Pro riders are great adverts for snowboards, as people dream about emulating their tricks and big descents in fresh powder.
But, when you look at the prices of these snowboards and add the price of the boots and bindings, you will see the cost is quite high. So, why are snowboards so expensive?
- Mark Up
- Production Costs
- Other Costs Snowboard Manufacturers Incur
- How To Manage The Costs Of Buying Snowboard Equipment
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Snowboard shops have to make money, just like any retail business. Shops have to put a margin on the factory price, which is roughly 40% of the MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price).
Therefore, the shop pays 60% of the retail price. Some snowboard retailers have better buying power than others; consequently, they may get a slight discount from the factory, but this will only be about 1 to 3%.
The discount won’t make much difference to one snowboard, but it can significantly help the shop’s profits if they can buy more products.
If a snowboard was priced at $400, the shop would have to buy it for $240, leaving $160 to play with. However, lots of snowboarders won’t buy their new board at full price and wait for it to go on sale at the end of the season.
When the snowboard shop gives you a 10% discount on a $400 snowboard, they give up 25% of their potential profit margin. If they offered a 20% discount, they would only make $80 for selling you the snowboard.
You may still consider this to be a good profit, but there are other costs involved. The shop has overhead – including rent, wages, utilities, and tax.
Therefore, the profit doesn’t actually go that far, especially when you consider that most snowboard shops sell off their boards at the end of the season at a 40% discount.
Snowboard factories have quite a lot of overhead to deal with when it comes to building their snowboards. Therefore, they need to factor these costs into the selling price of their snowboards.
You can’t just build a snowboard and sell it without knowing how well it will perform. Lots of research and development goes into snowboards, which takes time and money.
Often snowboard brands will pay pro riders to help develop their snowboards. This research and development pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in snowboard construction, shape, and design.
The snowboard’s sidewall construction will make it more or less expensive to produce. This runs along the snowboard’s edges and will be made in one of three ways.
A snowboard with a sandwich sidewall will be commonly used for freeride snowboards, as it is very effective at transmitting pressure to the board’s edges. Freeride snowboards are generally high-end products due to the demanding nature of the discipline, as they are ridden hard in technical terrain.
Snowboards with a cap construction sidewall are snappy and light. The top sheet and fiberglass layer cover the edge, which isn’t very common these days but is used on some entry-level snowboards.
You can also buy a snowboard with a half-cap construction. These snowboards have their fiberglass layer surrounding the core, while the top sheet comes partially around to create the sidewall.
Half-cap sidewalls are also excellent at edge pressure transmission, which is why they are also used on high-end snowboards. It is common for snowboards to have a hybrid-cap sidewall construction.
Hybrid-cap boards have sandwich sidewalls that turn into a cap construction at the nose and tail. These boards tend to have rubber layers to absorb shock and dampen vibrations. Some snowboard manufacturers will also use bamboo or aluminum instead of rubber.
A snowboard’s core is what it is built around and is its central structure. The core defines much of how a snowboard feels and performs; it also gives it most of its strength.
You will find that most snowboards are usually made up of laminated hardwood.
Manufacturers use wood for their board’s cores due to its poppy feel and good vibration dampening. Wood also holds its shape over time and doesn’t resonate like foam or plastic does.
However, some manufacturers like to use other materials within their snowboard cores. They can fine-tune their riding characteristics by integrating more exotic materials into the core’s structure.
For example, manufacturers lay carbon fiber stringers running inside the core’s length. These make the snowboard more expensive but give it a light and lively feeling while providing progressive compression.
Kevlar is used in a similar way to carbon. It isn’t as light, but it is cheaper while providing good vibration dampening.
A few years ago, Burton Snowboards pioneered the Alumafly core in their T6 model. This is an aluminum honeycomb core, which is lightweight and robust. However, the snowboard wasn’t very forgiving, so you had to be super talented or have perfect conditions to really enjoy it.
Some snowboards have foam integrated into their cores. You won’t find foam used as the primary material these days, as foam core snowboards lose their shape quickly, are very soft, and don’t perform well.
However, some snowboards have foam inserted into areas of the snowboard that don’t experience much stress. The result is a lighter core that is still strong.
The laminated hardwood strips that make up a snowboard’s wooden core run lengthways along the board. These strips can be a combination of different hardwoods and aligned in various patterns.
The wood and pattern combinations alter the snowboard’s flex and weight. Therefore, the snowboard manufacturer can dial in specific characteristics and how the snowboard performs.
