Carving Snowboards: How to Choose the Right One for YouPublished on 08/21/2023 · 17 min readChoosing a snowboard for carving is easy with this Expert guide! Discover key factors and tips to find the perfect snowboard to enhance your carving experience.
Photo by Ipatov
Looking to shift the focus off powder and park and lay down some carves? It’s time to take a look at what to remember when buying a carving snowboard. One main thing to prioritize, of course, is the sizing – the board length and width. We will also look into the flex, camber profile, and sidecut radius and how these factors play into how well a board will stay in control and carve. And remember, while everyone carves when snowboarding, all-mountain riding vs. laying down deep, low carves is a bit different, so this article will focus on helping you look at specs to figure out what type of board is best for your riding style.
Before we jump in, a quick intro on my background: I have been snowboarding for over 23 years both in resort and in the backcountry, and I learned to ski before that. It is one of my passions in life, and I equally love helping others to get into it and learn to love it as well. I grew up on the East Coast where the groomers were firm, carving was cool, and terrain parks were everywhere. I then moved west to more powder than I could imagine and endless tree runs. I truthfully love every terrain out there and firmly believe that the board you choose can make or break your day on the slopes.
What Is a Carving Snowboard?
A carving snowboard is designed for making clean, low, precise turns on groomed slopes. True carving means you’re turning through the arc of your snowboard using only the sidecut of the board and no skidding. A carving board typically features a longer length and narrower width for extra edge grip and quick edge-to-edge transitions, and a slightly shallower sidecut radius for large, sweeping turns. These boards usually have a stiffer flex for better control at high speeds, and a camber profile to provide more power and stability in carving. Carving snowboards focus less on tricks and jumps; their primary function is to help riders carve low and to lay down fluid arcs on the snow while maintaining speed and control.
What to Consider When Buying a Carving Snowboard
1. What is my skill level?
Similar to buying any new board, understanding your skill level is important as it will dictate the type of board you should be considering. If you’re a beginner, a carving board may not be the first board to buy and you may want a softer, more forgiving board to learn on. If you’re more experienced, look at what terrain you ride the most and what your goals are. If you decide you want to focus on groomers and carving - your skill level will dictate how stiff of a board you want.
2. What size board do I need?
Your height, weight, and shoe size can all influence the right board size for you. A longer board offers more stability and speed, which are crucial for carving. However, if it's too long, you might struggle with maneuverability. Carving boards are typically narrower, but you must ensure your boots don't hang over the edge (known as "boot drag") because they can catch when you’re trying to make turns. The right board width also facilitates quicker edge transitions, which will make carving a lot more fun!
3. What should the snowboard's flex be?
Carving requires precision and control, often best provided by a stiffer flex. However, the right flex also depends on your riding style, weight, and skill level. An overly stiff board might be hard to handle for lighter or less experienced riders. As a general rule of thumb, however, a carving board will usually at least be a 5/10 in flex, if not higher.
4. What sidecut radius and camber profile is best for carving?
The sidecut radius impacts the type and size of turns you'll be making. A larger radius (shallower sidecut) creates wider, sweeping turns, suitable for carving. If you want to make tighter turns and carves, though, a deeper sidecut (smaller radius) will make this easier. For example, a board with a larger sidecut radius of 8.0 will make much larger sweeping turns, while a sidecut radius of 6.7 will make much tighter turns with ease. Camber profiles provide different levels of responsiveness, control, and stability. A traditional camber or a hybrid camber board is often recommended for carving instead of a rocker board to make sure you have solid edge control and rebound.
5. How much should a carving snowboard cost?
Carving snowboards can range in price from around $300 to over $1,000. At the lower end of this spectrum ($300-$450), you’ll often find more beginner to intermediate boards. Mid-range boards ($450-$700) are typically designed for intermediate to advanced riders, and will generally have stiffer options, and higher-quality bases, edges, and woods used in composition. High-end boards ($700 and up) cater to advanced and professional riders, often made with premium materials for superior performance and longevity. It's good to consider your budget alongside your skill level, snowboarding goals, and commitment level.
