What Are Snowboards Made Of? An Expert Guide to Snowboard Construction

Snowboard Expert André Santos explains the levels of construction in a snowboard and how this info can help you find a snowboard that's perfect for you!

Snowboards in a line at a snowboard shop.
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Snowboards and snowboarding are still relatively new in the world of winter sports, and with a few different accounts of the origin story, it's hard to say exactly what the very first snowboard composition was. But, we can look towards the engineering and design of snowboarding decks from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and—compared to the technology today—we can say that back then, they were not much more than a few wooden planks!

Core Construction

Most decks today are still constructed with the traditional wood core, while some cheaper decks tend to use a foam core. There are some boards that use other materials for the core, but the majority of manufacturers will still go with wood. The type of wood matters a lot in the construction of a high-performing deck—many use birch wood, obeche, and poplar for more expensive boards. There's still lots of room for innovation in developing new and improved materials for core construction, so it will be interesting to see what kind of new compositions come out as the sport progresses.

Top Sheet

Top of a brown wooden snowboard.

Top sheet of a snowboard

The top sheet’s main function is to protect the core and allow for designs to be printed on the deck (A.K.A some super sweet graphics). Top sheets are constructed with nylon, wood, fiberglass, plastic, and/or composites (more on this type of construction below).

Fiberglass is the industry standard composite material in snowboard construction. Fiberglass reinforced plastic provides stiffness and strength to the snowboard. It lies right on top of the core. These layers protect and seal the core while adding strength, preventing the snowboard from deforming or warping its shape. Fiberglass layers are applied in one of two ways:

  • Bi-Axial: This construction gives the board a more softer and playful flex. These are more for playful riders or riders that want something higher flex. It’s also optimal for beginners as it reduces the effort needed to learn turns.

However, it's really easy to overload the flex as you start to ride faster and harder. As you start to progress and learn how to put more and more force through the board, the softer flex will start to leave something to be desired. It reaches a point where it just doesn't provide the needed feedback when charging hard down the mountain and that's when you know it's time to upgrade to tri-axial wrap!

  • Tri-Axial: This stiffer torsional flex allows the board to hold higher levels of force allowing for a more powerful and stable experience.

If you’ve been out on the mountain for a while or looking to upgrade your beginner setup, make sure you ask a Snowboard Expert here on Curated whether or not a tri-ax or bi-ax composition will be best for your riding style!

Top 3 Bi-Axial Board Recommendations

  1. Salomon Pulse Snowboard 2022
  2. Arbor Ethos Women’s Snowboard 2022
  3. Rome Warden Snowboard 2022

Top 3 Tri-Axial Board Recommendations

  1. Salomon Assassin Snowboard 2022
  2. Jones Mountain Twin Snowboard 2021
  3. Arbor Bryan Iguchi Pro Camber Snowboard 2022

Edges

There are two types of steel edges that you should be taking into consideration when researching new gear: full wrap and partial wrap. The edges of a snowboard go on top of the core of the board using an insert held together by glue.

One tip I’ve found is that the glue that best holds these layers together is actually a type of rubber foil, so keep an eye out for that if you’re repairing your edges at home! This keeps the metal edges securely attached to the snowboard's core and actually can provide a huge value add when it comes to vibration reduction when out on the slopes.

Full wrap edges are one continuous piece and are the strongest type of edge for a snowboard. This style of edge is HIGHLY recommended for backcountry steeps, chutes, solid crust bases, and anyone looking for the highest performance out of their deck. This adds to the overall stiffness of the board, so if you’re looking for something lighter, more playful, and better for park riding, you’ll want to go with a partial wrap set-up!

Top Full Wrap Edge Recommendations

Top Partial Wrap Edge Recommendation

The Base

Diagram of how a snowboard goes together with 5 levels. Starting at the top, level one reads "topsheet". Level 2 reads "top layer protecting core, usually fiberglass". Level 3 reads "core". Level 4 reads "bottom layer protecting core, usually fiberglass". Level 5 reads "base".

