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November 27, 2009 10:33 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with those new-fangled reverse camber snowboards?

Time for a new board and I not only have to ponder directionality and sidecut but boads now come in different cambers. REI's display graphic made me think I might like a board-of-a-different-camber but they did not have a single employee in the snowboarding department who boards so I am hoping the hivemind can help me out.

I am what they call an "all mountain" rider (Mature Division). I go up to the top and then ride in a more or less straightforward but not overly aggressive fashion all the way down. I ride a lot of off-piste and backcountry but I like to cruise the groomers too. I do not do the halfpipe, I haven't been in a park in years and I rarely even hit a baby kicker anymore.

My last board was supposedly an "all mountain", it's a twin-tip directional, narrow, deeply sidecut Saloman that is stiff and fast on the groomers and carves well but it makes switching edges into an exercise in loopy turns (my biggest complaint), does not hold an edge on the ice and, for it's length, it sinks like a rock in powder. The sales literature implied that a reverse cambered board of similar size (with less sidecut) would vastly improve the edge-to-edge responsiveness and float while still giving me the nice stable cruising feel and carving ability when desired.

fwiw: I prefer a board that has good edge to edge responsiveness but is not too turn happy: i.e. I like the ability to go fairly straight. And it must be able to handle chopped up powder and the deeply irregular and uneven "groomed" runs where I ride. The board I have now is very stable, I could run over any number of skiers and not even notice (I kid, I kid.... but it handles our oft-crappy conditions with aplomb).

To summarize: reverse cambered boards: Am I going to spend all day falling down once I venture off the groomers? Do they really improve edge-to-edge responsiveness that much for a given width? Do they turn into a bobsled on the ice? Will I even notice the difference?
posted by fshgrl to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total)
I'm a skier with some experience on reverse camber skis. The technology is sort of the same on boards and skis. Most of the boards however don't have an extreme reverse camber like many of the powder skis you see with tips and tails flopping around while on-piste. I think the sales literature is a bit optimistic about the universal improvement in performance. The reverse camber board will be faster edge to edge and it will work much better in powder. However, there is a good chance that you are going to have less edge hold especially on ice.

It sounds like you have a pretty stiff board. You may not weigh enough or be aggressive enough to flex the camber of the board sufficiently. This will limit the amount of edge you have in contact with ice and therefore limit edge hold. A shift board will also keep the front of your board low in powder and make the board sink. If you can't flex the board all the way quickly you won't engage the entire sidecut fast and edge transitions will seem sluggish. Your board feels stable on edge because once you finally flex it you are applying a lot of force which keeps the board were it is.

I think you need a softer board. However, I'm not sure if you need a softer normal camber board or a reverse camber board.

The reverse camber board will eliminate the need to flex the camber out of the board to engage the sidecut. This will solve your edge to edge transition problem. The reverse camber board will flex up easily in powder allowing you to float better. However, since there is no camber forcing the ends of the board into the snow your on-piste and on ice performance may suffer.

It's a trade off. On an excessively stiff board the center of the edge may not engage the ice because you aren't flexing the board enough. On an excessively soft possibly reverse camber board the ends of the board may be too soft and won't engage the ice. The effect will be similar in both cases, you will skid on ice and possibly even on normal groomers. The lack of grip on a reverse camber board can be extreme to the point that you can’t lay into and smoothly carve a turn on hard snow without the board letting loose. If this is the case you may need a soft normal camber board instead.

The goal is to find a board that has the perfect stiffness for your weigh and riding style. You probably need a very soft normal camber or a very conservative reverse camber. I think the only way to find out is to demo several boards after doing some research and perhaps asking some question on board forums. You may already have a very soft board. If that is the case your only option may be to go to a conservative reverse camber. You may want to inquire about the relative stiffness of your board on some board forums.
posted by Procloeon at 1:22 AM on November 28, 2009

Interesting. I'm not sure it's the stiffness because I used to have a really stiff 171 big mountain board (fun!) and never had the same issues with that, in fact it was super easy to ride. The weight thing is a really good point though because my current board is fairly wide and has always had a weird tendency to skid randomly on the hard stuff, besides being ridiculously hard to transition from edge to edge. It's possible it was just never the right size for me. I've been riding a borrowed board most of the time the last couple years and only cracking this one out for corn skiing.

Unfortunately demoing is pretty much not an option where I live.

btw, I have seen some people in those reverse camber skis and my understanding is that the reverse camber boards do not sacrifice grip in the same way because they were developed for the park and pipe users?? The rockered boards & the reverse sidecut boards are the powder specific ones that are no good for the hard stuff... at least that's what the not-very-knowledgeable guy in the store told me.
posted by fshgrl at 2:04 AM on November 28, 2009

Some info here.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:18 AM on November 28, 2009

You may try posting in the gear or snowboarding forums at EpicSki. I follow skiing more but there are loads of people there that love to give long answers like Procloeon. At the minimume they will want to know where you ski and things like your height and weight.

You say you can't demo but you are riding where you are getting to go off piste and in to deep powder so to me that implies your "smallish" local hill doesn't have demo facilities but you are going places that do have powder and what not. Could you hold off in purchasing until you go somewhere where you can demo for a day?
posted by mmascolino at 7:22 AM on November 28, 2009

Thanks w-g-p, that was really helpful. I think I'm going to see if I can borrow a Lib board and try it.

mmascolino- pretty sure I broke the core in the current board so I need to grab something. "Smallish" local hill has mad powder days on a regular basis :)
posted by fshgrl at 12:53 PM on November 28, 2009

Oh then I am super jealous of your local hill. Mine is in Indiana...enough said. ;-)
posted by mmascolino at 9:26 PM on November 28, 2009

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