The Great Weight Range Debate
You’ve probably looked at boards in your local shop and noticed the sticker on the back with all of the boards’ tech specs. It contains a ton of information that most snowboarders don’t really pay much attention to. One thing you should be paying attention to, though, is the weight range listed next to each board size.
I’ll admit, I was guilty of ignoring it as I was overweight and thought I could get away with it. I figured the worst thing that could happen being outside of the weight range was that I’d break the board. But after a pretty significant lifestyle change and a net weight loss of 60 lbs., I know that there is a lot more to it than possibly breaking the board.
When I started riding the Highlife UL 158 at the beginning of the 11/12 snowboard season, I was over the weight range. At the start of the 12/13 season I weighed 60 lbs. less on the same exact board and the difference in performance was profound. But before I get into what I noticed, let’s visit why the weight range is there.
Snowboard design is so technical now compared to what it used to be. Sure you see specs on the sticker, in the catalog or online… but there is so much more that goes into how the board rides that you’re never going to read or hear unless you talk to a board engineer about it. Each size is assigned a weight range that will give the rider the “intended ride” for that board.
Ideally you want to be in the middle of the weight range of a particular size… but that rarely happens. If you’re on the lighter side of the weight range, the board will probably feel a bit stiffer to you than someone in the middle or high end. Conversely, if you’re on the higher side of the weight range, the board will probably feel a bit softer to you than someone that is in the middle or lower end. So next time you hear someone’s opinion about the flex of a board, take into consideration their weight and size they are riding.
What’s the big deal if I’m under or over the weight range?
When it comes down to it, if you’re under the weight range of a board you really don’t have the “mass” to turn and stop the board safely if you get it up to full speed. You are putting yourself in a position where you might seriously hurt yourself or somebody else if you are unable to control your board.
Being heavier than the weight range has the opposite effect. You’re not going to be able to get it up to the speed that it is intended to have. Turn initiation will be a bit more sluggish and the big thing is the added stress you put on the inserts (those little things you screw your bindings in to) and core with the extra weight. If you need proof, check the bottom of a board you’ve ridden 25 days. Rub your hand across the base of the board where the inserts are and see if you notice part of the base raised up compared to the rest of it. Sure, just screwing in your bindings will slightly pull up on the inserts, but not enough where you’ll notice a 4” x 2” square of your base raised. If you’re significantly outside of the weight range, you run the risk of breaking the board when riding rails or boxes or landing jumps.
What have you noticed being lighter?
I’m still on the heavier side of the weight range, but I’m in the range now. The feeling is amazing. I admit that part of it is due to being in shape, being stronger, etc. But I am noticing that I can get going faster, especially in powder, and I’m not sinking as deep in the snow. My turn initiation is significantly faster and the pop of the nose and tail is easier and noticeably higher which makes it a lot easier to spin. I accidentally rotated a 720 the other day… I’ve never spun a 720 before!
I’m not the only one noticing a difference. My wife went from being in the middle of the weight range of the 155 Berzerker to the bottom of the weight range over the same time period that I lost the weight. The first few days of the season were really frustrating her as she was struggling to adjust her riding and didn’t realize that her weight loss was what was affecting it. The moment that I realized what was going on, I was what inspired to write this.
Unfortunately Ride doesn’t make a Berzerker in a smaller size than the 155. The next option was the Wild Life or the Baretta. Since the Baretta was already sold out, I picked her up a 151 Wild Life. The first day out on the board was a night and day difference. She was back to her old self, screaming down the mountain as confidently as she ever has.
How far outside of the weight range can I get away with?
It’s really up to you. After reading this you should have a good idea of what the consequences are and if you want to take them. What it comes down to is that you should want the size that is going to allow you to enjoy the mountain the most. So pay attention to the sticker on the back of the board or find the specs in a catalog or online.