snowboards
The extensive research and development of the aerospace industry have led to some notable improvements in snowboard technology and manufacture.
Additionally, with the increasing popularity of snowboarding as a sport coupled with ongoing advances in composite materials, snowboard technology will continue to develop at a rapid pace.
More manufacturers will develop modern systems for more active control of the properties of a snowboard.
The improvements made to snowboards allow riders to exploit their skills and reach a higher degree of performance. Simultaneously, these tech-improvements increase the quality of the sport. A sport which I can’t wait to practice for the first time! 😅
Until next week,
Sports-Tech Biz ✍🏽
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Did you learn something new today?