An Expert Guide to the Lib Tech Orca SnowboardPublished on 05/19/2023 · 11 min readConsidering the Lib Tech Orca snowboard? Check out this guide first, where Snowboarding Expert Gaelen Mast goes over key features of the board, sizing, and more!
Photo by Henry Perks
TL;DR: The Lib Tech Orca is an iconic, freeride-oriented snowboard known for its versatility, powder performance, and volume-shifted design. In this guide we’ll discuss the considerations that should be made if you’re thinking of purchasing this board. These include: identifying the right board size, the best boot and bindings to pair it with, and if a “short and fat” board fits your riding style needs and wants.
My name is Gaelen, and I’ve devoted more than half of my life to snowboarding. Over the past 11 years, I’ve had the privilege of snowboarding 50+ days every year in locations such as Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska. In addition, I’ve worked as a snowboard rental technician at multiple mountain resorts and in a snowboard shop. I’ve also worked with thousands of customers here at Curated to help them find the right gear for their specific needs and wants.
Today I want to dive deep into one of the most iconic and recognizable snowboards you’ll see at the mountain; the Lib Tech Orca. This board is far from a gutless fish (a.k.a. a normal board). In fact, it’s the go-to board for legendary rider Travis Rice when he needs a Jackson Hole Resort slasher board. It’s a board for the more advanced snowboarder who wants a daily driver that’ll excel in powder and off-piste riding, and today we’re going to cover everything there is to know about this board so you can decide if it’s the right one for you.
Who Is Lib Tech?
Founded in Washington in 1989, Lib Tech is now a leading snowboard manufacturer in today’s market. The brand is a subsidiary of Mervin Manufacturing, which also owns other well-known snowboard brands such as Gnu and Roxy. Lib Tech in particular is renowned for their groundbreaking innovations and commitment to sustainability.
The company’s most notable design is their “Magne-Traction” technology—a serrated edge pattern that provides exceptional edge hold in icy conditions. They’re also known for their “Banana Technology,” a rocker-camber hybrid profile that improved their board’s versatility and performance. While these technologies may seem fairly common nowadays, Lib Tech played a pioneering role in their development, and helped popularize them to the point where other brands started adopting them (under other names).
Lib Tech's commitment to the environment also helps set them apart from other brands. They produce their boards in the "world's most environmentally friendly snowboard factory" using eco-friendly materials like basalt fibers and non-toxic resins. Additionally, this factory is powered by wind and water energy, further reducing their environmental footprint and making them more appealing to those who are eco-conscious.
What Is the Lib Tech Orca?
The Lib Tech Orca is a high-performance snowboard that looks like a pure powder board at first glance but is surprisingly capable as a daily driver in all sorts of conditions. For this reason, it’s popular amongst powder, freeride, and all-mountain riders alike. One of the original “volume-shifted” snowboards, the Orca continues to be one of the most popular boards of this type on the market today due to its performance, distinctive shape, and graphics.
Who Is This Board Meant For?
While the Orca is an overall great board, it may not be perfect for you. Below I will discuss its most common use cases, and if some or all of them resonate with you, chances are the Lib Tech Orca would be a good fit.
The Lib Tech Orca might be for you if…
- You enjoy all-mountain versatility (minus terrain parks)
- You enjoy a nimble board good for tighter spots like trees and moguls
- You value stability and control at speeds and in variable terrain
- You want a board that will float well in powder (the deeper the better)
- You’re an advanced rider who spends lots of time on blues, blacks, and double blacks
- You like to pop into the air and hit drops and/or side hits
The Lib Tech Orca might not be for you if…
- You are a beginner rider spending most of your time on greens and blues
- You don’t like a stiff board
- You spend a lot of time in the terrain park
- You want to do a lot of butters or presses
- You spend a lot of time riding switch
- You don’t ride powder
Key Features of the Orca
Below we’ll cover some of the most notable features of the Lib Tech Orca and how they can impact your riding experience.
- C2X Camber Profile: This profile features a small section of rocker in the middle of the board and then aggressive camber throughout the rest of the board which peaks under each binding insert. According to Lib Tech, this profile is supposed to provide the perfect balance of control, precision, and float. The rocker between the bindings provides maneuverability and float in powder, while the camber zones throughout the rest of the board provide stability, pop, and edge hold on and off groomers regardless of snow conditions.
- Shape: The Orca’s directional shape means it has a long, floaty nose that’ll stay on top of the snow and a smaller tail meant to sink into the snow, further lifting the nose above snow and keeping the rider afloat. What’s even more special about the Orca is that it’s “volume-shifted,” meaning that it’s wider than the average board. It can therefore be ridden 3–6cms shorter than a normal board size while still performing like a longer board because the rider’s weight is simply distributed across the extra width.
- Magne-Traction technology: Typically, snowboard edges are smooth, but Magne-Traction edges have small, wavy serrations on them. These strategically placed serrations along the board's edge create multiple contact points with the snow, which in theory provide improved edge hold and control—especially on icy or hard-packed snow—and result in a more confident ride with smoother turns. This is a great piece of technology to have for those who live on the East Coast (a.k.a. the ice coast)!
- Horsepower construction: The Orca features a combination of lightweight and strong materials for optimal performance and durability. This includes a blend of eco-friendly components, including a core made of aspen, paulownia, and balsa wood, and a top sheet composed of bio beans. Additionally, the sidewalls of the board are reinforced with basalt fibers, ensuring increased strength and reduced weight.
