Snowboard Stance

The binding setup, or stance, of a snowboard offers an endless variation in binding angles and positions. Most snowboarders have tried a lot of setups before choosing a particular one. I have written this article with the intention of giving solid advice and explaining more about the why of different setups. I have also tried to give the source of particular items whenever possible -- all the information in this article eventually comes from magazines, the internet and conversations with experienced- and professional snowboarders. Unfortunately, there exist many different opinions about snowboard stances and not one of them seems to prevail. In the end, there is no "best" setup and it still comes down to personal preference. Hopefully, this article will at least help you to find a setup that fits you well!

Have fun,
   Daan Leijen.  [mail , www]

Disclaimer: Although I have been very careful with all the provided information, I don't make any claim whatsoever regarding the accuracy or safety of anything in this article. Any item that may appear to be offering either medical or legal advice is doing neither.

Contents

Stance angles

The stance angles are the angles of the bindings with the width of the board. Normally, you can find these angles on the binding plates. You can change the angles by unscrewing the binding, turning it and fasten it again. Some (rental) setups have an easy clip system where you can simply push a button to change the angles. The angles are normally written like "+21°/+6°", which means 21 degrees for the front angle and 6 degrees for the back angle.

There is no official way of classifying stance angles, but I think that all sensible setups can basically be categorized into alpine-, forward-, and duck stance. The snowboard styles with the alpine- and forward stance are quite similar, with both knees and the upper body pointing forward. The snowboard style with duck stance differs from the previous stances, with the rear knee pointing backwards and the upper body aligned with the board. All styles have in common that your body (and especially your knees) should always be in a natural position. For example, the rear angle should never be larger than the front angle. Needless to say that your knees will have a bad time otherwise. (This may seem obvious to you but I have seen people off piste with a setup of +30°/+40° :-)

Alpine stance
This setup is used for alpine (or race, or carve) boards. These stiff boards are narrow and have a square tail. These boards are used with hard boots and the stance angles for this setup are steep: the front and rear angles are anywhere between  +70° and +35° degrees. This style allows for aggressive carving and is thus well suited for racing contests. The stance on an alpine board is nowadays more or less determined by the width of the board with respect to your feet (instead of some fixed angles). In order to maintain good control in short turns, the difference between the front- and rear angle should be at least 5°.
 
Forward stance
This is the most common stance setup used on regular freeride- and freestyle boards. The front angle can be between +40° and +15° degrees and the rear angle anywhere between +30° and 0° degrees. With the resulting snowboard style, both knees point forward and the shoulders are aligned with the feet. Anatomically, it is a good idea to make the difference between the front- and rear angle not too large, say, less than 21° degrees. A common all-mountain setup is +21° on the front and +6° on the rear. A common, more carve oriented, stance is +30°/+15° (and some people say that this is also a good stance for learning snowboarding). 
 
Duck stance
This setup is not so common nowadays but it is seen frequently in the half-pipe. With duck stance, the front angle is anywhere between 30° and 0° degrees while the rear angle is negative, between -1° and -20°. With this snowboard style, the front knee points forward while the rear knee points backward. The upper body is aligned with the snowboard. Anatomically, one should keep the difference between both angles large enough, say, more than 10°, i.e. a 0°/0° degree setup is not very good for the knees since they are forced to point inward. Common setups are "laid back" +18°/-6° and "mirror" +15°/-15°.

 

What angles are right for me?

Alpine boards (with plate bindings)

It is easy if you own an alpine board with hard-boots: use an alpine stance. The angles on an alpine board are nowadays more or less determined by the width of your board. A good start setup is to mount the rear binding in such a way that the toe-side stands slightly out of the board while the heel-side is just on the edge. This maximizes the pressure that you can exert on the edges of the board. The front binding is installed with 8° degrees added to the angle of the rear binding. Later, you can change the angles a little bit to find a stance that suits you best.

Drawing 1 on the right side shows a setup with not enough angle, especially on the back foot, which often leads to a spin out during backside turns.

Drawing 2 shows a setup with too much angle. This makes it harder to do fast transitions in short and medium sized turns.

(drawings by: hot snowboards)

Regular boards (with soft-boots)

The other 95% of the snowboarders (with soft-boots) should try forward stance or duck stance. Start with one of the common setups and see what you like the best (and if you don't like to experiment, just use +21°/+6°). Once you have found a stance that feels good, you can vary the angles a little bit (±3°) to fine tune the setup, although it is hard to feel any difference with these small angles.  The most difficult choice is whether to use forward stance or duck stance since the resulting snowboard style is fundamentally different. With this choice, we nosedive directly into the endless and almost religious discussions about ... 

To duck or not to duck?

