Sunday, June 21, 2009

Snowboarding Alternatives: Powered Snowboards


From the very moment snowboards were introduced to the world a small section of people went in to a frenzy of invention to try and improve things. Personally I’ve been pretty happy with the current idea which is why my plans for a jet powered snowboard have not got past the ideas stage. Some of these inventions have really taken snowboarding down some odd evolution cul-de-sacs. This series takes a look at all the odd designs that people have come up with and we start with powered snowboards.

Everything’s better with a motor isn’t it?

Steam Punk Snowboard. Lets start with the oddest attempt. I’d vaguely heard of the term steam punk before but apparently it means attaching saucepans and MC Hammer’s movement pants to things. When did punk turn completely geek?
Even the skiers think he looks like a twat

I’m finding myself irrationally annoyed that this lad uses the same bindings as I do.

All the ingredients you need to fuck up a perfectly decent snowboard...

Steam Punks - a great example of a group of people that could only find each other through the Internet.

If you have some time to kill later do some image searches for steam punk, it’s great fun. I love the guys that double geek up by steam punking Star Wars.
  • Cost: roughly $50 and your self-respect
  • Top Speed: Massive air resistance and complete lack of functionality reduces normal snowboard top speed and increases chances of crashing or getting beaten up.
  • Snowboard Alternative Rating: -4/10. Hell no.
These guys have had a shot by attaching a chainsaw to a board and going to town on the snazzy art work.
This board is no longer in production which speaks for itself.

  • Cost: $2000
  • Top Speed: 35mph
  • Snowboard Alternative Rating: 3/10. Complete business failure.
This is some lad’s school project. There’s a video and I would only recommend watching the first minute. Turning would appear to be an issue. Notice you see none of that happening
I like his delusional friend’s commentary:
“On his SNOWMOBOARD, hauling ass! Oh my god! ”
“He’s just covered a football field in about 2 seconds” - In reality it was more like 14 seconds, I could see that on the You Tube timer, and it looks like a small football field at that.
  • Cost: Not available to the general public, probably because it is too rad!
  • Top Speed: If it covers 1 football field in 2 seconds like promised, that would give it a top speed of 102mph
  • Snowboard Alternative Rating: 2/10. Turning circle of a super tanker really limits use.
Mattracks Powerboards (formerly known as Black Diamond Powerboards)
This is the most developed of the motorized snowboards with the design being picked up by a company that specialises in producing tracked snow vehicles.
New name, same shit!

According to their website production is gearing up for 2008 so I can only suppose things aren’t going too well.
Probably better off just pimping up your Humvee with some cat tracks from the same company...

  • Cost: $2,000
  • Top Speed: 18mph - prepare to be underwelmed
  • Snowboard Alternative Rating: 4/10. The Segway of snowboarding

Hello Kitty Powered Snowboard. This thing has a caterpillar track going through the board. I know nothing about this but I guess its Japanese because they love things covered in cutesy animals.
  • Cost: Unknown
  • Top Speed: Unknown
  • Snowboard Alternative Rating: ?/10.
Scarper ‘The Future of Powersports’
What are Powersports. Have I missed an entire genre of sports?
Bit concerned about the safety because it looks like it will rip your legs off if you slip. A common flaw in these things.

This is made by some guys in Australia who haven’t just limited themselves to the snow. They have made a sort of all terrain snowboard. It can go anywhere, a bit like a hovercraft. Whatever happened to hovercrafts?
Here’s the vid. There is a bit of on-snow action but don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

  • Cost: Looks like they expect to release it in 2010 for about $2,000
  • Top Speed: 37mph
  • Snowboard Alternative Rating: 8/10. To be honest, of all the dregs I have been finding I recon this bit be the closest to something that just might work. Still I’m never ever going to get one. I recon you are probably safer investing the $2K in hard drugs.
The next examples take an already over complicated solution and make it that little bit more impractical by adding some sort of pivot arrangement, like a bendy bus for the snow...


“POWERPLANK is the perfect winter sports vehicle for frozen lakes, fields, snowmobile trails, powder packed roads or even golf courses”
I was a bit disappointed that this lead up ended up with the big payoff off ‘even golf courses’. I would not consider that golf courses would be the pinnacle of destinations for any half decent snow sport.
This one looks mental but again we are looking at 25mph top speeds
  • Cost: Unknown but I’m suspecting that just like every other motorized snowboard it would be around the $2,000 mark. Is there some sort of sinister price fixing cartel at work in the powered snowboard industry?
  • Top Speed: 25mph
  • Snowboard Alternative Rating: 3/10. Might not do much but at least it looks like it will eat children.
Jimmy D’z Powered Snowboards
“The only true weight-shift, hand-held, controlled snow toy.”
Jimmy D says “handle bars are for sissies”
What a weird thing to say. Jimmy D as he likes to be known, or James E Decker Jr as his Mum calls him, is very convinced he has designed the best thing since sliced bread.
His website makes for more interesting reading. He has a handy warning section which pretty much rules out most things including; not jumping, not tackling hills over a 30 degree incline and not riding intoxicated. Not really much of an improvement if you can’t do any of these three essential parts of snowboarding.

Jimmy D, the lonely teetotal funster

I like the FAQs. Here is the whole list
Will it go uphill?
Yes, but it's not as fun as cruising an open field.
Will it go faster downhill?
No, it will not surpass maximum engine speed.
Can you disassemble it easy?
Yes, the system is "easily detachable"
Can it pull another boarder?
Clearly a lack of questions here, which is not a good sign.
His great evolution chart shows how his self-reviewed 5 star toy is an improvement on the snowmobile which rates only 3 ½ stars. Despite stating that snowmobile sales are in the millions Jimmy believes he has improved things by close to 150%. That’s a bold claim. In comparison Jimmy who completed this product in 2004 looks to have sold a total of none.
  • Cost: $3,550
  • Top Speed: 28mph
  • Snowboard Alternative Rating: 4/10. $3,550 and you can’t even ride it drunk!
Although clearly fertile territory for the minds of odd-ball inventor types, fundamentally powered snowboards just don’t work. Here are a few of the short comings of this basic premise.
  • You can hardly turn them.
  • You can’t jump them because they are too heavy.
  • You will always look like a twat riding one of them.
  • They cost shed loads.
  • You can’t reach even half the speed you can on a snowboard.
  • I had a pretty severe crash last season. I just can’t help thinking if anyone actually achieved a powered board that can go as fast as a snowboard would have actually produced a pretty effective killing machine. Can’t help thinking that having something grinding up my face while I was crashing would have made things just a tad worse.
  • Someone has already invented something much better: the snowboard…

A better alternative?
If gravity alone is just a bit too soft for you and you absolutely need to power up your snowboarding experience why not just strap on a snowboard and get dragged along by something else..
This could actually work. It’s like wakeboarding but more dangerous:

Similar but not quite as successful. Worth watching just for that start:

Or you can get dragged behind a car at 55mph by some shouty Latvians before you crash and break your finger.

And that’s your lot of this week. If you want more motorized snowboarding check out our article The Top Gnar guide to snowboarding cars


  1. Brilliant. Now I can make an informed purchase. You rule. And so does bringing motor oil to snow.

  2. when u r powered by something uphill, other than being towed by a snowmobile, you have no way of keeping your body from falling backward. try standing on a steep incline sideways, and picture yourself going upward. the powered snowboard is really actualy for people with snow but no hills. love the posting... by the way check out the guy, and i knew it would be done someday, using a paramotor as the powerunit for the snowboard on youtube. expencive and dangerous..if u fall


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