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Asymmetrical Snowboards: What Are They and Why You'd Want One

Published on 01/19/2024 · 8 min readCurious about asymmetrical snowboards? Learn what they are and why they're a game-changer for riders seeking improved balance and turn dynamics.
Miguel Machado, Snowboarding Expert
By Snowboarding Expert Miguel Machado

The Gnu Rider’s Choice. Photo courtesy of GNU

Tl;dr: Asymmetrical snowboards are boards that are designed to account for the way our body’s mechanics differ when turning on our heel edge as opposed to our to edge. This is done by decreasing the length of the side cut or softening the flex of the board on the heel edge to make heel-side carves easier. This also helps if you like to ride switch a lot.

A quick confession: Heel side is my weak side. Every year, at the beginning of the snowboard season, I’ll lay down a crispy toe-side eurocarve to see where my legs are at. I’m always amazed at how something that feels so smooth and effortless upon initiation can turn into a stiff mess as soon as I get on my heel edge. So naturally, I’m a fan of asymmetrical boards.

While it’s currently in a state of semi-retirement, one of my favorite boards of all time is the Yes. Greats/Asym series. It’s a responsive, powerful board that charges through hardpack at high speeds and keeps me stable on both sides. For that reason, I know that for as long as they continue to make it, there will always be a Yes. Greats in my quiver. But while Yes. Snowboards were one of the first brands to come out with a new generation of asymmetrical boards, in the following years, most major brands launched their own offerings.

This buyer’s guide aims to help you understand exactly what those offerings are, how they differ from one another, and why an asymmetrical snowboard might be the right choice for you. But first, let’s get into what exactly an asymmetrical snowboard is and how it differs from a traditional board. If you still have questions when you’re finished, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Curated Snowboarding Experts for more information.

What Is an Asymmetrical Snowboard?

Photo courtesy of Ride

Snowboards can be divided into four quadrants: nose, tail, toe side, and heel side. While a traditional snowboard might go from nose to tip, either through a directional shape or a tapered side cut that leads to a narrower tail, they are effectively symmetrical from toe-side to heel-side. This goes for the flex as well — whether it’s a powder board or a freestyle-oriented true twin, the flex is going to be the same from heel to toe and from nose to tip on a traditional snowboard.

An asymmetrical snowboard, on the other hand, is a snowboard that differs in certain design aspects from its toe side to its heel side. They come in two varieties:

  • Asymmetrical Sidecut
    • When speaking about a snowboard’s sidecut, we’re most commonly referring to the radius of the arc that makes up the snowboard’s edge. A shallow sidecut allows for big, mellow turns that follow a wide arc, while a deep sidecut allows for quick initiation of short precise turns. An asymmetrical snowboard utilizes both, with the toe-side edge sporting a shallow sidecut and the heel-side edge utilizing a deeper sidecut. This also means that the edges’ contact points are also asymmetrical. Asymmetrical sidecut is the most common variety of an asymmetrical board.
  • Asymmetrical Flex
    • Flex, or how easy or how hard it is to bend a snowboard, is another area where asymmetrical boards differ from their traditional counterparts. On a standard snowboard, the core is characterized by a single flex rating from soft to hard. On an asym board, there is a distinct difference between the flex of the toe side and that of the heel side, with the heel side being softer.

What to Consider When Buying an Asymmetrical Snowboard

The Nitro Optisym. Photo courtesy of Nitro

What Are the Benefits of an Asymmetrical Snowboard?

Asymmetrical snowboards arose to compensate for the inherent asymmetry that comes with riding a snowboard. Unlike skiers, whose bodies face directly down the mountain, snowboarders stand sideways with either our right shoulder or left shoulder dictating where we go. This means that our turns, rather than being mirror images of each other, utilize different mechanics depending on which direction we’re turning: toe side or heel side. And herein lies the asymmetry issue.

The human body just simply isn't as efficient at distributing weight and energy through the heels as opposed to the toes. Bindings with highbacks that allow riders to adjust the forward lean setting are one way of dealing with this. Asymmetrical boards are another.

Asymmetrical snowboards account for this mechanical difference through the aforementioned asymmetrical sidecut or asymmetrical flex. While certain brands might favor one style over the other, the end result is a snowboard that compensates for the natural discrepancy between heel and toe and makes it easier to initiate heel-side turns while applying less force.

