In theory, snowboards are simple designs. There are no moving parts. Everything is glued together. Just pick a board and let ‘er rip! …right?
The difference between a snowboard that’s the perfect fit and the wrong fit can make or break your day, your season or your entire outlook on the sport. And the fact is, the gap between the right board and the wrong board is a lot more significant for women than it is for men.
In our opinion, the women’s sports equipment industry has historically lacked thoughtful and practical R&D. “Shrink it and pink it” has long been used by many companies to guide their design process rather than taking the time to assess women’s pain points and develop gear that addresses specific problems or opportunities. We believe that poorly designed snowboard gear has held women back from advancing their skills or even participating in the sport altogether, creating a negative perception of women’s snowboarding. And here at Pallas, that’s not okay with us.
As you start shopping for a new board, we wanted to share our approach on board design and technology in hopes that it helps you make a better decision and have a better time on the mountain. And the more empowered you are with your gear, the more evolution we’ll continue to see with women’s snowboarding.
What is taper?
Everyone at Pallas agrees: WE LOVE TAPER! It’s a non-negotiable for us when designing freeride or powder boards, but what, exactly, does taper do and why should you consider buying a board with it?
First, let’s explain what taper is. The two widest points of a snowboard are at the nose and tail. These are called contact points. When the nose contact point is wider than the tail contact point, the snowboard is considered “tapered.” A measurement of up to 10mm of taper would be considered low taper; 10–20mm would be considered mid-taper; and anything above 20 mm is considered a high-tapered board.
What about zero taper boards? This makes up the majority of freestyle and freeride snowboards on the market. When the nose width is the same as the tail width, you’re on a twin tip snowboard! Twin tip boards don’t have any taper. You’ll see a lot of powder boards labeled as “directional twin tip” snowboards, which isn’t as efficient as taper for riding powder.
In the early days of snowboarding, tapered shapes were common, but during snowboarding’s explosion in the 90s and early 2000s, freestyle took over, and tapered boards went out of style like fleece headbands. In more recent years, riding styles have changed: backcountry riding has grown and snowboarders have returned to the fundamentals of deep pow, hard carves and directional all-mountain shredding. Since Pallas’s earliest days, we have embraced the use of taper to make freeriding a better experience, and it’s a key part of our design approach.
Why use taper?
Tapered boards turn more easily and can hold an edge harder and for longer, which makes them easier to ride more aggressively on firmer snow. (We’re looking at you, East Coast snowboarders!) But where they really shine is in powder and soft snow. A tapered shape allows the nose of the board to “lift” above the snow, which means you float without effort instead of sinking and working hard for every turn. It also enables you to ride deep powder with a natural, centered stance instead of awkwardly balancing on your back leg and getting tired from too much thigh-burn.
A tapered shape is particularly useful for backcountry snowboarding. It allows you to ride a shape that is easy and forgiving in powder and variable snow, while being significantly shorter and lighter than a dedicated backcountry powder board that is typically longer than what you’re used to.
The drawback is that highly tapered boards with big, floaty noses and short, stubby tails are not the best at riding backwards, or “switch.” However, for many snowboarders and almost all splitboarders, riding switch isn’t common and is generally only needed to “falling leaf” your way out of an awkward spot.
What is waist width?
When people talk about how wide or narrow a snowboard is, they’re referring to a board’s waist width — and it’s exactly what it sounds like: the width of the narrowest part of a snowboard.
Board width affects how quickly a board turns from edge to edge, and 1 or 2 mm makes a huge difference in how it performs. This goes to say: waist width is more important than many riders realize.
We’ve seen a disproportionate amount of women’s snowboards that are too narrow, resulting in board designs that hinder progression, speed and skill. From the beginning of Pallas, we set out to design boards that are stable and efficient to ride, which required us to “think wider” than the industry standard for women’s boards.
How to find your perfect width
The width of a board should be sized appropriately for your feet and boot size. On the flip side, too wide of a board and you’ll struggle to get your board on edge and initiate turns on demand — most noticeable when you’re in tight terrain like trees or couloirs.
Let’s say you have a women’s 8.5 boot size. A snowboard with a 24.8 cm waist width will likely result in skittish turns, lack of edge hold, toe drag, “washing out” on jumps and the feeling of over-powering your board — all effects of a board that’s too narrow. However, a board with a 25.8 cm waist width will likely have you struggling to turn and feel scarily slow transitioning from edge to edge.
From the example above, a difference of 1 cm makes a massive difference in how a board will ride, though most snowboarders can ride within a small range of waist widths. Powder boards will generally be wider (helping with float and stability), park boards will be narrower (helping with quicker turns) and all-mountain boards will fall somewhere in the middle (a combination of float and quick turns).
There’s no preset range for what works with every boot size. Understanding YOUR sweet spot requires personal and subjective testing, and the best way to accomplish that is through demoing as many boards as possible. When you demo, think hard about HOW you ride and WHERE you ride and let that inform your board needs. If you’re riding a banked slalom race or charging through the park, a board on the narrow end of your range will give you the best support. But if you’re spending all your time in the trees or in powder, something in the medium to wide end of the range will be a better fit.
Waist width is less of a problem in soft or deep snow, but it’s still a consideration. In general, backcountry boards tend to be a little wider than an aggressive resort board, but should still need to be narrow enough to allow you to turn quickly and comfortably. The backcountry is no place to feel like you don’t have total board control.
As you’re demoing, take note of the waist measurements of the boards. Then compare that to how the board turns. Do you feel stable, secure or quick to engage your turns? If yes, then you’re onto something great! If you’re feeling like you can’t control your board, then it’s time to try a different board. Understanding your “sweet spot” for waist width measurements will make shopping for a board a smoother process.
Questions on taper, waist width or any other specs? Drop a comment and we'll respond!