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By Olga Bednarek

Who would think that wood, plastic and metal, when combined, are the components of an object that can used to have the some of the most fun on snow possible? The snowboard is that object, and in my opinion it is one of the best athletically targeted technological advancements of the century.

Sherman Poppen is the man who is given the most credit for the invention of the snowboard. In 1965 he glued two skis together to create the “Snurfer,” a toy designed to mimic a surfing sensation on snow. However, it was people such as Jake Burton Carpenter, Tom Sims, Dimitrije Milovich and Bob Webber who took the Snurfer and turned it into the snowboard as we know it.

The Snurfer was originally used to ride down hills as a type of sled. Since then, four primary sub-disciplines of snowboarding have evolved: freeride, freestyle, alpine and backcountry, each one with its own board.

Freeriding is also known as recreational or all-mountain boarding. The boards used are medium to long in length and relatively flexible. Depending on whether used for pipe or rails, freestyle boards may be either stiff or flexible, but both need to be exceptionally light. Alpine boards are long and stiff while backcountry and powder boards are generally wider, sometimes with a split running down the tail (swallowtail boards). Since its invention, dozens of new tricks, games, even sports involving the snowboard have also been created (ex. Snowboardcross).

While the sport of snowboarding has changed a lot since its early days, it must be considered that the actual board itself has evolved considerably. From short boards with primitive or no bindings to today’s beasts that have so many special features you can practically cook dinner with them, little changes here and there have changed the snowboards appearance and performance. Deeper sidecuts improve the board’s ability to turn while twin tips (which a lot of early boards didn’t have) can make executing tricks easy enough to do in your sleep.

The date when society began to use the snowboard isn’t exact, considering the fact that kids have been hurling themselves down hills on various objects for a very long time. It was in the mid-eighties that snowboarding started to become really popular and ski resorts slowly began to accept boarders at their hills. Several completely banned snowboards at first, but came to realize that it was good business to allow them. To this day there are only four resorts in the United States that still ban snowboarding.

Snowboarding has taken the world by storm. In 2000, snowboarding was the fastest growing sport in the United States with 51% increase to just over 7 million participants. It’s one of the most popular sports at the Olympics. Often there are people who get their only exercise from snowboarding. Snowboarding is taken very seriously by some, who actually pursue it as a career rather than a fun pastime.

The snowboard, in its own special way, is also helping to raise environmental awareness. With global warming on the rise, a lot of boarders have to travel further distances in order to locate the perfect stash of snow. Somewhere along the line it clicked in someone’s head that with every drive to a different hill, you are contributing to the increased CO2 in the atmosphere. This leads to higher temperatures, which leads to less snow. It’s a vicious cycle with seemingly no escape. Or is there?

Jonaven Moore is a snowboarder who decided he was going to escape. He researched alternative fuel options and found that he could use vegetable-based fuels to power his diesel pickup truck. He recently drove from British Columbia to Alaska using canola oil as his fuel. His view on the trip and alternative fuels was published in winter 2006 issue of Snowboard Canada Magazine, helping promote the use of biodiesel and similar fuels.

All things considered, the snowboard is a great little piece of technology that has done a lot through its sport. I know my life wouldn’t be the same without it.


Snowboard Canada Vol.14 Issue 3 (Winter 2006)

Construction Basics

The snowboard consists of a few basic parts: The core, base, edge and laminate.

The core of a snowboard is usually made of wood. Aspen and Poplar wood are the most common woods used for snowboard cores. Sometimes the core is made up of a variety of different woods. Cork or Balsa might be used in areas that do not need to be as strong, while beech or birch can be used to reinforce certain areas.

The laminate is the layers of fibreglass that sandwich the core. It adds strength to the board. Sometimes carbon or aramid are added to the board for extra response.

The base is usually made of a plastic called polyethylene, more commonly known as P-tex. The ways that the P-tex is prepared directly affects the board’s performance. It may be extruded or sintered: extruded is when the P-tex is cut from a sheet; sintered is when the material is ground down then reformed with heat and pressure. P-tex might also have graphite mixed into it.

Snowboards with P-tex bases should be waxed so that the board travels easier. Because wax is hydrophobic, snow doesn’t stick to it and there is less friction between the board and the snow. The graphite in some bases helps to hold the wax better so it travels faster.

A strip of metal known as the edge of a snowboard runs along either side of the board. The radius and sharpness of the edge directly affect the rider’s ability to control the board.

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2006 Olga Bednarek. All rights reserved.