What is a volume shift snowboard?
Volume shift snowboards are boards that are shorter and wider than conventional snowboards. The idea is that the board can maintain the same surface area by trading in length for an increased width.
Shorter boards or more playful and manoeuvrable, whilst the increased width keeps you afloat in powder
Like lots of innovations in snowboarding, the idea was taken from surfing, where fish-shaped boards bridge the gap between long and short surfboards. Surfers worked out that by creating shorter, wider and thicker boards, they could have a board that was easy to paddle and catch waves on (like a longboard) but easy to maneuver and quick to turn (like a short board).
Volume shift boards were primarily designed for riding powder. The idea was that the short length made the boards quicker to turn than a normal powder gun, but the increased width meant that the board still had the same surface area for creating lots of float in deep snow.
My Pick of the best Volume Shift Snowboards in 2020/21
The Libtech Orca is the Travis Rice’s volume shifted board of choice. Travis states that he was expecting this board to be just a quiver board that he would little use, but admits he ended up taking it out most days last season! The board has lots of Libtech’s unique characteristics including a hybrid of cambers and the serrated Magna Traction edges which give great edge hold on all kinds of snow conditions.
The C2 camber profile has a small rocker section between the feet, then camber under the feet and early rocker in the nose. The rocker under the feet gives a loose feel and makes it easy to turn, whilst the camber under the feet gives plenty of pop for ollies and string out of the turn. It has a setback stance with a short tail and a long drawn out nose. This helps the board sit back in the powder and lift the nose out of the snow so you don’t need to worry about the shorter board catching in deep snow.
The magna traction edges and increased width means you can really leave some trenches on the groomers when you lay out some carve turns. All this makes for a great all mountain board which is easy to ride and still high performance enough to really haul ass on!
Salomon Dancehaul is a more carve focused board, which is super fun on the groomers and around the resort. Its slight taper gives it a little wider nose than tail which adds to the directional feel and helps float in powder and cut through chop without risking sinking the nose on this shorter length board.
The board features Salomon’s Rock Out Camber which blends a few different cambers along its length, with a flat section between the bindings, camber under the feet and a slight early rocker at the tip and tail. The overall effect of this is a board which has the pop and responsiveness of a traditional camber but slightly mellowed out at the tip and the tail for a more forgiving edge change.
This camber profile gives a more predictable edge hold than the Libtech or the Jones boards on this list. This makes is a great, fun board for carving. The extra width at the waste means you. can really lean the board over into the carves and the shorter length gives it more playfulness than traditional shape carve boards.
It has a directional flex with an overall rating of 4/10, but because of the stiffer tail, it feels more a a mid-range flex with loads of pop and responsiveness. The extra snap in the tail makes it great for allies and really stable on landings.
The Burton Kilroy is a super playful, easy-to-ride powder board and was designed with the goal of converting park rats into powder hounds! When I’m teaching people to ride powder, this is the board I recommend they rent.
It is flat between the feet to eliminate any camber which bends the board the wrong way down into the snow. In front of the front binding, the board begins to rocker up and lift the nose out of the snow. The same happens at the tail with a smaller rocker section that lowers the board’s sink. The board gets more float from its tapered shape with a nose that is 20mm wider than the tail. Burton have added to the fishiness of this board by incorporating some hydrodynamics into the nose and tail design. The nose has a load of 3d contouring which raises the sides of the nose like the hull of a boat to push snow out to the sides and away from the board. At the tail, there is a raised up channel in the center, which guides aerated snow out the back of the board and help suck the tail down to the snow.
All these features create a ride in powder that feels a little more solid and stable than normal boards and a great choice for any rider who struggles to maintain balance and the nose lifted in deep snow.
The Jones Storm Chaser has a classic fish shape with a long drawn out pointy nose at the front and a fishtail split in the back. This is freeride legend, Jeremy Jones’ go-to board for a powder day.
Every part of this board is designed to give you maximum float in the powder. Starting at the top, it has a 3d profile base which creates a spooned-out profile in the nose to help the board glide over the powder. This also gives a smooth, catch-free turn initiation as the snow is pushed out to the sides of the nose and away from the edges of the board.