The laminated wooden strips that make up the snowboard’s core are joined with a strong glue. Once the glue has set, the core is machined into its required shape.
The snowboard’s fiberglass layers increase its stiffness and help the board to keep its shape. Snowboard manufacturers structure the fiberglass in one of two ways:
- Bi-axial wrap – During this manufacturing process, the snowboard builder weaves the glass fiber strands together at right angles to each other. The result gives you a lightweight, durable layer with less aggressive riding characteristics.
- Tri-axial wrap – Fiberglass layers constructed with tri-axial wraps, see the glass fiber strands weaved at 45-degree angles. This also gives you a lightweight, durable and pliable layer. But, it also provides the snowboard with extra torsional stiffness for responsive carving.
The glass fiber sheets are held together with a resin, making them very strong.
As the name suggests, the snowboard’s top sheet is the area on top of the board. It is where you will see all the cool graphics, but it also protects the snowboard’s inner construction.
Snowboard manufacturers make their top sheets from a range of materials. You will come across snowboards with nylon, wood (such as bamboo), fiberglass, plastics, and composite materials.
When it comes to laying the graphics onto a snowboard, manufacturers have two methods:
With encapsulation, the snowboard manufacturer prints the graphics onto paper, cloth, or something similar, which is put under a transparent top sheet or lacquer. This process places the graphics underneath or inside the top sheet, but you can still see the design through its material.
When the graphics are added using sublimation, they are integrated into the top sheet materials with special inks and plastics at hot temperatures. The process sets the graphics into the top sheet, so even if it gets damaged, you will still see them no matter how deep the scratch is.
Graphics make a difference to the price of a snowboard. Depending on how you feel about a snowboard’s look, you can benefit in terms of how much you spend.
A snowboard manufacturer such as Lib Tech puts elaborate graphics on all of their snowboards. Many of them look cool, but to differentiate their boards from year to year, they change their graphics, even though the snowboard construction is exactly the same.
At the end of the winter, you can buy a snowboard much cheaper, as the shop needs to make room for boards with next year’s graphics on them. So, if you are not bothered about having the latest graphics, you can save lots of money.
On the other hand, a company such as Korua Shapes only has white or black top sheets. This benefits them, as they can focus on how their snowboards perform rather than how they look.
Also, they don’t have to heavily discount their snowboards at the end of the season. If there are any left over, they will just put them away, ready to sell the following winter.
Korua Shapes are high-end snowboards, but if they had fancy graphics, they would be more expensive. The fact that they have no graphics means they don’t date.
Korua Shapes snowboards often appeal to older riders that want a snowboard that performs well but doesn’t shout about it. However, the interesting shapes are eyecatching enough.
Snowboard bases are made from P-Tex, which is polyethylene plastic. There are two types of snowboard base, and which one your board has will make a difference to its performance and price.
On an extruded base, the P-Tex is melted and machined into shape. A snowboard with an extruded base is less expensive to manufacture and is low maintenance.
The downside of an extruded base is that it doesn’t hold wax very well, making it slower. Also, extruded bases are not as durable as sintered bases.
Beginner snowboarders like snowboards with extruded bases, as they are not as fast, so they don’t “run away” as quickly.
A sintered base is made up of P-Tex that is ground up into a powder. The powder is melted, pressed, and cut into shape.
Snowboards with sintered bases cost more to manufacture, but they are more robust and faster. Their extra speed comes from the base’s ability to absorb wax, as it soaks into the base’s pores.
However, you need to wax them often, or their performance is compromised. Also, a sintered base is more challenging to repair if you damage it.
Manufacturers will enhance the performance and durability of a sintered base by adding other materials, such as graphite. Also, graphite is anti-static, which reduces friction with the snow, allowing the board to run faster. Graphite also allows the base to retain wax, making it even quicker.
Most snowboard manufacturers put graphics onto their bases. They do this by printing them inside the board or using various colored P-Tex to create the design.
The edges on a snowboard allow you to turn, carve and cut into the snow and ice. They are made from steel, or more expensive snowboards have stainless steel edges.
You will find that snowboards have one of two types of edges. They will fully or partially wrap around the snowboard.
Full wrap edges run entirely around the outside of the snowboard and meet at the tip or tail. Full wrap edges are the strongest; however, they can be difficult to repair when damaged.
Partial wrap edges are attached to the sides of the snowboard where they touch the snow. These make a snowboard a little bit lighter and less expensive, but the edges can be weaker than full-wrap edges, and they can make the tip and nose of the snowboard vulnerable.
