Keeping in theme with our recent waxing how-to, here is a guide to the different types of snowboard bases available.
Snowboard bases are constructed of an Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene and most the most common manufacturer of these materials is P-Tex, to the extent that the P-Tex brand name has actually become synonymous with the material. Snowboard bases fall into two broad categories: extruded and sintered, which differ in their properties and construction.
Extruded bases are constructed by melting Polyethylene granules down before compressing them through a machine. In this way the thickness of the resulting base material can be varied and controlled. Sintered bases are constructed by combining polyethylene pellets together under very high pressure and heat resulting in a material of high molecular mass. Due to the differences in the way that the P-Tex bonds in these two processes, sintered bases are much more porous than extruded bases. Most sintered bases are associated with a number (eg. Sintered 7500). This number indicates the material’s molecular weight and a higher molecular weight equals a more dense and therefore durable base.
Base graphics are created in several different ways. Most extruded bases have the graphic silkscreened and laid beneath a transparent base. Extruded base material lends itself better to this procedure as it has superior clarity when transparent than sintered material. Simpler base designs are sometimes constructed by gluing precision die-cut pieces of separate base material together to form the base. Unsurprisingly, these types of bases can be prone to damage and ‘snagging.’ Sintered base material can handle the temperatures required for the sublimation of graphics: infusing them with the base material itself, and this technique results in vibrant and colourful graphics.
Performance and Maintenenace:
Extruded bases are cheaper to produce and their less porous structure does not absorb water-repelling wax as easily as sintered bases do. As a result sintered bases, when waxed, are always faster than extruded ones but they also become dry quicker and so need to be waxed more frequently. Extruded bases are slightly less durable than sintered bases but they are much easier to repair with a spot of liquid P-Tex.
Some snowboards feature additives to alter their properties. A carbon or graphite additive makes the base harder and conducts static electricity to reduce friction and lead to faster sliding.