This means that riding switch (riding with your opposite shoulder facing down the mountain) is much easier. So for beginner riders who want to work on improving their switch stance, asymmetrical snowboards are a tool.

They’re also a solid choice for freestyle riders of any skill level. Because of the spins many freestyle tricks incorporate, park riders are required to have a good switch stance. An asymmetrical board can help when it comes to riding out of tricks switch. The difference is a subtle one, though, so don’t expect purchasing an asymmetrical board to magically improve your riding. It isn’t a cheat code.

Does Stance Matter on an Asymmetrical Board?

The Ride Twinpig. Photo courtesy of Ride

Well, it depends. While asymmetrical flexing boards can be ridden in a wide variety of stances, the general consensus is that asymmetrical sidecut boards are best ridden with a duck stance. This is because the duck stance points your heels inward, directly toward the shifted contact points on the asymmetrical side cut, which allows for the most direct transfer of energy. However, I’ve also ridden my asym with a positive stance on my front and back foot and found that the board still responds well.

As long as your front foot can engage that first contact point, turn initiation will still be easier on your heel side. However, keep in mind that with your back foot slightly off the center, there will be a subtle difference between how much pressure you're exerting and how deep a carve you can get.

Another benefit of the duckfoot stance is that it’s easier to ride out of tricks or carve switch, which is why it’s recommended for asymmetrical side-cut boards.

What Style of Riding Is Best for an Asymmetrical Snowboard

Despite their beginnings being as directional alpine racing boards, the majority of asymmetrical on the market today are true twins. This makes them an ideal choice for riders who engage in a bit of freestyle and all-mountain freestyle riding.

But even with their true twin shapes, because of the ease with which they initiate heel-side turns, today’s asymmetrical boards excel as carving boards. So if you like the versatility of hitting jumps in the park or launching side hits from your switch side but still want to be able to lay down a carve anywhere on the mountain, an asymmetrical board might be the way to go.

How to Choose the Right Asymmetrical Snowboard

The Nitro Optisym. Photo courtesy of Nitro

Another thing to keep in mind when making your purchase is that not every asymmetrical is created equal. Some are designed to be more freestyle oriented, while others are aimed at backcountry recreation.

Let’s take a look at a few use cases that help illustrate how riding style and skill level might impact the purchasing process.

Yvonne

Yvonne is an advanced rider who loves to mix it up at the resort between hard charging on big terrain and laying down deep carves across more mellow runs. She’s about 5’4” and 130lbs. She’s not really into the park scene or freestyle tricks and doesn’t venture into the backcountry often. For a bit of extra challenge, she’ll sometimes spend whole days riding down the mountain on her switch side.

Features Yvonne should look for in an asymmetrical board:

  • A stiffer board that will hold an edge well
  • A board anywhere from 146cm-152cm to match her height and preference for groomed trails

Board examples: Nitro Optisym, Gnu Pro Choice

Dee

Dee is the consummate park rider who loves to hit jumps, rails, and jibs. At 6’0” and 175lbs, he’s a taller rider who is used to riding longer boards. When he’s not in the park, he likes to throw big spins off side hits.

Features Dee should look for in an asymmetrical board:

  • A soft- to medium-flexing board that performs equally well on jumps and jibs
  • A wide board that will allow him to ride it a couple of centimeters shorter, increasing its playfulness and maneuverability in the air
  • A board that can go anywhere on the mountain but is made specifically to excel in the park

Board examples: Ride Zero, Ride Twinpig

Anaís

Anaís is a smaller rider who used to ride a lot of backcountry but has recently gotten back into resort riding with her family. This means that she’s usually cruising around on blues but also likes to venture off into the side country on powder days.

Features Anaís should look for in an asymmetrical board:

  • A cambered asymmetrical snowboard that will hold its edge well on icy resort runs
  • A wider asymmetrical board that can go from groomers to powder as quickly as she does

Board examples: Yes. Greats, Gnu Rider’s Choice

Find the Best Asymmetrical Snowboard for You

So now that we’ve broken down the features of asymmetrical snowboards and gone over some use cases for them, you should have a pretty good idea of what to look out for. Still not sure if an asymmetrical board is a worthy inclusion to your quiver? Head over and chat with a Curated Snowboarding Expert about what you can gain from going the asym route. It might not change the way you ride overnight, but if you’re like me and like to lay down hard carves goofy-footed or switch, then it could very well be the tool you’ve been looking for.

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