Snowboard bases usually get overlooked when purchasing a new deck because a lot people assume that they are all made the same and just have different graphics on them. In reality, snowboard bases are a key part of the overall make-up of a snowboard. Like the edges, bases are in constant contact with the snow and so play a major role in how the board performs in varying conditions and types of terrain.
There are basically two major types of snowboard bases- extruded and sintered. Both types of bases are made from high-density polyethylene popularly known by its brand name, P-tex. There are also several other companies that also manufacture this material. P-tex is highly hydrophobic and it allows the snowboard base to channel air, snow and water, which gives the board to glide and allows it to turn smoothly. P-Tex is designed to work with snowboard wax and each type of base, extruded and sintered, reacts differently with the wax. Here is a breakdown of both types of bases, how they are and their strengths and weaknesses.
- How it is made: Extruded bases start as P-tex plastic pellets that are melted together and forced through a mold that sets the thickness of the sheet. It is then stamped out or cut to the dimensions of the board it will be on.
- Advantages: Extruded bases are easier to repair than sintered bases because they are not as dense. They also do not need to be waxed as often as a properly maintained sintered base because they do not absorb and release as much wax when ridden. They are also less expensive to manufacture. Snowboards with extruded bases are normally cheaper than boards with sintered bases.
- Disadvantages: When waxing a board the wax gets absorbed into the base through tiny pores in the P-tex. Extruded bases are not very porous so they do not hold a lot of wax. This means they are not as fast as sintered bases. Extruded bases have a lower density rating than sintered bases making them more prone to abrasions and gouges.
- How it is made: Sintered bases are made by putting the P-tex pellets under a great amount of pressure and fusing them together. This gives the material a higher density rating and better wax absorption qualities. The sheets are then cut to the proper thickness and dimensions of the board it will be on.
- Advantages: Sintered bases hold more wax than extruded bases making them more hydrophobic and thus faster because the friction against the snow is reduced. Sintered bases are also more durable than extruded bases because of the higher density material they are made from.
- Disadvantages: Sintered bases release more wax when they are being ridden because of the porousness of the material so they will need to be waxed more often when starting out. Over time they will need to be waxed less often. Sintered bases are harder to repair because of the higher density material they are made out of. Sintered bases are more expensive to manufacture so they usually cost more than snowboards with extruded bases.
There are a few ways to look at which base you may want on your board. Generally speaking, park boards that are designed for hard features like boxes, rails, benches, walls, etc. may benefit from extruded bases, mostly because they are cheaper and can be more easily repaired. The performance of a board with an extruded base does not vary all that much as the wax wears off and when grinding away on rails the rider will not notice the increased performance of sintered base. Plus, the savings in money makes more sense for a board designed for constant impacts.
Sintered bases are faster and can offer an experienced rider a lot more in terms of performance and maneuverability. Sintered bases may appeal more to all-mountain and freeride riders who are looking for speed and quick response when blasting down their lines, riding in the glades, or taking their park skills to the mountain. Sintered bases glide the best over all types of terrain and so offer smoother turn initiation, which experienced riders can benefit from. Beginners will probably not notice the difference until they start to develop intermediate skills.
Lastly, there is the base graphics. Extruded bases are inherently clearer than sintered bases because they are not as porous so the colors of the graphics tend to pop out more. Many extruded bases have graphics that are silk screened in layers before the base is epoxied on. Many sintered base graphics are made from die cuts where the design is cut out in pieces from the base sheet and then the new shapes are inserted to create the graphic. This method compensates for the lack of clarity found in sintered P-tex bases.
The most important thing to understand about snowboard bases is that they need to be maintained. If you get a gouge in your base that goes all the way through to the core of the board and you do not repair it then moisture and dirt will begin to deteriorate the inside of the board and it can delaminate (come apart). You need to dry it out fill it with P-tex, which is easily done using a P-tex stick and lighter. You also will need to wax your base when you notice the white areas normally found along the edges spreading across the board. That means the board is drying out and needs wax. You can also tell that your board needs wax when it is getting slower and not gliding like it use to. So take your board to your local shop for a wax and tune when you think it needs it…. or better yet, have the shop show you how to do it yourself and save some money!