Photo courtesy of Burton

The base of the board is one of the most important things to look out for when board shopping. The industry standard uses an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (or P-Tex in the gear lingo) which is a specialized plastic material (polyethylene plastic) that is extremely durable, allows for waxing, minimal friction, and is abrasion-resistant.

Make sure you choose a company that invests heavily into their base materials and uses proven processes; this will translate to a longer-lasting deck, smoother riding, and less sticking on higher temp days! The base will also determine how much wax you'll go through over the life of the board.

Construction Process

Living in Vermont, I'm in the home of Burton, probably one of the most well-known snowboard manufacturers. They have an extensive collection of content detailing their processes and what they use in their snowboards. When it comes to composition, snowboard brands can give you a good indication of what kind of process and materials you’ll get in your new deck.

If you want to dive deeper into how boards are made, I’d highly suggest looking through some more of the articles to enhance your knowledge on Burton’s Blog. Or, if you’d rather get the visuals, you can check out the How it's Made video below to get a better idea of the process!

After assessing your needs based on construction, you want to match your needs and riding style to the shape and base style of the deck.

Picking Your Board Based on Construction: All-Mountain

Three snowboards with photos of the top and bottom of the board. From left to right, a black and brown board, a black and tan board with a graphic of a plant, a black board with blue and white graphics, white board with word "LIBTECH", blue board with mountain scene, blue board with black lettering of the word "JONES".

All-mountain snowboards are the most common and versatile deck design out there. The design favors efficiency in mixed terrain. For those who are looking to ride in mixed conditions, having an all-mountain design would be considered the gold standard.

Some designs will encourage switch riding and others will favor having a dominant foot; either way, if you’re planning on ripping some glades, showing up for powder days, and being able to carve the crust in times of ice, then an all-mountain set-up is something you should have in your gear closet!

Top 3 All-Mountain Decks

  1. Arbor Element Camber Snowboard 2022
  2. Lib Tech Skate Banana Snowboard
  3. Jones Frontier Snowboard 2022

Picking Your Board Based on Construction: Alternatives

Three snowboards in a line with the bottom and top showing. From left to right, a white board, a blue board with fire on it, a white board with blue graphics, a red board with a white arrow, a blue board with a mountain scene, and a black board with a mountain and the word "JONES".

Freestyle snowboards are light, short, and flexible with twin tips. They are good for riders who want a lively ride anywhere on the mountain or those who like to push their limits in terrain parks. Freestyle boards are not so good for stability or cruising fast on hard snow. Burton makes a super popular freestyle: The Flying V.

Free-ride snowboards are designed for adventurous riders who spend most of their time off groomed runs. They are often directional boards, meaning they are meant to be ridden with one end always facing downhill. Though, many of these will do fine riding switch as well. The flex of a free-ride snowboard is usually stiffer than a freestyle board. The free-ride equivalent coming from Burton is the Flight Attendant.

Split-boards are backcountry-specific boards split in half to create two ski-like pieces allowing you to start uphill on untracked backcountry slopes. It’s a great design for adventurous backcountry devotees who have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to safely explore non-patrolled slopes. You'll also need climbing skins and a split binding that will allow you to switch from heel-free touring to stable locks for downhill riding. This Jones Frontier Split Snowboard would be a top recommendation. I personally ride a Jones Solution split-board. If you’re looking to get into the uphill game, be sure to take an avalanche safety class and read up on our guide for what to bring on your first backcountry tour!

Not sure how the construction of the deck should guide your buying journey? Reach out to a Curated Snowboard Expert to talk more about it and to chat about your specific needs and riding style! They can give you personalized recommendations and help find a board that will be perfect for you!

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Written By
I've been in the Outdoor Industry for the past decade. From ski clubs, to outdoor education courses, to helping friends get sweet setups and good deals on lift tickets. I also have spent a good amount of time in gear shops and resorts working and talking with other gear experts. I'd love to help you...

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