The history of the snowboarding industry is brief but the equipment evolution has been explosive. The boards, boots and binding styles sold in 85-86 aren’t even available today. Gone are the split tails, center fins, bolt-on metal edges, wide short bullet-shaped boards and non-supportive boots. Today there are no less than 65 snowboard equipment manufacturers (boards, boots, and bindings). The cost of snowboard equipment is very comparable to ski equipment with a wide range of costs and types.

Boards: Boards or decks are categorized into one of four groups: race, alpine, all-around/free-riding and half-pipe/free-style. They range in lengths from under 100 cm to over 200 cm. Their construction is nearly identical to skis; a board has metal edges, side-cut and camber. All of the same materials are used. The real differences are in the shapes and flex patterns. The term symmetry is used extensively in any discussion of boards. Because a board is ridden with one foot forward the turn dynamics are obviously different from a ski. A board can be symmetrical front to back and/or symmetrical side to side. Normally a ski is asymmetrical front to back and symmetrical side to side. Most boards have symmetry like skis. Reasons for different symmetry configurations include:

Front to back symmetry: Usually found in free-style and half-pipe designs, also called twintips. A board like this can be ridden in either direction with equal control and often has a centered stance. Asymmetrical and/or shifted side-cuts: Refers to asymmetry about the longitudinal centerline of the board. The side-cut shift is on the order of a few inches. The toe edge is shifted forward relative to the heel edge and accounts for the fact that the rider’s toes are nearer to the nose of the board than his/her heels. Because the toes are nearer the nose, the center of pressure (C.P.) applied to the edge is farther forward than the heel side C.P.. Additionally the side-cuts can be of different radii and the flex pattern can be asymmetrical. Boards with these characteristics are predominantly found in the race and alpine categories. An asymmetrical board is made to be ridden either goofy footed or regular footed therefore any board of this type comes in two shapes, one the mirror image of the other.

Race: These boards are used for downhill, GS and slalom racing. They tend to be stiff, narrow and long. They are designed for high speed use with long effective edges for carving turns. Alpine: These boards tend to target crossover skiers. The design of these boards reflects that of a ski with many of the same characteristics and many even look like fat skis.

All-around/Free-riding: This type of board is sometimes called all-terrain or all-mountain. They are designed for use in all snow conditions and most can even be ridden in the half-pipe very successfully. Maybe half of all boards sold in the U.S. are of this type.

Half-pipe/Free-style: These are boards designed for use in the half-pipe and for jibbing, bonking, and general freestyle moves. They tend to be more flexible with wider foot stances more centered on the board. The board probably has more nose and tail area and less effective edge than a board from the other categories. Boards in this category generally do not have good all-around utility because of their inability to hold an edge on hard snow and steep slopes. The board is generally more difficult to control due to the stance configuration.

Bindings: Three types of bindings are used in snowboarding: the high-back, plate, and the soft-boot step-in. The high-back is characterized by a vertical plastic back piece which is used to apply pressure to the heel-side of the board and with two straps which go over the foot. One strap holds the heel down and the other the toe. Some high-backs also have a third strap on the vertical back piece called a shin strap which gives additional support and aids in toe side turns. The plate or hard-boot binding is used with a hard shell boot much like a ski binding except it is non-releasable. The third type of binding is the soft-boot step-in. It is kind of a combination of the first two types listed. A soft-looking boot, which has significantly added support and a retention mechanism built into it. This retention mechanism engages with some type of latching device attached to the board.

Boots: Boots are categorized into 3 groups: soft, hard and hybrid. Soft boots evolved from Sorel and Sno-pac type boots and generally have lace up bladders and shells. The more flexible a boot the easier it is to perform contorted free-style maneuvers but ankle support and edge hold are compromised. The shells are made of rubber, leather and/or plastic and the bladders are similar to ski bladders except normally lace-up. Hard boots are like, but designed distinctly from, ski boots. They are used predominantly with race and alpine type boards and afford support and edge hold at the expense of flexibility. Ski boots don’t work well as snowboard boots because boarding puts drastically different pressures on the feet and hence the boots than skiing; lateral flex is desirable in snowboarding but to be avoided at all costs with skiing. Hybrids are those boots between the two extremes. They may have an all plastic shell where the plastic is thinner than on the hard boot and may be lace up vice buckles.

Clothes: There is a lot of clothing designed just for snowboarding. It tends to be reinforced in the knees, butt, shoulders, elbows, palms and fingers. Some clothing is even padded in the stress areas with foam or plastic. Considerations here should include these facts: a beginner spends a lot of time on his/her knees and butt, snowboarding will wear out a cheap pair of gloves in a few days due to the abuse, because of the bending down/sitting/falling, the clothes should not be binding, and the pants should be waterproof.

1) How dangerous is snowboarding?

It’s about as safe or as dangerous as you want it to be. While there is always some inherent danger in the sport most problems are due to “pilot error”. Pay attention to posted signs… they’re there for a reason. Board in control. Don’t Board in closed areas. The injury rate for skiing has been fairly level at about 3 injuries per thousand skier-days. These injuries include everything from minor bruises and lacerations to broken necks. The most common injuries are thumb and knee injuries. Snowboarders experience about the same injury rate as skiers but the injuries tend to be to the wrist, ankle, and neck (refer to the injury section of this FAQ (8.11) for more info). You *cankill yourself snowboarding. You can also kill somebody else. Stay in control. That being said it should also be mentioned that you’re probably more likely to slip and fall in the parking lot…

2) What’s this “Your Responsibility Code” thing?