6. How often will you be snowboarding?
If you're a seasonal or occasional rider, you probably don’t need a high-end board. However, if you plan on hitting the slopes regularly (multi-weekly) or entering competitions, investing in a quality mid-range or high-end carving snowboard would be worth it.
What Are the Different Types of Carving Snowboards?
Choosing the right carving snowboard for you can greatly impact your ride. With numerous types available, understanding their unique features and benefits a bit better will help guide you to the board best suited to your carving needs. Let's explore the different types of carving snowboards:
1. Traditional Camber Snowboards
Traditional camber snowboards are the oldest and most common type. They have a continuous arch underfoot, with the contact points close to the tip and tail. This design delivers excellent edge hold, precision, and power, making them well-suited for carving.
- Great edge control
- More power and stability
- Responsive and precise
- Keep in Mind
- Less forgiving and can be more challenging for beginners
- Not the best for powder conditions
2. Hybrid Camber Snowboards
Hybrid camber snowboards combine camber with other profiles (like rocker or flat) to offer a more versatile performance. The camber portion usually sits underfoot for stability and edge hold, while the added profile is often at the tip and tail and can help with maneuverability or make the board easier to ride in powder.
- Versatility across different snow conditions
- Good edge hold and stability from the camber portion
- Easier handling than traditional camber boards
- Keep in Mind
- Not as precise or powerful as full camber boards
- Not as hardcore for intense carving
- Performance can vary widely depending on the specific hybrid design
3. Asymmetrical Snowboards
Asymmetrical snowboards are unique because they have a shorter sidecut radius on the heel edge and a longer one on toeside. If you look at a human from the side, we are not symmetrical, so these boards aim to give us a bit of that symmetry back. Generally, a toe-side turn is much easier for us to do, but with an Asym board, the line is blurred and the goal is to make heel-side turns easier. This design, however, is generally only used in ‘true twin’ shaped boards, which isn’t always ideal for fast carving.
- Improved heel edge turn performance
- Allows more precise and balanced carving
- Often easier to make smooth turns once you get used to it
- Keep in Mind
- If used on directional boards, they are specific to regular or goofy riders, limiting interchangeability
- May feel odd or weird at first to some riders due to the asymmetry
4. Alpine or Carving Boards
Alpine or carving boards are specifically designed for carving and racing. They are long, narrow, stiff, and often feature an extreme sidecut and a deep camber profile.
- Superior edge hold for carving
- Fast and stable at high speeds
- Allows deep, sweeping carves
- Keep in Mind
- Less versatile, mainly for groomed runs
- Harder to ride, not beginner-friendly
- Can pair best with hard boots and specific bindings.
Features to Look for When Buying Carving Snowboards
To truly lay down deep carves, you’ll want to look for specific board characteristics to make this possible. Familiarizing yourself with these key phrases, features, and technologies will help in your buying process. Let's dive into what you should keep an eye out for when selecting a carving snowboard:
- Camber Profile: Look for a traditional camber or a hybrid camber profile. These profiles deliver the best edge control and rebound that benefit carving.
- Sidecut Radius: Sidecut Radius is always listed in the tech features of a snowboard. A larger sidecut radius (shallower) promotes wider, sweeping turns that are typically associated with carving. A smaller (deeper) sidecut radius will make tighter turns.
- Board Flex: Often, brands will list a board’s flex as a 1-5 or 1-10 listing — the higher the number, the stiffer the board. A stiffer flex is preferable for carving as it offers better control at high speeds and more precision in turns.
- Effective Edge: This refers to the length of the metal edge of the snowboard that touches the snow during a turn. A longer effective edge can provide better control and stability, which are crucial for carving.
- Width and Length: A narrower and longer board is generally better for carving as it facilitates faster edge-to-edge transitions and provides more stability at speed. Make sure to always consider your personal shoe size though!
- Magne-Traction or similar technology: Some boards have a wavy, serrated sidecut (like Lib Tech's Magne-Traction) that increases edge hold, which can be beneficial for carving.