Lib Tech Orca Sizing
At the end of the day, you can ride the Orca in whatever length you would normally ride your boards. However, the Lib Tech Orca’s volume-shifted design is meant to be ridden shorter than your typical snowboard. Plus, you won’t get all the perks that a volume-shifted board can offer if you don’t size down on the Orca as recommended.
For the 2023 version of the Lib Tech Orca, the available sizes are 138, 144, 147, 150, 153, 156, 159, and 162cms. While the sizing hasn’t yet been released for the 2024 version of the board, it’ll likely be similar, with a length that can accommodate just about any size of rider.
The easiest way to get a general idea of what length of Orca is best for you is to simply subtract 3–6 cm from your current preferred board length and choose a length of the Orca that falls into that range. For example, I typically ride a 153cm length snowboard, so I would likely select the 147 cm or 150 cm length Orca. Personally, I think to experience the full benefits of a volume-shifted board, it’s best to size down the full six centimeters if possible, but that comes down to personal preference.
Before simply grabbing any Lib Tech Orca, also consider the following factors for sizing:
- Weight: Because every length that the Orca is produced in has a recommended weight range, you want to make sure you fall within the proper one. If you’re above that range, the board will feel more flexible than intended; if you’re below that range, the board will feel stiffer.
- Boot size: The best way to have a bad time on the Orca (or any board) is to have your toes hanging way over the edge, and then catch in the snow whenever you make a turn. To avoid that, keep in mind that as board length increases, the waist width also increases. Since it’s volume-shifted, the Orca is an inherently wide board. However, if you have an abnormally large boot size, make sure to double-check that the length of your Orca will work for you. Admittedly, this is an issue for very few; by the time the Orca reaches the 150 cm length, it’s already 265mm wide—which can easily accommodate up to a size 12 men’s boot. Don’t be silly and purchase an Orca in a 144 cm length if you’ve got a massive boot size. You may think you’ll be getting a nimble pow surfer, but all you’re really getting is a faceplant every time you try to carve and get toe drag.
- Riding Goals: If you’re looking to ride this board in lots of tight spots, such as moguls or trees, and/or if you’re looking for a very nimble and easy-to-turn ride, I recommend sizing down more (6+ cm). If you’re more into going as fast as possible, want to ride the steepest lines and the deepest powder, and want maximum float and stability, don’t size down as much (2–3 cm). If you’re looking to do a little of everything, your best bet is to size down perhaps 4–5 cm.
Finding the Best Boots and Bindings for the Orca
When choosing bindings, consider factors like flex, adjustability, and compatibility with your snowboard boots. A good match between your bindings and board will give you more control, comfort, and a seamless control over the Orca, unlocking all of its potential!
Recommended Bindings for the Lib Tech Orca
For the Orca, you'll want all-mountain or freeride bindings that complement its performance and versatility. Here are some recommendations to get you started:
- Union Force: Known for their durability and reliability, the Union Force bindings offer a medium flex that pairs well with the Orca's versatile nature. They're responsive enough for quick turns yet forgiving enough for all-day comfort.
- Burton Cartel: These bindings are a popular choice for all-mountain riders. They offer a medium-stiff flex, providing excellent response and control without compromising comfort.
- Now Drive: If you're into more aggressive freeriding, the Now Drive bindings could be your best bet. With their stiffer flex and Skate-Tech technology, they'll give you that extra responsiveness and support you need when charging hard.
Selecting the Right Snowboard Boots
A proper fit is essential for both comfort and performance in snowboard boots. Look for boots that match your riding style, offer the right level of flex, and fit snugly without causing pain.
The most important thing to consider when choosing boots to go with your Lib Tech Orca set-up is to try to match the boot’s flex with the board (and bindings). Since the Orca is a medium/stiff flexing board, looking for boots that are also a medium/stiff flex. Some ideas to get you started include:
- Vans Infuse: The Vans Infuse are a hybrid lace and BOA boot that allows riders to adjust their flex and fit according to one’s preferences. It offers a versatile, medium-stiff flex and provides a responsive and supportive ride.
- ThirtyTwo TM-2: The ThirtyTwo TM-2 is a popular laced-boot choice among all-mountain riders. It offers a medium-stiff flex, providing a good balance of support and versatility for various terrains and riding styles.
- Burton Ruler: The Burton Ruler is a double BOA boot that features a medium-stiff flex and is designed for riders seeking a blend of performance and versatility. It offers a comfortable fit and reliable response for various riding styles and terrain.
How Much Does the Lib Tech Orca Run For?
Alright, let's talk dollars and cents. The Lib Tech Orca is a premium snowboard, and its price tag reflects that. You can expect to pay between $600 and $700 at full price (if you’re patient, it’s possible to find this board under $500 during certain sales). But don't let the price scare you off. There's a reason it's a top choice for riders who value performance and quality, and that’s due to its unique combination of innovative features discussed earlier.
Further, the Orca is a board that’s plenty durable, so it’ll last for many seasons. Its performance capabilities also mean it won't make it feel outdated even if you’re riding it ten years from now—which is totally possible if you take care of it.
Chat With a Real Expert About the Orca
Based on my experience with the board, I truly believe that while the Lib Tech Orca might have a higher upfront cost, you’re ultimately paying for better performance, quality, and durability than most other boards on the market.
If you’d like help thinking through those personal deciding factors (do they have a size that’s good for me? Does it suit my riding style? Am I the right ability level for it? etc), reach out to a Curated Snowboarding Expert, like me. We can give you personal advice and customized gear recommendations to your very specific questions that a reddit forum from 2016 can’t answer. It’s totally free, and the best way to eliminate buyer’s remorse. Who knows…you might even end up purchasing your very own Lib Tech Orca!