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How to carve with confidence on a snowboard

Posted on: Apr 19, 2011 Listed in: Riding Tips by Chris Skinner

…the reason why tilt is so important in carving is that it allows room for the board to be flexed. The more tilt, the greater the board can be flexed, therefore tightening up the turn. However, if we lose the tilt it doesn’t matter how much pressure you now apply, you won’t tighten that turn any more…

This week I am going to talk about how tilting your snowboard can help you tackle steeper slopes / improve your carving and tighten your turns.

Before we start, lets cover a sometimes grey area in snowboarding.

Carving vs skidding

how to carve on a snowboardCarving is where you use the side cut of the board to dictate the shape of the turn – leaving a single, thin track/line in the snow.

This can be done by simply rocking the board onto its edge and leaving it there to dictate the turn. You might have seen snowboarders do this while riding the flats or cat tracks. Want to know how to do that? Read the following post to find out. Make riding a cat track on a snowboard effortless.

However, a common misconception is that when people talk about carving their turns, they are in fact actually skidding or sliding. Is there snow being sprayed out after each turn when you ride? If so then you are most likely skidding. Another clue is in the sound – if you’re making a whole lot of noise when riding then you are probably skidding or sliding.

Listen when you ride and / or look back at your tracks.

How tilt can help your carving

As mentioned above, we use the side cut of our board when carving. To first use the side cut we must first tilt the board onto an edge. click here for more info about the sidecut of our board

Think about a knife and cutting up some tomatoes. I did exactly this the other day while making my pack lunch in preparation for a day trip to the coast!

The knife was my board. When I went to cut into the tomato, I first had to tilt the knife onto the cutting edge – otherwise I would just end up with squashed tomatoes (not sure about you, but I’m not a fan of squashed tomatoes!). Only then could I apply pressure to the knife in order to cut through the tomato.

tomatoes and snowboard carving(1) tomatoes and snowboard carving(2)

Tilt the board

The same is applies when you ride. First place the board onto an edge, then apply the pressure. The board will now grip, cutting through the snow. The more grip you have, the more stable you will be, and the less you will slide.

And this is the basics of carving.

NOTE: with this new found grip come less resistance. Less resistance = less friction which = more speed. See the addition paragraph highlighted ‘To conclude’: further down in this article to see how excess speed can be managed.

Ride steep terrain

Advance carving is the ability to hold this edge throughout the entirety of the turn, through variable terrain and increases / decreases in pitch and to apply / take away pressure to influence the shape of the turn. (wow, that was a mouthful…)

If you are slightly confused by the thought of applying pressure throughout the turn to influence the shape / radius of the turn, then take a took at the following picture.

Below is a picture of a regular camber board tilted up on it’s edge. We can clearly see a gap / daylight as a result of tilting the board onto an edge.

sidecut board tilt

Question: How much gap would there be under this board if it had A: no camber,
B: reverse camber and how would this affect the ability to carve?

The next thing to think about, is what you do when you go into a snowboard shop and pick up a snowboard. After a good look, you may hold the nose with one hand and push the center of the board with the other, applying pressure and flexing the board.

As a result you are shortening the length of the sidecut – the tip and tail are essentially moving closer to one another. So without applying pressure we cannot shorten the sidecut. If we can not shorten the sidecut then we cannot influence the shape of the turn!

For further reading about a snowboards sidecut read: Make riding a cat track on a snowboard effortless and One of the most important things to consider when buying a snowboard

To conclude

The reason why tilt is so important in carving is that it allows room for the board to be flexed. The more tilt, the greater the board can be flexed, therefore tightening up the turn. However, if we lose the tilt it doesn’t matter how much pressure you now apply, you won’t tighten that turn any more!

So, if we want to make a shorter turn we must first tilt the board, then shorten the sidecut (by applying pressure) forcing the board to bend, tightening the arch / radius.

To make a shorter turn, is to get the board facing across the slope quicker and spend less time facing down hill. Less time spent facing down hill means you gain less speed, are in more control and able to tackle steeper slopes.

NOTE: Another benefit of tilting the board onto its edge is that when traversing you will hold a higher line. This is way of controlling excess speed and slowing down. Aim to travel across the slope at the end of a turn, or in some cases, even back up the slope.

If you’re wondering how you can hold a good edge angle on the heel edge, read Struggling with heel to toe edge turns on a snowboard? Learn how to hold a good heel edge.

Again, advance short turns require the ability the hold / increase / decrease the edge angle throughout the turn depending on radius of the turn and steepness of slope. Yes there will be a degree of skidding going on but edge tilt is still required.

Next week I will be talking about whether we want to be high at the start of a turn or low and what movements we can be made throughout the turn in order for us to be in a position to influence (bend) the board.

This post can be found here: High vs Low turns

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3 Responses

  1. Bradz says:

    Im just thinking about the question above and how this applies to a reverse camber or flat board, does this mean that you wont need to apply so much pressure? Would carving therefore require less effort?

    • Yes and no. With a reverse camber or flat board, yes it would be easier / quicker to flex the board into the snow, and less pressure would be required due to the fact there is less distance to cover.

      However, because you have flexed the board less, the tip and tail would not have moved as close to each another as they would have if you were using a regular camber board.

      The greater the distanced covered until the whole length of the boards edge (the effective edge) is in contact with the snow, results in the board having to flex and bend more. If the board has to flex and bend more, the tip and tail are getting closer to each other resulting in a tighter radius / shorter overall sidecut. This then produces a tighter arch and turn shape.

      Wow, that was a mouthful – so, yes carving is easier. But in my view I don’t seam to be able to get the same performance and pop (or rebound) out of a reverse / flat board at the end of a carve as I can with a regular camber board.

      You know when you sometimes you feel the board judder from under you, feeling like it’s kicking back at you. Well, that’s the board reaching its limit (pressure wise). Either you haven’t managed the pressure well enough (by not getting low perhaps) or that the board has no more to give (maybe you’re riding a board too small or that is not fit /designed for the terrain you are riding).

      With regular camber boards, because you have to flex the board more, the board has more ‘room’ and ‘scope’ to deal with the pressures built up through a turn.

      That’s just my personal experience from riding a variety of boards. I currently have a flat board with jib rocker for coaching freestyle and jibbing around and while it’s an ok all round board it struggled in the choppy stuff and at high speeds. Get me on the mountain for some high speed carving or technical turns and I’ll take a regular camber board any day of the week!

      Hope that’s helped.

      • Bradz says:

        Thanks for the reply Chris, got me thinking (i actually got my flat horrascope and trad camber boards on the floor and started flexing them at different angles to watch the change in shape!). Makes sense, i never really thought of the way the tip and tail get closer together before.