- Torsional Rigidity: This refers to the board's resistance to twisting. A board with high torsional rigidity will be more responsive and provide better edge hold when carving.
- Construction Material: High-quality materials can enhance performance. For instance, carbon inlays can provide added stiffness and response without increasing weight.
- Asymmetrical Design: Asymmetrical boards have different sidecuts on the toe and heel edges to better match the different biomechanics of toe and heel side turns, improving carving performance.
Remember, it's important to consider your own skill level, physical attributes, and personal preferences when considering these features and technologies.
Features to Avoid in Carving Snowboards
While certain snowboard features enhance carving, others can impede it. It's just as crucial to know what to avoid when selecting your carving board. In this section, we'll discuss features that might not suit your carving aspirations:
- Flat or Rocker Dominant Profiles: While they offer certain advantages like maneuverability and float in powder, flat or rocker dominant snowboard profiles typically do not provide the same level of edge hold or stability at speed as camber profiles, which can impact carving performance.
- Soft Flex: A board that's too flexible won't have the stability or precision needed for effective carving, especially at higher speeds.
- Wide Waist Width: Volume-shifted boards are becoming popular, and have wonderful benefits, but in the matter of carving, a board that's too wide can slow down edge-to-edge transitions, making carving less fluid and responsive.
- Short Boards: Short boards can lack the stability at speed and edge hold required for effective carving.
- Heavy Boards: A board that's overly heavy (often seen in lower-end boards with cheaper materials) can be harder to control and tiring to ride, potentially affecting your ability to carve effectively over the course of a day.
- Powder-Specific Features: While features like a setback stance, wide nose, or swallow tail are great for powder snow, they can hinder performance on groomed slopes where carving usually occurs.
Remember, different snowboard designs cater to different styles of riding. While certain features may not be ideal for carving, they might excel in other aspects of snowboarding, like freestyle or powder riding. It's always essential to consider what type of snowboarding you plan to do the most.
How to Choose the Right Carving Snowboard
When you’re in the market for a carving snowboard, you can read all about them, but it can still be a hard task to choose! Let’s take a look at three examples of people and their riding styles to see how they might go about choosing the perfect board.
Needs: Jacob is from the East Coast and is looking for a board that can slay. He doesn’t get much powder and he has no interest in the park. He loves that freshly groomed corduroy early in the mornings, he loves speed, and he loves to get as low in his carves as he can. He doesn’t go off-piste or in trees much, so he is looking for a board that will perform the best on groomers. He has looked at some niche brands like Stranda, Elevated Surfcraft, and Donek, but he isn’t quite ready to drop that much cash.
Features to look for: He’s looking for a directional board with a medium to shallow sidecut radius that will help with big arcing carves. He wants something pretty stiff so he can feel stable at high speeds, and he’s leaning towards full camber, but open to hybrid camber if the board gets exceptional reviews in the carving category. It should definitely have a fast base as well.
Snowboards to consider:
- Salomon Highpath: The Highpath is rated at a 4/5 in stiffness, which will provide Jacob with a lot of stability in his turns. It has a tiny bit of flat camber between the feet and then camber under each foot for a unique blend of stability and pop. The edge angle is beveled and varies from 1-2 degrees for optimal edge hold, and the base is 50% recycled and super fast. This could be a great choice, especially if Jacob still wants a one-quiver board.
- GNU Banked Country: This unique design has a lot of carving capabilities. It features an aggressive C3 Camber design for precision and control and is a very stiff flex for stability at any speed. It features carbon power bands for tons of response and pop, and it has Magne-Traction on the edges for supreme grip.
- Nidecker Thruster: The Thruster has an N-9000 base, a very dense and durable design that is Nidecker’s fastest base. It features a lot of camber underfoot and is a mid-stiff flex for optimal control. With a sidecut radius of 8.0 in the 159, Jacob could feel confident he would be able to make big arcing carves on this. It’s known for explosive pop as well, so this could be quite the pick for Jacob!
