Alpine Snowboards

Board Specs
Board Details
Specialized Boards
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Carving is a sport of precision, which means you will benefit from knowing some of the finer details about how carving boards are designed, and the subtle characteristics that add to carving performance.

There are four main types of boards that cater to carving: Race, Freecarve, All-Mountain, and Boardercross:


Burton Factory Prime 157 '98


A race board is a stiff snowboard with a flat, square tail and a long effective edge for good grip. A race board likes perfect groomers: if there are any bumps or crud on the slope, you will get knocked around, which means it's an early morning board. GS boards often have a few mm of taper to make them handle crud a bit better. Some racers prefer narrow boards for quick edge changes, but some racers go for wider boards that allow lower stance angles and more mobility. Race boards come in two flavors:

As a beginner, you can use a slalom board to learn how to carve at low speed, but you will want to quickly progress to a GS board for carving, because it provides more stability and edge hold at higher speeds. You should use hard-shell boots with a race board. Some recommended race boards:


F2 Silberpfeil

A freecarve board is a detuned race board. It will typically be slightly shorter and less stiff than a race board, have a smaller sidecut radius to allow tighter turns at lower speed, and have a slightly rounded tail in place of a square tail. Freecarve boards are ideal for beginners, since they don't require high speeds before they will start carving a locked-in turn. Like race boards, they are narrow to allow fast edge changes. They do not lock into a turn quite as tightly as a race board, but you won't get bumped around on less than perfect grooming. Some freecarve boards, like the Donek Freecarve, hold an edge as well as a typical race board. Most freecarve boards have zero taper, which provides a bit extra edge hold for carving a deeper trench. You should use hard-shell boots with a freecarve board. Some recommended boards include:


Burton Coil 173 '01

An all-mountain board is a go-anywhere board: it's good for carving, but also good for crud, bumps, and surfing in powder or slush. The waist width is typically around 21 cm, which is wider than a race or freecarve board to allow lower boot angles for more leverage when maneuvering. The nose is softer and the boards have taper, to avoid diving in powder. They have a small sidecut radius, which makes them very easy to turn, and are a little shorter than a freecarve board, to assist in maneuverability. The nose and tail are more upturned, allowing the board to glide over bumps and crud, and to float in powder. In addition, the nose and tail have a more rounded profile, which makes the board much more forgiving when entering a turn. Because of the more rounded and upturned tail, all-mountain boards have less effective edge, which results in somewhat less edge hold than either a race board or a freecarve board. These boards provide the easiest transition from freeriding to carving, since you can learn to carve on these boards even if you have never ridden a snowboard. A lot of carvers ride all-mountain boards with softer hard boots and/or softer hard bindings as their "soft" setup for surfing powder.

It is also possible to ride all-mountain boards with soft boots and soft bindings, as long as the board is wide enough for your boot/binding combo:

All-mountain boards are designed by trading off among three characteristics: flotation in powder, carving on groomers, and maneuverability in bumps/trees. An all-mountain board is usually designed to excel in one of these characteristics, at the expense of the others, which is why going custom can make sense if you want to control the tradeoffs. Some recommended boards:

Boardercross (BX)

A Boardercross (BX) board is a combination of a freeride board and a race board. It has the light weight and stiffness of a high-end freeride board for maneuvering through jumps and quick ollies, plus it has race board attributes like stiffer flex and better edge hold. Compared to a freeride board, it has a longer effective edge and larger sidecut radius for carving on a berm. All of these features require more advanced fabrication, and it's typically the most expensive board in a manufacturer's lineup. You can ride all of these boards with soft boots, and most of them with hard boots. Some recommended boards:

Stiffness, Length, Sidecut

For each type of board (race, freecarve, all-mountain, etc), stiffness, length, and sidecut are related and primarily determine how the board performs.

