Chris Sanders Explains His New Designer Series Boards

Chis Sanders, founder of Avalanche Snowboards, has included two special boards in the 1997 line. The Sanders 148 women’s board, and the Sanders 164. The new boards are the first of a line called the Sanders Design Series. Using surfboard shapers as his model, Chris has designed the boards for specific people; namely he and his wife Bev.

Normally, we’re not into running verbatim stuff from manufacturers for some pretty obvious reasons. This was an exception because Chris has a great story to tell and few of today’s snowboarders have heard it.

What follows is his story:

Whether you know or not, eleven years ago Bev and I stumbled around Europe in search of a ‘ski’ manufacturer who would build our snowboards. We decided to search the ski industry because the boards I was making in our shop were looking more and more like wide skis (not to mention I was going to kill myself building boards in our small factory in South Lake Tahoe). Bev decided that we should search the Detroit of ski building; Austria.

At the time we were working against common snowboard design logic; we aced the fins, added camber bow and built-in edges to compensate. Then we added sidewalls and tip and tail protectors, but rather than reinvent the manufacturing techniques to apply to snowboards, we figured the ski industry had been down the same road with remarkable results (and it took only 30 years).

Twenty-six ski companies were on our list, but we only had resources to visit ten. It was kind of a last ditch effort; we had to come back to the States with a ski factory partner. After getting snubbed by every factory (remember this was eleven years ago), we stumbled into our last chance at a contract ski company; they built skis for other companies.

After pleading with them to try this unknown product they agreed to modify one old press to build one model snowboard. Eight months later and after a zillion telexes (this was before fax machines) we picked up the first true “ski” construction snowboard at a loading dock in SF. We took it to Boreal Ski Area and let Tom Burt try it for the first time. He flew down the face with more control than anybody’d seen before. We showed it to our friends from Sims, Barfoot, and Burton who hung out with us and Keith Kimmel said, “Well, you can’t make a snowboard in a garage anymore”.

Because the board was so much faster than what we were used to, we needed to rethink the binding system. Tom, Jim Zellers, and I built the first plate bindings around the Koflach mountaineering boots and although the European GS set distracted everybody from freeriding in hard boots, we still use the system today- cut up mountaineering boots and Uniplate bindings.

Eleven years later our Austrian partner is the world’s largest snowboard factory. (Interestingly, Atomic Ski wouldn’t even talk to us in ’85 and last year they filed for bankruptcy when our factory had its best season in its 40 year history.)

This doesn’t sound like it has much to do with the board, but ultimately it’s crucial. In the past decade we have been able to develop many construction techniques, tested a massive variety of materials, and nurtured a great partnership with the world’s most advanced snowboard factory. Other contract companies have come and gone, but we are the only company who has been there from the beginning.

Over the past few years I have focused on designing and building consumer grade boards. It’s very safe businesswise and it helped our company to grow, but I felt we were leaving our innovational roots behind. I think I wanted to prove to myself that we have the capability to build the world’s best snowboard. I mean, why not? We have a lot of experience and the mondo factory. I have no excuses.

Three years ago we investigated cap construction, but I rejected the typical ‘fall-away’ sidewall of the other cap boards, because I feel strongly that the edge needs support to hold on hard snow. About a year ago, my dreams were answered when thengineers at the factory met the challenge of a fully supported edge with a 90 sidewall. Consider how hard it would be to board you have there. If you inspect the sidewall you’ll see what I mean.

The process was very expense relative to a standard construction; actually three times as much. And the tolerances are ridiculous in snowboard manufacturing. I sent you a piece of core to show what I mean. But the results are like nothing I’ve ever been on.

I was in the trees at Northstar last weekend (with a friend, of course). The terrain was unpredictable; the snow condition was variable – crust, powder, tracked, chunky. The board performed far beyond my abilities, meaning every time I thought to ditch the turn in a tight spot the plank held and whipped around the obstacles. Scary. It seemed I couldn’t fall down. It had a Herbie, the Love Bug’s in-control feeling.

I attribute the performance to the following things;

Perfectly balanced length-to-radius sidecut (142.5cm X r945.5cm). It’s just the right arc for the amount of board on the snow. It turns very sharp, but has big board stability.

“Hardcap” sidewall construction (that’s what I call it) that allows the rider to check his speed with the minimum amount of edge set. I think this is very important because in tight spots and on bumps speed control is the essence.

The tail is 1 cm narrower than the shoulder because I’ve always believed it will reduce drag in a flat track situation plus it’s a weight reducer. A narrower tail also affects the tip to tail balance. The nose floats while the reduced mass tail levers it up out of deep snow.

The nose has kind of an odd shape because I labored over the multiple arcs (there are eight total before it reaches the sidecut). My feeling is the nose performs one function: flotation. Otherwise, it’s a vibration machine. Every time the tip flutters it disengages the edge from the snow. As this happens the problem will usually increase (unless you change direction) causing feedback or chatter. The best way to reduce this problem is to reduce the weight hanging out in front. The challenge for me was to reduce the weight and still maintain flotation. The result is a very smooth ride at speed especially in a carve.

Because the board is big, 5′ 6″ (164cm) with 142.5cm on the snow I had to reduce weight. The fastest way is to reduce material. I micro-shaved the grams off the nose and narrowed the tail, then I made it thinner overall (base to top). I didn’t want it to be a noodle, so I had some challenges. The first remedy was to add camber bow to increase back pressure against increased weight in a turn. I went the maximum I could in the new press, about 2cm. Lay it on the floor and you’ll see it’s pretty lively. Next, by creating a vertically walled cap we’ve created a structural channel. A simple illustration as to the effect of creating this channel is comparing the rigidity of a flat piece of paper with the same piece of paper with its edges bent down. Through construction and design we were able to bring back the firmness needed to make the board perform after loosing so much weight.

The core is ash. It’s a hardwood generally used in furniture, but makes a very tough snowboard core. The base is sintered P-Tex 2000. Sorry about so many inserts. I naturally go with a 12 pack front and back for those who use baseless, but I doubt there’ll be many people doing that on this board. I recommend mounting back of center at first until you get comfortable. I ride on the second to the last set of inserts on the back foot with a 18.5″ – 19″ stance angled at 30 front – 5 back. The insert threads are M6X1 (METRIC WILL RULE!).

If the conditions are sloppy (spring slush) use standard red wax on the base. Rub it on cold and make lots of 6″ circles. It’ll release the suction in the flats. I don’t think you’ll need to de-tune it because I designed the nose-to-sidecut tangent to be very long. It shouldn’t be catchy.

So, I got to design my own board with no restrictions on cost or construction. That’s really not that common in our volume oriented industry. It’s the 65th model I’ve put into production. It’s just what I like, but I feel confident you’ll like it, too.

And then it’s on to next season.n board with no restrictions on cost or construction. That’s really not that common in our volume oriented industry. It’s the 65th model I’ve put into production. It’s just what I like, but I feel confident you’ll like it, too.

And then it’s on to next season.