This use to be known as The Skier’s Responsibility Code but is now simply referred to as Your Responsibility Code. Rather than saying much *aboutit, we’ll just include it here. Note: This code is widely accepted in the United States… other countries may have similar codes. One netter reports that this code is similar to what’s posted in New Zealand.

Your Responsibility Code: Skiing can be enjoyed in many ways. At ski areas you may see people using alpine, snowboard, telemark, cross country or other specialized ski equipment, such as that used by disabled and other skiers. Regardless of how you decide to enjoy the slopes, always show courtesy to others and be aware that there are elements of risk in skiing that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce. Observe the following code and share with other skiers the responsibility for a great skiing experience. 1. Always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects. 2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them. 3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above. 4. Whenever starting downhill or merging onto a trail, look uphill and yield to others. 5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment. 6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas. 7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

Your Responsibility Code is endorsed by The American Ski Federation, National Ski Patrol, United States Ski Industries Association, Professional Ski Instructors of America, Cross Country Ski Areas Association, United States Ski Association, Ski Coach’s Association, and other organizations. The European countries have the FIS-rules (Federation International de Ski). They are a basis for courtroom decisions but are not laws. The FIS-rules are:

The FIS-rules: 1. Consideration of the other Skiers Every skier has to behave in a way he or she doesn’t endanger or damage any other. 2. Controlling of speed and way of skiing Every skier has to ski on sight. He has to adapt his speed and way of skiing to his abilities and the conditions of the terrain, the snow and the weather as to the traffic density. 3. Choice of track The skier coming from behind another has to choose his track so that skiers before him won’t be endangered. 4. Overtaking Overtaking is allowed from above or below, from right or left but always with a distance so that the skier being overtaken has space enough for all his movements. 5. Entering and restarting Every skier entering a trail or starting after a halt has to assure himself uphill and downhill of the fact that he can do so without danger for himself and others. 6. Stopping Every skier has to avoid stopping at small or blind places of a trail without need. A fallen skier has to free such a place as quick as possible. 7. Mounting and descend A skier mounting or descending by feet has to use the border of the trail. 8. Pay attention to signs Every skier has to pay attention to the marks and signs. 9. Behavior in case of accidents In case of accidents every skier has to help. 10. Duty of proving identity Every skier whether witness or involved, whether responsible or not has to prove his identity in case of an accident.

3) What is snowboarding? 

Snowboarding is the relatively new sport which can be visually compared to skateboarding and surfing except done on snow. The rider stands on the board with his/her left or right foot forward, facing one side of the board. The feet are attached to the board via high-back or plate bindings which are non-releasable. Although there is at least one manufacturer of releasable bindings, they are not widely used. The sport is distinct from monoskiing. In monoskiing both feet are side by side on a single ski and the skier faces forward. Some sports which have overlap in skills to snowboarding include: skurfing, skateboarding, surfing, water skiing and certainly snow skiing. In the following sections many comparisons are made to skiing because of its widespread familiarity. If unfamiliar with snowboarding terminology the reader should first refer to the What Is All This Weird Talk? section.

4) What is snowboard skiing? 

Simply put, it is the legal name for snowboarding. Probably contrived by the lawyers and the insurance companies sometime in the 80’s. The PSIA also refers to snowboarding as snowboard skiing. This means it has all the privileges and liabilities of alpine skiing. Legally speaking there is no technical difference between any form of skiing, including: telemark, cross-country, mono, downhill, snowboard, boot-skiing.

5) What is the history of snowboarding? 

Snowboarding became popular only in the last 10 years. It was pioneered in the late 70’s by a small group including Jake Burton Carpenter, Chuck Barfoot, and Tom Sims. All now head or have led snowboard companies with Burton being the largest snowboard manufacturer in the world. Burton gets most of the media’s credit for having incorporated the first high-back bindings, metal edges and snowboard boots into his line. All of the early pioneers were heavily influenced by surfboarding. The roots really start with the snurfer, that sled hill toy you may have ridden as a kid, shaped like a small water ski with a rope tied to the nose and a rough surface for traction from the center to the back where you stood. Sherman Poppin was the inventor of the snurfer which first appeared in the 1960s. As it turns out Jake Burton was involved in snurfer racing, a gag event put on by a group of bored college students. Well, he got the bright idea to put a foot retention device (little more than a strap at first) on his boards and began to win these events hands down. At about this same time several other people were busy inventing the sport. Jeff Grell is credited with designing the first highback binding. Demetre Malovich started Winterstick, which didn’t make it financially. He introduced several important factors early on in the sport like swallowtail designs, and laminated construction. Boots evolved from Sorels (TM) or Sno-pac type boots. Early “snowboard” boots were Sorel shells with ski boot type bladders. It was obvious that these early boots did not supply adequate support for the ankle and inhibited control of the boards. The first hard-shell “snowboard” boots were in fact ski boots. It didn’t take long for the first true hard-shell boot to be produced before the end of the eighties. Burton set up shop at Stratton Mountain in Vermont and by 1985 had incorporated steel edges and high-back bindings into his designs. The metal edges allowed use at regular ski resorts and the rest is hiss-toe-ree. In 1985 only 7 percent of U.S. ski areas allowed snowboards; today more than 97 percent do and over half have half pipes.