One glance at this winter’s lineup of powder-oriented snowboards confirms a trend that’s been creeping in over the past few seasons: powder boards are getting shorter. A lot shorter — at least 10 to 15 centimeters more abbreviated than what was previously thought ideal. This new wave of boards is softer, featuring innovative camber profiles and, most importantly, wider waist widths. The departure from the old design — long and stiff, with a wide nose and a swallow or fish cut in the tail — is driven by a new style of riding. Riders want to surf on the snow.
Part of that feeling comes from advancements in actual board construction (i.e. different fibers and layup materials), but the main factor is its shape. As boards have gotten shorter, their waist width, the measurement from edge to edge at the center of the board, has gotten significantly wider. In the past, a powder board was typically around 158 centimeters long and ran around 250mm wide in the waist. In contrast, K2’s new Party Platter, the poster child for new-wave powder boards, runs 143 centimeters long and hits the 270mm mark in the waist. That difference of 20mm in width and 15 centimeters in length may not seem like much — but they actually make the Party Platter the polar opposite of its antiquated counterparts.
It’s all about displacement. Just as a boat displaces weight across water to float, a snowboard displaces snow. In the past, powder boards tended to rely on length to get the surface area needed for effective displacement. These new boards rely on their width. The result is a breed of boards that “float” better through powder and are more nimble thanks to shorter length and the lower swing weight that brings.
The best example of this new breed is K2’s Enjoyer series, which includes their highly touted Cool Bean (featured in our best-of list last season). While other brands — namely Rome, Salomon and Yes — are experimenting in the space, K2 still leads the pack in terms of performance and shape innovation for short powder boards.
But the most important board in the Enjoyer series is not the Cool Bean or the Party Platter. It’s the splitboard version of the Cool Bean. The Split Bean (pictured above) is a radical departure from splitboards in the same way that these shorter, wider powder shapes are a departure from the powder board status quo. In other words, the short and wide mentality is beginning to permeate into other facets of snowboarding beyond powder. You can expect to see short and wide snowboards filling the lift lines on more than just powder days this winter.