The snowboard styles with forward stance and duck stance differ fundamentally due to the different alignment of the upper body to the board. Currently, the forward stance is more commonly used and it is a safe and good choice. A nice advantage of the forward stance is that you see where you are going without having to turn your head. With forward stance, you are backed by the famous Terje Haakonsen (+21°/+9°), who said that this stance is essential to have stable edge control, and by the 2002 olympic champion Ross Powers who uses a +21°/+6° setup. 

The opinions on duck stance are more controversial. Many experienced snowboarders that I have talked to, advised against duck stance since they got knee problems. It is believed that a force that is aligned to the board (for example, the breaking force of a rock on your path) will be bad for the rear knee. I also heard that a Swiss medical article (which I couldn't locate)  reported  that there were more rear knee injuries with snowboarders that used a 0° angle or duck stance -- off course, it might also be that duck stanced people do more dangerous tricks (or over-estimate their skills :-).

However, there is also a good argument for using duck stance: it is easier (and more natural) to bend deep through the knees in duck stance. You can easily try this at home, try to bend deep through your knees when both feet are pointing a little bit forward and try it again in a duck stance. Since bending through the knees is crucial to good snowboarding, it might even be the case that duck stance improves style and is more friendly to your knees and spine. I have had off-piste lessons from three different snowboard guides in France, each of them having taught snowboarding for more than 7 seasons and all of them used duck stance. At least one of them used duck since he was getting knee problems with a forward stance -- as I said, the opinions on duck stance are quite diverse!

Other arguments on duck stance are less convincing. A quick survey of the stance angles of current professional freestyle snowboarders shows that about half of them use duck stance and some people say the it is easier to ride backwards (fakie) with duck stance, but this is quite debatable.

One word of warning though. Duck stance is bad for the rear knee when your technique is wrong. Off course, this is true in general for any stance but it happens often that people try to point their rear knee forward when standing in duck stance for the first time. You can easily spot this by looking at your knees when making a (frontside) turn, or when your rear knee gets tired very soon. It is essential that you keep your lower body aligned with the board in this stance and that both knees point in their natural direction -- do not force your knees into unnatural angles!  

Stance centering

Stance centering means that your feet should always be centered and aligned with respect to the width of your board.  This is extremely important -- I once had one of my bindings off-center and it took me at least a month before I discovered why my turn completions were unstable. When both bindings are off-center, it is not so bad, but your turns will be inconsistent: short turns on one side, forced turns on the other. A centered stance on the other hand, leads to balanced turns and reduces the likelihood of catching an edge when the board is pointed down the fall line..

The feet should be centered on the board -- this normally corresponds with the disks on the bindings being centered but that doesn't have to be the case. The best way to center the bindings is to put on your boots and bindings on and feel very carefully where your feet are with respect to the binding discs. Than, you can shift both bindings to center your feet on the board. Some bindings have a fixed heel cup (Burton, Flow) and you need to shift the discs. Other bindings have a heel cup which can be shifted forward or backward in order to change the position of the boot. 

(drawings by: hot snowboards)

 

Stance width

The stance width is the distance between the centers of both bindings. The stance width depends mostly on your height. The width should be roughly equal to the distance from the middle of your kneecap to the ground, or about 1 inch (2.5 cm) more than the width of your shoulders. If you have chosen the right board for your length (a board up to your chin!), this should be about the same as distance between the default holes on the board. 

The stance width has quite some effect on your board control and you can feel even small differences in the stance width. A wider stance will give more stability but makes the turn transitions harder. The reverse holds for a smaller stance width. A wide stance is sometimes used by freestyle snowboarders while a narrow stance is often seen on alpine boards. My personal advice is to use your natural stance and to stick with the default holes on the board (if you have bought a snowboard that fits you well!). I recommend not to vary too much with the stance width unless you're an expert snowboarder. 

The following table gives a rough indication of a good stance-width relative to your height for normal boards. Use the lower bounds when your board is shorter than 1.55 m. (source: Snow Board Canada magazine).

height (m) height (feet)  width (inch) 
< 1.54 < 5'1" 17-18
1.56 to 1.62 5'2" to 5'4" 18-19
1.65 to 1.72 5'5" to 5'8" 19-20
1.75 to 1.82 5'9" to 6' 20-21
> 1.82 > 6' 22-23

Here are some formulas to determine the stance width. (source: hot snowboards).

  normal board  alpine board 
male 0.29 * height 0.275 * height
female 0.27 * height 0.265 * height

 

Stance offset (or setback)

The stance offset is the distance between the center of both bindings and the logical center of your board. The logical center normally corresponds to the center of the effective edge of the board. The center of the effective edge is determined by taking the middle between the widest points of the board at the nose and the tail ( i.e. not the middle between the nose and tail of the board itself). The center of the bindings is determined by taking the middle between the centers of both bindings. Here is a quick way to determine the offset: measure the distance between the widest point at the nose with the center of the front binding (a), measure that distance for the rear too (b), and finally subtract those values (a-b) to get the offset.

