How a snowboard base works (movement):
If you take the time to put a snowboard down on the ground, and look at it, you'll notice the tip and tail contact first, and the rest of the board arcs up. This is known as camber. Camber serves a multitude of purposes, such as turning, popping, and more. It's purpose in relationship to the base, and movement, is that when the board has weight put on it, the weight is primarily distributed to the tip and tail.
Wax in itself isn't actually very slick. However, wax and water is a slick combination. Wax and snow... not so much. What makes a board move is that there is so much friction from the interaction of the wax on the board, and the pressure at the pressure point (nose) that it acutally MELTS the snow, and you ride on a thin layer of water. If you've ever followed behind a buddy, and notice they left a particularly shiney trail behind them, it's because the water they melted promptly froze once the friction was removed.
What all the snowboard base terms mean, along with the numbers, and the science of it all:
Don't be confused by all the newfangled marketing. There are three main factors to considering just how high quality a snowboards base is. They are the base type, the molecular weight, and the strucure. For example, a Sintered (type) 7600 (Molecular weight) Stone Ground (structure).
First we'll discuss the base type. There pretty much are two different types: Extruded, and Sintered. Extruded
means that the base material is taken in a raw large quanity form, cut to size, and then applied to the snowboard. These bases generally hold less wax, are less durable, and are slower than their sintered counterparts. While often being touted as "Easy to maintain" bases, they aren't really that easy to maintain. While they can be used while dry (without much wax) without sustaining very much damage, they also dry out (run out of wax) faster. Sintered
bases are created by taking the base material, and grindingit into a fine dust. The dust is then slowly sprinkled onto the base of the board at a high temperature, forming the base. Sintered bases are far more durable bases, and hold significantly more wax. The disadvantage however, is that once the base runs dry, it is prone to damage. The bases however hold wax for significantly longer, and therefore require less waxing.
When considering what base types to get, consider your skill level, what skill level you want to be, and your dedication to the sport. If you just want to go riding once and a while, not stress about waxing, and don't feel the need to be as fast as possible, then go with Extruded. If you're looking for a high quality, druable, and exceptionally fast base, go with sintered.
The next factor to consider is the bases molecular weight
. As stated before you will often see bases that state "Extruded 3300" or "sintered 7600". What does that number mean? That number is the molecular weight. Essentially, the higher weight the molecules, the large they are. Larger molecules are stronger, but also larger. These larger molecules essentially have more space between the molecules, and therefore can store more wax in the space between the molecules. Therefore, you can base a lot of your estimation of a boards quality on the number. If you've got a 1000 series base... you can safely bet that the kid on the 7600 series baes is going to run circles around you.
The last factor is the base structure
. The base structured is often described as base ground, and a variety of other terms. While this varies a lot between manufacturers, and has no definitive text for quality, there is one visual aesthetic to look for. A base with a dimpled structure, sort of akin to a golf ball, is faster. This is because if you take two wet surfaces (aka, snow... and your base with the snow it melted) and put them together, you've got SUCTION. Suction in the case of snowboarding slows you down. If you've ever traveled accross excessively slushy snow, and felt your board stopping, that's suction for you. A structured/dimpled base however helps break up the suction force, and is therefore faster.
Waxing a snowboard: How you legitimately get wax into a board... and what's a bunch of BS:
So, the next thing to understand is WHY you hotwax a snowboard. The reason is simple actually. A base, is a porous material. It becomes exceptionally porous when heated, because the molecules expand. At this point, the liquid heated wax is free to flow inbetween the expanded molecules of the base, and thereby the base ABSORBS the wax. When the base cools it settles, and retains the wax inside of it.
WAX IS NOT A LAYER ONTOP OF YOUR BASE, IT IS IN YOUR BASE!
When it comes to waxing, considering what wax to get is a big factor. While most the marketing involved with waxes (One Ball Jay's hype) are largely over rated, there are some legitimate things to consider. One of which is temperature. For the most part you can get away with all temperature wax on any given day. However, to really be fast a wax aimed for the general temperature range in which you will operate is best. As a lot of us can't wax slope side however, I won't go into much detail here. Get a nice all temperature wax.
Rub on wax is a silly concept. You're trying to forcefully jam SOLID molecules of wax, through solid molecules of base. You've got three chances of actually accomplishing this: A fat chance, a slim chance, and no chance. You might get some wax slightly in there, but it'll last all of twenty minutes. It's a scam for lazy people. Stop believing it okay? It will increase how slippery your riding surface is however, so there is that benefit. It serves a minimal gain at your contact points. Rub on liquid waxes, along with rain-x and all those other stupid ideas are silly as well. They come out of the board just as easily as they go onto the board... durrrrrrr
How to actually wax your snowboard (Budget tips included)
Here are the steps for the most thurough waxing. I will document what steps you can skip when. I will also document the expensive options, and the EXPENSIVE options available to you.
First -- Remove old wax / clean base:
Cleaning the base of old wax, dirt, and other things that get in there is a good thing to do once in a while. Depending on how often you ride, it may be a good idea to do this every so often. MOST riders won't need to do this besides right before the season begins. However, it's good to know how it works.
There are two ways to do this, the expensive but easy way, and then the thrifty and not that much more complex way. The easy but expensive method, is to purchase base cleaning solution from a shop. Research the options available in the store and their prices. A base cleaner is a base cleaner so brand names be damned. Also, check out the ski sections of your local shops. Ski waxing supplies are often cheaper and damn near identical in composition. When you get the cleaner, it will have directions. Most directions simply read: Apply to board, rub in. Douse in water to remove. Wait until dry. Clean with damp cloth again to ensure removal.
Then... there's the thrifty way. Goto your local hardware store (See end of document for FULL list of good stuff to get at hardware store) and purchase a good sized container of kerosine or lamp oil. If getting lamp oil purchase UNSCENTED as the chemical additives are no good and harder to wash off. Don't fret about the oil or kerosine being that flamable. It's actually not that bad. Douse a rag in kerosine, and rub the hell out of your base. This will thuroughly remove the wax from your base. Rub thuroughly, then douse in water to remove. Whipe again with a DIFFERENT wet cloth.
Now that your base is clean, waxing the board is next. A note on purchasing wax: All temperature wax is advised for beginners or even your average rider. The fancy stuff is just overkill for anything but the most advanced riders. A great way to get cheap wax is to goto the skiier side of your shop (Snowboarders perpetually try and sell you ove priced one ball jay products) and ask for a brick of generic all temperature wax. For $12 you'll get a MASSIVE brick of wax that will wax your board, and all of your friends boards for the whole season.
Start by getting your iron to an ideal temperature. YES you can use a laundry iron. Simply adjust the temperature to be right between cotton and wool, and if the iron starts smoking promptly remove it from the board and adjust the temperature DOWN (towards off). Press the wax that you have against the iron, and drip so as the board is fairly well covered. Be sure to thuroughly dose the edges as they are your primary riding surface. Once the board is covered a fair bit in wax (a drip or two per square inch), apply the iron to the base which is covered in wax. Travel in SLOW circular motions, and heat up all the wax and spread it out accross the base. You will want to do this until you can feel the opposite side of the board being warm for the better part of the board. This ensures that the base has warmed up and expanded to absorb all of the wax that it can.