This is what we know so far about metal: “You don’t really need it unless you are racing.” Many riders will love the difference in board feel and control. Metal does so much for a snowboard. It creates harmonic dampening, tensional dampening, torsional strength and over all good looks.
Truth is metal makes life good and boards damp but there are some issues that many board builders are still working through, the biggest being adhesion. Metal is very slick and doesn’t absorb glue well at all. Titanal is mostly Aluminum and likes to develop a protective layer quickly through oxidation. Unlike most other materials used in snowboards, metal does not contain pores to help absorb the glue. Many ski builders worked around this issue over 2 decades ago. Builders used chemical etching to help solve this problem but some are still learning to work with Titanal. If a metal board is going to delaminate, it should happen well with in the warrantee period. The only bummer will be sending your board back and waiting for it to return.
If you play your cards right and end up with a board that has great glue, your move to metal will be well worth it. Most metal boards are lighter and softer than non-metal boards. While everyone should enjoy the weight savings, not all will be stoked about the change in flex. Before we get too much into the flex, let’s cover the basics. The gear is what gives your particular ride its character. If you have a stiff board, you will need a binding powerful enough to provide the interface necessary to power it up. Once the board and bindings are chosen you will then need a more rigid boot. Simple, right? Well not always. Many riders just blow it making their setups more difficult than necessary to ride at the top of there game. Some riders may only get 2 of the 3 flexes to work together ending up with a sloppy link somewhere. On a stiff board, this can be a problem. When it comes to making enough energy to power up your super board, you may fall short and the board feels like a tank. Perhaps your boots are too soft. You struggle constantly to make the board turn. It’s easy to see where this is going.
Metal boards are softer. This means you may not need the same stiff boots and bindings to power up the board and you can use a more supple binding and boot. You will be able to generate incredible edge hold without the legs of a world cup rider. Of course if you have the legs of a world cupper, imagine what the metal board does for you. It’s almost like cheating!
Metal benefits the everyday rider but most major companies are unwilling to invest the scratch and make it happen. Palmer has a relationship with Kessler and they are leading the metal revolution. They should have some free ride boards using Titanal in the next few years. Burton has stepped up to the plate with its Alumafly core and Vapor core technology.
For now only those brave enough to ride race shapes or custom shapes from one of the board builders can get this trick metal in their sticks. The current industry leader in Titanal boards is Kessler. They have the biggest metal selection for now however many North American builders are upping the ante.
Bruce Varsava of Coiler Composites has continued his legacy with the new Titanal product and seems to have most of the bugs worked out. Prior has also stepped into the world of metal and offers 3 great blended race-freeride boards in non-custom shapes. Prior and Coiler will add metal to any shape for a fee.
Price varies depending on which company you chose. Some boards will cost you double what the non metal shape may due to the high cost of Titanal and the increase in the supporting materials cost. When metal is used in a board, it needs backed up with other high-tech materials like carbon fiber instead of fiberglass, super base materials etc.
All of this cool technology costs some duckets and for now, we as the consumer need to cover it. However, in the days of thousand dollar skis I can understand why snowboards cost around the same. Every now and then, something comes along and makes the toys we slide on better. Titanal may be the fiberglass of this decade and I hope everyone gets a chance to use it!