Going straight on a snowboard can be intimidating but knowing the correct way to do it will improve your ability on the slopes.
Most of the time, staying on edge is important to maintain control of your board. Knowing how to ride straight on an edge will take your riding to the next level. On smooth terrain, however, flat riding can give you great speed although with a higher risk of catching an edge.
See also: Linking Turns vs Carving vs Skidding
How to go straight fast without catching an edge
When bombing down a hill at high speeds, more often than not you want to be riding either the heel or toe edge. This ensures stability and control for the board. Staying on an edge increases grip by digging the board rail deep in the snow.
Which edge you’re leaning towards depends on whichever feels more comfortable for your current terrain. Switching between the two often is common.
If you’re riding flat, a sudden change in terrain can cause you to catch an edge, and then your board may start to pivot, ultimately putting you out of control.
Switching to flat-based riding for short intervals is a great way to gain speed, but staying that way for a long period will make you vulnerable to catching an edge.
See also: Should You Wear A Helmet Snowboarding?
Benefits of riding flat vs riding on an edge
While riding on an edge will give you more control, it can take away from your speed as a sharp edge digging into the snow will cause drag, and even the slightest edge will slow you down.
Periodically riding flat will help you keep up your pace, as with no edges dug into the snow there is no drag, letting your board slide smoothly with the snow.
Riding with an edge, however, provides insurance against terrain changes as you have more stability and control. It’s a lot easier to anticipate and react to the terrain since your board is more locked in.
How do you ride a flat base without catching an edge?
Though riding a flat base is more prone to control loss, there are ways to help prevent catching an edge. Flat riding is usually done on smooth terrain so you can better predict what’s coming.
When riding flat, make sure the pressure of your front and back foot are the same. This ensures that the board is at maximum stability and lessens the chance of the board doing its own thing.
Bending your knees is another good way to have maximum control. Being lower to the ground, your movements and reactions are more responsive to the board while giving you maximum stability.
Keeping your shoulders in line with your board at all times will also optimize stability as it will lead to more even weight distribution. If you have trouble keeping balance, having your arms out as a stabilizer will help you quickly shift weight to either side as needed.
Be aware that the slower you are going, the more prone you are to catching an edge. This can make slower areas like around the lifts or flat spots between runs challenging. Again, keeping your knees bent will make you most stable.
If you’re a beginner rider, when going across a flat section, you can take the back foot out of your binding and use your foot for extra stability. Having a free foot gives you extra control by letting you dig into the snow for slowing down. You have more freedom to maneuver your body and manipulate the board as you’re not fully locked in.
Flatbasing vs edging in smooth vs choppy snow
Flatbasing and edging both have their time and place. Riding in smooth powder is more forgiving than on a groomed trail, so flat basing in this type of snow is more achievable.
When encountering choppy and unpredictable terrain, riding on an edge will give you an advantage of attack for what’s to come.
When riding in powder, it is important to keep your board slightly more elevated in the front, otherwise, you can easily get sucked in. Remember that you are in charge of control, don’t let the snow control you.
Which snowboards are easiest to flat ride straight on
When it comes to riding flat, a flat base board is the best option. The largest part of the bottom surface of the board is in contact with the snow at all times (excluding nose and tail), which results in the most predictable and smooth riding.
A flat base board is the most versatile option when it comes to terrain. All skill levels can benefit from it, and any type of terrain can be tackled with more consistency compared to a rocker board.
Flat boards will bring the most stability when it comes to riding straight and fast as most of the board is in contact with the snow.
The length of your board can also affect your flat riding ability. The longer the board, the faster and more stable it is, making it easier to flat ride on. I am 5’11” and ride a 161cm board which is considered long for my height, and am able to flat ride in many situations without catching an edge.
My personal favorite board is a Burton Custom, an all-round great board which excels in riding flat. The Nitro T1 is another a great option for flat riding on all kinds of terrain.
Edge maintenance for flat or edge riding
The edges on your board are the blades that help you to cut the snow, and when split-second decisions have to be made, you need those edges sharp.
Keeping your edges sharp and tuned is essential to get the maximum performance out of your board whether you’re flat riding or edging. Whether you choose to do it yourself or get it professionally done, all edges should be sharpened at least once a year.
Burrs can happen as a result of hitting any other object besides snow. Burrs are small dents in the side of your board that decrease your ability to carve as well as overall control. Think about using a sharp knife vs a dull knife, the sharper the blade, the easier and more control you have to cut.
Branches and rocks are abundant on mountains and are the primary cause of dull edges and burrs. Park riders may find themselves getting dull edges and burrs from rails and boxes. All snowboards experience slight damage with riding so it is important to keep up with maintenance.
Keeping up with edge burrs can be as simple as having a proper ceramic stone and inspecting the edges for needed filing before riding. Burrs can be spot treated and there is no need to re-sharpen the whole board if not necessary.
Riding flat and on an edge are techniques every rider should easily interchange with. Knowing your comfort zone and abilities will determine which style you will use in any given situation.
Although most riding is done on an edge, flat riding has its time and place. The more advanced of a rider you are, the more you will be able to anticipate when riding flat or on an edge is the best option.