Ever stopped to wonder what your beloved snowboard is actually made from? Having destroyed my favorite board on a submerged rock, I was unlucky enough to find out. So I thought I’d share my findings with you… What are snowboards made of?
Snowboards are made out of a number of different materials, layered together to form a flexible but resilient structure. The materials vary between brands but usually include wood, nylon, fiberglass, aluminium, carbon, kevlar, steel and polyethylene (P-tex).
Let’s take a more detailed look at what your snowboard is actually made from. If you’ve already heard enough, find out how long snowboards last.
What Materials Are Used To Make Snowboards?
The first snowboards were mostly made out of wood. After all, they were adapted from the traditional wooden ski.
As discussed when considering who invented snowboarding, it turns out wood isn’t ideal. Boards made from almost entirely wood are heavy, rigid and prone to waterlogging.
It was also particularly tricky to hold a carve as the boards tended to skid out on icy terrain.
When snowboarding become more popular there was new incentive for companies to optimize the design. This saw the introduction of watertight materials and a continuous metal edge. And just like that, the modern snowboard was born!
Let’s dissect a typical snowboard to find out more…
What Are Snowboards Made Of Now?
There are some pretty big differences in the materials used to make snowboards. It all depends on the brand and the type of riding the snowboard is designed for.
Nonetheless, there are some materials that nearly every snowboard uses.
The short answer:
- Metal – steel and aluminium
For a more detailed answer, let’s take a look layer-by-layer:
- The Core – as you’ve probably guessed, the core is the middle of the board. This forms the central structural, around which the other layers are added. This is usually made from laminated strips of wood, laid in a variation of directions to create the desired flex pattern. Birch, bamboo and beech are some of the most commonly used woods. Some brands also add non-wood materials like kevlar, carbon, foam or aluminium.
- The Topsheet – the outer layer of the board where your bindings attach. This usually boasts some pretty awesome graphics. Topsheets are usually made from wood, aluminium, fiberglass, nylon or polyurethane. Most topsheets are glossy with the graphics visible through a protective layer. You can also get matte finish topsheets with the graphics printed on top.
- Fiberglass – this flexible layer is usually added to either side of the core. This provides strength and flex without adding significant weight to the board.
- The Inserts – usually made of steel, these are screws that allow you to attach your bindings to the board. The most common pattern is the 4×4 but you’ll also find boards with The Channel system.
- The Base – nearly every snowboard will use Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene… otherwise known as P-tex. This incredible material is super durable, slippery and more importantly – repairable! P-tex bases can be either extruded – which are cheaper and easier to repair, or sintered – which are faster and higher quality.
- The Edges – These are almost universally made out of metal. This allows the board to grip into the snow. Most boards offer a complete wrap, meaning the metal edge also covers the nose and tail. Some cheaper boards may still have partial steel edges, covering only the edges in contact with the snow.
- The Sidewall – between the metal edge and the topsheet is the sidewall. This is usually made from urethane or plastic. Most brands now also add an internal strip of wood or rubber to absorb some shock.
- The Glue – to stick the layers together, we use Epoxy Resin. This adds structure and is designed to stay strong even at sub-zero temperatures.
How Are Snowboards Made?
Now that you know all of the layers, it’s pretty easy to imagine how the snowboard is made.
- First, the blank must be shaped into form. This is done either manually or mechanically.
- Second, the layers are stacked on top of each other and a thick layer of resin applied.
- Finally, the board is “cured” for several hours, during which the layers are compressed together whilst being heated.
This is a very simplified version of events. There are obviously numerous finishing touches such as sanding and testing the structure. To really do the process justice, maybe I should write a separate dedicated article?
Some Unique Materials Found In Snowboards.
As I mentioned above, not all snowboards are created equally. You’ll find that the more premium boards will feature materials such as “bamboo stringers” or “rubber sidewalls”.
These might sound like marketing gimmicks (some of them are) but most of these features have been highly researched and offer extra performance.
Here are a few of the more unique materials used to make snowboards:
- Carbon: A few years ago, carbon was an extremely popular material in snowboard manufacture. Carbon is more flexible than traditional fiberglass. You therefore may have seen carbon fiber stringers placed strategically within a snowboard to alter the flex pattern. The burton custom is a prime example of this.
- Kevlar: where have you heard of this before? That’s right, in bulletproof body armor! As you can imagine, it’s used in snowboards to add strength to high-stress areas such as below your bindings. It’s also great for reducing chatter in your tip/tail when moving at high speed.
- Rubber: As you can imagine, this material is great for absorbing shock and adding some spring into each turn. It’s generally used in the side-walls and is favored by brands like Salomon.
Hopefully this article offered some insight into what snowboards are made of. I could go into a whole lot more detail, but I suspect I’d lose your attention!
If you have any unanswered questions, I’ve linked a handy youtube video below.
Alternatively, dive into one of our other blog posts or check out our gear section.