How Important is Having “The Right Board” for Buttering?

Buttering on a snowboard is a lot of fun. Once you get the hang of it, it opens up a lot of freestyle possibilities, both on the piste, and pressing on rails and boxes. Add some style to your shredding. But if you’re only just starting to think about it, or you’re still in the process of learning your first butters – you might be thinking “do I need the right type of board to make this easy?”

A softer flex will make it easier. If you’ve got an all-mountain board you might find that it’s hard to get the board to bend, easily. If you do press the nose or tail, it might seem like the other end is hardly raised from the snow. ‘Forcing’ more flex, or leaning more, will just put you off balance.

In this situation it’s understandable to think that buttering would be much easier to learn on a shorter, softer, freestyle board. And you’d be right. There’s no doubt that a softer flex will make it easier to get the feel of buttering. You’ll get better results with less effort and less of a requirement for correct technique…

But don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s necessary. My opinion is that a softer board makes it easier to learn to butter. Easier, but not necessary.

Imagine getting into an F1 motorcar and trying to race around a Grand Prix circuit. For most of us, we’d fail. You’ve got to be good enough to drive the car really fast in order to get grip from the tyres – but if you start off at that speed you won’t be able to keep the car on the road, it’s too fast for you to handle. A catch-22. You can’t learn to race around the circuit in an F1 car – it’s the wrong car, it’s prohibitive. Something less highly tuned is necessary.

This is not the case for buttering on a snowboard ;) An all-mountain or freeride board will not stop you from learning to butter. For some, it will hardly make a difference. For others, it will just slow their progression on the learning curve. In some cases it will feel really difficult, like it’s not possible. But it is possible, these shredders can still get there. It’s just a bit harder.

The Toy-Soldier or Waddle

The very first time I went snowboarding, a week in Chamonix, I saw a group of snowboarders putting the waddle to good use. You know, the technique of bouncing from one tip of the board to the other to move across flat ground. They made it look so easy – and their boards just seemed to be so bendy and springy. I was new; it looked so cool, not to mention useful. I wanted it.

But I couldn’t get the hang of it. Whenever I tried the board just didn’t seem to respond how it should. I was convinced that I had the wrong snowboard for the job (which, by the way, was a Burton Clash).

The Clash was replaced with a Rome Anthem, and then the Anthem with the Rome Agent – when I’d decided that I wanted to get better at freestyle. The Agent was great for progressing with ollies, it was around that time that I started to press and butter. The waddle was in the bag too :)

But here’s the thing. I’d been spending more time on the board. I’d been to a freestyle camp for a week. I was a better snowboarder. Learning how to butter and ollie and 180 was all part of that. Did the shorter, softer and twin setup of the Agent help? No doubt. But when I went back to riding the Anthem – I realised that I could do all those things on that board too. And when I got it right on the stiffer board – it had more pop.

And what about Rocker and Reverse Camber?

Camber vs. reverse-camber for things like buttering is essentially the same issue. A board with reverse-camber is most likely going to be easier for buttering; you’re less likely to hang up on an edge. I say it like that because I don’t really know. The argument makes sense to me, and it’s the common opinion. The Lib Tech T.Rice that I ride does have their ‘banana tech’ – but I haven’t noticed much of a difference, it’s very slight.

But don’t forget – many snowboarders were buttering just fine before reverse-camber boards came along. You certainly don’t need a reverse-camber board to get you going. No way. Maybe if I tested out 10 rockers vs 10 regular-camber boards, just to butter, I’d have a more definite opinion of how much difference it actually makes. But I know for sure, now, that it’s not necessary.

Summary

I’m sure there are many people who buy a freeride or all-mountain board to begin with, because they like “riding around”. Then at some point they start to look at the freestyle tricks and jibbing that other snowboarders are doing and wonder if their board is suitable for that stuff. Do they need a new board?

If you’re learning to butter, a softer, more freestyle oriented board will help you, it will make things easier. But it’s not a necessity. If you like you’re all-mountain board don’t feel like you must have a freestyle-stick to start playing around.

However, if you know that you’re starting to do a lot more jibbing, you’re riding rails and boxes and spending more time in the park, then sure, a freestyle board is a better tool for that job. You might be thinking that there’s no harm in having two boards? There isn’t. Just be sure to read: How Many Snowboards Do You Need?.

If you can already drop sweet presses and technical butters – you already know the answer to this question. You can butter on pretty much anything – it’s just a bit more fun on some boards…

Related posts

You may be interested in the article: Learning How to Butter on a Snowboard.

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Comments
12 Responses to “How Important is Having “The Right Board” for Buttering?”
  1. Reneator says:

    Hey Gavin,

    First of all, nice post with an topic im realy busy about!! (like my “Is my board good for freestyle, or am i just too unexperienced for it?”) and i agree with you with many points.
    The one, that its easier to learn on a softer board is right, and doable on an all-mountain board also. The Guy from the snowboard-shop told me for example, that if im looking for a 100% Freestyle board, i should take a look at rocker technology, he said because he tested it out, and he had the feeling that its not just easier, more likely he could do !more! things on it.

