How Much Do The Design Features Of Our Snowboarding Gear Matter?

by Fraser

A lot of people, and I’m definitely one of them, spend a good amount of time contemplating the different design options available when buying new snowboarding gear. It could be a new snowboard, some snowboard boots, an avalanche beacon or maybe just some wax. There are a lot of products out there!

But how much difference do all those features really make?

Certainly, there are big differences between some designs, and these differences have a definite effect on your snowboarding. I view these as enabling designs, or prohibitive designs, depending on which way you look at it. Here are some personal examples:

  • My first snowboard: a 157 Burton Clash. A bit of a beginners board, after my first week I felt I’d out-grown it. Tanking it down fresh groomers the board felt unstable at speed. The season after, I traded it for the Rome Anthem. It was a world of difference for stability, base speed and edge hold.
  • Stiff boots: the Salomon Malamute. I used to own these Salomons, which were designed as an aggressive, freeride boot. My first few jib sessions on an indoor slope left me with sore ankles. Swapping them for the 32 Lashed boots gave me a snug, controlled fit that also allowed for freestyle-flex. Much lighter too.
  • A short, twin tipped snowboard in deep pow. I’m sure there are many out there who shred powder with their short, freestyle boards and have no problems. When the snow was waist deep, I struggled, whilst watching friends float on the top…

Yes, sometimes the difference between kit is as clear as night and day, and therefore it’s important to choose the right stuff.

But what about the smaller differences, or the latest design ideas? These tend to be the choices that we, or myself at least, spend the most time debating. How much do these matter? Should we pay attention, or just pick the one we like the look of and get on with the snowboarding?

Again, some personal examples.

  • Bindings. I spent a while trying to choose between 4 bindings, arguably all pretty similar. Burton Missions, Ride Deltas, Union Contacts and Union Forces. Some would say that the Deltas and Contacts are a good deal softer; but how much? There were differences between my old Burton Missions and my Drake MLBs, but not the kind of enabling differences like those above. I could do the same stuff in both.
  • Reverse Camber. To be honest, I might be naive in saying that this doesn’t make much of a difference, given that the banana’ness of my T.Rice is slight. That said, I didn’t feel much difference riding that reverse camber board.
  • Weight. Some products make a big deal of how light they are. Sure, if you pick the heaviest option for every bit of kit, you’re gonna feel it. But for a single set of boots or bindings? Will 100 or 200g make a difference?

It’s fun and interesting checking out new equipment, new models, new ranges; but for gear that’s in a similar category, like choosing between two, twin-tipped freestyle boards, maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about making the wrong decision? Once you get the board, for example, you’ll adapt to its design features and if something felt a little weird to begin with, you’ll probably grow to like it.

Pick the one that fits well, that’s comfortable, that you like the look of, or the one that comes in under budget. Get it and ride with it. Don’t sweat over the minutia of the technology or the latest and greatest design features.

Is that fair, or asking for trouble? I’ll still get interested by the new stuff, but once I’ve picked, I’m not too worried.

So what’s your take? Is a board a board, or is it important to get the highest grade sintered base? Are there too many examples of yourself or friends buying gear that turned out to be bad, making you careful what you select? Or do you just get on with it until your gear’s worn out?…

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