An even better way to determine the offset is to take advantage of the default settings of the manufacturer. Normally the default holes are marked with their stance width and stance offset. If this is the case, you can check the stance width by measuring the distance beween the centers of the default holes. If this is correct, you take the middle between both holes. From here, you measure the default stance offset in the direction of the nose of your board. Now you mark this point on your board with some tape or a pencil. This point is the logical center of your board. With this point, you can now easily determine the stance offset when using other holes on your board. This method is better than the previous method, since modern boards sometimes use asymetrical flex patterns which leads to a difference between the center of your effective edges and the logical center of the board.

Now, the best way to set your stance offset (and stance width for that matter) is to look at the reference manual of your board. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers include one with their boards but if you have one, you normally find large tables with all the possible stance offsets (and widths) available on your board.

First of all, the offset should never be negative (i.e. the bindings should never be centered forward on the board). With a centered stance, the offset is zero. The board turns easily and you will have a good board control. If you stick to the default holes of the manufacturer, the bindings are normally set a bit backward on the board with an offset of about 1 inch (or 25mm) which is also called setback. The board will  behave as if it has a shorter and stiffer tail. This means you can make more aggressive turns, ollie higher, and float more easily in the powder. People that ride a lot of powder sometimes even use a 2 inch setback to ride the powder in a more relaxed stance without worrying about a nosedive into the deep snow. However, setting the bindings too far backwards makes the turn initiation harder and should thus not be used by less advanced snowboarders.

 

Stance kind

The stance kind determines which leg is in front. If it is your left foot, you are regular and otherwise you are goofy. About 80% of the snowboarders are regular. Using the right stance kind makes it much easier to learn snowboarding. You can only know your stance kind by trying it out on the first day of snowboarding -- you will feel the difference immediately! A quick test will give you a good hint before renting the snowboard for the first time. Try to slide on the kitchen floor with your socks; the foot that is in front normally corresponds with your stance. 

 

What setups do the professionals use?

The following tables use degrees for angles and inches (yuk!) for distances. The table entries are sorted on the back angle, front angle, and the name.

A lot of setups of professional (freestyle) snowboarders. Source: Onboard buyer's guide (2001).

name stance angles stance width stance offset stance category
Jason Brown   20   duck
Stephan Babler +15/-13 21 0 duck
Gian Simmen +15/-12 21   duck
Matt Hammer +18/-12 21.5   duck
Danny Kass +12/-9 21 0 duck
Jamie Parker +15/-9 22.75   duck
Gabe Taylor +18/-9 21   duck
Eddie Wall +18/-6 21.75 0 duck
Andrew Crawford +21/-6 22 1 duck
Nic Drago +21/-6 19.5   duck
Janny Meyen +21/-6 21   duck
Katrina Voutilainen +21/-6 19.5   duck
Kyle Clancy +25/-5 22 1 duck
Ali Goulet +29/-5 19 0 duck
Vic Lowrence +30/-3 21 1 duck
Natasza Eva Zurek +18/ 0 20 1 forward
Raam Clampert +18/ 0 20.25 0 forward
Kim Cristiansen +18/ 0 23   forward
Xaver Hoffman +21/ 0 20.5 1 forward
Jaime Macleod +21/ 0 19   forward
Line Ostvolo +30/ 0 20 4 forward
Barret Christy +18/+3 18.5 1.5 forward
Amy Johnson +24/+3 19.5 1.5 forward
Jesse Burtner +25/+3 21 1.5 forward
Shaun White* +15/+4 20   forward
Ross Powers** +21/+9 21 0 forward
Tricia Byrnes +21/+12 19.5   forward

*) The stance angles of Shaun White are different on the Burton site: +15/-6.

 

Setups of famous big mountain riders. (I would like to extend this table with more riders -- please send me a mail if you know the stance angles of good freeriders, like Jeremy Jones, Gilles Voirol, Ashley Call, ...).

name stance angles stance width stance offset stance category source
Victoria Jealouse +21/ 0     forward burton
Axel Pauporte +27/ 0 20.5   forward heckler
Jim Rippey +21/+6     forward burton
Johan Olofsson +27/+6     forward burton
Craig Kelly +27/+9     forward burton
Stephen Koch +40/+30     alpine burton

 

The setups of the US40/Santa Cruz boardercross team. Source: US40 (2001).