    So there is one Point you controvert to your own point.

    You said, that you couldn’t really butter on the Burton Clash and got another board, more Freestylish etc. much time spend for learning and also an 1 week freestyle camp. and now you said, you switched back to your old board and said you could butter really good.

    So i think you more likely say, that it’s really important to learn on an freestyleboard, otherwise you need longer to learn? So at that point i think it’s really like you said with the F1 car. You give an high-technical hard flex board to a beginner, and he will have big problems doing anything. Give the same person an soft and flexy- forgiving board. and he can learn and progress. so i think you need the skill to ride harder flex boards freestilish.

    At rocker, i not really have an opinion yet but heard often of it so i want to test it out my own. I often heard the same “good at turning, freestyle and powder, bad for carving and highspeed”
    So for the first points im really interested in rocker boards, and i wanna test out the Rome mod 11/12 at next year’s “Kaunertal Demo-Day”.(it doesnt have full rocker, but something beetween free reverse and rocker)

    So i think at buttering, you would benefit most with this board.

    So one more question i would ask you at this point, and you maybe could make and article about it, because im really interested in that.
    “How does your Stance width determine your riding and what riding styles(Powder, butter, carving etc.) does what width help?

    Peace and love
    Reneator

    P.S at the end point. Yeah i feel like i need an full freestyle board^^

  2. Peter says:

    Hi Gavin
    As my first board I got a Forum Darkness (an old wide version of the destroyer and about as stiff the as K2 Slayblade I tried earlier this year) off ebay. While it made learning tricks harder and was difficult to press it did make me carve (as i couldn’t muscle it round), go faster than alot of beginners (due to a lack of maneourability at slow speeds) and was better than awful hire boards though clearly unsuitable for learning freestyle. When I got my Stepchild Headless Horseman this year buttering and basic 180s were suddenly much easier.

    I don’t regret getting the Forum as it means I know what it feels like to ride a much stiffer board (and the benefits of a stiffer board). While it slowed me down learning 180s and buttering it meant that my technique had to be better.

    Reneator prior to deciding on the Stepchild I tested out a range of boards and camber, rocker, v-rocker etc… just try to test as many boards as possible (not easy I know) and don’t be put of from rocker vrocker etc by 1 board you don’t like. I would really recommend trying the Stepchild HH if you want a freestyle board that can handle icy pistes as well as the park.

    Gavin have you been on any week long freestyle courses or other snowboard courses that aren’t freestyle based? If so what are the pros and cons of such holidays?

    Pete

  3. Reneator says:

    Thanks for the Tip pete, i will give it a try! :)

  4. Gavin says:

    @Rene so I spent my first week on the Clash, and the next two weeks on the Anthem, which was stiff.There’s no doubt that when I switched to the Agent (3rd board) it was nicely setup for learning to butter, ollie etc. However, by the time that I compared both the Agent and the Anthem, I’d done another two weeks, on the Agent. So I reckon it’s a combiniation of the board, and just spending more time riding.

    But yes – I’d agree that it would take longer on a different board, in my case, it would have taken longer if I’d stuck with the Anthem.

    One of the points I’m trying to make is this: if you’re starting to look at buttering/ollies/freestyle stuff, BUT, you still spend a lot of your time riding, carving and looking for off-piste snow – you’ll get there on whatever board you’re riding. So if you don’t have the cash or the inclination to take two boards away with you, it’s gonna be ok :) just maybe a little slower to learn.

    As for the stance width – I will write something about that – but I can’t claim to know the physics of how the stance width effects the turning of the board with regards to the turning radius of the edge – it will just be my thoughts and experiences ;)

    Cheers

  5. Gavin says:

    @Pete I had a similar experience moving from the Anthem to the Agent – freestyle things just became easier. I also don’t regret buying the Anthem – I do regret selling it though, I should have kept it as a powder board, would have been awesome for that :)

    About courses and camps. This is actually something that I’m going to write about soon, but I’ll say a little here first. I’ve been on two week-long camps, both with DMC in Switzerland. The first time was in Diablerets, where they’re based. The second time, the Diablerets glacier was closed, so they used the glacier in Zermatt for the summer. Not good – they didn’t have thir regular coaches, so I’ll discount that for now…

    The first camp, was the first winter I decided I wanted to do “more” snowboarding – I planned four weeks. Friends could only make two of the weeks, so I planned two trips, solo. Excellent experience. Given that I was travelling alone, a camp made sense, as it would give me people to ride with and tuition. That week in Diablerets, November, was also the the time when I bought the Rome Agent, so it was my introduction to freestyle. Before then, I don’t think I’d really though about ollies and stuff. I was just blasting around the mountain.

