How Important is Having “The Right Board” for Buttering?

Buttering on a snowboard is a lot of fun. Once you get the hang of it, it opens up a lot of freestyle possibilities, both on the piste, and pressing on rails and boxes. Add some style to your shredding. But if you’re only just starting to think about it, or you’re still in the process of learning your first butters – you might be thinking “do I need the right type of board to make this easy?”

A softer flex will make it easier. If you’ve got an all-mountain board you might find that it’s hard to get the board to bend, easily. If you do press the nose or tail, it might seem like the other end is hardly raised from the snow. ‘Forcing’ more flex, or leaning more, will just put you off balance.

In this situation it’s understandable to think that buttering would be much easier to learn on a shorter, softer, freestyle board. And you’d be right. There’s no doubt that a softer flex will make it easier to get the feel of buttering. You’ll get better results with less effort and less of a requirement for correct technique…

But don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s necessary. My opinion is that a softer board makes it easier to learn to butter. Easier, but not necessary.

Imagine getting into an F1 motorcar and trying to race around a Grand Prix circuit. For most of us, we’d fail. You’ve got to be good enough to drive the car really fast in order to get grip from the tyres – but if you start off at that speed you won’t be able to keep the car on the road, it’s too fast for you to handle. A catch-22. You can’t learn to race around the circuit in an F1 car – it’s the wrong car, it’s prohibitive. Something less highly tuned is necessary.

This is not the case for buttering on a snowboard 😉 An all-mountain or freeride board will not stop you from learning to butter. For some, it will hardly make a difference. For others, it will just slow their progression on the learning curve. In some cases it will feel really difficult, like it’s not possible. But it is possible, these shredders can still get there. It’s just a bit harder.

The Toy-Soldier or Waddle

The very first time I went snowboarding, a week in Chamonix, I saw a group of snowboarders putting the waddle to good use. You know, the technique of bouncing from one tip of the board to the other to move across flat ground. They made it look so easy – and their boards just seemed to be so bendy and springy. I was new; it looked so cool, not to mention useful. I wanted it.

But I couldn’t get the hang of it. Whenever I tried the board just didn’t seem to respond how it should. I was convinced that I had the wrong snowboard for the job (which, by the way, was a Burton Clash).

The Clash was replaced with a Rome Anthem, and then the Anthem with the Rome Agent – when I’d decided that I wanted to get better at freestyle. The Agent was great for progressing with ollies, it was around that time that I started to press and butter. The waddle was in the bag too 🙂

But here’s the thing. I’d been spending more time on the board. I’d been to a freestyle camp for a week. I was a better snowboarder. Learning how to butter and ollie and 180 was all part of that. Did the shorter, softer and twin setup of the Agent help? No doubt. But when I went back to riding the Anthem – I realised that I could do all those things on that board too. And when I got it right on the stiffer board – it had more pop.

And what about Rocker and Reverse Camber?

Camber vs. reverse-camber for things like buttering is essentially the same issue. A board with reverse-camber is most likely going to be easier for buttering; you’re less likely to hang up on an edge. I say it like that because I don’t really know. The argument makes sense to me, and it’s the common opinion. The Lib Tech T.Rice that I ride does have their ‘banana tech’ – but I haven’t noticed much of a difference, it’s very slight.

But don’t forget – many snowboarders were buttering just fine before reverse-camber boards came along. You certainly don’t need a reverse-camber board to get you going. No way. Maybe if I tested out 10 rockers vs 10 regular-camber boards, just to butter, I’d have a more definite opinion of how much difference it actually makes. But I know for sure, now, that it’s not necessary.

Summary

I’m sure there are many people who buy a freeride or all-mountain board to begin with, because they like “riding around”. Then at some point they start to look at the freestyle tricks and jibbing that other snowboarders are doing and wonder if their board is suitable for that stuff. Do they need a new board?

If you’re learning to butter, a softer, more freestyle oriented board will help you, it will make things easier. But it’s not a necessity. If you like you’re all-mountain board don’t feel like you must have a freestyle-stick to start playing around.

However, if you know that you’re starting to do a lot more jibbing, you’re riding rails and boxes and spending more time in the park, then sure, a freestyle board is a better tool for that job. You might be thinking that there’s no harm in having two boards? There isn’t. Just be sure to read: How Many Snowboards Do You Need?.

If you can already drop sweet presses and technical butters – you already know the answer to this question. You can butter on pretty much anything – it’s just a bit more fun on some boards…

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