Needs: Ashley loves to carve hard. She’s looking for a board that can keep up with her high speeds and low carves. She wants a women’s board since she is pretty small and the smallest sizes in the guys' boards aren’t a good fit. She would be stoked if the board could also be a one-quiver board since she travels a lot, but she’s primarily focused on carving freshly groomed runs.
Features to look for: Ashley will want a medium to stiff board, preferably with some kind of edge tech as well to really dig into her carves. She’s looking for a medium sidecut radius that will be super fun for carving but not so shallow she can’t go through the occasional set of trees. Of course, she wants a fast base and lightweight materials as well.
Snowboards to consider:
- Never Summer Lady FR: The Lady FR is a unique design that features a Triple Camber profile for tons of speed and power. It is rated at an 8/10 flex so it is stiff and damp to reduce chatter. It is ready to carve and it has a medium sidecut radius so while it won’t be making massive arcs, it will carve large and small quite well. Never Summer also uses what they call their Vario Power Grip Sidecut, which enhances edge hold. This board could very well be the best carving machine for Ashley.
- Jones Flagship - Women’s: This Jones freeride board is a truly dynamic board. It features a stiff 8/10 flex for tons of control, and 7+ sidecut radius (differs between board lengths), which is right in the middle for big carves or tighter turns. It integrates an awesome 9900 base that’s designed to fly, and there is Traction Tech 3.0 on this board, which means there are tiny bumps on the edge that are designed to maximize edge hold even when laying down deep carves.
- GNU Barrett: The Barrett has a very shallow sidecut so it is designed to go fast and make huge wide turns. It has the C3 Camber from GNU for tons of power and pop, and a stiff flex for optimal control and stability. This GNU board features Magne-Traction on the edges for superior edge hold. If Ashley is looking to carve wide open hills at full speed this could be an awesome choice for her.
Needs: Tyson is looking for a bit of a different style of carving machine than the previous two. He wants a board that carves hard for all those groomer days, but he also wants his board to plow through chunder when he is off-piste and ride powder as well. While in the past, this type of board was unheard of, there are definitely some boards these days that are blurring those lines and can slay multiple types of terrain.
Features to look for: Tyson will want to look at the sidecut radius to make sure it is suitable for the type of carving he will be doing. He will still want a fairly stiff board so he is stable and can make fast carves, but he may also want something a little wider so that he can plow through chunder and powder. Edge-tech would be great, and any extra features that specialize in powder would be a beneficial addition.
Snowboards to consider:
- Ride Peace Seeker: This self-proclaimed powder board is more than a carving machine. The extra stiff design helps to stay stable at high speeds unlike a lot of powder boards out there. The ‘directional extra camber’ profile is set back for floating in powder, but still has more camber than rocker so the carving is unmatched. It uses carbon slimewalls to dampen the ride and provide great edge hold as well. This could be an awesome board for Tyson for multiple types of terrain and conditions.
- Salomon Dancehaul: The Dancehaul is a unique design that has a lot of versatility. Commonly scoring high for carving as well as for powder and playfulness, this is truly a one-quiver board. If Tyson wants something that can carve, but also do it all, this could be the board for him. It is a medium stiffness — 3 / 5 — so it provides stability at speed while also being a bit more playful. The clever 1-2 degree edge bevel helps to hold an edge on the groomers, and the rock out camber profile provides pop and power.
- Ride Warpig: The Warpig breaks all the rules when it comes to what you expect. As a wide board, it is designed to be ridden short and fat, it has a flat profile instead of camber, and a deep sidecut, and yet it somehow is a carving machine. The damp platform crushes anything in its path and it carves groomers like a champ. It also floats through powder effortlessly. It’s a very stiff board as well, so if Tyson wants something that can not only carve, but do it all, this could be worth checking out.
Find the Best Carving Snowboard for You
Overall, there are a lot of different styles of boards out there, and it takes an honest self-evaluation of your skills and your goals to find the board that suits you best. Please feel free to reach out to me, or any of my fellow Snowboarding Experts here on Curated, if you’d like free, personalized help with picking your next board!