Best Snowboards For Carving 2020/21


Carving on a snowboard is probably the most fun you can have without leaving the ground. The feeling you get when you really lean into a turn is hard to replicate in any other sport, and in recent years turning has become cool again! This is great news for riders of a certain age who might not feel confident mixing in the park with the kids anymore.

A good turn is pretty much all I’ve got these days, so the groomers is the only area where I can still throw some shade on the kids.

However to do a really good turn you need a board which is made for the job. Here I’ll outline my favorite boards for carving in 2020/21.

My Pick of the best Carve Snowboards in 2020/21

  1. Arbor A Frame – best for all terrain carving
  2. Burton Custom X – high performance, precision carving
  3. Bataleon The Carver – new-school fun carver
  4. Nitro Highlander – super light weight speed machine
  5. United Shapes Orbit – modern take on an old-school carver


Do you need a carving snowboard to be able to carve?

This kinda depends on what you mean by carving. You can do a mellow carve turn on pretty much any board, but if you really want to get low to the snow at high speeds then you might start to reach the limits of your board. On the other hand a real high performance carve board won’t be much fun in the park or just jibbing around on the mountain. For this reason I’ve categorized the boards into pure carve boards and all mountain carve which will be more suited to the all-rounder snowboarder.

What makes a good snowboard for carving?

There are 3 characteristics you should look for when picking a board for carving:

Flex
When you lean the board on its edge at high speed you are putting a lot of forces through the board. If it can’t handle this, then the snowboard will start to skip out on its edge, putting the board into a skid and losing the carve. For this reason you want a board which is stiff and strong enough to handle the pressure of your turns. A carve board needs to be stiff both along its length and torionally. A board which is stiff along its length will have lots of pop and energy out of the turn, torsional rigidity will help prevent the board buckling and keeping the edge fully engaged with the snow throughout the turn.

Most brands rate the stiffness of their board on a scale from 1 to 10, you want to be only considering boards with a 7+ rating. This can also vary a lot between brands, so if the brand makes mostly freestyle boards then maybe push it up to an 8 or 9 rating.

Another variable is the flex pattern along the length of the board, many pure carve boards have a directional flex meaning that the board is slightly stiffer in the tail. This helps give extra grip through the bottom of the turn and some extra pop when transitioning between turns

A directional shape

Carve boards should have a directional shape, this means they ride better in one direction than the other making them better at carving but not so good at riding switch. A twin tip board will have its waist (the narrowest point of the board) right in the middle along its length. A directional board will have the narrowest point moved slightly backwards so that the nose is longer than the tail.

This is reflected in the binding mounts which are also slightly set back so that your weight is still positioned over the waist of the board. Again, how direction the shape is is another area of compromise. Boards which are more close to a twin tip will be more versatile if you want to go into the park or ride switch.

Camber

There are loads of different camber shapes out there these days, but for carving you want to keep it simple with a traditional camber board. Camber boards have a concave bend in them when they are set on the could so that the board rests on the tip and the tail with the middle of the board raised slightly off the ground. This gives the board built-in resistance to the turn and creates extra pop and energy when transitioning between turns. The bend in the board also pushes down in the tip and the tail to help keep the edge in contact with the snow through the turn.

I would say, out of all these factors, a board with a camber profile is probably the most important if you want to lay out clean carve turns.

Width
When you carve a turn, you put the board on its edge with a high edge angle and if you really lean the board over then you can start to feel your toes or heals drag in the snow. When this happens it inevitably puts you onto your butt/face, so you want a board with a bit of extra width which gives a bit more room for your snowboard boots to fit into. You dont necessarily need a ‘wide’ snowboard but your shoe size is US10 then you probably want something with a waist width of 260mm at the least.

The downside of a wide board is that they make the transition from edge to edge slower, so instead of a wide board you could increase the angle of your bindings. This is what slalom racers do so they are able to have a narrow board which is quick and responsive but they avoid heel and toe drag in the turn. However this can lead to other problems with your weight transfer which is why slalom boards also have an asymmetrical shape.

