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Alpine Snowboarding

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Jakob Jelling
Alpine snowboarding is for those of you who are a little more extreme about speed than most. Alpine snowboarding encompasses more than just speed. Other areas often included are racing and extreme carving.

Alpine snowboards are uniquely designed for their purpose. An alpine snowboard has a longer, narrower, and stiffer construction than any other snowboards. This design allows for higher speeds, very sharp turning, and aggressive edge holding power on hard snow and excellent high-speed stability.

Alpine snowboarding is generally done on hard packed snow or groomed runs. Hard packed snow usually isn't good for snowboarding but is exceptional for high speeds, the heart of alpine snowboarding. With other styles of snowboards maneuverability is impossible on this type of terrain. Thanks to the aggressiveness of the edge of the alpine snowboard, fast, snappy control is the least of your problems.

Since the riding is so different from other types of snowboarding, it only stands to reason that the gear would also be slightly different from normal. The gear for alpine snowboarding resembles skiing equipment more than it does snowboarding equipment.

In order to protect the rider and maximize control at high speeds, an alpine snowboarder will use the following things. First is a helmet and eye protection. Thanks to the laws of physics we know that a hard surface becomes even harder at higher speeds. This means that a helmet and eye protection are an absolute must if you wish to stay safe when ripping down a hill at blazingly fast speeds as the impact from any mishap can be more than normal.

The next thing to consider is your boots. You must use a hard-shelled boot that resembles a skiing boot. Since the speeds on an alpine snowboard are so much higher, the forces required to maintain a tight turn are also higher. In order to make shape-cornering possible, you must use a hard-shelled boot to leverage your power with the snowboard.

After thinking of your boots you must also think of the stance that you wish to use when riding your alpine snowboard. There is basically only one choice, but there are subtle variations for each rider. Traditionally the front foot should be set at about +70' and the rear foot at about +35'. With the advance of technology and the improvements of the snowboards the degree of the feet has become less important. More commonly the stance is determined by the width of the board as long as there is a difference of at least 5'.

An interesting thing to note is that alpine snowboarding has seemed to have died off and been reborn again. Alpine board manufacturers took the design of the alpine board to a point that it was amazingly perfect at high speeds but no longer usable for the average person. One main way of improving the snowboard efficiency was to reduce its width to as little as 16 cm in the center of the snowboard. This did allow for even greater speeds but caused the snowboard to become unstable at low speed and forced the rider to remain in a position that was uncomfortable to ride in for any length of time.

These innovations seemed to kill the industry as did skiing manufactures that started to implement the aggressive edge technology into their products. Most people began to shy away from alpine snowboarding and instead seek out freestyle snowboarding. However, this has changed recently with the rebirth of alpine snowboarding. Once again people are becoming interested in the challenge and excitement that comes from ripping down a hill at high speeds and pulling turns that exert more g-forces on the body than most cars do. Manufacturers have learned their lessons and seem to be much more reasonable and consumer-oriented in their snowboard designs than before.

Jakob Jelling

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