When selecting a board, your weight directly determines only the best stiffness of the board that you select - it does not directly determine the length or the sidecut. Manufacturers don't usually give stiffness metrics for their boards, so the only way to measure it yourself is to get your hands on the board and flex it. Since this method isn't so practical, the actual selection of a board depends on whether you are looking to buy a production board or a custom board:

After stiffness, length, and sidecut, the other significant characteristic is lively vs. damp:

When buying a board, it's highly recommended to demo at least one lively board and one damp board, because you will probably find that you much prefer one type over the other. Your style will play a role: if you do a lot of slalom-type cross-under, you want a lively board that easily crosses under you on each turn. The Hot Blast and Volkl Renntiger are favorites here. If you use a GS cross-through style on a rutted slope, you may want a damp board like the F2 Speedster RS, Oxygen Proton or Coiler Pure Race: those boards keep the edge in the snow as you shift your weight downhill and over the board.

You can get an indication of the tail spring by holding the tip of the board off the ground with one hand and bracing the tail on the floor with your foot. Then, with your other hand, flex the board and see how fast it springs back.

Whether a board works for you depends on your specific riding style and skill level, so you really can't rely on reviews from other people. When you demo a board, you will want to compare it side-by-side under the same conditions with one of your existing boards, since binding setup and snow texture have a huge impact on board performance. Reviews of a board in isolation are basically useless: the best reviews will do a head-to-head comparison. When you have a chance to demo a board, try to determine what subtle changes you need to make to your riding style to get the best performance from the board.

Board details


The setback of a board is the amount by which the insert packs are shifted rearward relative to the center of the contact edge. Manufacturers typically design boards with a setback of 0 to 4 cm so that when you shift your weight forward during a carve, your center of gravity (COG) is over the apex of the sidecut. For this reason, it's usually a good idea to setup your bindings symmetric to the insert packs, and then adjust from there as necessary.

Base Material

Snowboards come with Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) bases that are either sintered or extruded. Sintered bases are more porous, and as a result are better at absorbing and retaining wax. They also have longer polymer chains, which makes them more durable, but more expensive to repair. There are three major suppliers of snowboard base material:

IMS Plastics makes the P-Tex brand.

Isosport makes the Isospeed brand.

Crown Plastics makes the DuraSurf brand.

IMS Plastics was the first to patent a process to create a plastic material that can be easily bonded using epoxy, resulting in P-Tex, their brand of base material. However, base materially of any type is generically referred to as "P-Tex". Each company offers several different grades of base material with different durabilities and additives. Indium absorbs heat generated by friction between the base and snow, allowing the board to be "self cooling." The heat is carried away from the base and prevents the snow from melting into a layer of water that slows down the ride. Graphite conducts static electricity away from the base to lower friction, providing a small gain in speed on a race course. The P-Tex Electra base consists of about 11-12% graphite. However, graphite makes the base less durable and less able to absorb wax. Here are the specs for several grades of P-Tex.

Base Material Type Wax absorption mg/cm²

Abrasive volume loss relative to carbon steel

P-Tex 1000
Transparent or colored polyethylene
P-Tex 2000
Transparent or colored UHMWPE
P-Tex 2000 Ga/In
P-Tex 2000 + thermo-active additives
P-Tex 2000 Electra
P-Tex 2000 + carbon additives
P-Tex 4000
Transparent or colored UHMWPE
P-Tex 4000 Ga/In
P-Tex 4000 + thermo-active additives
P-Tex 4000 Electra
P-Tex 4000 + carbon additives


"Old Titanal" dates back to the 60s: It was sold under the Aluflex brand, and it was actually an aluminum sheet.

