Snowboard vs Skateboard | Understanding The Differences


At a glance, snowboards and skateboards share some fairly obvious differences and similarities. They both appear to be flat boards, except one of them is a bit longer and doesn’t have any wheels, right?

Snowboards and skateboards are very different from each other. Snowboards are made of a wider range of materials, feature bindings to secure the feet to the board, and have no use for wheels. Skateboards use grip tape to help the rider stay on and are generally solely made from maple wood.

Let’s take a closer look at the significant differences between snowboards and skateboards and see why those familiar with both sports know just how dissimilar the two bits of kit are from each other.

What Are The Differences Between Snowboards & Skateboards?

Snowboards and skateboards are far more different from each other than you might initially expect as both types of board have been designed with complex specifications in mind.

While early versions of snowboards and skateboards were nearly identical, with wheels being practically the only difference between the two at times, modern boards have evolved greatly.

These developments mean that riders of each respective sport can go faster, higher, and pull off crazier tricks than early practitioners would have ever thought possible.

However, in order to push the boundaries of snowboarding and skateboarding, the branches of the evolutionary board tree have been forced farther and farther apart.

What Are The Differences Between Snowboards & Skateboards

1. Edges

When you take a closer look at the two board types, you’ll notice that while skateboard edges are the same material as the core of the board, wood, snowboards have sharp steel edges that either go all the way around the board or solely along the sides that make contact with the snow.

Skateboard edges rarely make contact with the riding surface except in the case of a few flatland tricks, so as long as they’re relatively well waterproofed with a lacquer or varnish, they just need to be sanded smooth.

Snowboards only work the way they do because of how the edges interact with the snow.

The edges have to be sharp to dig into the snow, smooth to maintain speed as they cut through it, and strong enough to withstand the constant impacts.

They also have to be able to offer complete protection to the inside of the board. Unsurprisingly, snow is wet and cold, two things you definitely don’t want the wooden core to be if it’s going to last the winter.

This is why you also need to maintain the edges of a snowboard. If they become too blunt, you’ll lose speed, whereas if you over-sharpen them, you might lose control.

Snowboarders also have to be warier of damage to their board’s edges and have to carefully assess whether dings and chips need repairing.

For skaters, most edge damage is usually cosmetic unless the board itself is cracked.

2. Shape

Length and width aside, snowboards and skateboards appear relatively similar in shape.

From above, they both look somewhat rectangular with a rounded nose and tail; from the side, they appear flat in the middle, with the nose and tail rising up off the ground.

The truth is that while the shape of the boards, when viewed from the side, called the “profile,” isn’t usually completely straight and flat, this is actually where the two are more similar than they are different.

While some boards have flat profiles, others have what’s called a “camber” or a “rocker” profile. Cambered boards rise up slightly in the middle, giving the board more flexibility.

With snowboarding, flex helps the rider control the board, and both snowboarders and skateboarders benefit from flex when it comes to executing jumps and tricks.

Rocker boards are slightly lower in the center, giving riders a speed boost. In snowboarding, rocker boards can also help the rider float above the snow instead of sinking.

In skateboarding, the raised nose and tail, known as the “kicktail,” are there for initiating tricks rather than negotiating the terrain.

Skateboards are usually limited to flat, camber, or rocker profiles, whereas modern snowboards have a wider range of hybrid profiles available.

From a top-down perspective, you’ll soon notice that the sides of a skateboard are parallel to each other until they reach the nose and tail, whereas the sides of a snowboard curve inwards.

This is called the “sidecut” of the board and is a critical feature of every snowboard; snowboarding works by the rider engaging the edges of the board with the snow, and without sidecuts, they wouldn’t be able to make turns or stop.

In other words, they’d have no control whatsoever.

3. Size

The first and most obvious difference between snowboards and skateboards is the size. Most skateboards are around 28″ to “33 inches long and roughly 8” wide.

Shorter boards exist for kids, and skaters might vary the width of their board in proportion to their shoe size or depending on the type of tricks they like to pull off.

You also have longboards that are up to twice the length of regular skateboards, 38″ to 60″, and can reach higher speeds, but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to stick to looking at regular skateboards.

Snowboards are much longer than skateboards, mostly due to the extra stability the rider needs. Not only do skaters tend to ride on grippy surfaces, but they also have four wheels attached to the board.

Snowboarders ride on frictionless snow or ice, so a longer board allows them to widen their stance.

Not only does this lower the rider’s center of gravity to make it harder to fall over, but it also makes it easier for the snowboarder to use the edges of their board to turn.

Snowboards are also much wider than skateboards; the boots snowboarders wear are bigger than skate shoes, and without wheels creating a gap between the ground and the board, a narrow board makes it much easier for the toes or heels of the boot to touch the floor when turning

This isn’t a good thing. It’s also important to remember that snow acts similarly to sand in that objects with a lower surface area will sink more easily.

Skateboards don’t have this issue as the ground they’re on is solid, but a longer, wider snowboard will float above the snow, getting stuck.

Size

4. Base

Getting the obvious out of the way first; skateboards have wheels on the bottom, snowboards don’t.

The wheels contain ball bearings and are attached to trucks, which in turn are screwed into the skateboard deck.

While skaters don’t use the edges of the board to turn, trucks can be tightened or loosened, allowing them to turn the board more easily by using their body weight in a similar, but not identical, way that snowboarders do.

The underside of the deck usually has a graphic that’s been applied using a heat-transfer method, and while some skaters treat their decks with a water-resistant spray, most just try to keep their skateboard out of the rain.

Although the underside doesn’t come into contact with the ground, it may occasionally come into contact with a rail or solid surface during grind tricks.

