Make the Most of Your Snowboard: Understanding Tuning

Make the most of your snowboard.

Understanding how tuning works is key.
Originally published in the 2018 TransWorld Gear Guide available now!

Most anyone who’s spent a considerable amount of time on a snowboard has gone through a phase where they either didn’t know or didn’t care about keeping their board tuned. A lot of us have gone so far as to take the edge right off a new board, and that’s fine if all you want to do is slide sideways on metal, but in order to progress as a snowboarder you need to be able to go fast and turn—two things that are markedly easier and more rewarding with a proper tune. We talked to Kinsey Smith, evo’s resident tuning guru at their shop in Seattle, to gain a deeper understanding of three critical tuning principles. With an understanding of these concepts, you’ll be blowing past your friends this season. – Taylor Boyd

Kinsey checking to see if the board is base-high or edge-high. PHOTO: Taylor Boyd

Waxing

The general concept of waxing is simple: it acts as a lubricant between your board and the snow, but if your board has a sintered base it goes literally much deeper than that. Sintered base material is created by heating and pressing a powder, creating a hard and porous material that’s resistant to scratching and absorbs wax well. Extruded base material is essentially a plastic goo that is heated and hardened, ultimately creating a softer and largely nonporous surface. The latter is cheap and easy to repair but doesn’t hold wax in the same way that a porous sintered base will.

In terms of wax itself, most of us are aware it’s largely categorized by temperature—warm, cold, and all-temp. As a general rule, warm temp wax is softer and will penetrate deeper into the pores of the base, while cold temp is harder and more resistant to the abrasion of frigid, icy snow conditions. All-temp is, logically, somewhere in the middle of the hardness spectrum. And what about additives like fluorocarbon and graphite? In wet conditions, high-fluoro waxes will increase your board’s ability to break surface tension with the snow, while graphite is especially helpful in dirty snow.

A base with a cross-hatch pattern. PHOTO: Taylor Boyd

After pulling a new board out of the plastic, the ideal case scenario is to wax it and scrape it repeatedly, starting with a soft, warm-temp wax to begin penetrating the pores, progressively moving toward a harder, cold-temp wax. Then waxing and scraping, again and again. As Kinsey puts it, as long as you’re doing it right, “You can’t wax a board too much.” And in fact, the more times a board with a sintered base is waxed, the harder, faster, and more durable its base becomes. So wax away this winter.

Edging

The basic principles of edges are simple: a sharp one will grip and hold you in a turn, a dull one will avoid hang-ups on rails, and detuned contact points will help you negate hooking and thus scorping harshly. While that’s all accurate, there’s more to it. Bevel is the critical element to understand with edging. If we assume an unadulterated edge is zero degrees on the base and 90 degrees on the side, bevel is any amount of filing that takes these degrees above zero and below 90, respectively. Traditionally, whatever the degree of bevel added to the bottom edge is matched on the side edge, maintaining a right angle—the edgehold factor increasing with each degree of bevel added, up to three, typically.

Kinsey workin’ the base grinder, adding structure. PHOTO: Taylor Boyd

It’s a matter of acute or obtuse angles. More outward side bevel combined with less upward base bevel and you get a more acute, sharper edge, which can be beneficial in racing or railing on ice. But when it comes to tuning a snowboard for freestyle purposes, there’s a different option. A higher degree of upward base bevel combined with less outward side bevel will get you a more obtuse, and in effect, duller edge. Increasing base bevel while leaving side bevel at 90 degrees or even adding an inward bevel to create an obtuse edge is an alternative to rounding your edges with a file that will leave you with a board that rides much better. You probably will too.

Base structure

This is the forgotten one. While adding structure to a base is more common in skiing, it seems many snowboarders aren’t aware of the benefits to texturing their board. The concept is this: There is an ideal amount of moisture that should sit between a board’s base and the snow too provide optimal glide. Too much and you’ll suction—think of a cup on glass table. To little and you’ll grab—think sandpaper. As your board slides downhill, the friction created melts the snow below the base to a small degree.

Post-structuring. PHOTO: Taylor Boyd

When the snow is cold and dry, a linear pattern running parallel to the board’s length will help hold moisture below the board, where you want it in those conditions. When the snow is warm and wet, a cross-hatch pattern—or a number of other options such as a “thumbprint” or “chevron”—will help dispel water, pushing it out the sides of the board. This is done with a stone grinder. Kinsey describes it as a negative,” explaining that, “Whatever you put on the stone, you’re going to end up with an opposite of on the board.” Structure, however, is not something you want in your edge. So, after structuring your base it’s important to edge the board as well. And as is the case with edging, you’re removing material that can’t be replaced, so it’s important to be sparing in order to maximize your board’s lifespan.

This is the most elementary level of tuning explanation. We encourage you to talk to the people at your local shop to gain a better understanding of how to keep your board in prime condition, increasing its lifespan and performance. Snowboarding’s better when you’re hauling ass. You can always check your speed, but when was the last time you wished your board was slower?

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