The profile of the board is flat from the tail till just before the front binding insert, where the board starts to ride up in a rocker profile towards the nose. This means you can keep your weight on both feet and still keep the nose above the snow, creating a board that is easy to maneuver for quick turns amongst the trees.
The short length of the board means less edge to grip on hard snow, but Jones has combatted this with their Traction Tech edges which produce a serrated edge to help bite into hard snow. Still, this board was never meant to be ridden on hard-pack – it’s all about the pow!
How many pro models does one rider need? Well, if your Stale Sandbech, the answer is three, and this one, the Rome Stale Fish, is the board he reaches for to go out and play in the powder! Stale is one of the best freestyle riders on the planet, and he obviously wanted a powder board which he could through some tricks on. This has led to Rome developing one of the more high-performance volume shift boards on the market.
There is plenty of camber underneath the feet to give lots of pop for ollying. Combined with a good amount of turn radius so you can really lean the board over into some carves on the hard pack.
Up top, the board has a wide nose which starts to rise up with early rocker just in front of the front binding. The edges start to bevel out as you reach the nose so that they are slightly raised at the front of the board. This is similar to the Jones Storm Chaser 3d profile, but Rome is calling their version the Diamond 3d Nose. Whatever you call it, the result is the same – a smooth turn initiation, extra lift and float in powder, and a catch-free ride on the groomers. The nose is reinforced with a carbon rod which stops it from bouncing around on harder snow and gives plenty of pop out of butters.
This board is a great choice for a more freestyle/high-performance rider who wants a board for directional fun on and off the pistes.
Having a board for every type of riding and snow conditions can get super expensive, so Capita were kind enough to come up with a super simple and cheap volume shift board for riders who want a fun board for spring slush and powder.
The Spring Break was first conceived by Capita rider Cory Smith who wanted to make a functional powder board out of the most primitive materials. Although it has evolved a lot since then, the basic ethos remains the same.
This board has a super simple, no-frills construction with a flat base and early rocker in the nose and tail. It has a soft 4/10 flex making it really easy to ride a play around on. The extra width at the inset points means you can lay down a carve, and the board will cut through the slush without you hanging up on the toes or heels of your boots.
What kind of riding are Volume Shift snowboards for?
They’re great for tree runs.
One of my favorite days on the mountain is when it’s dumping down with snow, and the only place you can see anything is in the trees. For this kind of riding, you need to float above the powder and keep your board turning quickly and reacting to obstacles in your path. Volume Shift boards are perfect for this! If you live or are going on vacation in an area that gets loads of snow and has tree-lined mountains, such as the Pacific Northwest, BC or Japan, then a Volume Shift board is an obvious choice for your quiver.
Are Volume Shift boards good for carving?
To be able to carve on a snowboard you need to be able to push the edges of the board into the snow without either your heel or your toe catching. Especially if the snow is a little soft, this can be a real problem which will result in you hitting the deck. A little extra width in your board will give you a bit of extra clearance and keep your board carving cleanly.
Many Volume Shift boards out there are primarily designed as powder boards with a soft flex and a wider nose than tail. These characteristics are not great for carving, however, there are some Volume Shift boards with a more all-mountain ride. These boards such as the Ride Warpig and have a stiffer flex and less taper from the nose to tail, giving a really solid edge hold even at high speeds.
But if you really want to carve, you should consider one of these
What size Volume Shift board should I get?
Because Volume Shift boards are wider than normal boards, you can ride a board that is a bit shorter whilst still getting the same surface area. But how much shorter should you go? This kind of depends on the board and how much wider it is – the wider the board the shorter you can go. Generally speaking, most brands say 3-6cm shorter than your normal snowboard length. You should read up on each volume shift board to see what the manufacturers recommend. For the boards listed below, I’ve done that for you so you can work out what size to pick.
Are Volume Shift snowboards worth it?
I must admit, I was kind of skeptical when these boards first started appearing. When new technology comes out, I always look to see if the pros are using it, and if not, I figure it’s just a gimmick. When these boards first started appearing with the Burton fish probably about 15 years ago, hardly any pros were using them. More recently, a lot of pros have started going a bit shorter with their powder boards, notably Travis Rice, who uses his Orca board up in Alaska. That’s enough proof for me!