The materials needed to build a snowboard are just one of the costs a snowboard manufacturer has to pay. They also have to pay for lots of other things to stay in business.
Labor costs are significant in the production of a snowboard. For example, just to trim and shape each snowboard, someone has to cut them with jigsaws and band saws.
The snowboard manufacturer will also have personnel to deal with sales, marketing, accounts, admin, and many other operations within the factory and offices.
To produce the snowboards, the manufacturer has to buy or rent its premises, which is costly. They will also need to fill the factory with the necessary equipment, such as presses, grinding machines, and lacquer machines, which all need maintaining. Other building overhead includes property taxes and insurance.
So people know about their products, snowboard brands need to advertise. This is very expensive, especially when they start to sponsor pro snowboarders to demonstrate their equipment.
Once the word has gotten out, and there is a demand for the products, the snowboard brand needs to ship the snowboards to shops all over the world.
When a snowboard manufacturer becomes a recognized brand for building quality products, they charge a premium for their snowboards.
When people see pro riders win competitions and have their own sections in snowboard films, they become aware of the products. Most riders will want to emulate those pro riders by using the same equipment.
Lib-Tech sponsors some of the world’s best riders, and some of them have their own signature model snowboards. For example, the Travis Rice range of snowboards is excellent, but they come with a premium price tag.
The snowboard brands that are best at marketing will always charge more for their snowboards due to the demand. But some brands aim to cater to people that don’t want to pay lots of money for something they will only use a handful of times each year.
For example, Rossignol is a prominent French brand. They have high-end snowboards, but they don’t market themselves as aggressively as Lib-tech; therefore, they charge lower prices for their snowboards.
One thing you may not think about in the excitement of buying a new snowboard is its warranty. Some snowboard brands build an excellent after-sales service into the price of their products.
An excellent example of this is Burton Snowboards, and their warranty is a big part of why they charge so much for their boards. If you snap your snowboard due to a manufacturer defect, Burton will replace it for up to three years after you bought it.
They will send you a brand new snowboard or the closest equivalent that they produce in the current season. Often, you will get a replacement from the shop you bought it from or sent to you with a very short turnaround.
If the value for your money is a big concern for you, checking out the manufacturer’s warranty is a good thing to do. Knowing that your snowboard is covered and can be quickly replaced gives you peace of mind.
There is no hiding from the fact that just like skiing, snowboarding is an expensive sport. When you start adding everything up you need for hitting the slopes, the prices can be pretty eye-watering, so how do people buy everything they need?
If money is not an object, people will go into a snowboard shop and come out fully kitted out. However, not everyone has this luxury, and it may not be the best tactic to take anyway.
Most people accumulate their snowboard equipment and clothing over time. They will start off with a jacket, pants, goggles, and helmet and rent their board, boots, and bindings.
When it comes to buying their equipment, many people will buy their boots first. If you only ride a few times per year, your snowboard boots will last a long time.
It takes time for snowboard boots to shape to your feet. So they will only start to feel at their optimum comfort after a few weeks of use.
If you snowboard for a couple of years recreationally or for a few months seriously, you will get a good idea of the type of snowboarding you want to do. Therefore, you will be able to narrow down your snowboard options.
For example, you may decide you want to be a park rat, so you will start to look at freestyle snowboards. Alternatively, you may like the idea of a snowboard that works well everywhere, so you will look into all-mountain snowboards.
We mentioned earlier that snowboard shops heavily discount their stock at the end of the winter. If you can wait for the following winter, buy your snowboard during the sales for a bargain.
Often, snowboard shops will also still have stock left over at the start of the winter. The options may be a little limited, but you may get lucky and get an even better deal.
However, don’t buy a snowboard because it is cheap. Make sure it is suitable for your style of riding and your ability.
A desperate snowboard salesperson may talk you into buying the wrong type or even the wrong size snowboard. Therefore, you should do some homework before you go to the shop to determine what you need.
You don’t want to be stuck with the wrong snowboard that will make your mountain time less enjoyable. It may put you off riding altogether.
You should now have a good picture of why snowboards are so expensive. There is a lot involved before they even get to the shop.
The manufacturing process is costly, and the business and marketing side is an essential but expensive part of the sport. But, if you are patient and buy your snowboard equipment at the right time, you can save lots of money.
Snowboard shops may not like this advice, but it is the nature of the game. Buying all your equipment in one go is convenient; however, it may be better to piece it all together over time.
As your skills progress, you will have a better idea of what is available and if it suits you. If you buy everything at once, you will be obliged to get value for your money from it, even though it may not be best suited to you.
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