    The coaching was great and I really enjoyed the week – but I don’t think it was typical of todays snowboard courses/camps. First of all, it was the glacier only, and many courses today run in the winter with the full resort available. Also, I had one-to-one coaching for the whole week, because there wasn’t anyone else on the camp. Freestyle was so new to me, I had to tell the coach to leave me alone while I practiced stuff. And – everyone in the town/hotel/chalet was European, and harldy anyone spoke English. My French is lame, and German is non-existent – so I don’t think it was typical of a week-long course that most people go on at the moment. That didn’t stop me having a great time though :)

    Pros – assuming the instructors are good, you’re going to learn stuff. The group/coach environment, I imagine, is great for progression and motivation, which is beneficial to many. They’ll show you places to ride around the mountain. You have a “group” to ride with, and to hang out with/chill/party with off the slopes. If you don’t normally go away in a group, that can be a real bonus!

    Cons – you’re paying for the tuition, all week, so I guess it’s a bit more expensive. If you do normally ride with a group of friends, but they don’t want to do the course, you’ve got to separate yourself from them. Lack of freedom? Maybe? If you’re going on one shredding holiday per year, you’ve got to decide if you want to be part of a guided/instructed group for the week, or if you’d prefer the freedom to do whatever…

    I haven’t been on a non-freestyle course, but I would like to do some improvement-training for advanced riding, I think that would be fun and beneficial.

    Cheers, Gavin

  6. Gavin says:

    @Pete – with regards to the last point, about non-freestyle instruction, I’ve got in my head to try out a lesson, or a 2-day course, something like that. I haven’t really looked into it, but I don’t think I’d opt for a week long course…

  7. Reneator says:

    @Gavin

    Looking forward to your thoughts about that! might be helpful^^

    Peace and love

  8. Peter Smith says:

    Thanks,

    Building myself a balance rail this weekend (I kept my old board for that and as a rock hopper). Really tempted by a course or camp as one of my holidays next year as I haven’t had any instruction since the my initial learn in a day course at snozone and have probably acquired some bad habits.

    Pete

  9. Gavin says:

    Hey Peter, I rate the balance rail – I’m sure it helped me get the front boards going, and other stuff too. Gonna be using it again this summer – also handy for me trying the strength of my leg with board and boots on…

    Have you looked at the McNab Go Snowboarding DVD? You can get it mega cheap on Amazon, and it really is good for carving/turning technique. I’ve used the exercises in there a lot. There’s a review on this site it you’re interested…

    I can only speak for the camp that I’ve been on, but I’m so glad I did it. It gave me good grounding for freestyle. I need to get back to spending more time on the board, so that I can try another one out ;)

    Cheers, Gavin

  10. peter says:

    Hi Gavin,

    I’m 5,9″ with 160lbs and i ride 154cm board. What stance is goos for buttering? Im trying different ones from 56-60cm wide but cannot find anything good to me. Do you recommend wider stance instead of regular? Wider stance seems to hurt my knees and i dont really know if i should get shorter board for wider stance?

    cheers!

  11. Gavin says:

    Hey Peter,

    lots of questions there, and I’ve got a few in return. First of all, is buttering new to you? Can you already do it a little, or is not really there yet?

    Second – you’re a similar build and height to me, so I’m assuming that 154 board is fairly freestyle oriented? Is that what you’re using it for? All over the mountain, but more towards freestyle?

    Stance width? Well, I ride between 21.5 inches and 23 inches, depending on the board. I’d be happy with 22″ – 23″. That’s similar to your range, but 56 – 60 is a little bit wider. 56cm is certainly not too narrow to butter. To be honest, once you’ve got buttering nailed, you’ll be able to do it fairly well at a variety of stances…

    A narrower stance will give you more nose/tail, so a little more scope to get a lot of flex. Too narrow is going to feel awkward and off balance – and when I say too narrow, I’m not referring to 56cm, I think that’s a decent width.

    Wider is going to give you more stability, but I’ve found that too wide can make it harder to ollie, and it’s gonna push you to the limit of being effective for the edge profile of the board – that being where your feet end up applying pressure to the board, to control the edges… Too wide for me would be 24″+. Even 23″ seems quite wide (I can’t remember accurately last time I played around with the widths).

    If your knees are hurting after a change, then it’s probably not good for you.
    - what are your angles?
    - is it a twin board?
    - are you riding snow mountains, or plastic or indoor snow?

    As for length, at your size I don’t think you need to go shorter… you might consider it if you’re purely jib, and all indoor snow… but even so, 154 should be ok.

    Last question, have you read this post:
    http://www.afterbang.co.uk/blog/2011/03/21/learning-how-to-butter-on-a-snowboard/

    It might help you with some buttering tips…

    Cheers, Gavin

  12. Rider > board. Sure some are softer or already pre-bent for you but a good rider will know how and more importantly why a board butters.