My advice would be to go for a wider board rather than mess around too much with your binding angles

How I picked these boards

These boards meet all the requirements which go into making a great snowboard for carving. I’ve deliberately not picked pure carve boards which you might see on an icey boarder cross track or a GS race course. For the vast majority of riders out there, this style of board is too demanding and not versatile enough to be able to make the most of the trails around your typical resort.

These boards are more piste orientated, all-mountain boards which carve great but will also work well in soft snow and powder. In my experience this a compromise worth making in order to get the most fun out of your typical day on the hill!

Arbor A Frame

$650
First up is the Arbor A Frame, I love the look of Arbor boards and it seems that they have successfully cornered the more senior, silver surfer market!
The board is kinda a traditional camber board except that Arbor have developed parabolic camber so that the amount of curve gradually decreases toward the tip and tail. This creates a smooth turn initiation and a more catch-free ride.

Grip-Tech edges are Arbor’s version of the protruding bumps on the edges under the toe and heel. This gives the edges extra bite at the points under the bindings where you are able to create the most pressure.

It has a flex rating of 8/10, a directional shape and a large turn radius, all of which make it perfectly suited for high speed wide turns

Burton Custom X


$750

The Burton Custom X is the more high-performance version of the classic Burton board; The Custom. It’s a board whose shape has changed very little over the years, but why change a winning formula! It is a traditional camber, with a slight directional shape and a symmetrical flex from tip to tail. In many ways this shape is similar to a traditional freestyle shape, but the thing that sets it apart from other freestyle boards is its super stiff flex. This makes for a super responsive high performance board, which is equally at home in an icy half pipe, a boarder cross track or carving up the groomers in resort.

The extra stiffness is achieved by a matrix of fiberglass over-layed out at 45 degree angles.

The Custom X is the most demanding board in Burton’s range, and its recommended to opt for the size which is maybe a little on the short size unless its too much board for you to handle!

Bataleon The Carver

$500

This one is a little bit different to the other more classic shapes on the list. Bataleon are know for their Triple Base Technology, which creates a kind of spoon shape in the nose and the tail of the board to reduce the chance of catching edges and makes the ride more playful. This is great for freestyle boards but does that work for carving? I thought it didn’t…until I tested the board out last winter. The board has a full camber profile meaning it is super grippy where you need it in the middle of the board. Then the Triple Base only only starts at the tip and the tail making a super easy turn initiation.

The result of this is a really fun board if you want to start mixing up your carving with a few butters and switch up moves. It might not be quite as high performance as the other boards here, but for me it was probably the most fun I’ve had riding on the groomers

Nitro Highlander


$850

The Highlander is Nitro’s performance driven snowboard. Its super light thanks to its KOROYD® core which also makes the board stiffer and more responsive. The core is made up of a honeycomb of plastic tubes which help to absorb chatter and keep the boards edge in contact with the snow

It’s another traditional camber board with a slight directional set back, but is also a mid-wide board giving your toes and heels extra clearance when really leaning into those deep carves, for boot sizes up to about a US11.

The Highlander also has Nitro’s PowerPods which are small bumps under the both heel and toes which gives extra grip right where you need it under the bindings.

It has a progressive side cut, meaning the turn radius tightens towards the tail of the board. This gives extra bite at the bottom of the carve turn when the pressure starts to build up and you need to get a bit extra out of your board.

United Shapes Orbit


$695

Designed for one thing, and one thing only, the Orbit is probably the truest carve snowboard on the list. Just looking at it, you know it is designed to go super fast in one direction.

It has a positive camber and a set back, directional shape. A slight early rise in the nose helps to initiate turns smoothly whilst absorbing and chop along the way.

It’s super stiff and snappy thanks to the layers of Carbon stingers in the nose and tail, and the triaxial layers of glass fibre throughout. It has a high quality sintered base which hold on to its wax and keeps the board running fast