A snowboard can only go as fast as the riders ability. The average snowboarder will range between 20 – 40 miles per hour with Olympic snowboards, in slalom or boardercross, can reach up to 60/70 miles per hour.
There are many factors that will affect the speed of a snowboard such as snow conditions, gradient of terrain, line selection, use of terrain, the equipment you are using, the weight of the snowboarder as well as the snowboarders ability (and confidence) will all make a big difference.
The top speed ever achieved on a snowboard is 131.11 miles per hour set in 2022 by Jamie Barrow. However this was achieved by being towed by a vehicle. The fastest speed from downhill snowboarding is 126.31 miles per hour, by Frenchman Edmond Plawczyk in Vars in 2015.
So what makes a snowboard go faster? And how can you go even faster within your own snowboarding? I’ve got a bunch of tips which in my experience makes quite a difference.
- What Makes a Snowboard go faster
- What is the best snowboard to obtain your fastest speed on?
- How to go faster on your snowboard
- Is skiing faster than snowboarding?
What Makes a Snowboard go faster
There are several different aspects to a snowboard that will affect the speed. Each of these factors listed below will help you obtain more speed. If you want to gain your fastest speed, read through the points above and try to improve on each point, every small gain will add up.
The first, and one of the more obvious factors, is the wax on the base of your snowboard. If you are on a banged up old board from the 90’s that hasn’t been waxed since it left the shop, all those years ago, this is going to slow you down a lot.
Waxing reduces friction with the snow, allowing for smoother gliding and increased speed. Different wax will also react differently with different conditions, waxing a board properly is something of an art. If you are not so eager to learn, take your board to your local resort so they can tune it up for you.
Similar to waxing, if you have defects on your edges, or half the edge hanging off, this is going to create drag, slowing you down. Also how you use your edges is going to make a big difference. If you are not so confident with your turns, doing big long washy turns are going to brush off speed with each turn.
If you want to obtain your top speed you will need to ride your edges throughout your turns, instead of brushing them and losing speed with each turn.
The base of a snowboard can have various structures, like sintered or extruded base. Sintered bases are normally used on higher end boards, and have a more porous structure which allows it to absorb more wax, enhancing the speed of the board. If you want to achieve your top speed ensure you have a good quality snowboard and ensure you maintain it properly.
Stance and body position
How you stand on your board can have a big effect on the speed obtained. Leaning forward and maintaining an aerodynamic posture will reduce wind resistance and allow the rider to cut through the air more effectively, in turn obtaining a higher speed.
Skill and technique play a significant role in the speed you can achieve. Advanced riders are able to maintain speed through turns with effective edge use, carving techniques and line selection/ use of terrain.
A snowboard can only go as fast as the terrain allows, the top speed you can achieve on the nursery slope will be a little different than the top speed achieved on a black run. As well as the gradient making a huge difference, how smooth versus how bumpy the slope is and if the terrain is freshly groomed or chopped up at the end of the day.
Anyone that has spent time snowboarding will be aware of the difference in snow conditions. Freshly groomed terrain is generally going to ride the fastest. Fresh powder or wet snow is going to slide a lot slower, with wet fresh snow being some of the worst, slowest conditions you can experience.
What is the best snowboard to obtain your fastest speed on?
- Stiffness – A stiffer board provides better stability and control which will allow you to have more control at higher speeds.
- Snowboard shape – A camber, directional snowboarder is going to be the best board to reach your highest speed. A camber snowboard, where the center of the board is raised off the ground, enhances the boards responsiveness and provides better edge hold. This more responsive shape is going to give you more stability and help you obtain your highest speed.
- Length – Longer snowboards will give better stability which is favored when trying to gain your top speed. A smaller board is going to get bucked around in bumps and be harder to control, the longer board will have more stability charging through bumps and defects in the snow a lot easier.
- Base structure – as mentioned earlier a sintered base is going to provide a faster base to slide on.
- Edge technology – Advanced edge designs, such as serrated edges or additional contact points can enhance grip and control.
How to go faster on your snowboard
Now we have broken down what makes a snowboard go faster and the best type of snowboard for top speeds, let’s delve into what we can do to help us go faster on our snowboard.
Proper stance and body position
Maintaining a balanced, athletic stance while leaning slightly forward, keeping your weight centered over the board’s edges will help you achieve the highest speed. Having your weight in the wrong position, or your body twisted in the wrong position will mean you lose control if you hit any small bumps or have minor wobbles. The correct position will allow you to confidently charge down the mountain.
Proper use of the terrain
Choosing your line correctly as well as pumping bumps and transferring your weight over bumps and through your turns can massively increase your speed. Make sure you are sucking your legs up over small bumps and extending your legs coming down the bump to increase speed.
Carving / Edge control
Proper carving technique will allow you to maintain and maximize your speed. Focus on initiating turns by applying pressure to the nose of your new edge, transferring weight to the tail coming out of the turn, this will allow you to maintain your speed through the start of the turn, and increase your speed coming out of the turn.
If you really want to increase speed by every millisecond possible, you want to minimize wind resistance with a more aerodynamic body position. Keep your body compact and low, tuck in your elbows and minimize unnecessary movement that can create drag. Baggy clothing flapping in the wind will also add wind resistance, so if you want to achieve your top speed, grab your Lycra.
Waxing and board maintenance
Ensure your board is properly waxed and maintained with no defects. Any defect on your board, or a dry base will slow you down
Choosing the right line/ Terrain / Conditions
If you are looking to hit your top speed, a powder day while it’s still snowing is not going to give you the best result. Get out there early on a bluebird day, use the steep bit of terrain you are used to and find the most efficient line down.
Is skiing faster than snowboarding?
In general skiers and snowboarders can achieve similar speeds, although this depends on many factors such as skill level, terrain, snow conditions and equipment.
Skiers often have a more aerodynamic position due to facing down the hill, versus snowboarders standing sideways. Skiers are also able to tuck into more aerodynamic positions, or sit down on the back of their skis with their weight on the tail of their ski’s, greatly increasing their speed. Skis are also a lot thinner than snowboards resulting in less base in contact with the snow, therefore less resistance.
The top speed achieved by a skier is 158.7 miles per hour by Simon Biley in March of 2023 in France. So although the speed of skis and snowboards are quite similar it seems skiers have the edge over us on this one.
Remember while increasing your speed can be fun and get the adrenaline pumping, always make sure you are in control and not putting yourself, or others, in danger. Ride within your skill level, and aim for your top speed when the slopes are quiet and conditions are favorable.
At 21, I left Scotland to travel but ended up becoming a snowboard instructor instead. For 4-5 years, I worked internationally in many countries. As my passion for park riding grew, I transitioned into building snowboard parks. I’ve gained sponsors for my snowboarding, won rail jams and small competitions, and contributed to building X Games courses. I’ve also been involved in significant park events like The Stomping Grounds project.