name stance angles stance width stance offset stance category
Cri Maierhofer +30/+5 20.3   forward
Ine Pötzl +33/+5 19.1   forward
Fabo Bonacina +27/+6 21.1   forward
Berti Denervaud +24/+9 21.1   forward
Tor Bruserud +33/+9 20.7   forward
Philippe Conte +27/+15 20.7   forward

 

Setups of the Burton 2002 team (mostly freestyle). Source: Burton (2002).

name stance angles stance width stance offset stance category
Shaun White* +15/-6 20   duck
Romain de Marchi +24/-6     duck
David Carrier Porcheron +15/-3     duck
Stefan Gimple +18/-3     duck
Trevor Andrew +15/ 0     forward
Jussi Oksanen +15/ 0     forward
Keir Dillon +18/ 0     forward
Gigi Ruf +18/ 0     forward
Natasha Eva Zurek +18/ 0 20 1 forward
Victoria Jealouse +21/ 0     forward
Dave Downing +18/+3     forward
Anne Molin Kongsgaard +27/+3     forward
Nicola Thost +27/+3     forward
Shannon Dunn +18/+6     forward
Jim Rippey +21/+6     forward
Johan Olofsson +27/+6     forward
Terje Haakonsen +21/+9 21   forward
Ross Powers +21/+9 21 0 forward

*) The stance angles of Shaun White are different in the Onboard buyer's guide: +15/+4.

 

The setups of the (freestyle (railslide!)) Forum team members. Source: Forum winter collection folder (2000-2001).

name stance angles stance width stance offset stance category
Nathan Bozung   22   duck
Chris Dufficy +24/-18 23   duck
JP Walker +18/-15 21.75 1.5 duck
Jeremy Jones* +18/-15 22   duck
Peter Line +20/-15 20.5   duck
Devun Walsh +29/-15 21   duck
Mike Page +26/-8 22.5   duck
Joni Malmi +17/-9     duck
Bjorn Leines +18/-9 21.75   duck
Mikko Sjoblom +27/-9 20.5   duck

*) This is not the same Jeremy Jones who descends steep slopes in Alaska. The latest Optigrab movevie (TB10) has a short shot of the board setup of the "Rossignol" Jeremy Jones,  which shows a (goofy) forward stance, around +21°/+6°.

 

As a dutchman, I couldn't resist to give the setups of the Dutch (freestyle) Doritos team. Source: Ultimate Snowboarding site (2001)Deep magazine (2001).

name stance angles stance width stance offset stance category
Tijs Goossens +21/-15 23   duck
Marc van der Meer +27/-12     duck
Jody Koenders +20/-4 22.5   duck
Bo Schenk  +12/ 0 20.7   forward
Anne Fleur Eiff +18/ 0 19.9   forward
Erik van Kammen +24/+3 20.7   forward
Marc v/d Meer (half-pipe) +27/+3     forward
Luc Daniel van Ommen +15/+6     forward
Patrick van der Graaff +21/+6 20.7 2.4 forward

 

The setups of some French snowboard guides that I had lessons from. Allthough the angles seem quite extreme, you have to keep in mind that these people spend a lot of time on their snowboards in extremely versatile terrain and conditions. (2000 - 2001).

name stance angles stance width stance offset stance category
Hughes, La Plagne +20/-20     duck
Valerie, Les Deux Alpes +15/-15   0 duck

 

The average stances of professional riders from different snowboarding disciplines (might be a bit outdated). Source: Transworld Snowboarding

discipline stance angles stance width stance offset stance category
SlopeStyle +12/ 0 21.3 1 forward
Halfpipe +17/+2 20.7 0.5 forward
Freeride +22/+7 21.1 1.7 forward
Slalom +49.2/+47.2 17 0.4 alpine
Super G +49.4/+47.4 17.2 0.45 alpine
GS +49.6/+47.6 17 0.44 alpine

 

Recommended stance angles from the Snow Board Canada magazine.

style stance angles stance width stance offset stance category
Halfpipe +10/+5     forward
Park +15/+5     forward
Beginner +25/+15     forward
Freeride +25/+15     forward
Extreme +25/+15     forward
Freecarving +45/+35     alpine
Racing, asymetrical +50/+45     alpine
Racing, symetrical +65/+60     alpine

 

Everything about setting up and buying your gear:

Alpine boarders:

Snowboard style and technique:

Sanity: why you absolutely need to wear wristguards and why a helmet is a good idea too:

 

Good odds
And, even better, your chances of dying as a result of one of those [snowboard] accidents, you’ll be pleased to hear, is about one in 5,000,000. In other words, you’re twenty times more likely to be struck by lightning. Tell you what, though, if you’re not chasing ‘mortuary air’ you’ll be fine.
Just stay out of the next twenty electrical storms...!
  (Source: 280north)