The base of a snowboard is always in contact with the snow, so it needs to be as smooth as possible while remaining flexible, tough, and waterproof.

They’re made out of a plastic polymer called polyethylene, referred to commonly as P-tex, and snowboard bases usually come in two different types, extruded or sintered.

Both are made using pellets of P-tex. However, extruded bases are created by melting the pellets into one final piece, and sintered bases force the base material into shape under extremely high pressure.

Extruded bases are cheaper and easier to repair, but the construction method means they’re less porous than the pricier sintered bases.

Snowboard bases require regular waxing to reduce their friction on the snow, and as sintered bases are more porous, they hold wax better and are, therefore, quicker, smoother, and more durable than extruded bases.

5. Top

One of the major differences between snowboards and skateboards is that snowboarders’ feet are secured to their board using bindings, whereas skaters’ feet aren’t strapped onto the deck.

However, skaters still need to be able to avoid slipping off their board and need enough traction to perform aerial tricks. The black top surface of a skateboard deck is made up of what’s known as grip tape.

Grip tape is effectively a type of coarse, durable sandpaper with a strong adhesive backing that sticks to the deck and provides the skater with the friction they need to stay on the board.

It’s also replaceable if heavy use starts to wear it down.

Below the printed waterproof graphic, snowboard topsheets can be made of a number of different materials, including wood, nylon, aluminum, fiberglass, or polyurethane.

Different materials offer different properties that can impact the board’s weight, strength, and flexibility.

Top

6. Core Materials

Grip tape aside, the deck of a skateboard is almost always made of seven to eight-ply maple wood. It’s durable, strong, and flexible, so it’s the perfect material for the job.

Some decks may incorporate Plexiglass, fiberglass, or other composite materials, but more often than not, maple is the number one pick.

Snowboards tend to be far more complex. Aside from the P-tex base, stainless steel edges, and the topsheet types covered above, the core of a snowboard can also be made of a wide range of materials.

The core is usually made out of strips of laminated wood such as birch, aspen, beech, or bamboo; however, carbon, aluminum, or kevlar can also be used.

Sometimes a combination of the above is used to imbue the final product with different properties, either as a key component or as a thin layer between other materials.

Most boards also have fiberglass layers sandwiched between them on either side of the core that can provide more pop or stiffness across the width, known as torsional flex.

7. Necessary Footwear

The last major difference we’ll look at today is the footwear required for each sport.

Both are similar in the sense that while snowboarding and skateboarding call for specialized footwear, there’s also a wide range of types available in each sport that cater to different preferences and styles of riding.

Skateboard shoes can have low or high tops that provide different levels of ankle support, but they should have a sole that absorbs impacts and protects the heel.

However, most skaters prefer a grippy, balanced sole that provides cushioning yet still allows them to feel the board beneath their feet.

Most skaters also choose suede shoes over canvas due to the extra durability and opt for reinforced toe caps that prevent the grip tape from sanding the material away when repeatedly flipping the board with their feet.

Some skateboarders go the extra mile to prevent their shoes from becoming damaged by applying a protective layer of glue to the parts of the shoes that are prone to damage.

Snowboarders can’t wear regular shoes or boots for snowboarding, instead having to wear specialized snowboard boots.

Snowboard boots are stiffer than regular boots, so they can support and protect the feet and ankles from the high forces they’re subjected to when riding.

They consist of two layers, including a completely waterproof outer layer, and have thick soles that can absorb impacts without cramping the foot.

While some snowboard boots have regular laces, most come with a quick-fastening or wheel-crank system that makes it easier for the wearer to loosen or tighten their boots without removing their gloves.

Snowboard vs Skateboard – Comparison Table

SnowboardSkateboard
EdgesSame material as the core of the boardHave sharp steel edges
ShapeSides curve inwardsSides are parallel to each other
SizeMuch longer and widerAround 28″ to “33 inches long and roughly 8” wide
BaseSmooth, flexible, tough, and waterproofWheels which contain ball bearings
TopMade of a number of different materialsBlack top surface is made of grip tape
Core MaterialsMade of a wide range of materialsMade of seven to eight-ply maple wood
Necessary FootwearNeed to be stiffer than regular bootsShould have a sole that absorbs impacts

Using One For The Other

1. Can You Snowboard With A Skateboard?

So with all of the differences laid out, is it possible to snowboard with a skateboard? The answer is: eh, kind of?

Early snowboards were pretty much just skateboards without trucks and wheels and a rope attached to the front, so you wouldn’t lose the thing.

So while you wouldn’t be able to pull off the same tricks as you could on a snowboard, and you’d not have much control over it, it’s technically possible to snowboard a little bit if you took the wheels and trucks off.

However, if you try it, we suggest playing around on a shallow hill at home because taking one to a proper snowboard slope will be dangerous to you and others around you.

You’d also better use a deck you don’t need anymore because the water and freezing temperatures won’t play nicely with the exposed wooden core.

Can You Snowboard With A Skateboard

2. Can You Skate With A Snowboard?

The answer to this one’s a little bit more straightforward. While it can and has been done, it was mostly for laughs and YouTube views.

If you were to skate with a snowboard, all you’re going to do here is tear the base of the board to shreds and probably damage the core to a point where it’s beyond repair.

If you’re desperate to combine snowboarding with skateboarding, look into mountainboarding instead.

Conclusion

Despite some surface similarities, snowboards and skateboards are very different from one another.

Skateboards are arguably simpler in their design, but that’s only because they don’t have to be extremely complex.

The way each board is controlled is different, as is the terrain they’re used on, so it’s no surprise they’re so dissimilar.

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with my pet bunny when not digging my head deep into the world of snowboarding, tricks, techniques, and related safety measures.

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