If you’ve visited a big mountain resort in the past couple of years, you’ve likely noticed something different about the snowboards you see on the chairlift and slopes. Avant-garde snowboard shapes are having a moment, and to those unfamiliar with snowboarding culture, you might not understand why. Around 2010, we started to see more interesting silhouettes trickle into the U.S. scene. Unsurprisingly, this was a reprise of 70s-era snowboarding fashion.
Board creators are continuously working to improve the aesthetic and performance of their products. Quirky, odd outlines are debuting for every snowboard demographic—men, women, and kids. Alternative shapes create an interesting appearance and line through the snow; you can tell which tracks were made by standard boards and which were created by one of these trendy pieces.
Back when these boards hit markets, right around 1972, avant-garde shapes were about “soul riding.” More than an aesthetic or performance choice, these boards were designed to allow snowboarders to become closer to the mountain by mimicking its natural shape. While this might sound like a bunch of bogus in 2018, there are a surprising number of benefits to this type of board.
These interesting snowboard shapes, however, are more than about aesthetic appeal. Alternative shapes also experiment with volume distribution. The shorter your board, the more maneuverable it will be. The longer the board, the faster you will go. The profiles of these boards are different, too—there are now an infinite number of camber, reverse camber, and early rise combinations available. In playing with these fundamental variables, snowboard designers are tweaking the ways we ride—and making some pretty cool bases in the meantime.
Most shape-driven boards are made for powder and backcountry, but producers also focus on delivering all-mountain appeal. Even if you’ve never gone on a backcountry ride, you’ve likely seen one of these shapes cutting through resort terrain. If you’re interested in trying out one of these trendy boards, talk to your local shop. You may be able to demo.