Magnetraction is one of those technologies that seemed to pop up overnight. It happened around nine years ago with Mervin Manufacturing, makers of Lib Tech, Gnu and Roxy snowboards. Lib Tech introduced it on their Skate Banana park board that was one of the first rocker designs on the market. Rockered snowboards soon became more popular because they offered a looser, more “skatey” feel that lent itself well to park riding. They were also easier for beginners to learn on than camber boards because they turned with little effort and were far less likely to catch an edge if you made a mistake.
But one of the inherent weaknesses of rocker boards is their tendency to sideslip (wash out) while making turns. This is because the outside contact points that dig into the snow on camber boards, are lifted slightly off the snow on rocker boards. There is less edge hold as a result and this makes turning, especially at faster speeds or on hard packed snow and ice, nearly impossible.
Enter Magnetraction, a proprietary technology that allows rocker boards to have similar edge hold to their camber counterparts. Magnetraction offers the best available edge hold for rocker boards. Full camber boards do not need it (even though a few older camber snowboards did have it for a short time).
So what is Magnetraction? Magnetraction is basically a serated, think wavy, edge on the snowboard. There are seven bumps on each side that serve as separate contact points. Contact points are the areas of your board edge that first engage the snow as you begin to turn. They prevent your board from slipping sideways across the snow as you turn. This gives your board just enough time on edge for the sidecut to engage, and the sidecut is what actually makes the board turn in an arc. This is called carving.
So with seven contact points on your toe side and heel side you will have plenty of edge hold, even in very firm conditions, to carve on edge through your turns on your rocker board. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of rocker, which include easier turning, less chance of catching an edge and better float in deep snow while still being able to carve and stop quickly in icy and hard pack conditions.
Grip Tech is a variation of magnetraction that originated with Arbor Snowboards just a few years ago. It is based on the same idea, of introducing additional contact points along the edge of the snowboard in order to compensate for the rise in the tip and tail of a rocker board. The unique thing about the Grip Tech design is that it works specifically with Arbor’s parabolic rocker system. This is a design that situates most the arc of the rocker in the middle of board and then gradually lowers the outer contact points closer to the snow equally at the tip and tail. The outermost contact points are still off the ground when the board is not weighted but they engage more quickly once the rider initiates his or her turn.
Grip Tech mostly differs from Magnetraction in that it uses only two additional bumps, or contact points on each side of the snowboard. One is placed in the area where the toes of your boots fall and the other two contact points are on the heel side in the area directly behind your boot heels. This design puts the contact points at the areas where direct pressure is applied when turning, thus negating the need for the extra five contacts points found on Mervin boards. Note that this only works with Arbors parabolic rocker system. But speaking from experience, it works very well.
If you are in the market for a rocker, or hybrid snowboard this season, consider a board that has either Magnetraction or Grip Tech. There are also many variations on this technology that a lot of snowboard manufacturers have introduced into their lines. But at the end of the day the basic idea is to give the rider the enjoyment and benefits of rocker while maintaining the ability to carve. Because without carving you can’t do much.