Frank shows off the Metal Virus board.
The Titanal that everyone is talking about is an aluminum alloy that has been used for several years by various manufacturers, either with fiberglass, or "raw" without fiberglass. Several board manufactures experimented with it in the 1990s, and in particular, Volkl has mentioned the use of "Titanal inlays" in its marketing literature. However, starting in '05, Kessler fabricated custom race boards using Titanal specifically to provide dampening for racers going through an icy and rutted-up race course. Kessler also made a splash marketing-wise, since the Titanal was visible on the topsheet of these boards. Subsequently, Jasey-Jay rode on a Titanal-enhanced Coiler and won two gold medals at the World Championships in Whistler. As a result, there is something of a Titanal frenzy going on in the racing world, with racers and board makers eager to get on the Titanal bandwagon.

Titanal tidbits:


Most snowboards have a wood core. Ash, Spruce, Poplar, and Beech are common. Most board companies use vertically laminated cores for a more predictable flex pattern, with the exception of Hot, which still uses horizontal lamination. A vertically laminated core consists of several strips of wood, maybe 3/4 inch wide, lined up side-by-side like a miniature hardwood floor, with each strip going down the length of the board. The stringers are the strips of wood that run through the areas occupied by the inserts. The stringers are often a stronger wood, such as Ash, whereas the rest of the core might be a cheaper wood, like Poplar. Ash has a maximum insert strength of around 1500 lbs/insert, whereas Poplar is more like 900 lbs/insert. Wood cores can be either straight or pre-cambered. Pre-cambered wood cores have a camber milled directly into the wood. Boards with straight cores get their camber entirely from the press while the epoxy cures. Volkl and Coiler use pre-cambered wood cores, which extends the life of the board by preserving the board camber longer.

Cores will deviate in stiffness by a small amount from board to board, however the important thing is that each core should have a symmetrical flex pattern about the long axis. This symmetry is often achieved by creating a core that consists of two half-cores, where each half-core core is half the width, and a mirror image of the other half.

The type of core also determines how well a board holds its camber: Older Rossi boards used a foam core, which provided a highly consistent flex pattern. However, Rossi boards with the foam core tended to lose their camber quickly.

Sidewall Construction

Sidewall construction comes in two major flavors: cap construction and sandwich construction. Cap construction is a type of sidewall construction where the topsheet is rounded to meet the metal edges, and it has a few advantages:

and disadvantages:

Sandwich construction is a type of sidewall construction that looks like a sandwich from the side. It is stronger than cap construction, more durable, and easy to repair. Nominally, boards with sandwich construction have less torsional stiffness, but snowboard makers who know what they are doing can build a board with sandwich construction and still maintain good torsional stiffness. Slantwall construction is a type of sandwich construction, and may help provide more edge hold with a thinner edge profile.

Dualtec: Some boards have cap construction at the tip and tail, and sandwich construction in the middle - Rossignol used the term "Dualtec" for this combination.

Other board facts

Specialized boards

Split-tail racing board

A split tail is a long race board with a narrow split-tail gap. The greater length of the board provides stability, but the split tail makes easier to turn, as if it were a shorter board. You can also get split-tail race boards custom made. Some split-tails have an adjustment bar that spans the gap in the tail to make the tail softer or stiffer:

Burner 162
Burner 167
Burner 188
Burner 197
Eff. edge 144cm 149cm 170cm 180cm
Sidecut 10.2M 12M 16.7M 19M
Waist 18.2cm 18cm 18.2cm 18.2cm

Swallowtail powder board

Regular freestyle boards don't work well in powder because they are too short, don't have enough taper, and lack adequate flotation. As a result, you will always be putting all your weight on your back foot - your back leg will get really sore, and it's not fun. For deep powder days, forget the carving board and go with a swallowtail, a rocket-shaped board designed for surfing turns in powder. The swallowtail has a few characteristics that make it great for bottomless pow-pow:

Most swallowtails can be ridden with soft boots or softer hard boots, and one good option is to use the older (and now discontinued) snowboard hard boots with fully lugged soles, like the Raichle 121 or the Raichle Snowboarder. Swallowtails also require some care when riding, since it is possible to break one of the tail sections if you apply too much leverage on hard snow, especially with plate bindings. See the boardspecs link on Some recommended boards include:


Nico from provided a review of the
F2 Lancelot 172 Swallowtail ('02 model)

The Lancelot is incredible in powder, no weight shift to rear leg, no difference between tracks and out. In the tracks you still can use it for carving with (better) really stiff softboots. Yes it is better to avoid putting too much weight on the tail, but the Lancelot, thanks to reduced length tails and “V” shaped rear cut, still keeps a good back torsional stiffness (compared to my excellent actual Nitro Supernatural 163). Carving on the edge, you can reach high speeds, thanks to 1400 mm of effective edge, F2 called it a “powdercarving” machine, but carving tight radius curves is not allowed. It is really a bx Eliminator with added big tip and swallowtails. In opposite, it is a bit larger than written on specs, about 259, and stiffer than usual (perhaps less on 2003 sandwich second and last model); obviously the edge to edge transition is not so quick for the average-footed rider (I have euro 42 –us 8,5), and maneuverability (handling) is poor if compared to a normal freeride board. Never tried it with hardboots, but I think there should not be problems (the “brother” Eliminator since 2002 was made to be ridden also with plate bindings). The board surely requires almost a medium-heavy guy (i'm 85 kg) and active riding.

Powder boards: In addition to the swallowtail and fishtail, there are several others:

When surfing powder, try putting your hard boots in walk mode.

Splitboard: A splitboard is a snowboard for the backcountry, consisting of two ski-like planks that fasten together. The snowboard has two modes of operation:

Splitboards are often used with hard boots, so the idea of splitboarding holds interest with carvers. Some recommended splitboards:

Splitboards don't have enough torsional rigidity for carving.

For splitboards, you need either stiff soft boots, or soft hard boots. Soft snowboard boots don't always provide enough lateral support when traversing on a splitboard. Hard-shell boots that are lightweight and have a walk mode are ideal for splitboards. To make backcountry hiking easier, hard boots should ideally have these features:

There are a couple of boot options:

Two companies make the slider tracks that mount on the splitboard: Voile and Burton. You can use any type of bindings on the tracks, as long as they fit your boots. You can also get splitboard specific bindings:

Voile offers the split-kit, which allows you to convert one of your old boards into a splitboard by slicing it down the middle with a circular saw. When making your own splitboard, a stiffer all-mountain board works best, and avoid boards with foam cores or 3D insert patterns, which have an insert on the centerline of the board.

An alternative to using a splitboard is to use crampons or short telemark skis and hike up with a lightweight snowboard, then switch to the snowboard and board down. Starting in '05, Burton started selling the T6 snowboard with the Alumafly™ core, made out of super-lightweight aluminum honeycomb.

See Couloir Magazine for more details. The October issue usually has reviews of AT boots, and the December issues usually has reviews of bindings. Also see the Telemark Skier forum.

Donek makes a telemark ski that is beefed up with M6 inserts.


A relic of the past, asymmetric boards have a sidecut on the toe side that is centered on the toes, and a sidecut on the heel side that is centered on the heels. The tail often has a diagonal notch cut on the toe side. As a result, asym boards are either goofy or regular, and so you have to buy a board that matches your stance. With two orientations for each model, it was a nightmare for retailers to stock, which contributed to its demise. With an asym board, you must turn by flexing your ankles to pivot the board in the diagonal toe/heel direction, and by shifting your center of gravity (COG) fore/aft as your body crosses the board into the next turn. This approach can be done with low binding angles using a slalom racing technique, but when you are carving, you typically use higher binding angles, and change edges by moving your hips, rolling your knees, and shifting your COG straight across the width of the board. As a result, asym boards are to be avoided because they will limit your GS carving ability. Asym boards used to be popular, but they are no longer manufactured, with a few rare exceptions, like the #one board manufactured by PureBoarding, and the Cookie Cutter made by Snowblind (which is almost an asym Skwal). Asym fun facts:

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