While snowboard sidecuts are fundamental to your riding experience, many riders fail to give this critical spec much attention.
They obsess over flex, profile, and shape, but overlook the direct relationship between our edges and the snow…
But not you!
You’ve ventured into the realms of snowboard-gear nerdiness that very few reach. Not only do I admire and respect your dedication, I’m here to help!
What is a Snowboard Sidecut?
Sidecut refers to the curved shape of the snowboard edge. This curve isn’t just for aesthetics; it’s the secret sauce behind how your board turns!
Over the years, as the sport has progressed, manufacturers have optimized how our edges interact with the snow.
This significantly influences turns and how we experience different types of terrain.
The arc or “radius” of the sidecut is therefore altered depending on a board’s intended use.
For example, boards designed for short, sharp turns have a deep, obvious sidecut. Adversely, snowboards optimized for longer, drawn-out turns will have a more mellow and shallow sidecut.
Understanding Sidecut Radius
The sidecut radius is hands down the most confusing snowboard spec. So, to help you understand, I’ve devised a visualization.
Imagine you are strapped in and looking down at your snowboard. The length of the board doesn’t run in a straight line from the nose to the tail; instead, there is a curve that reaches its maximum depth between your feet or in the middle of the board.
Now picture a giant circle drawn based on the curve of your sidecut. The circle’s size depends on the arc of the sidecut; therefore, we can measure the angle by calculating the radius of the imaginary circle.
For example, if your board has a sidecut of six meters, it will allow for tighter turns, while a sidecut of ten meters is much more mellow.
Going forward, keep in mind:
- Shallow sidecut = larger sidecut radius
- Deep sidecut = smaller sidecut radius
How Snowboard Sidecut Affects Turns
Deeper sidecuts, with a smaller sidecut radius, will cut sharper, tighter turns. This can be beneficial for park riders who favor quick turns and easy spin initiation.
A shallower snowboard sidecut, with a larger sidecut radius, will make long, mellow, drawn-out turns.
This can be beneficial for freeride snowboarding, enabling huge arching turns, improved stability and better powder performance.
The Different Types of Snowboard Sidecut
As snowboards have become increasingly technical, manufacturers have experimented with different sidecut radii.
Below, I’ll discuss the most popular sidecut to help you decide which fits your riding style.
Snowboard sidecuts with one circular arc from nose to tail are known as radial.
Traditionally, snowboards and skis have radial sidecut designs, but manufacturers have released more advanced sidecut variations as technology has improved.
Nonetheless, you’ll still find radial sidecuts on most twin and directional twin snowboards (as in the diagram).
Why? Because they’re effective!
They ride symmetrically forwards and backwards, perfect for freestyle and all mountain riding.
Progressive sidecuts have multiple arcs or side-cut radii along the edge of the snowboard. The tail will have a deep sidecut, while the nose of the board is more mellow.
This design allows riders to enter turns quickly, hold a moderate to large carve and then transition into the next. You’re most likely to find progressive sidecuts on directional boards.
Most boards have a symmetrical sidecut, regardless of whether they are radial, progressive, or other.
However, asymmetrical boards have a different sidecut on each edge.
As you can see, asymmetrical boards have a deeper sidecut on the heelside. Due to our physiological makeup, heelside turns require more effort than toeside.
Asymmetrical sidecuts allow for shorter heel-side turns with minimal effort, creating perfect synergy between the edges.
If this interests you, check out the top asymmetrical snowboards.
Also known as Magnetraction, Underbite, Traction Tech or Grip Tech – depending on the manufacturer. These boards all use a serrated edge to improve traction.
By increasing the number of contact points, your board will have stability in icy and hard pack conditions.
Think of a butter knife versus a bread knife.
Underneath the serrations, the sidecut is usually radial, although technically each serrated contact point has it’s own radius.
Many contemporary snowboards will use multiple sidecut radii throughout the design. The most common is a deep sidecut in the center of the board that gradually becomes more mellow towards the nose and tail.
For example, the Ride Warpig boasts a tapered bi-radial sidecut, with two distinct radii in the board’s design.
This allows a narrower underfoot width, whilst retaining extra width towards the tip and tail. The results are enhanced turn initiation at the nose and stable exit at the tail, offering a blend of agility and stability.
Choosing a Snowboard Sidecut Based on Terrain
In order to fully comprehend the concept of snowboard sidecuts, we need to apply the spec to actual snow conditions.
Below I’ll provide some suggestions based on what type of rider you. Let’s find you the perfect sidecut radius!
Also, keep in mind that sidecut isn’t the only factor affecting your turns or overall relationship with the terrain. It’s just one of many specifications that optimize your snowboarding experience.
Sidecut Type: Radial, Asymmetrical
Sidecut Radius: 7-9 Meters
I recommend a medium to mellow sidecut radius (7-9 meters) for beginners. You don’t need a hypersensitive board with a narrow turn radius!
An asymmetric sidecut is an excellent option if you struggle with your heel edge. I’d also recommend a progressive side cut if you are looking to perfect your carving.
Ultimately though, don’t obsess about sidecut at this stage. Just grab one of the best-rated beginner snowboards and start riding!
Sidecut Type: Radial, Asymmetrical
Sidecut Radius: Mid-range, often between 6m and 8m.
Whether hucking double corks in the pipe or spending your entire day on jibs, you’ll appreciate a deep sidecut.
The shorter turn radius will help you spin off lips and give you more precise control.
I recommend a deep sidecut radius of 6 or 7 meters or more if your number one priority is living in the terrain park.
Or just grab one of my favorite park snowboards. I’ve carefully vetted and approved each one.
Sidecut Type: Progressive.
Sidecut Radius: Aim towards the longer side, say 9m to 11m.
Your sidecut radius is essential if you value long, smooth carves down freshly groomed piste.
A mellow or shallow sidecut will elongate your turns, allowing you to cruise in and out of your turns.
We recommend a nine or ten-meter sidecut radius. You can experiment with different styles, like multiple radii, to find the ideal feel. Consider underbite if you deal with icy groomers on a regular basis.
Sidecut Type: Progressive
Sidecut Radius: Mid to Longer radius, combined with other design elements like a tapered shape.
The mellow sidecut will also translate well in the backcountry. The wider profile will allow you to float elongated turns in powder.
However, the downside to the shallow sidecut is that you aren’t optimizing your board for the sharp, precise turns required in tight tree runs.
Don’t worry though – if you’re lucky enough to snag some powder, this won’t be an issue; you won’t be engaging your edges anyway! In these conditions, snowboard profile and shape is far more important.
Sidecut Type: Radial, Asymmetrical or Progressive
Sidecut Radius: Mid-range, often between 7m and 9m.
Most of us fall into the all-terrain category. We enjoy the park but can’t sleep when snow is in the forecast.
For you, I recommend a medium-side cut radius.
You’ll have the control and extra pop for freestyle terrain while enjoying smooth, drawn-out carves in the deep stuff.
Also, keep an eye out for all-mountain boards featuring an asymmetrical sidecut. These are usually worth trying!
Know Before You Buy
While the sidecut remains the most overlooked snowboard spec, you’re now armed with the right knowledge to choose yours perfectly.
That being said, snowboard sidecut isn’t the only metric you should look at.
Understand the relationship between shallow and deep sidecuts, while also considering other factors such as shape, flex, profile, size and quality.
Speaking of size… I created the best snowboard size calculator available (in my not so humble opinion). Find your perfect length and width measurements before ordering your board.