An Expert Breakdown on Snowboard Sidecut, Effective Edge, Taper and Waist Width
Snowboard Expert Gaelen Mast gets into the details on the four main measurements of a snowboard and how they each change the feel of the board!
When it comes to shopping for a new snowboard deck, most of us will place a large emphasis on choosing the correct length of snowboard. After all, riding an improperly sized snowboard will make your life much more difficult than it needs to be. However, there are plenty of other lesser-known snowboard specifications you might consider when selecting your next snowboard. These include specs such as sidecut, effective edge, taper, and waist width.
While it’s not essential that you're an expert in any of these realms, understanding the basics of each will help you make a more informed and ultimately better decision when you go to purchase your next snowboard. Let’s get started!
A snowboard’s sidecut is perhaps one of the most misunderstood snowboard specs, so I’ll try to keep things simple. There are two parts of a snowboard sidecut: the sidecut radius and the sidecut depth. I’ll specify if I'm talking about the sidecut radius, but if I simply write “sidecut”, I am referring to the sidecut depth as this is the industry standard.
The snowboard sidecut radius can be thought of as the arc of the edge of a snowboard from tip to tip. When you hear people talk about sidecut radius, they are referring to the angle of this arc. Check out the graphic above for a visual example!
Sidecut depth is the difference in width between the snowboard’s width at its tips and the snowboard’s width at the center. (Again just check out the graphic above and it’ll make more sense)! Sidecut depth is directly correlated to sidecut radius because the angle of the sidecut radius determines the depth of the sidecut. If a board has a large sidecut radius, it will have a shallower sidecut depth, conversely, if a board has a smaller sidecut radius, it will have a deeper sidecut depth.
- Larger sidecut radius = a shallower sidecut
- Smaller sidecut radius = a deeper sidecut
Why It Matters
If you still don’t fully grasp the complexities of sidecuts, don’t sweat it. It’s more important you understand how sidecuts affect your snowboarding experience: Sidecuts (among other factors) affect how your snowboard turns.
Snowboards with a shallower sidecut (or larger radius) will be favorable for making wider, more drawn-out turns. Whereas snowboards with a deeper sidecut (or smaller radius) will work better for making tighter, more precise turns. Snowboard side cuts are measured in a range from 6-10 (don’t ask me why it starts at 6, it makes no sense to me either), with 6 being the deepest sidecut and 10 being the shallowest sidecut.
Next time you go out snowboard shopping, have a glance at the sidecut information! If you’re someone who likes to ride in the woods or in the terrain park where you need to make quick and precise turns, you might gravitate towards a board with a sidecut of 6 or 7. If you’re a rider who likes to carve from side to side on a groomer or make long floaty turns in powder, you might consider a board with a sidecut of 9 or 10!
To understand a snowboard’s effective edge, let’s do a little visualization exercise. If you’re not feeling imaginative, there’s a graphic at the bottom of this section!
First, imagine a snowboard, imagine the widest part of the tips (the nose and the tail), and now imagine all the snowboard edge length in between the widest parts of the snowboard tips. This is the effective edge! It is all of the edge that touches the snow when you’re riding and is measured in millimeters (mm).
Why It Matters
The effective edge isn’t too difficult of a concept to understand, but understanding how it affects your riding is very important! As you might imagine, there are benefits to both a longer effective edge and a shorter effective edge.
A longer effective edge is going to be more stable when riding fast and hard, and provide a better grip. If you’re someone who likes to ride mainly steep trails and carve fast, a longer effective edge will be your friend. A shorter effective edge is going to be easier to turn quickly and easily. If you’re someone who likes to do lots of tricks (in or outside of the terrain park), a shorter effective edge is what you want!
Taper isn’t a factor on every snowboard and you may never have to think about it, but why not define it nonetheless? It’s quite easy to understand; it’s the difference in width between the nose and the tail of a snowboard. If you’re considering a snowboard and trying to find its taper, just remember this formula
- Nose Width(mm) - Tail Width(mm) = snowboard’s taper(mm)
Why It Matters
I mentioned that taper isn’t a factor to always pay attention to, and this is because many boards do not have a width difference between tips, and therefore have no taper. True twin snowboards, for example, are completely symmetrical in all aspects and therefore will never have a taper.
Taper is most common on funky-shaped powder or freeride snowboards because it helps the back of the snowboard sink into deeper snow and naturally keeps the nose afloat without a rider having to apply as much pressure on their back foot. The wider the taper, the easier the tail will sink, and the better the board will float through powder. If you’re looking for a visual, the 2023 K2 Excavator is a great example with a taper of 20cm.
Understanding a snowboard’s waist width is perhaps the most important term to take away, because choosing an incorrect waist width will have you ending up on your butt for no apparent reason (more on this later).
A waist width is the narrowest point of the snowboard (width-wise) and is almost always directly in the center of the board. The waist width is measured in millimeters (mm) and snowboard waist-widths range greatly, typically from 230mm-270mm. People use waist width as the standard measurement to describe the width of a snowboard, as it is the most important width number to know.
Why It Matters
Choosing a proper waist width is based primarily on your boot size. People with larger boots need to pay the most attention because if they select a board with a waist width that is too narrow, the whole board will be too narrow. If the board is too narrow, the rider’s toes and/or heels will hang over the edge of the snowboard—I’m sure you can see where this is going: a one-way ticket to the ground if you take a turn and your boot digs into the snow! There’s no agreed-upon waist width size for people with larger boot sizes, but as a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to consider a snowboard with a waist width of at least 260mm if you have a boot size of 12 U.S. men's or bigger.
While choosing a board with too small of a waist width can be an issue, a board with too big of a waist width can be just as problematic. If you’re riding a snowboard that is way too wide for you, it’s going to take extra time to transfer from edge-to-edge when carving. This means turning your board will take more effort and time so you won’t have as much precision or control as you would on a properly-sized snowboard.
Some people will choose to ride snowboards that have a narrower or wider waist width than standard for their boot size for special purposes. For example, people who ride primarily deep powder may choose to ride a board with a wide waist width even if they don’t have large boots, simply because that extra width provides better float through the snow. However, if you’re unsure of what waist width is best for you, most manufacturers will have board sizing charts that recommend specific waist widths based on your boot size.
Make It Easy On Yourself
Hopefully, by this time you’re more familiar with these four snowboard specs; however, there’s no shame if you’re just now feeling knowledgeable enough to make your purchase decision. Instead of procrastinating and promising that you’ll learn more later, why not just shop on Curated? At Curated, you can connect with a Snowboard Expert via chat, let them know what kind of riding you’re looking for, and get personalized snowboard product recommendations all for free!